At exactly this time, a year ago, I was about to start the last descent of the day, after a fun day’s riding.
Within an hour, at about 5pm, I’d be fighting for my life, my body shattered internally.
This is Jerry Day’s diarised recollection of that time and afterwards.
June 14th Pt 2
The helicopter eventually lifted away at around 8pm, almost 3hrs after your crash happened, and the last of the group rolled down the hill to our nice hotel close to the lake in Moustiers, about 7 miles away. I rode with Dickon, whilst Roy travelled in the van with Brian, who had waited quietly throughout this period whilst we answered some police questions etc. It was a very lonely ride and we barely spoke, but mainly pondered why and how this could have happened…. to you, of anyone.
The hotel was kind. They realised something awful had occurred, and made plans for us to eat late in the town, with a restaurant remaining open for us. We rang home, carefully explaining what had happened, but urging that news be kept private so that you did not become a matter of Chiswick gossip at this critical stage.
Over dinner, sitting outside in cool night air, we debated how we should proceed; with some suggesting that it felt wrong to ride on. Others felt that you would not want us to stop. So we ate, and the following morning, we rode!
The initial news that you had safely arrived in Toulon, that Dani and her mum were on their way, etc, seemed quite positive. This buoyed us up, and we cycled as cheerily as we could on the Saturday morning, confident of your strength of character; circumnavigating a beautiful lake, taking in some sharp climbs, and enjoying a coffee, albeit in a state of real bewilderment. At lunchtime, Roy decided (with all our support) that he should leave us and travel to Toulon. This was clearly a brilliant decision. Brian ran him to a railway station in the van. We cycled on in the afternoon, even taking in an optional climb (Col du Bel Homme!) – which I know you would have joined us on had you been there.
On that Saturday evening, the news took a definite downward turn though as the severity started to become clear, and dinner in Fayence was a blur. Our late, open-air, Provencale dinner was overwhelmed by concern for you.
On the Sunday morning the news was even worse, as we learned of your cardiac arrest, and concerns of potential brain injury at that time. I (amongst others I suspect) put in one monumental climb, at the top of which I prayed that you had then been at the low-point, and that you would be on your way back from there. (I realise in reality your family had a further worrying fortnight or so.)
We hit the coast at Cannes, and turned left, cycling numbly along the Croisette, rolling through Juan Les Pins, and around to our grand Sunday lunch venue at the Plage Keller in Antibes; probably chosen by you, certainly recommended by Roy & Glenn, and intended to be the culmination of our fabulous trip. It was anything but that, but some slightly more positive news, that we received via Q once we were there, allowed us to try to relax a bit and try to soak up the atmosphere and scenery of an opulent Sunday on the Cote d’Azur!
The lovely Claire, from Cycle Cote d’Azur, who you and Alastair had worked with in planning the route, then met up with us and escorted us back from Antibes, along the Promenade des Anglais, and into Nice on the Sunday evening. Here we had a sea swim, and then another subdued outdoor dinner. (Incidentally, Claire was brilliant, and quietly ran errands dealing with practicalities in the south of France for us after we got home.)
On the Monday morning, as most of us lolled pensively around the Nice hotel getting ready to travel home, Roy rejoined us from Toulon (after a very early morning train ride along the coast) and gave us a very sanguine update on the challenges that you faced. As we flew out of Nice airport late Monday morning it felt utterly hollow to be leaving a mate behind. Tears were shed as some of us looked out at the Mediterranean coastline stretching towards you in Toulon. By that time though, your wonderful family were arriving from all points of the compass, and we genuinely believed that you would be back to us safely before very long.
Not long after that, Melissa started the brilliant blog and we all know about your amazing progress since then.