Reflections from cyclist Alex as he completes gruelling alpine challenge for John Bradburne Society

Alex Macpherson and John Paynter, two teachers from South England, took to their saddles this month to do an Alpine cycling challenge taking in some of the famous Tour de France climbs in the picturesque French Alps over 6 days covering around 500 miles.

With this Ride for Leprosy, they were raising money for the people living with leprosy and other illnesses at the Mutemwa Leprosy Care Centre in Zimbabwe.

The money raised from this cycle ride is going directly in supporting the community at Mutemwa, through the provison of food, water, medical supplies, clothing, shelter etc.

The Mutemwa Care Centre was established by John Bradburne, and English lay member of the Third Order of Saint Francis. John was a poet, and warden of the Mutemwa leper colony at Mutoko, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He was murdered by ZANLA terrorists and he is a candidate for canonisation. On 15th July 2019, the Holy See gave the nihil obstat for the start of the cause of canonisation by giving Bradburne the title of ‘Servant of God’.

JBMS was set up in honour of John Bradburne, to relieve people who suffering sickness and hardship from leprosy and other diseases, through the provision of supplementary food, medicines, medical care, and shelter, with the objective of improving their conditions of life.

After what proved to be a particularly gruelling challenge, Alex gives his reflections on the journey …

In tyre marks of cycling legends we started our seven day JBMS charity bike ride,
In this August heatwave: “This’ll be tough”,  we sighed,
From Coppet and Lac Geneva the gentle slopes gave early false hope,
Soon climbing up the torturously steep and hot Col de Ramaz, my will almost broke.

I remembered the reason we started this endeavour,
To raise donations for patients of Zimbabwe’s Mutemwa,
Their leprosy inflictions beyond comprehension,
But complaining or protest there’s never a  mention,
So with new found resolve, we will complete this cycling mission.

Through Swiss and French Alps our journey began,
Savoie, Auvergne, Haute Alps and Provence with elan,
Through famous Tour de France routes we would tirelessly ride,
A brave or foolish adventure, you can decide, at least we had JBMS by our side.

At 606.51 kilometers, the distance was modest,
The heatwave, gradients and mountains would be the main test,
Ascending 12,583 meters in thin Lycra shorts and vest,
All at the JBMS Directeur Sportifs punishing behest: “You will climb one and a half of Everest.”

The temperatures climbed, reaching forty-seven,
Eau potable fountains were like manna from heaven,
Fuelled by cafe noir, bananas, baguettes and Tartiflette pizza,
We’d ride till our nutrients were completely deplete, ahh.

Over fifteen high mountain Cols, we’d pass,
Ramaz, L’Encrenaz and the winding Colombiere, alas,
Aravis, Saisies, Telegraphe, and more,
Saddles getting harder and behinds even more sore.

Steep ascents, blazing sun, suffering aplenty; this was a noble quest,
“Two mamils on saddles”, many onlookers would jest,
“They’ll never complete this, that summit they’ll not crest”,
Spurred by the sceptics whose faith wasn’t strong, we pedalled harder and with newfound aplomb.

Stunning Alpine vistas would distract from the pain,
Pedalling over the beautiful Col de Madeleine,
The impossibly blue Lac de Roselend inspired us beyond compare,
The lofty Cormet de Roselend was a climb we could now easily bare.

Jagged peaks, river valleys, tunnels and trees,
Cliff faces, Alpine fields and Reblochon cheese,
34km of the Galibier climb, hot, steep and exposed to the sun,
The views at the summit left us weak at the knees.

Lautaret, Macuegne, L’Homme Mort, Joux Plane,
Tempetes, Meraillet and more, many merged into one,
Sweating and pedalling in the unforgiving heat,
For a great cause, this Alpine route we would complete.

Staying in hostels, aching muscles worn,
A long night in a derelict stone gite, utterly forlorn,
Shepherd dogs barking, wolves howling near,
I barricaded the door, filled with well founded fear.

And on the last day, the Champs Elysees stage in sight,
Mont Ventoux awaited, a majestic height,
For a memorable sunrise on the summit’s peak,
We woke at 4 to witness this spectacular solar treat.

Stopping at Tom Simpson’s granite memorial,
A tribute to a controversial hero, forever ethereal,
An incredible adventure, we can’t deny,
Despite disagreements, we’d reach the sky.

For JBMS and Mutemwa, we’d given our all,
A mountain adventure, crossing Cols tall,
These words can’t capture the essence of the ride,
But the memories made, forever abide.

So let’s raise a glass to this epic endeavor,
Through Swiss and French Alps, we’d pedalled for seemingly forever,
For JBMS and Mutemwa, we humbly ask in hope,
For your support for the patients who still have to climb their long and steep slope.

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