Women on Wheels: Summer Adventures on Two Wheels

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As blistering temperatures scorch the Arabian Desert, our committed cyclists pack up their biking equipment and jet off to their selected locations around the world seeking cooler temperatures, higher mountains, cycling events and new challenges in general.

I caught up with some fellow female cyclists to learn about their cycling adventures this summer.


Yvonne van Hattum

La Marmotte Granfondo – Yvonne van Hattum scoops up medals in France.
After catching the ‘cycling bug’ one year ago and making fast improvements on the bike, my partner and I decided to participate in La Marmotte Granfondo this summer.
We took the full challenge by registering for ‘Le Trophee de l’Oisans’ which consists of four challenges, with La Marmotte as the main event.

Day one: Sunday saw the first first challenge in the form of La Vaujany; a ride of 186km with 4,300 meters of elevation. This was a tough but beautiful ride with the
finish in Vaujany (where the pros also
finished a stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné this year). To my own surprise I was called on the podium after placing second in my age category! Wow, what a start!

Day two: On Wednesday the second challenge took place. Les Prix des Rousses is a ride of 40km with an elevation of 1,800m. I finished in 2 hours and 19 minutes, which earned me third place in the women’s category! Podium again!

Day three: Then on Saturday the big event arrived; La Marmotte. I was quite nervous about this 174km ride with nearly 5,000 meters of elevation, but the previous rides gave me confidence that I could do this. It was tough; long climbs, cold and windy on top of the Galibier, but also had beautiful descents, great support and people to ride with. I finished in the official time of 7 hours and 30 minutes of which I am super proud. Jasper finished eleventh overall in 5 hours and 59 minutes, an amazing result out of 7000 people participating.

Day four: The last event was the Grimpee de l’Alpe, a ride straight up the 13km long Alped’ Huez, which seemed like a crazy thing to do the day after La Marmotte,
however 174 other (crazy) people still participated!

The entire week was a fantastic experience. La Marmotte Granfondo was a great challenge that made me a better and stronger cyclist. I highly recommend it to everyone!


Dawn Roberts

Lakes of Italy – Dawn Roberts and team AGMC Rolls Royce find the perfect mix of gelato and casual hill climbing
After a cycling holiday in Tuscany last year, summer holidays this year were always going to be about two wheels. It started off as just the two of us, but then somehow our riding friends here in Dubai were roped in. As a result, eight of our Team AGMC Rolls Royce crew found their way to the Italian lakes.

We settled in to Orta San Giulio, just north of Milan. Our training for this holiday had consisted of various events at Jebel Jais as well as our usual weekly group and solo rides.
Orta proved to be the perfect choice; a beautiful little lakeshore town with cobbled roads and an eclectic group of restaurants and bars for recovery sessions. Pizza and Gelato make a scientifically proven recovery system; well, at least we thought so!

The local area was stunning for riding with a great choice of undulating routes around the shores of Lake Orta and Maggiore. Even the touristy main roads were a pleasure to ride on with traffic rarely being an issue.

We also found a couple of really decent hills; the most notable was Mottarone, a climb of 1,200m topping out 15km from Orta, at a Ski resort. With gradients of up to 18 per cent and constant grinds of 15 per cent, it was a monster of a climb. Unfortunately due to my injured shoulder, I did not climb Mottarone, but Megan, Sara and the boys all managed to get to the top.
A cycling holiday with friends proved to be never less than entertaining, with lots of laughter and mickey taking, not to mention the ever present Strava fuelled competitive nonsense. We all came away thinking that it was one of our best holidays ever.


Liesl at the Sani finish line

Sani2C, South Africa – Liesl Rademeyer takes on a Three-in-One MTB adventure
I knew it was 267km and had about 3,765m of climbing, but what I didn’t know was how much it would change me.

The KAP Sani2C is the largest multi-day paired mountain bike event in the world, with three events over three days with 4,500 riders. This event creates over 10,000 jobs through the upkeep of the race villages as well as building and maintaining trails. More than AED 2 million was distributed to the underprivileged in 2016, including 40
sponsored pupils.

I had four months to prepare for this event and I used a professional multi-stage training program as a base. I spent hours training on the indoor home trainer. I rode outdoor on Al Qudracycle track and I spent most weekends in the mountains of Showka and Hatta. However, I didn’t spend nearly enough time in the gym; a lesson well-learned.

Day one: Our journey started from the Sani Pass in KwaZulu-Natal, but the wet
conditions and my race-nerves caused a major wipeout, and 30km later I got five stitches in my elbow.

