Arctic to Africa on a bicycle! What a challenge, four and a half thousand miles cycling from Nordkapp the most northern point in Europe through the continent and into Africa finishing in Casablanca in the summer of 2019. There are five riders, who are completing this challenge in three two-week phases over a period of three years.
As in previous cycling challenges, we are using this opportunity to raise money for a worthy charity Alzheimer Research UK! A charity very close to a lot of the riders hearts.
The plans are in place; the training is well under way; the fundraising has begun and we are ready to set off or the Arctic.
The challenge will begin at Midnight on the 18th of June 2017 from Nordkapp finishing the first stage two weeks later in Gothenburg.

And so, the end is here! Arctic to Africa Phase 2 is completed! Emotions and tiredness hit us at the end and then, despite all the great planning, modern technology hit us and our internet capabilities did not let us put up the final blog. After a long drive back to England we are finally home and able to give you our final days blog.

Day 15

The final day dawned upon us. Only 65 miles to go but we had the Alps once again in our way and this time we had 3 big climbs to contend with. The day started off immediately into the climb of Col de Tende – one thing you don’t want with over 1400 miles in your legs is a start on a climb first thing before your legs can get warmed up!

So Col de Tende is the border from Italy and France and is over 6000ft, slightly lower than Stelvio. The climb wasn’t too bad once we got into it and as usual Dave and Paul pulled away and let me plod up in my normal way enjoying the view over Limone Piemonte. Once at the top there was a cafe and a centre for Summer and Winter sports – skiing, mountain biking and hiking. After a short break it was a small climb right up to the very top and into France and what a view (see pics). We did know that the route down was very steep and there was some off road or loose gravel. What we didn’t expect was how steep and how severe the drops were over the edge. What we thought would be a loose gravel track was actually full off road with large rocks and boulders. We had no choice but to head off down and navigate the 49 switchbacks. We set off very gingerly gaining a bit of confidence the further we went down when the the inevitable happened and a puncture!!! It was Dave who was in front and by the time we caught up to him he had the wheel off and was mending the tyre. He waved us on so we continued only for Paul to fall off 100 meters further along as the track got worse then as I approached him I was off as well. So there we are half a mile into France, one puncture and 2 falls; we still had at least 2000ft to drop before we would hit tarmac again. Once we all got back on our bikes we continued precariously down the steep and dangerous track down. There were no more incidents on the way down and the road improved slightly the further we descended. Eventually we met the main smooth road where we could enjoy the rest of the descent. We had about 6 miles of long sweeping roads and switchbacks down hitting speeds of nearly 50 Mph. We eventually had to turn off the main road as we had a couple more passes to cross so it was climbing again for a couple of miles. This time for the first time in the whole trip we had rain! When I say rain it was a full blown out storm with thunder, lightning and torrential downpours. We were soaked to the skin. When we were over the first pass we stopped for a quick beer before we went over the very last climb. This seemed to work as the sun came out and we stormed up the climb feeling as fresh as the first day, or was it the excitement and adrenaline kicking in knowing we were nearly there? We were right to get giddy as once at the top we could see in the distance the blue sea of the Mediterranean! Downhill all the way to the sea. The route down was through Menton then we had a lovely ride for about 5 miles along the promenade before we climbed over the peninsula into Monaco. Our route in Monaco took us down to join the Grand Prix circuit as it went through casino tunnel. We followed the route then along the harbour and past the famous swimming pool before heading up to casino square. We battled through the heavy traffic and around all the roadworks before entering the square and headed to the front of the casino where the welcoming party of 18 family and friends were waiting with champagne in hand. A very welcome sight!

Finally we have completed phase 2 of Arctic to Africa – 1500 miles and 80,000 ft of climbing. Time to celebrate then relax before we think about phase 3 next year.

It was lovely to sit with everyone at the end reminiscing over the last 15 days and raise a glass (or 2 or 3!!) to the achievement of this phase. All the early mornings, sore legs, struggling with heat, aches and pains, high emotions, never ending climbs, months and months of planning and preparation faded into insignificance at the realisation that with the help of all the support behind us, the 3 of us have completed this cycling challenge!! Proud? You bet we are!

