17 April, 2023

Doing a cycling challenge from London to Athens sounds like a big enough undertaking by itself – that’s a long way! – but an intrepid two-man team intends to add another level of difficulty by traversing to 10 different countries on the way, along with one of the toughest climbs in the Alps, not-cycle-friendly Venice, oh and a ferry trip or two. 

Known as ‘Three Men and a Tent’, the original three-man team included friends Marc Tarrant, Dan Hastie and Nick White, who once decided on an adventurous bike trip to Wales, got bitten by the challenge bug, and have, since 2016, completed four bicycle journeys to places as diverse as Lands’ End, Monte Carlo, Rome and Morocco, raising money for charities.  

Dan now has a young family, opted out of the 2022 ride and won’t be taking part in the current adventure. However, Nick notes that Dan undertook his own challenge last year, setting out to row (on a rowing machine) the equivalent sea distance of about 50-60 miles, and raised money for a charity that way. “I’m sure he’ll be fundraising again this year!” says Nick. 

This year’s challenge

“This year’s journey is about 15 or 16 days of cycling,” says Nick. “We plan to go down to Dover, across the channel and then through France, Belgium, Germany, a bit of Luxembourg, Switzerland, a bit of Liechtenstein, Austria and then Italy. Then we’re going to Venice because Marc has never been there, and then it’ll be a ferry across to mainland Greece. And then we’ll cycle the last 250 miles across Greece to Athens.” 

 The entire route, including diversions, is about 1,200 miles. The route for each of the group’s previous fundraising routes has averaged out around this length, although Nick comments that this trip is probably the biggest challenge.  

 ”Previously, we’ve tended to take a route that gets us the easiest and quickest way, but this time we’re taking on the Stelvio Pass in northern Italy, and it’s got an elevation of 9,045 ft above sea level. That route also includes the Umbrail Pass, which is Switzerland’s highest pass at 8.205 ft above sea level. It looks frankly terrifying in a car, let alone on a bike with 25 kilos of luggage. It’s going to be a huge challenge!” 

However, he admits to always having some sort of backup plan. “When you’re in the middle of nowhere, I always make sure that I’ve got something up my sleeves. We might get so tired that we think we can’t do it, or maybe the pass gets blocked by snow, so I do have a Plan B. I just won’t tell the other two that we’ve got a plan,” he laughs.  

Start to finish – the challenge

All the journeys start from Nick’s front door in London, from where they ride up to Trafalgar Square, take a few photographs and throw coins into the fountain. He comments that it’s just a tradition that started, and there’s no reason behind it, but the trio now carries extra coins to throw into the water on the way, such as the Trevi fountain in Rome and the sea at Monte Carlo.” 

 And they’re not travelling light. Nick explains that in addition to the tent, clothes and cooking equipment, they carry enough food and water to last at least a few days. “We’ve learned the hard way to make sure we’ve got enough supplies,” he explains. “Last year in Spain, we went almost two days without seeing a shop and barely saw another human being. Spain is very, very big and empty in the middle. It’s a lot of stuff to where it feels like a lot when you have to carry it up a mountain, so it’s definitely character-building!” 

And that’s where training pays off. Nick cycles to and from work, averaging 35 miles a day, while Marc doesn’t cycle as much during the year but keeps fit by swimming and going to the gym.  

The impact of the challenge

In addition to the practical side of the journeys, Nick comments that the experience has also led them to discover something very affirmative about pushing yourself harder than you thought possible. “That moment of achievement is very rewarding. We go two weeks of camping and cycling up to a hundred miles a day. It’s challenging both physically and mentally, but there’s that split-second gratification at the end when you’ve achieved it. It’s hugely rewarding.” 

As for the charities, Nick says the trio tries to support one that’s meaningful to them or their friends: “The first couple of years, we did Winston’s Wish, which is very personal to me. Then we cycled for Prostate Cancer last year, which again has a personal connection. This year, we were having a conversation about which charity to support and realized we all knew someone who had had breast cancer. It was just something that really resonated with all three of us.” 

The trio’s (or duo for this year) progress is shared in a daily blog, while their website pulls together all their stories. 

Nick concludes: “We do this in the name of friendship and fun, to raise as much money as possible for charity, and indulge in the simple joys of travelling and exploring together.” 

Fancy doing your own challenge? Download our fundraising pack full of ideas and inspiration, so you can help prevent breast cancer, starting with an epic challenge.

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