I’ve just had one of the best weeks in my life! You will never hear me say that cancer was a “gift” or a “blessing in disguise”(though I have full respect to those who are able to see it that way), but I will admit that there have been benefits and opportunities that have come my way as a result of having had cancer.

One of those is being given the chance to be one of 12 cancer survivors sponsored by La Flamme Rouge (LFR) to spend a week cycling on the beautiful island of Majorca. LFR is a charity, founded by Brian Holm, Sports Director for pro-cycling team Omega Pharma-Quick Step, to support people affected by cancer. For the second year running LFR sponsored 12 members of PACT to go on the cycling trip. PACT stands for Physical Activity After Cancer Treatment and is a sports association for people who have been affected by cancer. The goals of PACT are to support those affected by cancer to find and develop their physical, social and mental resources through physical activity and also to change public perceptions of what is possible and beneficial during and after cancer. If you know me and/or my blog you’ll know that those are issues very close to my heart!

Puig Major

Puig Major

So I was one of the lucky ones selected to take part in the trip this year. To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I’m still a novice on the bike. My longest ride ever before this was 66 km and I’ve only ever cycled in flat terrain. The main goal of the trip was for us to cycle up Puig Major which is the highest mountain on Mallorca, 14 km up with an average grade of around 6%. I had no idea what that meant in real terms! Also the thought of heading off for a week with a group of almost strangers was somewhat daunting. Nonetheless it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to kick start the serious part of my cycling training towards my August Ironman.

Winter training PACT

On the surface of it the 12 of us didn’t have much in common except the fact that we’ve all had cancer. Six men and six women, the youngest was 24 and the eldest 69, with the rest of us spread between! Likewise with our levels of fitness and ambition, but common for all was a winter spent training to be ready for the trip, not easy with the long winter we have been having here in Denmark.

As well as the 12 of us, we had 4 supporters with us – two from PACT and two from LFR. Those guys were amazing! When you are outside your comfort zone it’s nice to feel you have a safety net, and those 4 were the best safety net you could imagine! We were part of a bigger group, around 70 in total I think, organised by a Copenhagen bike shop, Soigneur. The whole thing was just amazingly well organised! Running a bike shop isn’t necessarily a qualification for being good at organising cycling holidays, but the 4 guys from Soigneur are great! And any concerns I had beforehand about how they and the “civilian” participants (who had paid for the trip and presumably therefore are pretty serious about their cycling!) would react to us newbies, were put to complete shame. Not only did they not “look down on us”, but rather treated us with a huge amount of respect and went out their way to help us, give us tips, and support us when the going got tough.  From day one, the trip totally exceeded my expectations! Let’s face it you would struggle to find a better backdrop than Majorca. I’d never been there before but it is beautiful! And the weather was perfect with sunshine and 25 degrees every day. From the first ascent I was totally in love with cycling up a mountain! On the other hand I was totally panic stricken by having to cycle back down the mountain again!  Every day my limits were stretched – uphills, downhills, distance – so that by the end of the week I had a totally different perspective on cycling. Over the week I cycled a total of 481 km with more than 6000 m of ascent (and descent). Best of all, by the end of the week I actually was enjoying the descents too and reached a top speed of more than 57 km/h (compared to 41 km/h on the first day!).However the best thing of the whole trip was the camaraderie with my teammates – 11 totally inspiring, warm and fun people. Every single one of us was pushing our limits every day of our trip, and while sport often is related with a sense of competition, there was absolutely no competition here. Everyone supported each other and celebrated each other’s successes. I think all of us felt a unique bond at having gone through that process together.

Me and my cool teammates (minus 1)

Me and my cool teammates (minus 1)

It was an amazing week and I feel very humble and very grateful at having been given such an opportunity. I’m a very lucky girl indeed.