TWO CYCLISTS braved the elements when they saddled up to cross the French Alps – helping raise over £300,000 for the Armed Forces charity Help for Heroes.
Buxton farmer Ian Hulme and friend Iain Banks, an airline pilot from Sheen, took part in the Piste 2 Plage Challenge, a four-day bike ride starting at the picturesque ski resort of Sainte Foy Tarentaise and finishing on the sandy beaches of the Cap d’Antibes, on the Cote d’Azur.
It was these contrasting conditions which made for a particularly challenging experience, explained Ian, 47, whose son Matthew serves in the Army with the Mercian Regiment.
“It was raining hard when we set off on the first day, and by the time we reached the Col de l’Iseran we were faced by blizzards and snow. It was a bit scary on the 25-mile descent,” he said.
“I remember taking my foot off one of the cleats and it froze solid. After that I couldn’t get my foot back in!”
The 440-kilometre route featured mountain climbs often tackled by Tour de France riders, including the intimidating Cime de la Bonnette - the highest road in Europe.
A total of 125 riders took part, and together they raised £320,000 for Help for Heroes towards a new rehabilitation centre for service personnel.
“It was an absolutely fantastic experience,” added Ian. “I was really worried about the fitness side, but after all the training I put in around the Peak District, I felt absolutely fantastic, and I was pleasantly surprised.”