From Evian to Lyon via Geneva,
a squad of roadskating enthusiasts and wheelchair users
join in effort and spirit
to cover more the distance of more than 300km
because “together, it is possible”.
23 to 29 august 2020
Effort – Solidarity – Visibility – Pleasure – Sharing – Achieving – Together
The Rhône-Alpes 2020 Challenge aims to:
- demonstrate that sport can bring together the able-bodied and the disabled to achieve a common goal,
- overcome difficulties through cooperation, sharing and helping each other,
- promote wheelchair access,
- reinforce European cooperation in matters relating to wheelchair accessiblity, disability rights and participation in sport,
- share these values along the route.
The general idea is to start from Evian, (by the Geneva Lake), where the wheelchair-skating activity is being recently implemented, pass through Geneva, emblematic city of international cooperation and world peace, towards Lyon, second largest city in France and rollerskating mecca.
The route design follows the cycling route “ViaRhôna” (Eurovélo 17), with adjustments deemed necessary after scouting field trips, where we find it problematic (sadly, even an official “cycling” route is not necessarily accessible with wheelchairs or skates — narrow passages, dirt roads or gravel…)
The full distance of >300km (total ascent/descent > 2000m) is covered in 5 legs (50 to 80km per day, depending on the daily difficulties and slopes).
For information without prejudice, here is the route as planned after the field scouting trips of november, 2019:
|J0||sunday 23 august||– travel to area –||–||–||Thollon les M.||Coach transport from Bruxelles and Paris, arrivals before dinner|
|J1||monday 24 august||Evian – Geneva||56km||+325m||-329m||Thollon les M.||First day, not too extreme, splendid views on Geneva Lake|
|J2||tuesday 25 august||Geneva-Clarafond||46km||+618m||-501m||La Féclaz||“Mountain leg”, short distance, big up/downhills|
|J3||wednesday 26 august
||Clarafond-Murs||71km||+289m||-569m||La Féclaz||Long stretches of beautiful cycle paths|
|J4||thursday 27 august||– rest/activities –
||La Féclaz||Day “off”, rest/recover, activities, sensibilisation/communication…|
|J5||friday 28 august||Murs-Hières sur Amby||76km||+260m||-264m||Lyon||Almost flat, again very beautiful cyclepaths in wooded areas.|
|J6||saturday 29 august||Hières sur Amby – Lyon||53km||+248m||-297m||Lyon||Arrive in Lyon in the afternoon, big welcome celebration.|
|J+||sunday 30 august||– return home –||Coach transport back to Paris and Bruxelles.|
On the D2 (tuesday) “mountain leg”, options will be available to skip some of the harder parts using a quick coach transfer.
The challenge involves a total of around 60 people (mostly french, british, belgian).
All participants, both the able-bodied and the wheelchair users, are chosen on the basis of their enthusiasm for this project, which requires both endurance and determination in addition to constant vigilance and a cheerful disposition in the face of adversity.
Participating wheelchair users have a wide variety of conditions (paraplegia, amputations, degenerative illnesses, congenital conditions…). The group also includes members with ‘invisible disabilities’ (severe head injury, deafness, organ transplants …) who will be participating in different roles.
Skaters and wheelchair users
The main group are a core of about 40 skaters pushing 6 wheelchair users :
En route, each team is made up of one wheelchair user being pushed by 3 to 4 skaters, working together and in rhythm. The lead skater pushes the wheelchair user, and behind him or her, each skater pushes the skater in front of them. Depending on their abilities and condition, the wheelchair users actively help on the wheels, and always cheer the teams up.
Changing the position of the skaters within the group allows individuals to take a short break. They would then be ready to step in again when needed, and other skaters may need to help in some more difficult sections (uphill climbs, head wind, bad surfaces …)
In order to keep moving safely at relatively high speeds, we use light weight ‘sport’ wheelchairs whenever possible, and we attach a third wheel to the front of the wheelchair, thus converting it into a ‘racing style’ wheelchair that is more stable at higher speeds and when going round corners. They are also equipped with disc brakes.
A small group of elite skaters and cyclists accompanies the teams to keep the group moving safely forward on the correct route. This group includes a Lead Marshall, Route Marshalls who will secure junction crossings and a Rear Marshall.
Behind the skaters, is the back-up cyclist, and when we are travelling on quiet country roads, one of our back up vehicles with a flashing light following the cortege to warn following trafic of the relatively slow moving group (10-20km/h).
Awareness and communication team
Because the experience is all the more significant when widely shared, and because a certain activism is at the heart of our motivation…
A dedicated team manages awareness events for public exposure to disability issues and accessibility solutions. Depending on the local possibilities and requests, they deploy a catalog of concrete actions, meetings, workshops, to exchange with various audiences on all these topics.
This team also takes care of media relations and public visibility for the project.
About a dozen enthusiatic volunteers (both able-bodied and wheelchair users, it doesn’t matter, that’s the point) commits to :
- drive the back-up vehicles ( the rear-support vehicle, the luggage van …),
- feed the skaters and the wheelchair users,
- provide snacks whenever the teams are flagging,
- set up the overnight accommodation …
To accompany the group, the organisation hires an especially adapted coach that is wheelchair accessible.
It is available for unforeseen situations e.g adverse weather conditions. Its platform can elevate the wheelchair users into the coach, and there is allocated space in the interior of the coach where the wheelchairs can be fixed securely, for the wheelchair users who are unable to transfer into one of the standard seats on the coach.
We also use back-up vehicles : a rear vehicle (a minibus or a van) and a large van for luggage transport (food, bicycles, personal luggage, wheelchairs, spare wheels, tools, bedding …) This vehicle also carries certain equipment (ramps, shower seats …) that might be needed by our wheelchair users to facilitate accessibility to premises where equipment might be lacking. This will also provide us with the opportunity to bring these issues up in the places that we visit.
Overnight locations and premises are currently being assessed.
Previous challenges deployed pragmatic but exotic solutions (camping on the ground of loaned gymnasiums, etc …), both for cost reasons and because it was then nigh impossible to find premises that could accommodate a large group including a number of people in wheelchairs.
We are campaigning for the inclusion of everyone in all public places, and we do note slow but real progress in this direction. In this spirit, we are trying this year to stay in collective accommodation (group lodgings, holiday centers, youth hostels …) in order to provide everyone with the necessary rest and security, as well as to put to the test the proper adaptation of these equipments.
Starting more than one year ahead of the Challenge, a devoted group of individuals are working hard to lay down the groundwork for this project, including :
- the general concept
- choosing the route and checking it to make sure it is suitable both for skaters and wheelchair users,
- contacting the local authorities (the Town Halls, the sports clubs, …),
- choosing appropriate venues for the overnight stops,
- arranging transport requirements (a wheelchair-accessible coach, back-up vehicles),
- the budget and financial matters,
- communication and publicity,
- recruitment and registration of participants…
The total forecast budget for the opération reaches almost 90.000 euros (of which 27.000 € of estimated “donated time” from volunteers).
It will be sourced in the following ways :
- 61% internal funding (participation fees, donated time, branded trinket sales, charity events, private contributions from friends and relatives…)
- 39% for which we are seeking external funding : donations in kind and rebates from partners/providers (transports, accomodation, meals…), corporate sponsors, fundation grants, public subsidies…