WHN’s Graham Ireland has raised nearly £7,000 for two local charities after completing the punishing ‘Cycle the Alps’ challenge.
Sixty-year-old Graham cycled a gruelling 590-mile route through the French Alps, climbing 56,600 ft of unforgiving mountainside – the same altitude as Mount Everest placed on top of K2.
Graham, head of the conveyancing team at WHN Solicitors, took part in the seven-day challenge to help fund a cycle club at Blackburn Youth Zone that will encourage today’s youngsters to get on their bikes and explore.
He has also raised funds for Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s 20th anniversary appeal, which aims to ensure the foundation continues to play a vital role in combatting cancer locally by funding the acquisition of a DaVinci Xi Robotic Surgical System.
Graham flew from Manchester to Geneva on Friday September 1 and returned after successfully finishing the event the following Friday at Nimes airport.
Commenting on his achievement, Graham said: “I am very pleased to be able to say that I completed the challenge. I’ve been training for 18 months in all weathers, so I was properly prepared, but I have to say that – mentally and physically – this was the most challenging thing I have ever done.
“I have never experienced such a feeling of pride and self-fulfilment – from actually finishing the event, and also raising funds for two deserving causes in the process.”
On one day alone, Graham made the 11,414 feet ascent of the ‘Giant of Provence’, Mount Ventoux. The ride was only 85 miles but the climb was extremely steep. During other stages of the challenge, Graham had to cope with his brakes failing while going downhill, as well as snow and freezing cold due to the high altitude.
Graham continued: “One morning on the top of Col du Glandon I had put on wet cycling shoes because they had still not dried out from the previous day. I have never felt so cold in my life. I was shivering so much, the descent was horrendous. My bike was shaking uncontrollably which, coupled with the extreme conditions, made the descent quite dangerous. Some of the group would not even attempt the descent and had to be rescued. Anyway, I did manage to get down and finished the ride.”
The challenge involved climbing through five alpine ‘cols’ to Grenoble and on to the formidable Alpe d’Huez. Next, Graham and his group of 30 intrepid cyclists, faced a further seven cols before reaching Mont Ventoux. They completed the challenge with some stunning cycling along the spectacular Gorges Du Nesque route.
Graham took part in the challenge despite having had cancer and dealing with other health problems, including a heart defect diagnosis and a number of accidents on his bike, one of which prevented him from cycling for three months.