For Jay: A Son’s Legacy

On 16th January 2018, tragedy struck the lives of the Pilkington family, with the loss of their eldest son Jacob.

Jacob was a keen cyclist. In 2017, Jacob finished 3rd overall in the 2017 Trophee De L’Oisans, having won the won one of the main races – the Grimpee Alpe D’Huez.

Jacob and his father Charlie were due to compete in the 2018 Trophee De L’Oisans. Jacob was confident of taking the title, with Charlie’s aim being just to finish. Without Jacob at his side, Charlie and Jay’s friend Rory, took on the Trophee De L’Oisans in July 2018, raising funds for World Bicycle Relief in Jacob’s honour.  They covered 400km and 40,000 feet of climbing, raising more than £4000 for World Bicycle Relief.

Read on for an excerpt from Charlie’s update documenting the ride:


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Image: Charlie and Rory after completing the Grimpee.

Day 1

Saturday 30th June – 25.2 miles 3,018 feet elevation

Jacob’s best friend Rory Gilling was also taking part in the Trophee. Rory and Jacob mainly competed against each other on the road, which forged a wonderful friendship. Rory had ridden the Trophee 3 times previous and had provided me with some advice and assistance, which I was thankful for.

So to the first ride, setting out on the morning from Bourg toward Allemond where Rory was staying. This was my second time in the Alps, having climbed both Alpe D’Huez and Mont Ventoux with Jacob in 2015.

Today was the short climb of Villard-Reculas, which arrives at Huez and then allows for a decent on the lower part of the famous D’Huez climb and then the return to the apartment just outside Bourg.

Day 2

Sunday 1st July ‘The Vaujany’ – 108.2 miles 16,658 feet elevation

It’s at this stage where the heat really hit me. 93°F/34°C on the climb, then only a short relax until a 5 km climb Col de Sarenne, which was completely exposed to heat and a dust bowl. It’s during this climb the heat peaked at 97°F/36°C. The descent was the most technical and arm hurting experience. Gravel, steep, hairpin bends…think I preferred the climb!

Once the descent was complete, it was now 35 km of a mix of downhill and flat roads to Vaujany. Tired, hot and low on fluids, it was going to be a long 35 km.

At the foot of the final climb (only 5 km and 9%…but it looked like 90%). Cramps now set in, I crawled to the 4 km remaining sign and my legs stopped. Time to stretch. Got back on the bike, another few hundred meters, cramp again, I stood out of the saddle to the 3 km point and a water stop. Drank and drenched myself and off again. Just after the 2 km point was a water tap. I had to stop again, water and a word with myself. I’m here for Jacob #forjay, and to get bikes sent out. Get back on your bike and finish. Eventually reached the penultimate bend and Rory and Sophie gave me the encouragement I needed to finish. 7 hours, 40 minutes in the saddle, 8 hours 14 minutes on the course.

You may read this and wonder how with only 5 km to go, can you keep stopping. Well, I thought the same when I heard of people abandoning with 2 km to go in a previous year. But most completed and also would feel a sense of pride in completing the course.

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Image: Waiting for the start of The Marmotte

Day 7

Friday 6th July “Grimpee” (Alpe D’Huez time trial) – 8.5 miles 3,737 feet elevation

Today was always going to be emotional and difficult, even with this being just a short climb. This time last year, Jacob won the event, taking the other competitors by complete surprise as they had no idea who this young British lad was. Here he was, taking them apart, on roads they were familiar with.

Final Thoughts

The week wouldn’t have been possible without the help of so many. Not just those who specifically encouraged or coached me for the racing itself, but everyone who sponsored me, wished me well and offered words of motivation and inspiration. The 12 weeks of training were tough, but not as tough as the event itself and nowhere near as tough as the reason for continuing with riding and the Marmotte.

Jacob has left an unfillable hole in my life, my family’s life, his partner’s life, his friends’ lives and cycling. Nothing can fill the void, and I know there are so many others who have suffered the loss of a child and many more who tragically will. Every time I ride one of his bikes, I feel a connection as part of him lives on. I know he is no longer visible to us, but his spirit remains, the happy memories will over power the pain and sadness. The fact so many people will have been touched positively by the kind donations does help.

I’m not picking anyone out for personal thanks as I’ll miss some people out, so this is one thank you to everyone. I couldn’t have done this without your support.

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Image: View from Bessay, so many wonderful views in this part of the world

Thank you, Charlie, for your dedicating your ride and memory of Jay with World Bicycle Relief and all of the people who will benefit from a bicycle in their lives.

To read more about Charlie’s Everest challenge in 2019 and pledge your support, please visit Charlie’s Just Giving Page.

Are you looking for a way to honour the memory of a friend or family member? Start your fundraiser today

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