Picos Original Riders

Picos Original Riders
Highlights of 2010

Last of the Picos Riders - to Rome Alone!

Our first two charity rides were a huge success - raising over £20,000 for the South East Cancer Help Centre.

The Centre does a fantastic job of supporting patients and carers at the most difficult times of their lives. They make a real difference and you could help them in their work by contributing to our fundraising. Donations can be made via JustGiving.comhttps://www.justgiving.com/Tom-Vaz/ or directly into the Centre. For more details of the Centre and their work see their website at http://www.sechc.org.uk/

After 3 years of rest it seemed time to dust off the old muscles, bones and sinews and do one more spectacular ride in aid of this fabulous charity.

This time I will travel alone for 25 days, mainly following the ancient pilgrimage route to Rome, the Via Francigene, covering a distance of around 1,400 miles.

The route travels through Newhaven - Dieppe - Paris before I eventually reach the Via Francigene in Eastern France. From then on it is pretty simple apart from having to cross the Alps without an elephant!

El Camino - the route

Brittany Ferries have kindly offered to transport us and our bikes between Portsmouth and Santander, which is on the north (Bay of Biscay) coast of Spain. From Santander their bike ride will take us along a former Roman road which follows the coast for some 300 kilometers to Ribadeo.
Leaving the coast it is then necessary to cross over the Cantabrian mountain chain to get to Santiago, and of course, again, on the way back but by a different route. These crossings of the  mountains will be the most challenging parts of the journey, as can be seen from the advice which follows:
  • Terrain. You should really have had some experience of cycling in mountainous terrain before going this way. It is a hard route over the mountains and through a sparsely populated area, with a great deal of climbing and descending, following narrow mountain roads. However there are some fantastic views if the weather is kind.
  • Weather. The weather can be harsh, even in summer, damp and cold. As in all mountainous regions it can change very quickly. You can have many superb days of sunshine with magnificent views. You can also be shrouded in damp mist for the whole day and become wet through and very miserable.
  • Accommodation. There are some Albergues de Peregrinos (very basic hostels for pilgrims) In addition to the Albergues there are some hostals and pensiones. It must be remembered that the towns and villages are quite small so you should plan ahead.
  • Spanish. Even in the coastal towns you will find few who speak English. There is no doubt that a reasonable grasp of the language essentials will enhance your experience.
So with this advice we Picos pilgrims can start brushing up on their mediocre Spanish, and kick start their fitness training for the many mountain miles ahead. We hope that their efforts in undertaking this very challenging charity bike ride, will be well rewarded with many donations for the South East Cancer Support Centre.