We still have more funds to include but to date we have raised £14,100 towards Alzheimer’s Research Uk. We would like to thank everyone for the kind donations that have been made to raise this amount to help defeat this dreadful illness – the whole purpose of this challenge.

All the support received has been so welcome – messages of support, comments to our blogs, likes and shares on the various social media platforms and those fabulous faces who flew out to be there at the end. It’s difficult to really express how much it really does mean to us all. After a tough, tough day this support really raised our spirits just when needed!

There are many people we simply couldn’t have done this without but we especially want to thank our sponsors – Oak by Design, The Station Hotel Birstwith, New Lodge Contractors, Logic Fire and Security, Kerrys and Vantage Toyota.

And so for another year, it’s done! We can now start to look towards the end of the challenge and Casablanca- oh my!!

But before then we need to concentrate on organising The Great Nidd Bike Ride on the 15th of September. It would be fantastic for you to take part in this day’s cycle which takes in the amazing scenery we are fortunate to call home. All details can be found at www.greatniddbikeride.co.uk and this is a massive fundraiser for us. Remember that unlike other cycling events around, we don’t make any profit from this event. It really is a charity event! Come along and join us all – it’s a really enjoyable day!!

Once again, thank you all for your support!! Here’s to Arctic to Africa Phase 3!!!

Another two tough days for the boys and the heat has made things very hard for all. The scenery is amazing – field after field of grape vines and olive trees, but a mix of long flats then tough hills has again taken its toll.

Very enjoyably for all concerned (well, hopefully) is that we are now with a large group of friends from Birstwith who amazingly have coincided their holidays to be with us at the end. New faces to see and chat with has been great and very welcome. Put five people together for 2 weeks who have seen each other through very tough times, are very tired and occasionally now grumpy (admittedly hard to imagine, I know) then new faces become a welcome addition to the group.

So the penultimate ride is done and dusted! Another day and Arctic to Africa Phase 2 is complete!!! How has that happened so quickly. We were talking earlier and bizarrely it seems so long ago that we started this phase and yet it also seems to have gone so quick! Very hard to understand I’m sure but we know what we mean! Memories are now starting to dull a little and nervous excitement is there for the boys. The cycle ride tomorrow is 65 miles, climbing 9000 ft as we cross into France and finally Monaco. More friends and family will be there too – 21 people to see the boys in is amazing! We laughed that nobody came to Gothenburg with the wind, rain and snow but when Monaco was mentioned, it’s another story!! Seriously, it really means so much to everyone, both cyclists and back up! It will make it so much more memorable and I’m sure a little bit more emotional. A few drinks will definitely be had to ease the weary limbs of those amazing boys.

As we finish our epic meal in Limone Piemonte beneath beautiful mountains, before retiring to prep for the final ride, despite how hard it has been for us all and how ready we are for a proper holiday – it is only right to tell you now how proud we, the back up team (aka Kayleigh and myself) are of them – for cycling all those miles, for getting up every morning and sitting on their tiny little painful saddles, for pushing on through relentless heat, for being stupid enough to follow Sean on this whole challenge, for doing this for Dad and for raising so much money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Tomorrow they set off for the final time. Please let them know how well they’ve done and how amazing they are. Wish them well and pray for a nice heat and a gentle breeze behind them. They will smash this and your support will spur them on.

We will see you on the other side folks!!!

So, day 12 is upon us. The last couple of days have been hard for all – mentally and physically. Early starts, long days, steep climbs, tough descents and scorching heat were just some of the things we have had to deal with. No wonder that moods were black and bodies tired at the end of the days and thus no blog til now.

After spending an enjoyable evening on Thursday with Paul’s Aunty and Uncle as we sat amongst lederhosen clad guys attending a local festival, Friday saw the boys set off after Paul had exhausted his bank of jokes as they departed from beneath Mount Wank.

