About the challenge
Our exciting cycle challenge takes us from BEN HQ to the south coast and then through northern France, tracing some of the region’s most significant World War battle sites, including the Normandy D-Day landing beaches. Crossing the Channel to Caen, we cycle along the Normandy coastline, then inland through small villages and medieval market towns towards Paris. With long days in the saddle and some strenuous hill-climbs, the sight of the Eiffel Tower, our finishing point, will evoke a real sense of achievement. Our last day in Paris allows us to explore the sights and soak up the romantic atmosphere of this majestic city!
BOOK BEFORE 31ST JANUARY 2016 AND PAY THE REDUCED REGISTRATION FEE OF £50!
Day 1: BEN HQ – Portsmouth – Caen (Ouistreham)
Cycle approx 120km (75 miles)
We meet at BEN HQ in Ascot, and set off early to avoid the morning traffic. It’s not long before we’re pedalling through the Surrey countryside and onto the North Downs. Continuing through small towns and villages, our route undulates relatively steadily, though there are some steeper climbs to test our legs. Heading predominantly southwest, we enter Hampshire and pass through Alton. Look out for steam trains, as this old market town is also the terminus of the famed Watercress Line. We pass Jane Austen’s house in the lovely village of Chawton soon afterwards, where we stop for lunch. We then continue our ride south across the sweeping South Downs, where more climbs await us. We’ll be glad when we finally see the coast! Reaching Portsmouth, steeped in naval history, we ride to the ferry terminal and take our overnight ferry to Caen.
Cycle approx 128km (80 miles)
We disembark from our ferry and ride west along the coast to the small town of Arromanches, heart of the Normandy Landings. Parts of the mulberry harbour built here can still be seen out at sea and on the beach. After visiting the museum here, we ride to Juno and Gold beaches. Leaving the Normandy beaches behind us, we then head back east on small roads towards Pegasus Bridge, near Caen, where the first house to be liberated from the Germans in June 1944 still stands. Now a café and museum, there is an opportunity to visit and see the original bridge. We then continue east, on quiet rolling roads that take us through farmland and apple orchards – this area produces lots of cider and calvados! We see Lisieux’s 11th-century cathedral as we approach the end of today’s ride; approximately two-thirds of the town was destroyed by allied troops in the D-Day bombardment but the cathedral survived unscathed. Night hotel. (breakfast not included)
Cycle approx 135km (83 miles)
Another long day ahead of us today, as we ride south through lovely countryside. Passing through picturesque hamlets and small towns, it’s hard to picture this peaceful countryside dominated by the battles of World War Two. We ride to the Falaise Gap, the site of a crucial battle in August 1944 where the Germans were very nearly defeated. We have a short talk about the battle and how close it was. Setting off again, we ride west through rolling farmland and wooded valleys to the ancient cathedral city of Evreux. Night hotel.
Cycle approx 112km (70 miles)
The Liberation of Paris followed the Normandy Landings and the Battle of Falaise, so it’s fitting that our last day of cycling takes us to the capital. We cycle east, crossing the River Eure and riding through small towns as we pass through the valley of the Seine. Nearing the city, we cross the River Seine and cycle through the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. As we head towards the centre of this legendary city, we look out for the distinctive landmarks of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré Coeur standing out on the skyline. We pass the Arc de Triomphe and cycle down the famous Champs-Elysees to our finish beneath the lofty arches of the Eiffel Tower. After checking into our hotel we enjoy a great celebration to mark our achievements. Night hotel.
After breakfast you are free to explore the city; why not go up the Eiffel Tower or visit renowned attractions such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and Notre-Dame Cathedral. You are responsible for getting yourself and your bags to the Gare du Nord on time for your afternoon Eurostar train back to St Pancras, where you will be reunited with your bike.
Preparing for the challenge
Designed to be challenging!
This ride is designed to be challenging for those of good health and fitness, and is achievable for most people provided they train well in advance. We will supply you with a thorough training guide when you have registered. Training for the challenge is all part of the preparation and requires commitment! Without it, you will find the ride less enjoyable – and we want you to have the time of your life!