“She called it a team, but just two years ago they were a bunch of rookies, really. They have done amazingly well from a standing start but not one of them would have signed up to something like this without the impetus of what happened.”
This October, that “bunch of rookies” will climb 100 mountain passes in ten days in memory of Lucy Monro, the founder of said team [formerly Team SWR, now Team LMT], who died in a cycling accident in February this year.
The twelve-man group, mostly comprising Lucy’s friends from the expat community in United Arab Emirates where she lived, will join her long-term partner Allan Greenfield and her brother Guy Townsend, quoted above, in the Massif Central region of France for a very special edition of one of the greatest challenges in cycling: a Cent Cols Challenge [CCC].
“Shortly after my sister’s death, I opened my emails to discover one from my friend Phil Deeker [Founder of the CCC]. He was suggesting that we run a trip in her memory,” says Guy. “My initial reaction was ‘wow, I’d love to’ but also ‘no way, that’ll never happen, not enough people will commit to it’.”
Not just an exercise in timely preparation and logistics, a CCC is recommended only for cyclists with several years of experience in their legs. Most of Team SWR began riding in the last two years but “after I put the idea to them, they all kept saying yes!” says Guy. “Some are regular climbers who I am confident can do it, but others are new to something like this and are making a really great pledge. I feel rather responsible.”
A finisher of the CCC Dolomites in 2014, Guy knows what it takes to get through such a challenge, as Phil Deeker acknowledges: “Guy battled his way through, never finishing a stage in daylight, but refusing to miss a single kilometre. A show of true grit. He manfully wrote a nightly blog around the midnight hour, which he sent to his sister Lucy, or dictated to her over the phone when he was too tired to type. It was clear to me that their closeness was due to more than their blood.”
Magazine editor Lucy was a whirlwind force of willpower and charisma. She discovered cycling in 2013 and within six months had already signed up for a 220km sportive and started the team, training and racing voraciously with ‘her boys’. “She found cycling in the way that some people find God: it was one hundred percent from nothing,” her brother says. Then, while riding the Dubai Roadster’s Coast to Coast Challenge, tragedy struck as Lucy was hit by a motorbike. In homage to her addiction to the GPS-tracking app Strava, Lucy’s coffin was adorned with a sheet saying ‘Queen of the Mountains’.
“It was only following her death that I learnt of Lucy’s extraordinarily generous humanitarian work, and of how much she was liked and respected by those who knew her,” says Phil, who had been planning to premiere a new CCC route in the remote Cevennes region of France this year. “Guy had told me previously about how excited he was that I was going to shine the CCC spotlight on the region and when the idea of a tribute event for Lucy came to me, I smiled: it seemed so obvious!”
Since then, Rapha Travel, Phil, Guy and Allan have been working together to create a truly bespoke offering to ensure that ‘Lucy’s Cent Cols’ will be a memorable celebration of her life. Trek have rebuilt a replica of Lucy’s bike for Allan to ride during the event and the group will be raising funds for the Lucy Monro Memorial Trust, set up to support projects that Lucy felt strongly about, from education programmes in Pakistan to elephant conservation charities.
In the meantime, Team LMT are training hard for their mountainous challenge in October – not easy for a group used to riding on the windy flats of the UAE. “This is a very big ask for many of them and suffice to say they’ve signed up only because of Lucy,” says Guy. “It’s an amazing memorial to her, but also a very scary one. If we can get everyone through it, we will have achieved something incredible.”
As for whether a CCC is something Lucy would have attempted, Guy believes that she would have said ‘no way’, but then would have given her all to do it anyway. Fully committed – Lucy’s Cent Cols is a fitting tribute to a life lived at the front of the pack, constantly pushing for more.