by Marcus Leach
'Are you mad?' This is a question I have been asked a lot recently, and in all fairness it's not been without good reason. It's usually the first thing people ask me when I tell them what riding the Tour du Mont Blanc entails. However, despite people's concern for my sanity, I can happily confirm I'm not mad. Well, maybe a little.
It's easy to see why people might jump to this conclusion, after all the Tour du Mont Blanc is billed as 'the hardest one day bike event in the world'. Whilst those words would be enough to put most people off without even enquiring as to what it entails, for me they were the very reason I wanted to do this event without actually knowing what it entailed at first.
I have always loved a challenge, and in an odd (some may say perverse) kind of way the harder the challenge, and the greater the physical suffering required to complete it, the greater the satisfaction I get from doing it. And they don't come much tougher than this. At 330km long, going through three countries and with eight thousand, yes that's eight thousand, meters of climbing and descending in a single day it's fair to say this is going to be one of the toughest things I've ever done.
We live in a world where so many people do things in order to shout about it from the various social platforms available to us, looking for some empty recognition in the number of 'likes' their post gets. And, whilst there will undoubtedly be mention of what I am doing on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, I am by no means doing this in order to have something to boast about, or to receive congratulations from people I went to school with. I'm not that mad. If that was my intention I would have opted for something a little less challenging.
So why am I doing this? First and foremost I am doing it for myself, because I actually want to do this. But also to see how far I am able to push myself, both mentally and physically. The human body is a fascinating thing, designed to cope with all manner of different stresses and extremes, adapting to each and everyone as it goes along.
Yet, in the world we live in today, most people live a life of comfort, a life where the body never has to perform to it's maximum capacity, and rarely gets taken out of its comfort zone, let alone by choice. As Dr Kenneth Kamler observes in his book Extreme Survival 'it is perfectly possible now to cruise through life without ever taking a survival test'.
And whilst this challenge isn't a life-or-death survival test in the sense Kamler examines in his book, it is a survival test in the sense that it will test my ability to survive in conditions so far out of my comfort zone that my body will be pushed to perform in ways it hasn't had to before. My mind will also be tested, for a large part of this challenge will be a metal battle, one that I must overcome win in order to have any chance of finishing the gruelling 330km course.
So I guess, with that in mind, I am also doing this to learn something about myself. Quite what I hope to learn I don't honestly know at this moment. Maybe the answer lies on the slopes of Col du Grand Saint Bernard, or maybe it will come to me afterwards in a quite moment of reflection. But whatever, and whenever, it is I hope to learn I know it won't come to me if I stay ensconced in my comfort zone.
I will be riding the Tour du Mont Blanc, organised by Sports Communication, on Saturday 18th July with VeloCamps, and will be charting my journey as I go, so be sure to follow it on The Essential Cyclist. For those wishing to find out more about VeloCamps, simply head over to their website to see the full list of great organised rides that they offer.