To support their work locally, I have taken on the challenge of a 1000 mile sponsored bike ride through France, from the ‘Channel to the Med’, to raise funds for the Southport & Formby CAP Debt Centre. As I count the miles down, through your generosity people can count down the days until they are debt free and can breath again.
If you can support me, then please use this form…and follow my daily blog from 20th June to the 8th July
Thank you for your support.”
Saturday 6th July
Once we reached the peak it was a deep descent over about 15 miles to just above sea level to within 10 miles of the coast. For me this was probably the most challenge part of the whole journey. The wind had stirred and together with a heavy bike and unbelievably steep roads made for a nervy finish. I managed to keep it together and took it slowly, and this was helped by light traffic.
Prayers for us – nothing…we are so thankful to have reached our destination, and thank God for our safe journey, and all the generous donations from the good folk of Southport & Formby towards the CAP Debt Centre. You guys are truly amazing in your generosity and encouragement.
Prayers for others – pray that God will bless the funds raised and they will tell others of God’s provision for them.
Friday 6th July
Today’s ride was the toughest in terms of ascent, with the only category one climb of the whole ride. This climb was about 5 miles into our day and lasted for the next 9 miles with an elevation of 800 metres. We left at 7.15 am and we’re climbing by 7.45 for about the next two hours. In the cool of the day and the shade of the gorge we made remarkable time. There was hardly any traffic and we had viewing points pretty much to ourselves early on.
The tunnel with no lights in it and a bend partway through resulting in total darkness was a ride of confidence.
We were rewarded by amazing views. At about 10 a couple of helicopters flew over the gorge and it felt over us so we gave an obligatory wave.
The gorge is 700 metres deep, sheer drop at places although it was good we were driving the southern road and could hug the rock when needed. The gorge is 25km in length, 15 miles, and undulates with two challenging climbs doubling our initial ascent. Second only to the Grand Canyon
We had lunch on the plateau before descending through the lower reaches of the gorge which continued to offer a spectacular landscape. A tough but rewarding day.
One more day to go of 57 miles with our final two climbs in the first 20 miles before the descent into Nice. We’ve been warned to have our wits about us because we’ve not ridden in town/city traffic for the last couple of weeks.
Prays for us – a good trouble free last day. Mark has had some difficulties with his bike and we hope all will be well for our final ride.
Prayers for others – we’ve cycled coming up for 900 miles, and some miles are tougher than others. When recovering from debt, some repayments at certain times seem tougher than others. May those with such challenges ride through the toughest with confidence and strength.
Thursday 5th July
We stated through about 10 miles of flat land before the landscape became more undulating. Every lavender field had cars parked at the side and tourists snapping away with their cameras, so we decided to join in (well it is a holiday).
We cycled through a number of pretty villages, although we were always gradually rising.
Today has all been about preparing for tomorrow which will be 50 miles and 2000 meters of ascent, the highest single day of ascent of the whole trip; it will also take us the the highest point of the trip some 1200 meters above sea level (Ben Nevis is 1345 meters by comparison). Riding along the Gorges du Verdon, second only to the Grand Canyon, is tomorrow’s objective.
Today, my wife Louise and daughter Jess, arrive in Nice for my hopeful arrival on Saturday, and my companions wife Carol arrives tomorrow morning. Me and Mark are ready to meet them, just 107 miles to go!
Prayers for us – that we reach our destination without any last minute injuries or issues.
Prayers for others – pray for those approaching the end of their debt repayment arrangements through CAP, that they will see it through to completion.
Wednesday 4th July
The first two thirds of the day were up hill although very forgiving at about a 2% climb for the first third. This allowed us to ruse quickly and in the first 10 miles of our ride we saw one truck and one car. It felt like the road was open just for us (and the goats). I must say it was probably a couple of the best cycling hours I’ve ever experienced. We were fortunate to have the shade of the gorge and the cool of the height of our ascent.
The views were amazing, and I even managed to provide a short video for this mornings assemblies at Farnborough Road Primary School for Tabz and the Pais team. At their request this was about change, so I was able to talk about the change of scenery and heat over the last two weeks, as well as in our fitness. Two weeks ago I’d have struggled to do today’s ride…we are now “cycling fit”. This is were our fitness is increasing day by day.
There may be some videos we can show of this mornings climb.
We continued our climb to about 1000 meters before our ascent to today’s B&B in Beaudine.
