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.
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!!!