A group of 11 intrepid adventure seeking cyclists gathered at Whitehaven in Cumbria on the evening of 8thJune, ready for the Coast to Coast challenge which is rapidly becoming a must for all cyclists.
There are many ways to cross the country , but with the Route Master Ian in charge the group were in for a treat. The Chapeau route takes the best of the original Coast to Coast road route, with great little additions to ensure the scenery is enhanced which takes some doing for The Lakes , Chapeau !!
We set off dipping the rear wheels in the water at Whitehaven.
Then off on the route to Ennerdale which is the most Westerly water in the Lakes. Double D, intrepid cyclist and Director of Chapeau rode with the group who soon formed two distinct parts – Richard the elite cyclist off miles at the front enjoying peace and quite with the rest of the group chatting and enjoying the beautiful countryside. The group hailed mainly from Liverpool hence the jokes came thick and fast – until the hills started to restrict the laughter.
Whinlater Pass came next Average gradient: 7%, Max gradient: 15% and as this is part of the 100 best climbs – it is a test. Stunning views and a great downhill follows the summit at over 1200ft.
A cheeky cafe stop was followed by an impromptu water stop provided by Chapeau – and one of the more beautiful stops just outside Mungrisdale ( I would say that as I was in the Luton Van and I located it and set it up !! ) Slightly more beautiful than the one I set up after about 20 miles near Lowesater , but only just.
Whilst the group were enjoying a well earned rest and rehydration, Michelle had driven forward to the Boot and Shoe Pub at Greystoke ( Tarzan etc etc ) to speak to the pub and get them ready for our troops – the menu was sent back to the water stop and lunch was pre-ordered so there was not a big wait and time for the legs to cool. A beautiful pub found by Michelle who seems to have a knack for routing out the best stops.
The weather was beautiful, the banter was flowing – the Lakes were looking at their best what could go wrong ……………………………………………………. Torrential downpour, thunder and lightning. It may have been short-lived but it was spectacular and added something to the ride , perhaps not top of the list but this is England.
It all got a little damp on a small climb !! up to Hartside – with a famous café on the top which has now burnt down. As can be seen its high up and takes some climbing but with Ian the route master/and master mechanic fixing punctures and other assorted mechanicals – everyone made it over and into the sunshine on the other side.
82 miles and 7244ft of climbing – Chapeau to all and a well-deserved rest at a lovely Country House Hotel , Nent Hall. Beautiful surroundings and a great evening meal sat round a large table having a few drinks, all the crew and customers together sharing the days experiences.
Day one Coast 2 Coast – done and off for a great nights sleep .
Daybreak and the crew are up , sorting bikes out which need minor repairs. Customers all enjoying the Country House Breakfast, weather is looking fantastic.
Information provided by Michelle confirms to the team, “it’s a bit lumpy” straight away. Advise is given and route cards show everything but we are up to 2000ft within a few miles. It’s a tough start through the North Pennines area of natural beauty. Deserted roads , save for sheep straying – only a few other cyclists with bikes fully laden panniers , packed lunches etc etc – there are doing it themselves and often looking at our water stops, lunch stops, mechanics, riders on the road, director in vehicles providing support thinking “next year”.
Michelle sets up on a long decent to take some action shots – hard work on the ascents, mean a bit of fun on the descents
Great camera work, get a support vehicle in the shot !! Some of the group likes the downhills so much, they carry on off route for another. When one goes off route, the others followed. Ian likened Colin and a few others to sheep, making the noises at them as he drives along side.
Up and up through Rookhope and onto Stanhope , not before another impromptu water stop. The trip did not really have as part of the offering the stops, but it’s another warm day and so bananas, crisps, energy bars, nuts, dried fruit, crisps, tea and coffee all sorted to support the customer. High up on the Stanhope road, close to the Durham/Northumbria border is the stop , found once again by yours truly, yet another magical view
More work for Ian , Cleats need changing and the odd puncture but nothing too serious but despite beautiful early morning sunshine – the darks clouds are chasing us.
More showers, more thunder but it just adds to the adventure. Our group are well supported, but now battle hardened from the day before and take it without any fuss – however Mark and Greg did a little detour. All meet up, finally, at the Starbucks in Consett , we have had enough English scenery and culture for the weekend and the group need a caffeine boost.
