Epic Alp Challenge

A lot of members will have known about Dickie Ivins recent epic charity ride. Well, here’s the full story already in a great blog

When the opportunity came up to take part in the challenge it was a too good of an opportunity to pass up as it’s been on my bucket list for a few years, and I needed a challenge both physically and mentally and this trip pushed me far beyond my abilities and very much out of comfort zone.

The fundraising was also a massive challenge, but thanks to the support of many of you I was able to exceed my target and now my total is just over a massive £ 8.5k. 

Training: I tried to condition myself for this in the last 8 months covering, 3000 miles riding and almost 200,000 feet of climbing, countless punishing early morning gym sessions, and hill repeats lots of them I mean who in their right mind would do 10 Edgehill repeats on the last day of training.

Day 1 settling in

After a scramble to the airport almost missing my flight because the transport didn’t turn up, Team Vodafone all met at the Novotel in Grenoble, the Italians bused it in, the Germans and Brit’s flew into Lyon and made it down on Public Transport and one guy rode down from Luxembourg as a warmup.

We did a little tourist stuff as you do, checking the weather for the next day, got our rooms allocated, settled in for our briefing which was simple! everyone meet at 8:45 and follow the chaperones.

Ready to start in club jersey at Grenoble

Day 2

Grenoble Recce Ride 48.8 miles 5840ft

As this was a recce day it was a ride through the busy streets of Grenoble out to the suburbs then onto our first climb of the day which was Col de la Croix Perrin to our first very well stocked coffee stop. It was a perfect day with just amazing views across the valley to our second climb Saint Nizier du Moucherotte (Lans en Vercors) then it was a 20km loop back to the coffee stop for lunch which then led back to Grenoble on first of many long breath-taking descents back in Grenoble in time for some well deserved rest. 

Day 3

Grenoble to Alp D’huez 60.03 miles 9210ft

On paper 60 miles isn’t a lot, but knowing the last 8.5 miles was going to be brutal after the first 52 miles with around 6000ft climbing in 28 degrees, lunch was at a lakeside café which was stunning then it was a long drag up to the base of Du’ez to the last coffee stop giving us a view of the top of Alp D’huez

Cake eaten double expresso smashed down, I headed off on my own for the infamous 21 hairpin turns, I settled into a rhythm made it to the top greeted by my foundation comrades willing me on, so a quick sprint finish and I was done suffering in 1 hour 46 minutes.

Some of the 21 bends in the background of the Alp D’huez climb

The euphoric feeling lasted until I got to our lovely hotel on the Alp, got off my bike I knew something was up, I couldn’t breathe, I was freezing cold, dizzy and shaking! The medic came checked me out and what a rookie error what I had not accounted for was a lack of sleep 2 hours the night before poor calorie intake, too much caffeine not enough water in hot weather all day and the altitude.  Was this the end for me, am I going to be following in the broom wagon for the rest of the ride?  I will have to wait until the next morning to see how I am, drank lots ate good food and got a decent night’s sleep.

Day 4

Alp D’huez to Briancon 60.7 miles 8210ft

Quick check and a few tests in the morning and thankfully all was ok, but I decided to go with an earlier group to see how I was riding without going full gas, I wasn’t in the fastest group as they got their head down and did the course as fast as they can. It didn’t make sense when I was talking to them, I asked did you see the views and plainly they missed everything, I was in awe of the views and stopped to take them in.

Then it was back on the bike downhill down to turn 16 then sharp right on to the balcony across again the views were epic as well as having loads of fun on the descent down to our first coffee stop of the day, with croissants as big as your face.

On the way up the Col Galibier

Little was I unaware on what was ahead but a 27km climb which went on and on,  to a quick water-stop at the base of Col Galibier, this is where I had to dig deep to clear out any negative thoughts to get up , I spent a good 10 minutes coming up with all the excuses not to do it, “will this finish me off” “will I be like yesterday” “I’m tired” I had a strong word with myself and made the start, it wasn’t pretty, but it felt like I was dragging myself up,  It did make me wonder if I should have done Edgehill 20 or even 30 times to train for this.

Descending the Galibier was going to take all my concentration with its single track and sharing with lots of motorcycles, cars and the wind had whipped up at one point blowing me onto the wrong side which was super scary. But I was down and safe for lunch in an alpine lodge with amazing food.

From there it was down into Briancon on another very long descent, and I mean long and so much fun, we stayed in the Parc Hotel and such a lovely village a couple of well-deserved beers were drank and another early night ready for the next big day ahead.

Day 4

Briancon To Jausiers   57.5 miles 9129 ft

Hearty Breakfast had and ready to saddle up but first off, a group rendition of Happy Birthday 50th to me of course, What a boost and I was off heading up the Col Lzoard for 11.8 miles, it`s amazing what a good night’s sleep can do, I was first to summit out of the group, then back down a short distance for the coffee stop at another alpine lodge, this one though steeped in history with Napoleon once using it as a hideout, awesome cake as well.

Quick dash to the top again then another long downhill, my descending skills are coming on and I’m getting braver with overtaking motorbikes at this point, down to lunch shortly after another 11-mile climb Col de Vars North where I was greeted with a bottle of champers and cheers, followed by another awesome descent to our next hotel which was a chateau on par with the Alp D’huez hotel, a bit more local fizz and birthday cake with another rendition of happy birthday.

Day 5

Jausiers to Nice 87.9miles 7412ft

Last climb of the day but was the infamous 14.5-mile 5500ft Col La Bonette with moonscape views exposed roads, this climb was straight out the hotel and no time for a warmup and it was extremely chilly as the sun was rising on the other side of the mountain. I was sore on the climb, but it was worth every turn of the pedal, even if it did hurt. Then it was time for the final descent about 80kms of it, but off the top of the Bonnet was quite technical, but I loved every second of it. Then it was all downhill from there all the way into Nice, but then disaster 18 miles from the finish a dreaded puncture (gash) on tubeless the hole was too big for the fluid, I plugged it then the valve broke. I thought I was done, broom wagon called and they were on their way. Then our German colleagues turned up and just happened to carry a spare, Rescued and gingerly made it to the end a beach bar in Nice.

Last climb – the infamous Col La Bonette


This was a trip of a lifetime well organised and well executed having a professional race mechanic helped and he worked hard into the night checking and cleaning bikes daily, it was difficult at times more mental than physical, but then its cycling over the Alps with 40 people I had never met before.

This has been the hardest thing I have ever done 5 days, day after day, climbing – would I do it again? Absolutely, below is the link for the stages if you want a closer look.

Ride with GPS | Bike Route Planner and Cycling Navigation App

Impressed and would like to know more about the charity Dickie was supporting, then click on the link below