It’s been just over three weeks since I cycled with other COPD patients in Hyères in the south of France to raise awareness for this horrid disease. It was wonderful to see such inspiring individuals such as Daniel Cloix who completed the event whilst using his portable oxygen device. Daniel is a great example of a person who does not let his disease define him.
Arriving in Hyères
From the moment I arrived at the resort where we were all accommodated, I knew I was surrounded by some very special people and while there were some language barriers, we where able to communicate quite successfully. Gathering for dinner on the second night we were all inspired by the musical performance of Daniel Antoine whose skill on the keyboard was matched by his amazing voice. It was an emotional experience as Daniel has chronic lung disease and performs while using supplementary oxygen.
One of our adult children Ryan, who is a musician in his own right, was asked up to sing with Daniel, a great honour and they sounded wonderful together.
Before race day we attended several organised events that involved politicians, media and retired cycling professionals including 1966 Tour de France winner Lucian Amir who along with Philips UK, Europe and Australia, were instrumental in helping bring this event together. This event will hopefully put COPD in the spotlight and capture the attention of many people in France.
The range of patients varied, some required oxygen, some didn’t, some regularly push the exercise boundaries while for others this was very new. Major race sponsors Philips, provided a range of options for those requiring supplementary oxygen for the race. We had the choice of cycling over 22 kms or 46 kms depending on our level of fitness. For me the challenge of the 46 kms over an undulating course sounded appealing.
In order to have a drama free race an organised ride two days before the race gave organisers a chance to deal with any issues that might occur during the race. As you could imagine trying to organise a race with patients with severe lung disease poses many challenges. The most important of these challenges was to ensure patients had their oxygen supply monitored for the entire ride. If they required attention medical assistance was close by. To that end we were fortunate enough to have not only a doctor cycling with us but a team of elite cyclists monitoring the group’s progress throughout the race. Having support teams around the course directing traffic, providing food and water stops was essential and allowed for a smoothly run event.
The course itself was a very scenic one and took in ocean views, wineries and the French country side. There was a combination of fast downhill sections and long uphill climbs which provided different challenges for all patients. As a COPD patient cycling up hills can be very challenging, so we would all ride at our own pace to overcome the hills.
We had been blessed since arriving in France with good weather and race day was no different, blue skies and little wind. The race was started by 1966 Tour de France winner Lucien Amir and a moderate pace was set. I had driven around the course the day before the race and couldn’t wait to test myself on some of the uphill sections. During parts of the race I was fortunate enough to ride some of the hills ahead of the pack with French Cycling champion Hervé Thuet, an absolute honour.
Personally, the ride was not about racing, it was about riding together in an organised peloton (group), sharing the experience and to raise awareness for lung disease. Since being diagnosed 5 years ago I haven’t been able to ride with my friends in groups as I can no longer keep up with them. So being able to ride together was quite emotional for me and something I will remember for a long time.
As the event drew to its conclusion we were asked to race over the last 100m to see who would be the winner of the very first Lucien Amir COPD race. Champion cyclist Evie Toulett counted down 3,2,1, go – 100 meters of sprint cycling COPD style! The purpose of the ride was to show people what is possible with lung disease. Lung disease awareness won on that wonderful day in the South of France, patients united to show just what can be achieved.
No longer is there just a few of us showing the benefits an active lifestyle can have on your quality of life. The numbers are growing, and if this event we have participated in France inspires one more patient to join this movement then it would have been worthwhile.