The day took us to Glorenza Glurns in Italy (which Kayleigh and myself thought should be a character in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory) and was also Sean and I’s Wedding Anniversary – not the usual celebratory way to be spending an anniversary but in true style, not the first time (that was during another cycle challenge too)!

The day was tough one for our boys. There was a lot of climbing – Fern Pass and another killer climb and a gravel down hill which no-one enjoyed. As our Tiny aka Paul said via Facebook “To anyone thinking this bike ride looks like a nice holiday, today has been one of the most physically demanding days of my life 😂 87 miles, 8,000ft of climbing, 30+ degrees, four countries and 1 fall. If anyone has thought about sponsoring or having a look at sponsoring and hasn’t then please have a look because we’ve had our arses kicked today 😂haven’t stopped, died or passed out so all is well but yeah we’d appreciate it ”. Enough said!

Saturday dawned very early. Eager and slightly nervous for our boys as this was THE day – Stelvio dawned today. From our camp site you could see the Mountains in The Alps which the boys were to follow, taking in the infamous pass. For those who don’t know of this, it is the second highest mountain pass in Europe at 9,045 ft. Italy, Switzerland and Austria all join up around it. But more than this, contained within the pass are 48 switchbacks to be cycled. See the picture’s below to see what they had to climb. To put into context, no way were the back up team driving it! So the boys set off very early and headed off. David had been waiting over a year to do this and the trip had been arranged around the pass. All 3 cyclists said it was very emotional, the biggest climb done by any of them and they all felt it physically, mentally and emotionally. Paul struck off what he said yesterday on Facebook – forget all that, Stelvio beat all of that and more.

Driving wise, we drove a different way to that which the the boys cycled to avoid the switchbacks- it didn’t work and we didn’t avoid them, although thankfully not as many. It was very scary though and I was extremely glad to get to the end. As we were nearing our end, Kayleigh had been checking up on the boys to see how they were doing. David first, very emotional, paul followed, again emotional. When she read to me that her Dad was there and he’d messaged to say how hard it had been and that “this one’s for Eric” tears flowed.

We are so proud of the boys achievement – If nothing else can encourage people to donate for their achievement, this should! They found it tougher than they ever imagined. Never mind that, they then had 80 miles to go in immense heat!

I know my Dad would be so proud of them, as we are. Wherever he is, he will be telling all and sundry of what “these lads” are doing and will be raising one (or many) Guinness to them for this day alone so the whole achievement… let’s say, heaven will be in full party mode!

Today has been a relatively easy day (in comparison anyway) for all concerned to be fair. Still 70 odd miles and still very, very hot. They cycled and we drove via different parts of Lake Como – simply stunning! An early finish of 3.00pm meant a dip in the swimming pool at the campsite and a well deserved and much needed chill by Lake Maggiore. Again, stunning!

We head tomorrow to Asti to meet up with many friends joining us for the finale in Monaco. Only 3 days to go – woohoo! Let’s hope and pray that they are good days too – please cross anything and everything!

Only 3 days to go now. Tomorrow is 95 miles in extreme heat of over 35 degrees in the shade. Let’s hope the garmin we are using for navigation holds up as it stopped working today. Apparently, once it gets to 45 degrees Celsius it stops working!!!! Great Garmin!!!!

A Big thank you to all of those who have donated to Alzheimer’s Research UK it is much appreciated. Also thanks again to the corporate sponsors.

