My 1,400 mile charity cycle challenge

, | September 21st, 2011

After 23 days, over 1,400 miles and 60,000ft plus of climbs yesterday I finally made it to Nice and the Med!

I took on this grueling bike-ride across some of Europe’s toughest terrain to mark my father’s (E F Schumacher) centenary and to raise awareness of the charity he founded – Practical Action.

You can follow my journey here:

Day 3 La Clusaz to Areches (58kms)

By the time we reached the summit of the Col des Aravis the road had started to dry out and the sky had cleared offering us superb views across to Mont Blanc. After a brief stop we descended to Giettaz before climbing the 1650m Col des Saisies. After a fast descent to Beaufort and a much needed stop at the local patisserie for a re-fuel we took on the final climb of the day, a 7km ascent to the scenic village of Areches. Here we enjoyed sampling the delicious local Beaufort cheese at the quaint auberge where we stopped for the night, before an evening meal on the balcony under the stars.

Chapel - Col des Aravis

Church and bicycle - Beaufort


Day 4 Areches to Val d’Isere (73kms)

A tough day began with a 7.5 km climb immediately after breakfast to the summit of the Col du Pre (1703m) where we stopped for coffee at a cafe with stunning views across to a reservoir below and the high Alps. After a short descent to the barrage we were presented with yet another climb, the Cormet de Roseland (1967m) before a fantastic, winding 20km descent to Bourg St Maurice. The sun was beating down now and the relentless 32km climb to Val d’Isere after lunch was a real test of endurance.

Day 5 Val d’Isere to Valloire (107kms)

We were becoming accustomed to climbs straight after breakfast and today was no different, this time the Col de l’Iseran at 2762m. The 17km, 900m climb was a long slog but we were again rewarded with sun, blue skies and stunning views at the rugged, windswept summit.


A fast 20km descent to Bessans was followed by a short climb up to Aussois for lunch. Just in case you were wondering who were the mad couple who decided to do this ride for their honeymoon, here they are – Travis and Tina from San Francisco..!

We were now keenly anticipating the first really famous Tour de France climbs of the trip, the Col du Telegraphe followed by the Galibier and we didn’t have to wait long. After a short ride down the valley we were confronted with this sign:


the only way is up..

Thanks for the reminder.

Just over an hour later and I had reached the summit and a well-earned beer. In hindsight this probably wasn’t what my body wanted at that point and unsurprisingly, after a short descent to our hotel in Valloire I felt completely wiped out for the rest of the evening…

the reception at the summit of the Telegraphe


Day 6 The Col du Galibier & Col d’Izoard (106kms)

There was a palpable sense excitement in the air at breakfast in anticipation of the day ahead with the famed Galibier the first obstacle in our way. If the prospect of the giant 17km climb up this imposing 2646m Col  wasn’t enough to make me feel small on cycling out of the village we came across this assembly of Giants which certainly did:

Amongst the Giants in Valloire

The Galibier itself was a marathon as expected with a particularly tough last few kilometers. The views on the way up and particularly up top were almost enough to make all the effort seem worthwhile though:


looking back at the way we came


Looking down on the summit of the famous Col du Galibier...


The 38km descent was exhilarating and I never realised 65kmh could feel so fast!

they could at least have got my name right..


I had climbed the fearsome Galibier and it could only get easier from here on it. It took just a few hours before I realised I was most mistaken! In my thrall at the names Col du Telegraphe and Galibier I had failed to realise that just because a Col didn’t appear as frequently in cycling’s Blue Riband event it did not detract from it’s difficulty. And so it proved with the 23km afternoon climb up the Col d’Izoard (2,360m) which proved at least as challenging in the energy-sapping, dry afternoon heat. The roads were quieter now and the climb up above Briancon and through the pine forests was stunning:


The views from the top were equally breathtaking:


the Izouard was so hard






After gaining all that height it was rather demoralising to lose it almost immediately with a 30km descent to the lively town of Guillestre 1,300m below…


Day 7  Guillestre to Auron (97kms)

It was after consulting the itinerary on arrival at the hotel that it finally dawned on me that such had been the attention I had given the previous day’s itinerary I had failed to recognise that the next day’s ride was even tougher. Whereas the previous day we had climbed 2,774m in total, today we were due to climb just under 3,000m, including going over the highest paved road in the Alps! The first challenge was the Col de Vars and again we were greeted with clear blue skies and sunshine


20 kms later and we had re-gained most of the ground we had lost the previous afternoon and were back up to 2,108m. Needless to say we then descended nearly 1,000m down to Jausiers – a far from ideal preparation for the monster 23km and 1,600m climb back up to the 2,802m Col de la Bonette.

After stopping for lunch at a picturesque spot we braced ourselves for the challenge ahead. It was an imposing climb with endless switchbacks and unrelenting heat, but two hours or so later I had made it to the top. It was the most satisfying climb of my life as I sprinted up the final 2 kms even recording 30kmh as the road plateaued below before the final sharp bend to the top. The exhileration was overwhelming and it was one of the most satisfying moments of my life as I clambered up the scree slope to the summit to survey the view:

atop the Cime de Bonnette


After an incredible 26km descent we were back down at 1,144m in St Etienne de Tinee. A really hard day finished with an unexpected and vicious 6.5km, 500m clamber up to Auron but with adrenalin still coarsing through my veins, nothing was stopping me now.


Day 8 Auron to Nice (128kms)

If I thought the final day would be an easy, if long, descent to the mediterranean I was again proved wrong. We set off earlier than usual at 8am and the first 50kms certainly flew by averaging well over 30kmh as we made rapid headway down the valley.

the descent to St Sauveur-sur-Tinee

It was shortly after stopping for a mid-morning coffee stop that I had a reality check. Instead of following the main route down the valley into Nice the itinerary took us into the hills and into a beautiful, remote valley.

a beautiful valley south of Utelle

It’s allure was tempered however by the fact that we were staring at a near 15% climb for several kilometers under the now familiar unrelenting sun.  It was a real struggle at times just to keep the pedals rotating such was the gradient but eventually we entered a tunnel that signalled the top and a welcome stop for lunch in Utelle.

The afternoon’s ride to Nice was, despite a few more undulations, relatively straightforward as we eagerly anticipated our first views of the sea as we rounded each bend. Perhaps it was the incoming cloud that shrouded our view but we had to wait until we hit the very centre of Nice before it finally came into view 100m ahead!

our first view of the Med..


Finally, after more than 3 weeks and 1,400 miles I had made it!!


Let the celebrations begin…!

Mike and Eileen crack open the champagne...

Thank you very much to everyone for your support and interest and if you were waiting to see whether I would complete the challenge before sponsoring me please don’t hold off any longer! We’re currently around £100 short of our £5,000 fundraising target so any help you can give to get us there would be hugely appreciated!

Just visit to show your support.

One response to “My 1,400 mile charity cycle challenge”

  1. Nazmul Says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! Nice to know, that the mission has successfully completed.

    My curiosity to know, if you kindly say for us.

    1. What particular thing/s has influenced you to do this.
    2. How many times the image of your Dad has come in your mind throughout your journey.
    3. How did you able to manage your stress (if you had any in the journey)
    4. Whats your plan for the next and the thoughts for us.

    Thanks once again for your great work. Cheers

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