A local couple heading to Europe for a few weeks in the summer – ho hum, right? Not so fast. When Bruce Hart and Andrea Sandahl Hart fly over today, they won’t be anticipating sunning on the beach, touring vineyards or lazing about a countryside chateau.
Instead, Bruce,a litigation attorney and avid cyclist, will tackle 500 miles of mountain roads on his racing bike, while Andrea, a massage therapist, tends to the physical well being of some of his 600+ competitors in the Haute Route, a bike race in the French Alps billed as the world’s longest and most difficult amateur event. During the seven-day trek from Geneva, Switzerland, to the French port town of Nice, the Montclair couple also hopes to raise funds and awareness for a charitable organization working to provide basic skills to impoverished women in Rwanda.
Bruce, who has previously participated in the amateur stages of the Tour de France, decided if he was going to move on to higher level amateur events, he’d also help support his friend’s charity, Ubushobozi. The organization seeks to reduce poverty by teaching needy Rwandan women craft skills and providing a weekly stipend, health coverage, meals and instruction in English, math, computers, and health.
Pedaling for charity isn’t new to Bruce (nor to other Montclairians); in the past he’s cycled for Goal USA, a disaster relief charity, and to help purchase bicycles for medical providers in Sierra Leone.
Andrea, who operates Restore: Restorative Therapeutic Massage (located inside the Aspen East Fitness Center on Watchung Avenue), will serve as principal massage therapist, volunteering with the ride’s medical teams. With 60,000 feet of vertical climbing involved for the cyclists, she’ll likely stay busy.
The couple has already raised a few thousand dollars, and hope more will come in during the ride, which begins on August 19. Real time updates will be provided by GPS monitors mounted at the Haute Route website, and additional updates and information about Hart’s charity beneficiary are on the group’s Facebook page and at its website (also the place to make donations).
While he rides locally with the Monclair Bikery Team, Bruce is not kidding himself about the rigors of the Haute ride. “There really is no way to train properly for this event living in New Jersey. I often ride up to Bear Mountain, but mainly spend time in West Orange going up and down the short, steep hills there.” Andrea too, notes that language barriers loom, but that unique to her specialty, it’s possible to “communicate with our hands.”
Hoping to finish “somewhere within shouting distance of the middle of the pack,” Hart promises to keep Baristanet posted on his progress.