Oak By Design

New Lodge Contractors

The Station Hotel

Vantage Group

Kerrys

Logic Fire and Security

 

Today’s blog sponsored by Logic Fire and Security

Day 8

We have had a dramatic few days hence no update yesterday. Where do we start? Yesterday was our rest day or was supposed to be we only had 78 miles to do after all. The route was along the Saal canal on a rough cycle track which made riding that little bit harder. Anyway, it was a shorter route for both the cyclist and the backup crew, both Kathleen and Kayleigh even managed to get on the bike to cycle into Ingolstadt. That’s where it all went wrong! We got to them at about 4:00 pm and had a couple of beers when I say a couple it was a bit more than a couple! The time had come when we had to get back to the campsite. The girls walked back to the bike and the riders cycled back to the camp. David, it has to say was a bit tipsy and ended up falling off his bike so he won the numpty award or did he? When we got back to the camp we got a call from Kathleen to say she had a puncture and could we come back as Kayleigh was also lost! Luckily we had find my friends on the mobile so I found Kayleigh on the wrong side of the Danube in a forest total lost. I then had to find Kathleen who was heading in the completely wrong direction pushing her bike. I caught up with her and mended the puncture in the dark then got back to Kayleigh who had got lost again in an army barracks!!!! So the numpty award had to go to the back up crew fro getting lost more than once and managing to get a puncture after only 5 miles (please note we have had only one puncture in a total of 9000 miles between us excluding all the training!!!) All was well in the end.

Day 9 was our last really long day about 113 miles and all uphill. Today was tough it was hot and we were tired probably due to a few too many beers the night before as well!! Nothing much to report apart from the fact this was the first day we could see the Alps and what an impressive sight that was. We eventually got to the camp at about 8:00 pm so a long day in the saddle.

Halfway! Just over 2,200 miles completed for the whole challenge, we are now on the countdown!

Today’s blog is sponsored by Vantage Group!

Another 100 miles today, but much more enjoyable. 3 climbs and the first was a big long climb. The scenery is now a lot more interesting which makes the day go past so much quicker. No major incidents today apart from Tiny’s (Paul) stationary fall whilst clipped in which deservedly earnt him the Numpty hat for today.

Next, we will be now heading into Bavaria which will be more interesting and hilly. Tomorrow is only 78 miles, so a nice rest day before we hit the Alps!

A big thank you to Mark Robinson and all from Vantage Group for sponsoring us on this challenge.

 

Don’t forget, if you would like to take part in a cycling challenge yourself, the Great Nidd Bike Ride is on Saturday 15th September, you can sign up here.

Day 6 Still in Germany close to the Czech Border.

Sponsored by The Station Hotel

118 miles today, all uphill, not steep but continuous and into the wind again. A total of 5500ft of climbing.

This morning it was hot, hot, hot. About 31 degrees in the shade! The scenery was still a bit tedious, long straight roads and large dusty fields. It was all about getting our heads down and getting the job done. Then at about half way, we hit the hills and the valley of the Salle river which gave us much-needed shelter from the wind and windy roads, as well as a good view.

We finally got the Numpty hat! Today, once again Dave claims the numpty award for him not following simple directions – for some reason, Dave has two lefts. It seems when we say turn right, he goes left and we have to remind him it is the other left!

Tomorrow we have 100 miles to do and the wind is forecast as a strong crosswind. Hopefully, as we are climbing a lot it shouldn’t affect us too much.

A big thank you to The Station Hotel, Martin Green and all the staff for supporting us on this challenge – it is very much appreciated.

We have a couple of videos from today to view along with a few photos.

Today we have a video blog for you and a “Relive” of today’s actual ride.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank today’s sponsor “Oak by Design” Jamie has supported us all the way and is even coming to Monaco to watch us come in. Thanks goes out to all from Oak By Design for the support and sponsorship.

If you want to join in the fundraising and set your own cycling challenge why not enter the Great Nidd Bike Ride on the 15th of September. It is a great way to get out on your bike, see the beautiful countryside of Nidderdale and challenge yourself up Cote de Lofthouse. There are plenty of Breaks on the way round and Brunch half way. All followed by cakes and a BBQ at the end.

To enter go to www.arctictoafrica.com/greatnidbikeride to register.

Sponsored by New Lodge Contractors

Blog by Sean

107 yesterday then 125 Miles today all the way into a heavy wind about 30 – 40 Mph!!! These were supposed to be the days we got our legs working; long, flat and fast! Far from it, this was more about team work! For those who are not so familiar with cycling as a team in the wind, it’s about positioning yourself as close to the bike in front of you and on the correct side depending on the direction of the wind. Today we each spent a few miles at the front before peeling off and getting tucked in at the back to rest before your time comes round again. The trick is keeping the speed constant. Then there is the concentration of watching the wheel in front of you and trying to keep within 6” of it. One mistake and you are off!