Tomorrow sees a 37 mile ride but with some quite tricky steep elements, before our toughest day of the whole ride on Friday.
Prayer for us – the heat has been more forgiving today, in part because we have been at a higher altitude. Pray that we will travel safe for the next few days.
Prayer for others – it was strange that for the first ten plus miles this morning it was all uphill but enjoyable. That just doesn’t seem right versus my experience. It was in part because the uphill was manageable, and through training and experience we’d got use to such a ride. This enabled us to enjoy the scenery and enjoy the chat. Prayer is that for those in debt living on a budget, that through the transition to this they will be able to breath again and enjoy the journey.
Tuesday 3rd July
We were up at 6 for a 7 am exit from the site – we are very adept at keeping silent and using sign language to allow the other campers to sleep in.
Our terrain was very flat as we made steady progress at 16mph (average touring bike speed is 12mph). We soon reached the Rhône river and cycled along its bank, getting stuck in commuter traffic for the local nuclear power station. The Rhône is massive in its breadth, and there is significant barriers at its edges to stop flooding.
Soon after the power station we were headed towards the bridge over the river, only for the road ahead to be closed because of works on the bridge until mid July. The diversion was many many miles out of our route and the heat of the day was beginning to rise. We looked on google maps and saw the bridge was open to cyclists but not cars…could this be right? I’d previously been barred from crossing another bridge a few days earlier by a rather over zealous workman, and my negotiation skills in English with a French accent oddly failed. Mark, with very good French therefore took over as chief diplomatic envoy in Anglo French relations. It was like a scene from the Cold War film Bridge of Spies – after a couple of minutes of flattery by Mark in relation to the French national football team, a path was cleared for us to pass through. Mark is wasted in marketing, I’d have him as chief Brexit negotiator.
We we most relieved to cross the bridge and proceeded across flat terrain, and had breakfast in a small village surrounded by an old style flood defence system.
We continued with a tough climb through the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, probably, and rightly so, one of the best wine growing areas in the world.
All of the climbing today came in the second half of our journey, and it was the hottest we had experienced.
We eventually arrived at our destination of Villes-sur-Auzon. This is a small village although has many cyclist who use it as a base to climb Mont Ventoux. This is a very popular iconic cyclist climb and often forms part of the Tour de France – it was not for us with the weight of touring bikes and panniers. Our B&B for the night was spot on, with a tremendous history; it’s name is La Sarrasine, and the balcony of our room formed part of the barricades of the town from 1388.
The heat had been especially oppressive so a siesta was called for which was awesome…a deeper sleep I don’t think I’ve ever had. We awoke to the sound of thunder and rain, our first of the tour. Although short lived it instantly cleared the air.
We managed to watch the England game but were not impressed it went to extra time as we’d booked breakfast for 6.30.
Prayers for us – the heat continues to be our nemesis, so continued prayer that we will cycle taking sensible precautions. An update on the knee – it’s great, no wincing pain, thank you for all your prayers.
Prayer for others – heat can be so oppressive, and so often we try and work through it rather than give in to it and work around it. Debt can be similar, and there is something special when someone caught in a debt cycle seeks help and is able to deal with their debt positively and with support. As Martin Lewis says of people he has referred to CAP, they tell him they can suddenly sleep at night. Pray for those in our neighbourhoods, that they will seek and receive freedom from the oppression of debt.
Monday 2nd July
Today was going to be tough with a 7 mile climb starting within a mile of our B&B. The first couple of miles woke us up for sure and we passed by an area frequented by Le Tour.
Our climb was rewarded with our longest single ascent that the whole ride offers, some 750 meters along 14km of winding roads.
We reached a small town where there was a round protestant church (round, the understanding is, so that devil doesn’t have a corner to hide in).
We then had low lands in the Ardeche valley before going through the tourist area to Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, with its iconic arch. We stopped for a photo opportunity before heading. along the Ardeche gorge, just 14 miles from our campsite for the night.
What was all the fuss about this being a tough day? Then we met the gorge! The first 240 meters was awful, no fun what so ever, and the heat was full on
The Ardeche has a very different feel from the other valleys we’ve passed through. The vegetation, and consequently the ushade is vastly reduced, and the noise of the crickets is a constant backdrop.
Prays for us – that we can continue to make good decisions to lesson the impact of the weather.
Prayer for others – pray for all those who struggle in the heat, especially at home in the unseasonably warm weather. May they be able to stay hydrated and safe. May those who are especially vulnerable have good neighbours to look out for them.
