The Challenge

During the month of August and September 2013 Richard and Angela cycled from Ashby De La Zouch, Leicestershire to Rome. The trip took 21 days, cycling through France over the Alps, and onto Rome via Pisa. A total of 1,400 miles, in temperatures around 36 degrees. Angela and Richard were totaly unsupported, it was just them, their trusty steads and thier panniers. The trip was self funded allowing every penny raised to go towards granting wishes for very ill children.

Leaving Ashby on Sunday 18th August Richard and Angela travelled towards Portsmouth via Banbury and Reading. Catching an overnight ferry to Caen, they headed towards Annecy via Pithiviers, Auxerre and Chateau Chinon. The first 2 days in France offically covered 150 miles. Having lost their way a few times, this distance was much higher than anticipated and in soaring temperatures of 30c upwards it was a tough start to the first days in France. The challenge was further enhanced with strong winds resulting with Richard and Angela barely getting out of 1st gear during the second day in France.

On arriving in Annecy, the gateway to the Alps, the high snow capped peaks started to emerge all around and the enormity of the next few days really started to hit home. The route then headed onto Albertville where the first big climb started. Cycling up to the Beaufort Pass was incredibly challenging, with a gradient of at least 15% and endless switchbacks taking them to the top, climbing 1967m. On reaching the top, the route them dropped all the way to Bourg St Maurice with an exhilerating descent, and tight swithback bends making the downhill equally as challenging as the ascent. The following day saw the second of the major climbs in the French Alps. Making their way to the top of Petit St Bernards Pass and reaching the French/Italian border at an altitude of 2188m. Once across the border it was over 23 miles to their overnight stop at Aosta. This descent was a challenge with heat soaring into the mid 30's, and very poor road surfaces which made a smooth ride impossible. Very tired and weary, they finaly arrived in Aosta where they were able to celebrate the achievment of crossing the French Alps on a bike.

The journey headed on to Pavia with a relatively steady route, but with temperatures remaining in the mid 30's and with busy roads it was still tough to keep moving forwards. Leaving Pavia, the route eventualy entered the Alpennine Mountains, with a long and gruelling climb up to the mountain top village of Berceto and the summit of Passo Della Cisa at 1041m. On the descent the scenery opened up to the tuscan rolling hills with the golden colours of Autumn, taking them through idylic Italian villages and towns, eventually reaching the coast road which led to Pisa. It was a welcome site to be cycling on the coast road with the sea and beach on the right handside after days of being landlocked and having tackled some big mountain ranges. With the heat remaining above 37 degrees, there was no cool sea breeze to cool them off, so with their heads down and wheels moving forwards they moved closer towards Pisa. Turning off the coast road with about 5 miles to go the roads started to get busier, and then in the very near distance their first glimpse of the Leaning Tower came into view. For Richard and Angela this was a huge landmark to reach, and they were very overwhelmed at getting this far in the journey, not quite believing they had cycled there! On cycling down a road once in the city of Pisa, they looked to the left, and the archway where the Leaning Tower of Pisa stood was right before them.

On leaving Pisa, although with just 3 days to go, the challenge was far from over as there was still over 220 miles to complete and an unknown road ahead. At this point Richard and Angela found it very hard to remain focused on the day in hand. Knowing they were so close, but still so far away was mentaly testing and they had to do all they could to just concentrate on the miles for that day. As the days passed by, travelling to Siena, then onto Bolsena for the final night before Rome, it was only then it felt like a reality. Waking up on the final day was very surreal for both of them, mixed emotions and the first disorganised morning finaly saw them set off on the last day where the road was defintaly leading to Rome. But it was stil a long way to go, 72 miles, but they believed they were going to do it. The last day decided to throw a few challenges their way, including a strong headwind all day. But they knew they had faced harder challenges in previous days so they remained strong in order to reach their goal. With 12 miles to go until Rome Richard and Angela both remained calm, and although they were so close, they tackled those last miles with the same mindset they had used throughout the last few step at a time. The roads into Rome were very busy with lots of traffic and chaotic road systems where it was basicaly every vehicle for themselves. It seemed to take hours to tick off the miles and still no sign of the typical sites of ancient Rome. Those miles were some of the toughest and most stressfull they had cycled on the whole journey regarding traffic, added to that the emotions of being so close to the finish line made it very difficult for them to remained focused. Finaly, after braving the final roundabout which would take them to the Coliseum which was their official finish point in Rome, they turned the corner and could see this huge iconic landmark that they had been heading for since leaving their home town of Ashby de la Zouch. They had arrived. 1,400 miles, 21 days later and no punctures!!! Richard and Angela had completed their 'Home 2 Rome' Cycle Challenge in aid of Wishes 4 Kids.

Inspiration for the challenge came to light a few years ago following the very inspiring but tragic story of Jane Tomlinson. Amongst many amazing and very tough challenges Jane completed during her fight with cancer, it was the 'Rome to Home' challenge that really caught our attention. They were both deeply struck by Jane's contagious motivation and determination and thought, one day they would love to do that. Towards the end of 2012, in the search for the next big challenge, 'Home 2 Rome' was born. On September 10th 2013 the challenge was complete. To read more about Richard and Angela's challenge visit their blog page and follow their day by day account of their journey.

Click here to read their blog.



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