Only one fall today, that was me but I blame it on Dave as he wanted me to turn round on a cobbled street to get a photo. Anyway, it looks like I get the numpty hat today.

Todays Stat: 125 Miles  :3800ft Climbing   : 9600 calories burnt (not sure how much we have to eat to replace that!)

So we are 457 miles in after 4 days – not too bad. Tomorrow we have got 100 miles and we start a bit of climbing. The forecast is getting better the further south we go.

In tomorrow’s blog we will be doing Paul’s profile.

A big thank you to today’s sponsor New Lodge Contractors, Clive without your support we could not have done this.

Until tomorrow,

Sean

Our last day in Sweden for this Arctic to Africa trip, we have had 10 days cycling over the whole trip to date and over 1000 miles in total. Quick summary of Sweden. The north was forest, forest for 800 miles – that’s a big forest! This year as we headed South from Gothenburg the cycle routes were fantastic. We did over 90% on cycle highways. These were purpose made cycle roads well away from all other traffic, they seem to have it right and the number of cyclists about must be reducing traffic congestion. If the Swedish could smile or acknowledge each other occasionally it would be a great place to visit!

Anyway back to this year’s ride and more importantly today’s ride – 84 miles with a bit of a hill in the middle. All was going well, we had a decent speed – not too much wind – and got to Denmark by 12 noon. Once in Denmark we stopped for lunch and a beer – well why not, only 19 miles to go! After lunch it was going to be an easy ride along the coast to the camp site. All was going well when a time trial rider flew past us! Dave being Dave put his foot to the pedal and got in his slip stream, Paul followed! I had no choice but to push my limits and get on the back of them. So there we are, trundling along at just over 25 Mph for over 10 miles!!!! If anything we got to the camp quick, about 2:45 pm which must be a record.

So camp was in an old fort with a moat around it and lots of cannons aimed across the sea presumably to Sweden, maybe they didn’t wave back at some time in the past!!

The afternoon was spent in the sea, great for the legs as it was like an ice bath.

Tomorrow we head South to Germany. The forecast is not good for us cyclists. There is a strong head wind about 30 – 40 mph we have about 130 miles so could be one of the hardest days of the trip! Here’s to tomorrow evening and a well deserved beer again.

Thanks for following us guys – it really means a lot!!

Post by Sean

So today was the first proper day of phase 2, and we all felt more than ready to get stuck into it. We got up and set off at about 8.10am.

It was a pleasant little warm up, along a road that ran right next to the sea-  a very scenic way to wake up and get our legs moving again. The wind wasn’t too much of an issue until we were about 20 miles in and it really started slowing us down a bit.

Whoever was at the front was really having to get their head down and power on for a few miles before a well earned rest at the back. We stopped for a quick coffee and sit down at the 35 mile mark, if anything just to have a break from the wind. Despite the wind, it was still very warm so nothing compared to the conditions last year!

 

We got going again and put in a few hours of hard work, rotating the front rider every few minutes so everybody could have some respite. At 65 miles we found a petrol station to grab some lunch which was a calzone pizza (in a service station!) and bottle of coke. I’d like to add that this is probably the first (and probably last) ride we’ve done where there wasn’t at least one beer consumed on a lunch break. We’ll try resume normal behaviour tomorrow.

 

After the 70 mile mark the wind seemed to die down a bit and although still breezy, was nowhere near as strong as it had been. We got to the campsite, at 3.30, which considering we’d just done 90 miles was nice, giving us the rest of the day to relax and get ready for tomorrow which is a similar length ride.

 

And for anyone wondering just how far south we’ve come on the whole A2A trip so far, we’re just below Aberdeen in Latitude- so a bit left to do. 

Post by Paul Warner

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