"Day four of the Ziggurat 2019 was by far my favourite of the event," writes Andy Matthews, senior architect at Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt. "Days one and two I’d joined the 'bigger boys' and had a good time pushing ahead at a fast pace. By day three I’d opted for a more social and relaxed day and some mingling with the rest of the group.
"One of the joys of this ride is that the 40 cyclists form into different groups - or stay solo - as they wish and as their strength allows. There's a freedom to it, and the opportunity to be with different people, with different targets and atmosphere, as the days progress. For me, day four provided a chance for one last 66-mile blast before our celebratory meal in the evening.
"We had a cold start as we rolled out of our hotel in Saint Quentin and I’d been in two minds over what to do for the day and who to ride with. My ego got the better of me as I saw the 'bigger boys' start to gather into their group and head off up the hill out of town. A few pedal strokes and I was on the back and having to keep up the effort to stay on. The first 30km was into a brutal headwind and I just sheltered within the group. A turn into the first feed stop had the wind on our backs and our spirits starting to lift.
"I watched the kms tick by as we sat in what seemed like a perfectly formed group, ticking along at 40kph on the flat with the sound of tyres on smooth tarmac instantly bringing a smile to my face. The scenery had also improved: less Salisbury Plain and more like the France I had in my mind. A climb up through a ruined castle and a descent with a beautiful tight switchback further added to the experience. We all faded and became stronger at different points in the day, but all worked as a group to get everyone to the end.
"The joy and exhilaration that comes from working within a team like this is something that cannot be replicated in any other sport. Much like development projects, the need to work together got us through the day and at record pace – we improved on our programme!
"After four days of visiting various war graves and memorials and the emotions that came with that (keep your sunglasses on at all times to mask watery eyes) the Glade of the Armistice, in Compiegne, seemed a fitting place to end our journey. Celebrations followed, complete with raffle and auction to raise more funds for the event organiser Action Medical Research.
"I will always remember the experiences from this trip. Soon to be a regular calendar fixture."
It’s not too late to give to the charity – here's a link to a fellow rider's Just Giving page.