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On 5th June 2017 a group of CCW cyclists were enjoying a cycling holiday in the French Alps. The trip had been arranged to allow us to tackle the "Beast of Provence" aka Mont Ventoux. The day before we had successfully completed the climb in the most amazing weather so the ride on the 5th was simply a day to enjoy the beautiful scenery and hills of the Alps.
Things changed pretty quickly when we rounded a bend in the road to find a cyclist lying prone on the ground and his cycling buddy panicking...understandably. Pieter and Sander were from Holland and were also in the Alps to take on the mighty Ventoux. They were scheduled to tackle it the following day and so, like us, were simply enjoying a day of cycling. On this particular section of the climb, Sander arrived at the viewpoint first and waited for his friend Pieter, who arrived some minutes later looking worse for wear. On arrival Pieter collapsed and Sander had to catch him as he fell. At this point Sander thought his friend had simply fainted from the effort of the climb. What he didn’t realise was that Pieter had in fact had a Cardiac Arrest. How fortunate for Pieter then, that just moments later the CCW group arrived at the same viewpoint.
Luckily the group were experienced cyclists with both medical skills and the ability to stay calm in a crisis. Caroline Wrench took immediate charge as she is an experienced A+E nurse. She instructed myself, Kate Culleton-Wright to assist her and so, between us, we began to give Pieter CPR. At the same time, Jon Wheeler kept Pieter’s legs elevated, after all, we wanted as much blood as possible to be available for his vital organs. Barry Balcanquall stood guard over the bikes. Although initially there were few people on the scene, it quickly gathered a small crowd, so knowing we didn't have to worry about our rental bikes was important.
As you can imagine, getting medical help to the remote roads of the Alps is not a quick progress so Caroline and myself continued giving CPR, taking turns of one minute each. Finally, after 20 minutes of constant compressions, the First Responders arrived with the all-important defibrillator. They shocked Pieter and managed to keep him "stable" until an emergency helicopter arrived with the all-important emergency trained doctor on board. At this point we backed off to let them do their work and concentrated on looking after Sander. Pieter was whisked off to hospital leaving a group of shell-shocked cyclists and a very shocked Sander. Clearly he was in no fit state to be left to cycle back to his holiday accommodation, and there was the matter of Pieter’s bike. John Gallagher headed off on his bike to our hotel to bring back our rental car and transported Sander and both bikes. Sander's now wife Wijbrianne dropped everything and flew out to be by his side. This meant that we could fly home the following day knowing that he and Pieter were in safe hands.
Over the next few days we stayed in touch with Sander and he kept us updated on Pieter’s progress. Despite the fact that he had his cardiac arrest in the middle of nowhere, had CPR for 20 minutes and then had two stents fitted in his heart, Pieter survived.....wow....just absolute wow!!! Somewhere, the Gods were looking down on him that day. Not only did he survive, but he was released from the hospital within a week or so.
So, firstly, get First Aid trained because you never know when you will need it. Following on from this event CCW have organised two First Aid for cyclist’s events which have been very successful.
In June of 2019 the same group of cyclists headed over to Holland for a well-deserved re-union with Pieter and Sander, and what a trip that was. Finally getting to meet Pieter looking fit, healthy and apparently untraumatized by the event was amazing. They took us for a fabulous ride, taking in the views and cafe stops of Holland then treated us to a beautiful evening meal. It was an absolute joy to see them, especially of course Pieter as we had never spoken to him and knew nothing of his character. It turns out he's a fabulous guy, with a bit of a naughty streak.....in my humble opinion.
At this point I should mention that the roads in Holland are just outstanding, and the cakes......they are to die for (oops). I'm moving to Holland.
Below are the photos of the trip. For info, the guy in the Columbia jersey is Sander and the cheeky chappy in the black spotty Bianchi jersey is the very hale and hearty Pieter.
The Church Stretton weekend away was a classic with many varied ingredients:
1. Turkey fell off twice, both were totally avoidable.
2. A pleasant ride out through the Cheshire and Shropshire lanes.
3. A good brew-stop at a roadside tea-caravan - Turkey's rucksack needing some minor fettling.
4. Some good climbs at the Stiperstones and over Long Mynd.
5. Nick Barker's rear inner tube blew-out on his new bike when descending the Long Mynd.
6. A cracking hotel to stay.
7. A superb curry.
8. A surfeit of beer enjoyed by all.
9. Terry Baker's heroic ride from Nantwich to Church Stretton early on Sunday morning, arriving at 9 a.m.
10. Terry's bike had rear tyre / brake problems. The rest of us kept warm inside a bus shelter for 30
minutes or so waiting for him to catch-up.
11. Terry's woes continue in trying to adjust his brakes, with encouragement from all of us this time.
12. Another good brew-stop in Ironbridge - after 18 miles but at 11:30.
13. A minor navigational error - how big is Little Wenlock? There can only be one road on this earth
called "Dog in the Lane" - but we saw it twice.
14. Late lunch in the greasy spoon at Long Lane.
As you can see, we packed a lot into the weekend and a good time was had by all.
John G (TTFN)