In early August this year, Chris Hughes, Head Coach of Littleton Tennis Club, Winchester, embarked on the biggest challenge of his life to date.
After losing his stepdad, Roy Bowen, to prostate cancer in October 2013, Chris started planning and training for his epic journey.
The idea was to commemorate the life of Roy by cycling the route of his life: from his birthplace in Austria to his final resting place, Sarlat-la-Caneda in France.
The purpose of the journey was to test Chris’s resolve and push him to his limits, whilst raising money for a worthwhile cause. He travelled without support, carrying his own equipment, and for the majority of the time simply camped on route.
To set the tone, on day one he cycled a 2400 metre climb up the Austrian Alps.
“The scenery was beautiful and the downhill sections just about made up for all the climbing”.
Chris continued northeast, passing through Germany and Holland. From Rotterdam he took a ferry to Hull. The overnight crossing provided a much-needed rest, before cycling continued across the north of England to Leeds.
In Hull, Chris was met by the tail end of Hurricane Bertha. Despite unkind weather, he continued his journey, next stop being Leeds, where his stepdad had spent a large part of his life. Here much-needed repairs were carried out to a buckled wheel. The weather didn’t let up.
“I’ve never experienced conditions like it before. I knew this journey was going to be tough, but after 9 days in the saddle I thought I had experienced all that cycling had to offer. However, pedalling downhill into the wind was definitely more than I had bargained for”.
After the worst two days of the journey, during which Chris had to dig deep to find the resolve to continue with the challenge, day three of the UK stretch brought hope and positivity. Two great friends and fellow cyclists, Matt Cobbald and Sam Edmunds, surprised him on route to Winchester. They had planned to pounce on him from his hotel in Reading, but Chris had set off earlier than expected, and taken a different route to the one planned. They had to chase him to catch up.
After a quick stop in Winchester to say hello to family, friends and supporters, the three friends cycled the last stretch of Chris’s UK journey - Winchester to Poole - together. Again Chris was greeted by smiling, familiar faces.
A short drive from Poole to Portsmouth, and Chris was back on a ferry headed for St Malo, France, and the final leg of the journey. With the finish line a more realistic prospect, and still on a high from the day before, Chris was ready to crack on with the last 4 days.
The weather was back on his side, and in beautiful sunshine he progressed south through the French countryside, arriving safely in Sarlat-la-Caneda, on the fifteenth day.
Here, family, friends, charity supporters and a cold beer greeted him. An emotional time.
In total, Chris’s efforts raised over £12,500 for Prostate Cancer UK, smashing his target of £10,000.
You can still sponsor Chris via www.justgiving.com/RidingforRoy