The PeDAL ED Transcontinental Race No.5
Most of my friends know that I’m obsessed with all things cycling, and probably also know that I will be competing in the Transcontinental Race this summer. For those I haven’t yet bored on the subject, the TCR is an unsupported, single stage 4000 km bike race across Europe, and is one of the monuments of ultra-distance bike racing. I aim to ride around 300 km/day through eleven countries, climbing a total of 40 km (4 ½ x Everest) – over around two weeks starting on 28 July. I haven’t done any sponsored cycling for 20 years but this is the big one, which is why I’m seeking to raise money for Partners in Health (Zanmi Lasante in Creole), with a goal of £1/km ridden. When Fiona and I visited Haiti last year we were fortunate enough to be shown around Zanmi Lasante’s medical complex in Cange (it features heavily in Fiona’s last book The Other Side of the Mountain), and we were incredibly impressed and moved by what was being done there. I can’t do it justice so why not check out Fi’s blog.
Core to Partners in Health’s philosophy is that they develop long term sustainable healthcare, employing and training local staff wherever possible. They have recently opened Haiti’s only teaching hospital in Mirebalais, not far from Cange, and I am raising funds for the equipment and development of this hospital. You can donate (with UK gift aid if applicable) here.
Partners in Health
Paul Farmer was 23, and studying medicine at Harvard, when he first visited Haiti and found that only the very wealthy had access to healthcare. Shortly afterwards, with the help of Ophelia Dahl (who was then 18), Todd McCormack (IMG), Jim White and fellow Harvard medic, Jim Yong Kim, Farmer founded Partners in Health and set up the clinic in Cange. The principal aim was to provide accessible healthcare for all; free for all those who couldn’t afford the 80 cents charge – which, of course, was almost everyone. PIH now operates out of 10 more sites in Haiti, including the incredible new University Hospital in Mirebalais, and is the principal healthcare provider for a large swathe of the country. Although around 40% of funds raised still go to Haiti, PIH also has rural healthcare operations in Peru, Mexico, Lesotho, Siberia and Malawi. Ophelia Dahl is the current chairman and Paul Farmer is a director.
I was inspired to compete in this race by its founder, Mike Hall, undoubtedly the biggest name in ultra-distance bike racing having won and held records in the Tour Divide (Canada to Mexico through the Rockies), the Trans American Bike Race and the World Cycle Race. Sadly, and shockingly, Mike was killed in March when competing in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. For a while it was uncertain whether this year’s race would go ahead but Mike’s family and the sponsors (Lezyne, Apidura, Kinesis and PEdAL ED) have just announced it will. Mike was a fervent supporter of Newborns Vietnam, which also provides rural healthcare in developing countries, focusing on neonatal care in Vietnam. Supporting PIH in the context of Mike’s race seems fitting.
More about the Race
The race starts on the Muur van Geraardsbergen in Belgium and finishes at the mountain top monasteries of Meteora, in central Greece (where Topol ate pistachio nuts while Roger Moore climbed in a fetching bodywarmer in For Your Eyes Only). There are 4 compulsory sections – climbs to Schloss Lichtenstein in the Jura and the Monte Grappa monument in Italy, a route through the High Tatras on the Slovak/Polish border and the Transfagarasan Highway in Transylvania (Jeremy Clarkson: “The best road..…In the world”) – the rest is up to me. Only about 40% complete the race, with nearly all scratches the result of stress injury or illness. The clock starts when we set off up the Muur and keeps ticking until you finish or scratch. The winner will probably take around 8 days, averaging nearly 500 km per day and riding over 20 hours per day. As I am firmly in the top tail of the age curve that’s not in my sights, but to be included in the General Classification I will need to finish in 16 days, and if I can do my targeted 300 km/day I will be inside that.
I’ll be posting updates on preparation for the race on here and I may even tweet stuff if I can work out how to do it.