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Sunday 1st July
As we continued to climb there was a castle on a hill with a very helpful and welcome tunnel beneath; the first tunnel of our journey.
Thereafter we picked up coffee and pastries from a tabac and Boulangerie in a lovely spa village, stays at which are available on prescription in France we are led to believe. We then headed upwards again as our total height above sea level reached 900 plus metres.
For the last few days, some 120 miles, we have been following the river Lot and just before the brow of the summit we reached its source, a small stream. This stream becomes a mighty river reaching the Atlantic in Bordeaux.
We reached the summit, at 1132 meters above sea level and there was another sign stating that at this peak there is a great divide, for every river to the west leads to the Atlantic and every river to the east the the Mediterranean
We then had a great descent to our destination, although what became apparent was the mistral wind from the med. We suddenly had a very distinct feel that our terrain was changing, for this is now southern France.
We stayed in a chambre d’hote this evening and had a lovely meal provided by our host Nellie. This included herbal tea at the end consisting of nettles, lemon balm, mint, sage and verbena, sweetened with local chestnut honey. Really good.
Tomorrow is our second biggest climb day with some 2000 meters of ascent. Early to bed!
Prayers for us – that the hills will be forgiving and that we manage ourselves well in the heat.
Prayers for others – it has been great for louise, my wife, to attend church this morning and be with the church family. Pray for all of those who seek family, that they will find it in one form or another.
Saturday 30th June
Day of rest
Friday 29th June
After breakfast with our host we were on the road, and started the day in the shade of the trees along The Lot River, passing a lovely riverside chapel. We soon reached a supermarket for supplies and I was beginning to feel human again.
We had three big climbs ahead of us, the first about 5 miles, the second 6 miles, and the third 8 miles.
The descent from the first climb was enjoyable, but from the second climb was amazing. If I never have another descent as good then I won’t be disappointed.
During that climb an English guy sped passed us on his carbon bike – morning lads – do we have English on our backs? Earlier a vw camper van had driven past with an English plate and when we got to the bottom of the hill the cyclist and partner were enjoying lunch. From
Somerset they too are doing the route.
Mark has just told me we started the day at 250 metres and climbed to 750 meters twice with the final climb to 850 meters from a base of 450 meters (Parbold hill is 130 meters).
We finished our day, despite all our climbing, towards the top of the Lot River. We are camping tonight with a rest day tomorrow before the final push of seven days.
Prayers for us – the heat and the sweat is causing concerns for energy and hydration – prayers that we are able to manage this. I’ve not drank any alcohol thus far!
Prayers for others – I know that without my good friend Mark i’d not be here, I’d have given up long since. Mark is a great navigator and encourager. Thank you God for the support of friends in all circumstances.
Thursday 28th June
Given the intense heat currently, we decided to make an early start and were on the road by 7.30. It was cool, it was bliss.
Wednesday 27th June
We stopped of in Sarlat-la-Canéda for a wonder round. This has been a popular area for holidays for my companion mark, so he knows his way around well. We stopped and enjoyed the bustle before heading off again. It was hot with little wind so we enjoyed the cycle along an old rail track with plenty of shade.
Shade was also doing along the base of the Dordogne river with the ricks and over hanging trees providing dapple shade interspersed with the heat of the sun.
We had a riverside lunch ahead of tackling the first significant climb of the ride in our first seven days. It did nit let us down. It was 2.5 parbold hill’s in succession in my view. As we cycled up some 280 meters the vegetation changed with shorted trees with less leaf protection from the sun.
It was tough riding in the 32 degrees of heat. The key focus is staying hydrated and not running out of energy, so every chance to take on water and energy, we grab.
The knee is holding up well and does not have the same intensity of pain it had the first few days, which is a great help. Today we rode 55 miles approx and climbed about 1250 meters of ascent. Tomorrow I think is 65 miles and about 1500 meters of ascent.
Things to pray for for us…that we will stay hydrated in the heat, whilst maintains our energy levels, and that there will be enough shade.
Things to pray for for others…thank God for the work of the CAP debt centre in our town, and for the commitment and care of the debt advisor bernard Wallbank, and of the debt centre manager gary foulds. May god bless their endeavours.
Tuesday 26th June
Monday 25th June
Mark was uncertain he could get there by cycling, and for me it would put pressure on the days that lay ahead. We took the decision to bin todays leg. Disappointingly this means we will not complete the 1000 mile challenge, rather it’s more like a 900 mile challenge. This will allow us to meet our pre booked daily destinations from now on.
