The best way to sum up the difficult but ultimately rewarding 2009 challenge is to quote Alan’s letter to the entire challenge team…
Losing Cliff was our worst nightmare . To lose a friend is bad enough but in the context of Life Cycle it put doubts into how we could recover and carry on? You knew of course you had to continue because there were other lives to consider and knowing Cliff as I did you knew he would have expected nothing less.
I have to confess that I didn’t know Cliff’s family that well but it was important to meet them and have their blessing and this I did. His eldest son Max was my inspiration and to see him at the airport on our return in his LifeCycle Cycling top and the rest of the family behind him gave me more than they will ever know. This family will be part of the organization forever and rightly so.
Of course cycling should be united throughout the island but everyone knows it’s not and people like Johnny Zammit and myself have to simply get on with things as best we can. The hostility towards Life Cycle is constantly there and we have to watch our backs as there are those just waiting for an opportunity to kick us in the teeth. Syria was the first opportunity for some to question the logic of the event but we did our homework with our diplomatic people and knew that there were problems going into a country constantly on the brink of hostilities but knew we would receive a warm welcome. When Cliff was killed in such tragic circumstances it was another opportunity for the “wolves to scratch on the door” and that was why the blessing from Cliff’s family was so important.
We had to bring in new members to the back up and that was a worry but what a team it turned out to be! The six new faces excelled and gave us a humour that reminded us that this after all is an adventure that should be enjoyed. Even in our darkest moments there was an under- current of humour and that spread throughout the ranks and made it so much easier for the cyclists. The smaller numbers which had been a worry to some, worked to our advantage and brought the whole team together. As a team, you don’t get much better than this and it really was a wonderful experience working with these people.
Turkey was in my opinion, one of the best countries we have visited and the hospitality un-matched. There are so many incidents of genuine kindness from these remarkable people that it would fill a website but it certainly destroys any pre set ideas on travelling into a predominantly Muslim country. There was never a moment when we felt in the slightest way threatened and again it proves that the meticulous planning beforehand was paramount to the success of the trip.
The highlights for me were riding over the Bosphorus bridge to start the challenge, and the incredible effort shown on Day 8 to cycle 200km with only 4-5 hours sleep. This was following a well organized prank on Day 7 in which 10 cyclists were taken off route due to signs being changed. To pick themselves up and show the character they showed, said it all to me and summed up this group of people.
Now of course comes the moment of truth in which we have to count the money and see what has been raised. Betfair have done not only this organization proud but the country proud in what has been a very difficult economic climate. Without their support this challenge would simply not have taken place and the lives of so many people would not have been enhanced.
Has Life Cycle got a future? I think so but from here on in I am looking to surround myself with the type of very special people that this challenge attracted and that do justice to not only our patients but to our friend Cliff’s memory.
Thanks to you all and hopefully see you next year.