The Grand Finaleâ€¦
This was my third time guiding a group of cyclist between Paris and Istanbul, and this was a finish to remember. In years past we have convoyed the last 23 km down the Bosphorus into Ortakoy. Istanbul and its suburbs were not designed with cyclists in mind. But this year we arrived in style.
The final stage of the tour was a 52 km ride through the lush rolling hills of Turkey. We collected all 41 riders and staff where the hills descended to meet the sea. As each rider rolled across the finish line there were hugs, tears, and photos to commemorate this monumental achievement. Over the last 50 days these two wheeled adventurers traversed 4000 km across eight European countries. When all were present and after quick feed we boarded our fine vessel, the Naim Baba, and sailed into this spectacular international metropolis. While battling traffic its much more difficult to appreciate the magnificence of the waterfront. But this year we were kickâ€™in it on the upper deck of our private boat embracing our cycling comrades with drinks in hand. The voyage lead us past castles, mosques and affluent real estate of the worldâ€™s rich and famous. From our dock in Ortakoy it was only a 2 min walk through the pedestrian mall to our hotel to unpack all the gear for one final time. With a group of fifty checking in and parking bikes simultaneously is chaotic, but the madness was short-lived.
Our final banquet dinner was in Taksim at a bizarre restaurant garden, overgrown with lemon trees. The evening was filled with a fabulous feast, speeches and a slide show to reminisce on this epic journey, truly a grand finale.
Many of the participants are staying in Istanbul for several days to explore the history and culture of this city which has been the capital of several empires. Others had a rushed departure, but a select few will continue to peddle east all the way to Beijing and I wish them nothing but sunshine and tailwinds. The conclusion of these tours invokes a contradiction of emotions; pride, for a monumental personal achievement and sorrow to say goodbye to new friends who weâ€™ve shared the moments with. I look forward to the next time our paths will cross.
Til then, keep the rubber side down.