We then pick up the cycle route, Double D in charge – both him and Ian have ridden this trip many times and it’s busy into Newcastle so we have an eye on safety and the last 20 miles is on cycle paths.
Arriving on the Quayside in Newcastle the weather is much better
No Fog on the Tyne for Chapeau Events for us on a great Sunday afternoon. Its then onto the Coast at North Shields.
All have to dip the front wheels in the water, Matt followed shortly after this picture with Double D as a puncture had slowed him within a mile of the finish – but of course he made it.
All finished and a quick change whilst bikes loaded onto the waiting Van – then customers and crew have a final meal in a little Italian near the quayside – everyone is starving. Day two was 60 miles but another 4000ft of climbing , stunning downhills, beautiful views , wonderful support staff !!, great hotels, good food , banter and a lot more.
After the meal, into the crew vehicles for the trip back over to the start point of Whitehaven and then onto home.
140 Miles ridden, 11200ft of climbing only one thing to say to the group;
Neil Birchenough 11thJune 2018
Our second Italian Lakes trip of 2016, and it proved to be just as exhilarating as the first. Day one began in a similar fashion with yet another amazing group of cyclists. Arriving in Novara, to register and spend the night in a sporting hotel complex; looking after us all for a second time running; we had a peaceful nights sleep, before heading off on route into the beautiful countryside to begin the day. The relatively flat start, took us through the country roads of Novara, until we found the mountains; the cyclist first real taste of hills that lay ahead this week. Riding our way towards our first lake of the event, Lago Orta, seemed even more stunning than in June, if that was at all possible!
On to our second lake of the day, Lago di Mergozza, and still to the most tranquil lunch spot you could ever wish for! As in June, Chapeau’s caterers blessed us with yet another fabulous feast to ensure we had enough fuel to get us through the day. With just right amount of time to digest both the food and scenery, we set off once again.
A choice of routes were provided and those feeling weary in their legs took the flatter option; later meeting up with our fellow companions as the route re-joined at Verbania as we continued down to our last lake of the day in Stressa. A well earned drink and welcomed dip, in the highly rated lakeside bar at the hotel, greeted us as we finished for the day…simply stunning hotel with enough time to relax before dinner.
With the cyclists keen to get an early start on day two, we couldn’t have ask for a better route…cycling along Lago Maggiore; it really was a beautiful morning! Onward to Arona’s cobbled square gave the opportunity to take it all in once again as we watched and admired the tranquility that surrounded us. We headed across country as the climbs began and cycled our way over the boarder into Switzerland for a spot of lunch. Once fed and watered, we continued along the lake-shore and back into Italy, enjoying some incredible switchbacks on our descent. Our next destination was Lago Como and the city of Como itself. Perfect timing to have a well-deserved drink, a dip in the pool, and a catch up with fellow cyclists on the rooftop terrace bar in our hotel…a great finish to a great day!
Day three, the most challenging day of the event was upon us and what we had all have been training for. Apprehension, once again was the feeling coming from many of the cyclists but at the same time excitement. Riding out of Como we started to climb, with the most spectacular views across the water.
As the smooth roads ran parallel with the lakeside and through quaint villages perched on the hillside, we could really take in the views on route to Bellagio; where we stopped for drinks at the water’s edge.
It was decision time again…flattened out route all the way into Lecco, or tackle the almighty Madonna! Well, with Spiderman on our side there was no choice for the majority of the group…just had to be done…tough climb beckoned! The incredible achievement as fellow cyclists at the top clapped and cheered, until everyone finished…a real sense of camaraderie, even “Spidy” joined in!
Stopping for that well earned rest and a chance to take in the sights as we celebrated our triumph….our reward…the ten mile downhill of course! After lunch and the challenges of the morning, we embarked on the long, flat spin out, to cover some distance between Lake Como and Lake Endine but those hills hadn’t finished with us yet! On reaching the last 20 miles we came to yet another climb…at this point…many legs were dwindling but we were rewarded with the most incredible views and sweeping switchbacks, as we worked our way down and eventually to our stop for the night in Lake Iseo. All that hard training pre-event, really did pay off on this day!
