Most people watch the mountain stages of the Tour de France with awe.
This week John and Jackie Buxton will be following in the tracks of the cyclists when they cycle the Pyrenees for charity.
The five-and-a-half-day ride will see them, and a group of 18 friends, cycle from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean over the Pyrenees.
It will see them climb over 37,700 feet, travel more than 750km and burn an estimated 55,000 calories.
The couple from Huby, near Leeds, have been inspired to take on the challenge to raise money for The Stroke Association, a charity they have supported since their daughter Rosie suffered a stroke when she was 15 months old.
They had been having a family picnic when Jackie noticed that Rosie was holding her right arm in a strange way. An MRI revealed the tot had suffered a stroke. It left her paralysed down her right side but, through her own hard work and the help of doctors, Harrogate Child Development Centre and The Stroke Association she is now a healthy 11-year-old.
“Rosie has just started secondary school and is really enjoying it,” said Jackie before she left for this week’s challenge.
“Not everybody is as lucky as Rosie. Every year an estimated 150,000 people suffer a stroke in the UK. A third of those will sadly not survive and a further third will be left with long-term disabilities.”
The Stroke Association is the only national charity solely concerned with combating stroke in people of all ages. It funds research into prevention, treatment and better methods of rehabilitation and helps stroke patients and their families directly through its community services.
John and Jackie have been in training for the trip, organised by PyrActif, for a number of months. They have been cycling five or six times a week, including up to three long-distance rides.
“There are plenty of hills to train on round here,” says Jackie. “The difference is they take 20 to 30 minutes to climb not two to three hours.”
Although John watched the Tour de France which takes in some of the Pyrenees, Jackie said she couldn’t bring herself to watch much of it.
“I’m sure it looks a lot worse on the television than it does when you are there in real life.” Jackie says she intends to take the hills slowly, keeping her speed constant.
“I have a mantra that I will never get off and push. It might take me as long as someone who gets off and pushes but I think that is harder than biking up. There is also the psychological effect of having had to get off and push.”
Jackie says the team are also being spurred on by the threat of “the van”.
“The organisers have a van and if you are falling way behind they will pick you up in the van. No one wants that to happen and I think it will really keep us going.
“My biggest fear is actually going downhill. You are travelling at such speeds that it can be hard to control.”
The Buxtons are no strangers to challenges. In the last few years they have raised more than £6,000 for The Stroke Association. Jackie raised £2,500 when she took part in the Etap bike ride – a 110-mile undulating route through the Yorkshire Dales with its five infamous hills and the Midnight Sun Marathon in northern Norway.
They have also raised money through the Great North Runs and Rosie and her sister Lissie, raise about £100 every year through carol singing.
The Buxtons had hoped to raise a further £1,500 through the Coast to Coast cycle, but they have already exceeded this total.
The Stroke Association is reliant on fund-raising. If you would like to help John and Jackie reach their fund-raising target, sponsor them on-line through www.justgiving.com/John-Buxton
ROUTE THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS
The Coast to Coast Pyrenees cycle ride goes from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean taking in the impressive Pyrenees mounain range.
It involves cycling 720 km from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean coast through the Pyrenees in 5½ days, taking in 18 cols and enduring and enjoying climbing to an altitude of 3,3000ft.
The mountains include all the infamous Tour de France names, including Cols d’Aubisque and Tourmalet.
For more information on the PyrActif Classic Coast to Coast visit pyractif.com