So we taxied to Limoges which was a cosy journey! We travelled by the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, the silent village, where all of the inhabitants were executed by the Nazi’s. The village has been left in tact as a memorial to those who died, and as an educational experience for future generations.
We arrived in Limoges at Jeremy’s cycles not knowing for sure jeremy would be open or would have time to fit us in. At 11.30 they (Jeremy and his “papa” had us in the workshop and an hour later had finished. We met local cyclists as we waited who were intrigued by our ride. Many new spokes for me following day ones woes, plus a new centre cog.
We had time to relax and look around Limoges and it’s historic buildings. The lions outside one of the churches have been well patted, and use to be the markers for the entry to the city; enter at your own risk.
Looking ahead the weather is set for about 30 degrees so we need to stay hydrated.
Prayer request is that we get back on track and arrive at our day six destination.
Prayer request for others follows our own experience. For all those who set off with great intentions only to be set of course and feel they’ve failed. This especially applies to those struggling with debt, who envisage it engulfing them, when in reality it’s so often circumstances beyond their control and experience that may have caused it. May we support those whose circumstances have had catastrophic consequences, and assure them that in God’s economy they are as precious and as valuable as gold.
Sunday 24th June
One of the roads that went for many miles had crosses at regular intervals, and lead to a town with Celtic origins – La Grimaudière.
The landscape also changed in terms of properties with slated roofs beginning to be replaced by terracotta slates.
As we reached Marçay a spoke on my rear wheel gave way – I’m beginning to take this personally! And then we stoped in Marçay as Marks gear cable to his rear wheel had broken. Instead of 30 gears he only had 3 for the remaining 30 miles of our day. He did really well with some testing hills. About 5 miles from our destination for the night, a Logis b&b on the River Vienne, my gear cable to my pedal gear set broke, leaving me with only 9 gears. We arrived at our destination in good spirits despite of this, although we are now making some contingency plans to find a bike shop ASAP tomorrow, as the technicality of the work is beyond our capability.
We’ve cycled coast to coast and Lands End to John O’Groats and never had the tech issues we’ve had in these last four days. Still we are staying positive.
We have a plan that involves a detour to Limoges tomorrow.
Suddenly, rather than thinking of this ride as a whole, I’m now just taking it one day at a time. Unless something stops us in our tracks, eventually we hope to arrive in Nice.
As we struggled today, we came across the demarcation line that had existed across France during the Nazi occupation. We had already seen many memorials for those who had worked for the resistance. These symbols continue to be so meaningful for us.
Prayers for us – that we will be able to stay positive despite those things that we had not planned.
Prayers for others – having spent a night in a sleeping bag for the first time in a long time, whilst novel, it was not like a proper bed. Who in their right mind would choose to sleep out on the streets. A prayer…Lord God, we pray for all those whose reality is sleeping rough in the absence of a place of their own to call home. We pray for our society, that we will have patience and tolerance towards those who are homeless. May we strive to irradiate the injustices that result in people living tough by asking each day…what can I do? In the name of our saviour Jesus Christ, who himself was born in a borrowed stable. Amen.
Saturday 23rd June
We started the day by travelling east for a few miles and then turning right and crossing the mighty Loire river. We then continued in an eastern direction pretty much following the roads alongside the river which was thankfully flat. Just before mid day we left the Loire river and headed south and lunched in the shade of the Maire in the village centre of Fontevraud-l’Abbaye. Thereafter the day headed down very long straight roads, with spires or castles on hills as our way markers. The road undulated but was forgiving.
We arrived in the village of Moncontour and had our first night under canvas. Not before doing the chores – washing!
Friday 22nd June
Thursday 21st June
60 odd miles completed and about 850 metres of ascent. We are on our way although my left knee is causing me significant anxiety. Will I be able to ride on it for the next 15 days?
Nothing though to the anxiety many in our neighbourhoods face with the pressure of mounting debts, especially when the unexpected hits and threatens your good intent.
Wednesday 20th June
Ferry just left Portsmouth bound for St Malo and I didn’t do a runner to Gatwick airport for a flight to the Caribbean! About thirty push bikes on the ferry, so we’re in good company. Looking forward to getting in the saddle tomorrow and getting underway. Thanks for all your encouragement and good wishes, Patrick