Day two: With my injured arm strapped up, we took off and went down the Umkomaas valley, which had rolling single tracks and breath taking views. I was in pain from my fall however. Everything hurt and that little voice was telling me: ‘I can’t do this! I am too old, too unfit and too overweight!’ It was hard, but with the support of my amazingly patient partner, we made it to the end before sunset.

Day three: The third and final stretch had us gliding through sugarcane fields, and then you smell the Indian Ocean and it hits home: ‘I DID IT, I can do anything!’

I still get emotional thinking about crossing the finish line and how blessed I am to have had the opportunity to dig deeper than ever before. Life is such a gift, you have to grab it tight, with both hands and your bicycle.


Louise Cairns

Prudential Ride London – Louise Cairns takes on the 2012 Olympic road race route in the UK
“Ride around London” they said; “See the Tower of London, Big Ben and finish by cycling down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace”. Why not? Sounds great. 160km was set to be no problem, as I had previously completed the 212km UAE-based Coast to Coast Challenge.

My training plan had been going well, however I hadn’t factored in the three weeks holidays in Thailand with my husband and 3 children leading up to this challenge. While we had a great time diving and trekking, there wasn’t any time for riding. So when I arrived back from Thailand I managed to squeeze in a couple of 85km rides before packing my bike all by myself (usually my husband packs it) and heading off to London. The first thing I did when I arrived was to build my bike with no help.

On the morning of the ride I awoke with knots in my stomach. Not again! Why do I always doubt my strength and ability?

It was a warm sunny day in the mid 20’s with very little wind. Just perfect for smashing it.

I had joined up with another four riders from the Dubai based Loopers cycling group for support and encouragement, and as we set off from the Olympic Park I think my
riding partners forgot we were targeting sub 6 hours and not sub 4! I hung on for dear life as we raced our way through London.

Unfortunately there were a couple of bad accidents and we got delayed while the people involved were airlifted to hospital. As we slowly restarted in waves, I got severe cramp in my quads several times, causing me to stop and stretch. Once stretched we cruised onto the Leith Hill climb at approximately 55km, where I got into rhythm and cruised up the 2.3km climb and on to the Box Hill, which is one of Britain’s most iconic climbs given its close proximity to London. The 4.3km climb with an average gradient of 4 per cent and a maximum of 13.3 per cent turned out to be a breeze and a post ride email notification confirmed I ranked 207th. Next year I will smash it.

The residents of London created a great party atmosphere and were handing out food and drink while singing and dancing. I shed a few tears as we crossed the line, and all in all I am very pleased that the Dubai Loopers started and finished as a team, rolling over the line in 5hrs 21 mins.

Chasing the Pros – Cycle Hub girls Laura Holton and Aimée Wright on tour in the French Pyrenees
We were both lucky enough to follow this year’s Tour de France as it reached the French Pyrenees. We joined onto a seven-day group tour, which was run by Aimée’s parents’ cycling holiday company, Pyrenees Multisport.

Each day offered new exciting climbs, all famous from the Tour, which had to be completed in time for the mad freebie grabbing session as the race caravan came through. We battled against our rivals for the key rings, Haribo sweets and polka dot hats. After completing our own rides, we were able to enjoy the special moment as our idols came blasting through in a colourful lycra blur.


Aimee and Laura

One of the most exciting days was riding through Andorra up the Port d’Envalira (2,408m), which is the highest paved climb in the Pyrenees. As soon as we reached Andorra we were sucked back into the Tour de France excitement as the pro teams were all out on their recovery rides. Some teams cheered us as they rode past, some even allowed us to hitch a ride up the climb (for about two minutes) and we even got the chance to see what goes on inside the team buses on a rest day (a lot of washing and maintenance!).

This was my first time riding in the mountains and experiencing the Tour de France. A memorable moment was descending down the Col de Peyresourde. This was particularly special because previously, on the first day of our Pyrenees Multisport Tour, Aimée and I had watched the pros descend this Col on a large screen from the finish line. I admit that I was nowhere near as impressive as Chris Froome (he was crouched and pedaling on his crossbar!), but it certainly felt pretty fast! Experiencing the Cols featured in this year’s and previous years’ Tour de France made me appreciate the incredible fitness and courage that these professionals have. I am very much looking forward to finding out the route for next year’s Tour de France…and planning my summer vacation accordingly!

Helle Bachofen von Echt is a Dubai based amateur road cyclist competing in both local and International events. She is team leader of a UAE based female amateur cycling team and she is also an Indoor Cycling Instructor at Flywheel Sports Dubai. Helle loves traveling with her bike and you can follow her adventures and racing in pictures on instagram @thegirlwhocyclesinthedesert and her blog page www.hellebve.com

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