News & Events

Cycling from Girona to the summit of Mont Ventoux in aid of Diabetes UK

2 Countries

5 Days

352miles/583km Cycled

12,841ft/3914m Climbed


Like many great ideas it started with a conversation over a pint of Oxford IPA in the Tite Inn: we should plan a cycling adventure, ending with the climb of Mont Ventoux, to raise funds for Diabetes UK.

A little unexpectedly, Jason remained keen after the courage-boosting effects of his fine beer had worn off. So, we started to plan.

The route, from Girona in northern Spain to the top of Mont Ventoux in France allowed us to fit the travel and the ride into the May half-term break, the first real weather window to attempt Mont Ventoux.


The reason for doing all this, Jason’s story:

“In early 2019, my son George made his way slowly downstairs and came into the kitchen to say he did not think he could play football that afternoon because he could not see. He had lost his sight overnight. 

The NHS that day were magnificent. A specialist team were waiting for him as an emergency arrival at hospital. George received critical care to stabilise his system and he was rapidly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and declared legally blind. Over the following weeks the diabetes team worked non stop with the other medical disciplines to get him well enough for eye surgery. Today he has 20:20 vision, plays football and cricket and lives a normal life, managing his condition. 

Diabetes UK lead the way in funding research and clinical developments with the vision of a world where diabetes can do no harm. They need fundraising to support their work and amazing work is taking place. Diabetes UK funded the first insulin pen, and the first glucose meter, and they are currently focussing on finding a cure for type 1. We want to help. 

I am not a keen cyclist, but my friend Andrew is. Somehow he convinced me that riding a bike from Spain to France then up an enormous mountain (Mont Ventoux) would be a good challenge in order to raise funds for Diabetes UK.”

Crucially the ride had an amazing support team – Claire and Tracey made the whole ride possible and committed to following us for every mile in the van.


The riders: Jason and Andrew- Andrew is practically semi pro, Jason not so much.


Travel day 1: Early start, big queues at Dover and warm welcome to the Charente. A wonderful night with friends.

Andrew, Tracy, Claire and Jason, pose for photograph on day 1, smiles all around


Travel day 2: French patisserie, driving south and football celebrations in Girona.


Ride day 1: Girona, otters, gravel and border crossings.

As we paused for the departure photograph on the Pont de Pedret, we had the privilege of seeing an otter with a cub playing on the river bank below. The ride out of Girona went smoothly and we were soon on the gravel roads that make the region so popular with cyclists. After an hour we picked up the Eurovelo 8 cycling route that would be our path for the next three and half days.


Andrew and Jason on their bikes, on a remarkably flat path


As we entered L’Escala Jason heard a loud twang as a spoke snapped in his rear wheel. Bad news. We secured the broken spoke and then enjoyed the first of many café stops.

The route took us along a coastal path and we stopped in Castelló d’Empúries for refreshments before turning inland and heading uphill towards The Pyrenees with difficult climbs on unmade gravel and rock tracks.

Jason had a couple of tumbles off his bike dealing with the very difficult conditions. This contrasted with the state of the cycle route as we crossed the border into France which were remarkable. Broken rocky tracks turned into smooth recently installed paths that lead us all the way to our finish for the day in Argelés-sur-Mer.

A closeup of Jason's bicycle wheel showing its battle scars

137.68km cycled, 984m climbed with a moving time of 7h55m.


Ride day 2: Canal de la Robine, diversions, headwinds and coffee.

The ride started poorly when the cycle route was blocked by a locked gate. After 20 minutes of rerouting, we got back on course. We were heading up the coast into a strong headwind in the morning before stopping in Le Barcares for coffee and a crepe. Refreshed we pushed on into the wind which was starting to sap our energy. After a fruitless search in Port-la-Nouvelle for a lunch stop we opted for a supermarket sandwich sitting by the harbour.

Afterwards we joined a cycle path next to the Canal de la Robine taking us across 20km of water with the Etang de l’Ayralle on our right. It was strange to be riding next to a canal with water on both sides. After an age on this path, we were diverted off the cycle route and enjoyed the smoothness of some tarmac for 20 minutes before entering the city of Narbonne for another coffee stop in the pretty city centre.


After Narbonne we continued along the banks of the Canal de la Robine before joining the Canal du Midi for the final run into Capstang and our overnight stop. Jason had an eventful end to the days’ ride with another broken spoke, a near miss with a car as the cycle path and a road merged, and his left knee started to give him a lot of discomfort.

It had been a hard long day but a beer on arrival and a dip in the pool lifted our spirits.

139.18km cycled, 376m climbed with a moving time of 8h09m.


Ride day 3: Broken spokes, sore knees, tailwinds, and flamingos.

The Day started with a third broken spoke on Jason’s rear wheel. This delayed the start while Andrew adjusted the wheel from a pringle shape to something resembling a true wheel.

The first 30 minutes of the ride went smoothly even if the surface was far from smooth. We then entered a long section of very good surfaces along the Midi Canal. We rolled down the path next to the locks at the Rampe du Coche D’Eau and cycled over the spectacular canal viaduct of the river l’Orb. As we started looking for a coffee stop Jason’s knee was causing him a lot of discomfort and we made some changes to the bike set up to try and give him some relief. We found a café and decided to have an omelette with our coffee as two and half days of cycling was starting to affect our energy levels.