We embarked on a much flatter route for day four but still had a fair distance to cover before we crossed the finish line in Verona, so off we set for our final journey! Leaving the exquisite Lake Iseo behind, we headed on to our next place of tranquility, Lake Garda. Cycling along the lake’s edge, we crossed small bridges and rode down cobbled streets, occasionally stoping for a coffee taking in the Italian culture. Fueled with pride and memories from all we had achieved so far, we hit the final stretch toward Verona…the excitement building again as we approached the event climax. Gathering at our holding point for the second time, we set off in convoy through the city streets, over the bridges and into the famous Piazza Brà for the last part of our truly magnificent week…with whistles blowing and cyclists cheering…the Colosseum in Verona didn’t disappoint. Time to celebrate on our huge achievement…Chapeau to all!
“Great riding and meeting you all. A fantastic week and a massive thanks to the Chapeau team”
Mark Nichols July 2016
Day one began with an absolute stunning adventure from the very beginning! From arrival in Novara, to register and spending the night at a fantastic sporting hotel complex for a peaceful nights sleep, before heading off on route into the beautiful countryside to begin the day. The route started relatively flat, as we wound our way through the country roads of Novara, but it wasn’t long before we found the mountains and headed towards our first lake, Lago Orta. Simply stunning!
Not long to rest though, as we climbed through mountain gorges to our second lake, Lago di Mergozza, and to the most tranquil lunch spot you could ever wish for…even time for a quick dip! The welcomed food was fuel enough to get us through another two lakes but not before some wonderful scenery, Italian villages, short sharp uphills and technical downhills.
A choice of routes depending on our legs saw the majority of us taking the tougher option, but we met our fellow companions as the route re-joined at Verbania and we headed on down to our last lake of the day in Stressa…for that well earned drink and welcomed dip in the highly rated lakeside bar at the hotel…simply breathtaking and only day one!
We woke with excitement, keen to see what was in store for us on day two, and we couldn’t ask for a better start…cycling along Lago Maggiore, simply beautiful morning. That was the life….great times! Stopping for a coffee in Arona’s cobbled square gave the opportunity to just take it all in as we watched the Italian way of life, so tranquil…but time to get cracking…we headed across country, where things started to get a bit hillier. Fancy lunch in Switzerland anyone? Shortly after crossing the border we were ready for just that. Fantastic food prepared by the wonderful Gill and Pete, Chapeau’s caters . After lunch we continued along the lake-shore and back into Italy, enjoying some incredible switchbacks on our descent. Our next destination was Lago Como and the city of Como itself, where we headed up to the bar in the hotel to have a well-deserved drink and a dip in the pool on the rooftop terrace…great finish to a great day!.
Day three was the day that we all have been training for. Most people slightly apprehensive of the tough day of climbing that lied ahead…but there was no need for apprehension as the training had really paid off. Riding out of Como we started to climb above the eastern edge of Lake Como, with the most spectacular views across the water.
The smooth tarmac ran parallel with the lakeside and through quaint villages perched on the hillside, we could really take in those views as we continued all the way into Bellagio, where we stopped for drinks at the water’s edge.
It was decision time again…we had the choice of continuing along the lakeside, where the route flattens out, all the way into Lecco, or tackle the MADONNA! Majority of the group chose the later and were faced with a tough climb…such an overwhelming feeling of an incredible achievement as fellow cyclists at the top clapped and cheered, encouraging us to not give up as we reached the summit! We stopped for a well earned rest, took in the sights and celebrated our triumph. What goes up must come down right? The incredible descent over approximately ten miles, before joining the main route again, was just the reward we needed. After lunch, and the challenges of the morning, we welcomed the long relatively flat spin out to reach our hotel in Iseo.
Despite day four being a much flatter route compared to the days gone by, we still had a fair distance to cover before we crossed the finish line in Verona, so after breakfast we got our cleats back on and hit the road! Leaving the exquisite Lake Iseo behind, we headed on to our next place of tranquility, Lake Garda. Cycling along the lake’s edge, we crossed small bridges and rode down cobbled streets, occasionally stopping for a coffee and watching the world go by. A real sense of the Italian culture was evident as we turned those wheels, such a friendly place. Tired and overwhelmed with pride and memories from all we had achieved so far, we hit the final stretch toward Verona…the excitement building again as this tremendous adventure approached its climax.
