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The Alpine Challenge: Talks to Emma Davies

by Holly Blades

The Alpine Challenge is approaching its end, with Saturday being the final of its four stages. Here we carry on with our short series of interviews and opinions from those taking part in the event.

Emma Davies began racing at 11 years old, participating in two Olympic Games, two Commonwealth Games and numerous other professional women's bike races. Whilst primarily a track rider, she was successful in many road races, even taking the Green Jersey in the women's version of the Tour de France. In 2005 she was involved in a hit and run accident in Manchester and left with a fractured vertebrae - Something she was determined to fight back from.

She says, "I learnt to walk again and ride again. After being given the all clear, I decided - with 9 weeks to go till the 2006 Commonwealth Games - to try and compete.  In 9 weeks from having been bed ridden for 2 months, I came back to win a bronze medal in the individual pursuit in Melbourne!"

Unsurprisingly, this is a vivid moment in her career. "It was a memory and emotion I can never describe and still brings goosebumps."

However, more unfortunate time in hospital, illness and pain led to a frank discussion with her Neurosurgeon and an early retirement from the sport. Emma spent a brief time commentating at Eurosport, alongside David Harmon and Sean Kelly, before deciding to make a clean break of it and move to Paris for a life away from cycling. As you can expect, she found this much harder than it sounds.

She told us, "Cycling is always in your blood and after meeting, on a holiday in Nice, my now business partner I decided to start my own company. I missed cycling but not the competition aspect, so, in 2010, Cycle Cote d'Azur was formed."

Leaving the South Coast of France behind her for a few days, Emma headed into the Alps with the other keen participants of the Alpine Challenge for the first time. She explains why she wanted to take part.

"I did two London-Paris' as a ride captain for Group 1 in 2008 and 2009, and I've known Sven from HotChillee for quite a while. The Alpine challenge looked so exciting and different from any other event."

She goes on to tell us how climbing in so much more enjoyable when you don't have a peloton on your tale, saying "I was never too fond of climbing as a professional but I enjoy it now that I can climb and appreciate the views and the magnitude of what you have achieved!"

"I wanted to ride because Hotchillee are a great organisation and they put on amazing events.  I wanted, however, to be in a smaller event as sometimes these types of events are too big to meet people and get to know them. The Alpine Challenge seemed like a friendly small event to get involved in and be a part of."

That said, we had to ask whether The Alpine Challenge had lived up to these expectations!

"The views and location have definitely lived up to my expectations!  Sometimes I couldn't believe what I was seeing and when I looked back at the photos I took they just didn't do it justice - You just have to see it for yourself. The event is great as it's small enough that you get to meet everyone and have a real feeling of being in a group of like minded people.  Also been able to jump in Lake Annecy after a ride certainly lived up to my expectations - It was awesome!"

Emma continues to express her admiration for the event, saying "The riding was fantastic - there are no words to describe it to be honest, you just have to do it! The weather and scenery have been amazing and actually just mind blowing at times. I'm so happy to have a photographic memory because these images will be with me forever now. I have to say, the climbs, no matter how hard, were always worth it!"

Although not competing for the Pink (Ladies Leader) Jersey, Emma kept her eye on the competition.

"I didn't race, as I love to just enjoy the sensations and scenery nowadays. My racing days are definitely behind me - But the level was high and it's great to see so many women there. It goes to show that the women's movement is on the way up!"

So, although she's heading back to the day job, it's not all bad. 

"I started Cycle Cote d'Azur with Claire, my business partner, really to showcase the Cote d'Azur and show people that, here in Nice, you can ride all year round.  You can be riding along the sea on the promenade Anglaise and then in 20 mins be high up in the mountains overlooking Nice. There's something for the whole family here."

"I had been blown away by Nice and had fallen in love with the cycling territory.  Claire and I now run CCDA and offer everything a cyclist needs in the Cote d'Azur.  We offer daily rides in a group or a personalised ride, along with training camps, bike hire, suggestions for hotels that are cyclist friendly, GPS Garmin files to go and explore, family rides, and pretty much anything you can ask for cycling related."

"CCDA has provided me with what I love about cycling, people enthusiastic about bikes and cycling, and the ability to help people improve and show them what an amazing area the Cote D'Azur is for cycling."

You can visit the Cycle Cote d'Azur website here

You can follow Emma on Twitter here.

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