After a slightly extended break we set off again towards Seté, our planned lunch stop. The support team planned to meet us there with pain relief for Jason. As we entered the split about 10km from Seté, Jason’s left knee decided it had had enough and he could barely turn the pedals over.

We decided to call back the support team for an early meet up. While the team came to us, Andrew pedalled his bike while pushing Jason along to a good meeting point, this worked surprising well and we covered 3-4km with pin point coordination before finding the support team.

We made the difficult decision that Jason should take a break from the cycling to give his knees some chance to recover in time for Fridays climb of Mont Ventoux and get some pain relief. Therefore, after a quick lunch of bread and cheese, Andrew set off solo for the afternoon ride to Montpellier and onto Aigues-Mortes.

During the afternoon, riding alongside a harbour, Andrew was distracted slightly by loud shouting/cheering from over the harbour – the mad support crew were standing on the pickup truck running boards and cheering him along.

It certainly lifted spirits for the last 50km and as he approached Montpellier he saw a large flock of big birds in the water, quickly realising they were Flamingos. A wonderful way to end the day than cycling next to these amazing looking creatures.

Aigues-Mortes our overnight stop was a very pleasant surprise as our accommodation was within the 13th Century fortification and we enjoyed a drink in the beautiful central square to finish off the evening.

134.87km cycled, 339m climbed with a moving time of 6h45m.



Ride day 4: Avignon, climbing through olive groves and cyclist central.

We set of in the morning with Jason planning to ride some of the route to keep his knees working and give him the best chance for the epic climb on Friday. It was a great first stint and we easily covered 32km before Jason wisely decided to stand down, with both knees now struggling.

Today was the longest day of the ride with a total of 150km to cover to reach Bedoin at the base of Mont Ventoux. After an enjoyable coffee Andrew set off to cover the next 117km solo along quiet roads and excellent bike paths. He made good time and reached the prearranged lunch stop 5 minutes after the support team. We found a convenient café but clearly had not been quick enough and the kitchen was closed – they did let us eat our own baguette and cheese while we drank coke and coffee and enjoyed the atmosphere of the square.

Post-lunch the route took him through the beautiful city of Avignon before starting to gain elevation approaching our goal. Mont Ventoux seemed to grow every time he glimpsed it through the trees. By the time he reached 10km from Bedoin it dwarfed the surrounding hills and was becoming a little intimidating. At this point Andrew encountered a  teasing climb through a pretty olive grove in the late afternoon sun. A wonderful  place to be.

Bedion was a total contrast to the peaceful olive grove. Cyclists were abundant, on the roads, in the cafes and the bars. All sharing their stories of Mont Ventoux. Everyone was happy at the end of a day riding the giant that awaited us in the morning.

149.62km cycled, 658m climbed with a moving time of 6h55m.


Ride day 5: The Giant of Provence, courage, the Mistral and familiar faces in Provence.

We cycled out of Bédoin at 10:00 with trepidation about the climb and the state of Jason’s knees but a well planned pain relief regime engineered by the support team was in place . As the road started to incline we settled into a  rhythm and resisted the urge to push hard on the pedals. The climb is 21km and we had a plan to give Jason’s knees a short break every few kilometres. We covered the first 5km steadily then the road kicked up into some double-digit gradients. I could tell Jason was feeling this as he started to push hard and came up alongside me, at 7km into the climb we had a short break and the support vehicle caught up with us. Over the next 8km the gradients stayed high, and we staged strategic pauses with the support crew who administered  pain relief for knees and offered vital encouragement to us and all the other riders taking on the mountain. With a lot of relief ,we made it to Chalet Reynard, our planned food and drink break.

On the approach to Chalet Reynard the trees recede and the moonscape of the top portion of Mont Ventoux emerges. The strength of the wind was a poor omen for the rest of the climb as was the rapid temperature drop. As we refuelled on coffee, coke and crepe, Jude, Jon, Clare and Matt arrived to cheer us on during the final push to the top.



We now both grabbed extra clothing from the support car to protect against the cold and the wind.


The final 6km area was a bit of a blur, the wind was so strong that you had to pedal flat out to just to make any progress into it, when the road turned, and the wind was on our back you were pushed along so suddenly that you felt the need to cover your brakes into the next bend.

At times all you could do was crouch with your bike and wait for the wind speed to drop. We made it to Tom Simpson’s memorial, a British cycling World Champion who sadly died climbing Mont Ventoux in the 1967 Tour de France.



Now we had 1km left to the summit, the wind had strengthened even further to indescribable speeds and those trying the descent from the top had resorted to walking. After what seemed like a very long time fighting a vicious headwind we finally turned and had a tailwind up a long climb. Then, as we turned the last corner the winds hit us full force for the final 100m to our goal. The look on Jason’s face was not elation at achieving his goal despite his painful knees, it was the look of someone who had just survived a traumatic meteorological event.


We had ridden 21.68km with an elevation gain of 1,557m for 2h39m47s from Bédoin. The wind we experienced on Mont Ventoux is known as the Mistral and is notorious for its strength and coldness on the mountain. By the time we reached the summit the temperature was effectively -1c. Riding up Mont Ventoux that day is something that will stay with us for a very long time.


Post ride day: Resting, a French  market, coffee, afternoon naps and time spent with friends, may be a beer.

Travel day 3: The long drive home and queues at Calais.


To donate to our Diabetes UK fundraiser, please click here.