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Some Thoughts on a Long Weekend in France

It’s now three weeks since John, Tim, Kathryn and Matt left for Le Mans, France to take on the Extra Mile Challenge.

For those of you not aware (have a look at some of our previous blog posts that cover the event in more detail), the challenge involved the four of us cycling over 500 miles in just three days – 527 miles to be precise. The good news is that we did it, and with plenty of miles to spare (more through tactical error than judgement, we might add).

Across the 3 days we experienced just about every kind of weather imaginable; beautiful sun, wind, rain, hail and fog, and saw some of the best scenery that France has to offer, from rivers and valleys to forests and even a chateaux.


As a team, we ended up cycling in excess of 600 miles and climbed over 30,000ft over the three days which, as it happens, is not far off cycling to the top of Mount Everest!

There were just too many highlights from the challenge to realistically list them in a short blog, but some standout moments from our weekend included:

  • A “helpful” fellow cyclist telling Kathryn that she should give in as there was too far to go home (for those of you who know Kathryn, perhaps not the best thing to say);
  • Driving and riding around part of the famous Le Mans track;
  • Changing a tyre in the pouring rain after cycling through a road full of glass (and learning that C02 inflation cartridges get VERY cold when used, which is not good on wet fingers);

Tire Change

  • John setting off on the wrong side of the road and encountering cars which were also on the wrong side of the road;
  • Reaching the top of some very steep climbs... you can decide whether that is a highlight or a lowlight;
  • Sheltering under a bus-shelter, opposite a Gendarmerie, in lycra in torrential rain. We’re still not sure how Tim and Matt weren’t arrested;
  • Driving down some very steep, winding descents and wondering if John had managed to make it down them alive;


  • Learning that Lucozade, when put into a cycling drinks bottle and shaken is rather explosive, and sticky;
  • Meeting loads of interesting people from around the country all undertaking the challenge;
  • Most importantly, the first beer after you had finished that day’s riding!

And during the course of the weekend, we also learned a number of things about the French:

  • Their road system is fantastic.  In over 600 miles of cycling, we barely saw a single pothole...
  • Their drivers are considerate to cyclists – as a team, we didn’t have a single car overtake us too close or a single driver swear at us. One can barely cycle 10 miles in England without this happening.  In fact, the worst driving we saw was from fellow Brits undertaking the challenge (no names mentioned);
  • They LOVE cycling. We were cheered on by old men, old women, families in cars and children in schools. It really does bring a smile to your face when an old woman claps and chants “Allez, Allez” when you are part way up a long climb; and
  • There is no such thing as fast food.  There is fantastic food, done slowly, and that is it.  Not great when you are time limited and trying to complete a set mileage in a set time!

All in all, we had an amazing time and got to meet some fantastic people whilst we were undertaking the challenge. Oh and as a group, the Extra Mile Challenge competitors actually managed to drink the hotel bar dry on the last night – at least there is something we are better than the French at...

There are a number of people/friends that we need to say a big thank you to. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to have gone to France, let along completed the challenge.

First and foremost, we want to pass on our most sincere thanks to Bob Holt and Anteneh Taklaeb.  Bob graciously let us borrow his Land Rover to act as team car for the weekend. Anteneh was our driver, moral compass and source of much entertainment across the 5 days.

We also need to thank our amazing sponsors, Brewin Dolphin, GillFoxJames and Pro-Bolt. All three are great friends to BPE and their support and sponsorship for this event was incredible. 

So that’s it for this year.  We still have about a month to raise some more money for The Extra Mile charity and the Footprints Foundation so please do visit and give whatever money you can to help support these wonderful causes.

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