Beginning a series of blogs from the 160 or so Cycle to MIPIM riders who set out on Thursday (7 March), Lisa Gunn explains the attraction of this exercise in sleep deprivation.
"In 2010, I was asked if I wanted to take up a female spot that had become free on the ride, that my company was sponsoring," said Gunn, head of business development and marketing at property consultancy Tuffin Ferraby Taylor. "It was said offhandedly, suggesting that no one in their right mind would actually take up the offer, with only six weeks of training...
"So of course, I went home and talked to my husband, who looked at our two young daughters (who were 16 months and three years old), but saw it for the opportunity it was and he said that I should definitely do it."
As for many of Cycle to MIPIM riders, that first trip had Gunn hooked. "Little did I know that this decision would kick off an obsession with cycling - not just for me, but inspiring my husband, family and friends," she told Velocity.
"Every year I now look for different and harder challenges, as I try to recreate the buzz, the camaraderie on the road, surrounded by beautiful scenery (good food and smooth roads don’t hurt either!).
"I’ve cycled to MIPIM through France three times and rode from Leeds to London last year [on the Northern Power Leg] with Club Peloton, as well as cycling the Maratona in Italy which gave me a taste for wanting to cycle this beautiful country more."
So when some property industry cyclists suggested exploring a possible route to MIPIM from Bari in Italy, Gunn jumped at the chance to join them. "I couldn’t say no," she said.
That's not to say she isn't aware of challenges ahead. On the contrary. "My biggest challenge is fear of failure. Similar to most riders, I would expect, I try to balance the increased professional workload leading up to MIPIM, while also raising money [for Coram as part of the ride] and trying to spend time with the family, all while riding my bike up to 17-20 hours a week. It’s effectively a part-time job on top of the full time one, so it’s hard to know if you’re doing enough to get you through the distance, without letting other commitments slide."
But the challenge is also the attraction, Gunn said: allowing herself to try something that she might fail at. "I am a very strong cyclist on anything flat, but I am not petite, so when the road kicks up I lose all my advantage and end up suffering, coming up the climbs last. For this ride, I have worked hard on trying to give myself the best chance of success and that includes training and losing weight, so that I don’t have as much to carry up the climbs. Apparently we are climbing the equivalent of Mount Everest… twice. This by far will be the most climbing I have ever done in a day, which I then have to repeat for six days.
"I find it incredibly daunting, so I am trying not to think too much about it – just focus on the training."
Lisa is one of four women on the Bari to Cannes ride, or 25% of the group. "That is a great leap from my first cycle to Cannes experience, which was closer to five per cent women," she said. "The property industry and cycling have both made very good progress showing the opportunities and getting more women interested and involved – through initiatives like Women in Property, Club Peloton’s Pedelle and British Cycling’s Breeze rides.
"I expect this trend to continue and spread to other minority groups. Diversity in all its forms makes cycling, work and life more interesting and fulfilling for more people. I have enjoyed watching beginners develop: I was a ride captain at my daughter’s primary school charity fundraising cycle ride from London to Bruges, at which the majority of riders were mothers who had little if any experience.
"It was humbling and very rewarding to coach them to achieve what they thought was beyond their capabilities."
And what about her next ride? Once Club peloton has its third route established, where would Gunn advise they look next? "California, where I grew up! Or Portugal, which is equally stunning."