Under strict instruction to gather at our holding point, to allow all cyclists to come together for our finish, we had a great chance to share stories and memories of the day so far. There was a real sense of mixed emotions, some sad that the ride was coming to an end and others overwhelmed by what they had actually achieved. We set off in convoy through the city streets, over the bridges and into the famous Piazza Brà for the last part of our truly magnificent adventure…and what a place to finish…the Colosseum in Verona! Photo’s and celebrations were many, and with champagne on hand we cheered and congratulated each other on another successful Chapeau ride!
“Had such a fabulous time with a group of amazing people. Doesn’t get better than this…bloody love cycling in Italia…Thank you Chapeau!” John Fletcher June 2016
A fantastic adventure from the very beginning covering over 450 miles in five days! From an early start to register; to meeting the crew and fellow participants; then straight off on route to begin the day. The route started pretty flat, as we wound our way through the country roads of Cheshire, toward the border of Wales. Once in North Wales, the route took us through beautiful mountain scenery, along the northern edge of the Snowdonia National Park and finally down to the coast and the University town of Bangor.
Day two was another early start as we headed out to catch the ferry crossing from Holyhead to Dublin. On arrival in Dublin, we headed south through the city and onto the Wicklow Mountains National Park; our first taste of Irish countryside and how beautiful it was. The route was hilly, but the long descents through the mountain moorlands, past waterfalls and herds of grazing deer made it all worthwhile!
Day three was shorter and the profile a bit more forgiving than the previous two…which was a relief for some! Allowing us some rest and a chance to take in the beautiful sights of Ireland. Leaving Carlow we cycled west across country to the infamous town of Limerick, taking in more green, rolling countryside and passing through age-old towns and villages on-route.
On day four we started back toward Dublin; again a flattish profile, taking you coasting along the shores of lakes and rivers, and past a number of Ireland’s Natural Heritage areas. We had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and made the most of our picturesque rest stops and delicious Chapeau food in Portumna Forest Park, before arriving in Athlone.
Our final day took us around country roads through the Bog of Allen, and then onto our final drinks stop at Roches Pub, a quirky Irish gem, in the middle of Donadea. We gathered together to embark on the last leg into the city before reaching the Grand Union Canal, which directed us all the way into Dublin and our grand finish at Phoenix Park. Time to celebrate!
“That was the best route and route marked trip I’ve ever been on…and I’ve done hundreds. Thank you Chapeau!” Paul Maher 2015
A stunning and amazing adventure cycling from the very start on Day 1, from London to Calais through the beautiful Kent countryside, a mix of coast and castles and rolling hills, the ferry from Dover and then a torchlight procession through the streets of Calais to a party in our hotel an incredible 100 miles later.
Day 2 and 3 took us through the quiet lanes of Northern France, through the Somme battlefields and mile after mile of farms and Chateau’s. Gourmet food at our lunch stops kept us well and truly fuelled for the undulating landscapes with frequent café stops en route.
Day 4 was the most awesome and emotional day as we all cycled together in team colours, looking quite an amazing sight. From the outskirts of Paris the emotions ran high as we neared our goal, cheered on by the Parisians, toasting us as we went by their cafes, honking their horns and taking as many pictures of us as we did of them. We cycled up and around the Arc de Triomphe and then pushed on to the iconic Eiffel Tower itself. Our families and friends were there to meet us and the champagne flowed just as much as the tears.
Job done…mission accomplished…now time to celebrate our achievements! So…to sum it up…320 miles, 4 days cycling, 6 months of training, £105,000 raised and we had done it. The most incredible experience ever!!
“It has taken most of every minute of the last 8 months to train for. I can only say that to have achieved it, with such a wonderful team of incredible individuals that grew larger, stronger and closer over the last few months, is one of life’s precious moments. To have raised over £100k is an amazing testimony to these people, their families and friends this is not the end, it is just the start”…Sarah May 2015.