Jacquesd Bernard embarked on a 1,400 mile cycle ride to raise £20,000 for the Steve Bernard Foundation.

Below are extracts from his blog, you can read it in full here

Day 13

Alencon to Bayeux 

Well, the penultimate day of our epic journey through Italy and all of France was coming to an end. Just a day through northern France  and a small ride to Cherbourg tomorrow and we were there.

So today...an 84 mile 'jolly' from Alencon to Bayeux through the enthralling fields and crops of France. The ride started very cold again, although to be fair we've been so lucky with the weather having 13/13 sunny days. But the further north we have come, the colder the mornings have begun. Joining the dream team today was 'dropout dave' who decided to join the man vs food group instead of the elite group. He later admitted that he much preferred our group and it was more fun.

It took about 2 hours before any of us could feel our fingers and toes, after a ride through the hilly French version of the New Forest. A stop at the only shop we saw for 40 miles for cakes and fine French food upped the mood and eased the hunger levels and we headed onto 'smash' out some miles.

I say 'smash' with a pinch of salt; we cruised our way through the day looking at farms, tractors, barking dogs, trees, fields and fields that never end and not much else. I think over the last 3/4 days I've seen more tractors than cars. I swear nobody lives or comes outside in the north of France.

After seeing only our second open restaurant in 60 miles, we stopped for lunch and my was it a good stop.

We had five courses, and a fair amount of cider and wine for €17 each..and it was amazing food, drink and service. I ended the meal with a double shot of a 20 year old 40% calvados shot to fuel me for the remaining 25 or so miles. Once we managed to move, we ventured the last part of the day in smooth time and joined the others at camp about 6pm. 

Everybody was starting to feel excited about the feeling of being one day from completing the ride and after some food fancy dress costumes were exchanged.

Tomorrow we are doing charity shop fancy dress; before the ride names were pulled out and each person had another individual to buy an outfit for...so the fun begins tomorrow when people are dressed in their outfits to cycle in for 40 miles.

Would you class cycling 1400 miles in 14 days including going through the Alps as fun? I suppose each individual is different, but personally I would say I have enjoyed all the company of the group but the riding and massages have been painful.

So, to day 14, the final day - 60 miles from Bayeux to Cherbourg, this is what it's all been about, making it in one piece (just about) to this final destination. 

And boy have we fought hard to get here...there's been times for everyone where they've wanted to stop and say no, but they've dug very deep and pushed themselves to a level they didn't know they had.

Day 10/11/12

Saint Pourcain Sur Sioulle to Alencon via Chatearoux and Tours

For the last 3 days we have cycled 115, 77 and 91 miles respectively and throughout the majority of these days they have been cycling through long roads with nothing either side except for fields and fields and fields. Then you occasionally pass through a town, and they are link ghost towns with nobody there. 

It's times like this where you have to try and provide your own entertainment other than looking at the tarmac or bum that is sat on the saddle in front of you. So banter and singing loudly to songs, in particular over the last couple of days, about going home.

See, after 12 days of cycling and completing over 1200 miles of peddling through Italy and France, it's mentally very testing. As a group we just want to get to the finish line, and it's been like a countdown. I'm not wishing this trip to end as it has been a trip of a lifetime, but my God has it been tough.

My body is an absolute mess. My mind has been what has got me through the tough times, and each and every one of us has hit many a wall but we just keep pushing through. It's like Takeshi's Castle where the guys attempt to run through the wall with no barrier, but run into the solid wall and it hurts a lot, but eventually they find the way through and they complete the task.

It's also not only the miles, but the elevation we have climbed. We have climbed over 48,000 feet in 12 days...the equivalent of cycling up 48 eiffel towers or cycling up Mount Everest one-and-a half-times. So it's like a double task of cycling along roads and then cycling up and over mountains and hills. 

Today's trip took us from Tours to Alencon, and the only real point of notice during the day was stopping at Le Mans having some pictures at the racetrack and enjoying lunch in the town centre. Other than that we rode on three roads literally all day singing home songs and trying to keep spirits high.

Arriving back at the hotel in fairly good time, we dined and massaged and got ready for the penultimate day (sounds surreal saying it). Two fairly short days in comparison to what we've done but still long enough to hurt.

20 cyclists, 2 physios and 3 helpers have worked tirelessly for 12 days, and in 2 days time we can celebrate the fact that we have all made it. But until then, we have an 80 odd mile ride to Bayeux tomorrow, then it's fancy dress day on the last day and where the party will begin.

Day 9 

Lyon to Saint Pourcain Sur Sioule

After a painful day 8 for me into Lyon and after we watched England bottle a 10 point lead vs Wales in the Rugby, the team were ready to go on day nine's 100 miles to Saint Pourcain Sur Sioulle. However, my leg was still a mess and after elsa worked some magic with bandaging my leg up (lots of bandages) I made the decision to go out on the bike.

Having little to no power going through my right leg I was looking for a nice easy start with some calm flat roads...well what I got was the complete opposite. Lyon, it turns out, is very hilly and undulating and after we got out the city we'd already climbed near on 2,000 feet.

This made the ride a lot tougher for me, and being the last up every hill and being the straggler all day was so frustrating when the rest of my body felt fine. 

Today was moving north West through the middle of France and, similar to Lyon, the route took on a lot of hills and climbs (again, ideal for me) with a lot of monotonous countryside. 

The highlight of the morning was finding a McDonald's in the middle of a valley. I proceeded to treat myself by spending €17 on bad food and drink to try and up spirits, and the rest of our group divulged in their feasts as well. Being the fine athletes we are, that was the first bad meal we've had all week.

Hills, up and down, straight roads for long periods, and tired bodies along the way. On a particular stretch of rode, we received a lot of horns beeping for cars flying past us...we aren't quite sure if it was support for us, or whether we may not have been allowed to cycle on the road...who knows?

Once we met the support crew before they headed onto the hotel, they decided to stop at McDonald's, and so I was 'forced' to pick up more food. However, I did buy a lovely chicken Thai salad...and peanut butter and caramel muffin (amazing by the way) and our group of nine split into two for the final journey.

My group of myself, Matt, Dean and Jim took the more direct but busy route, whereas my Dad, Craig, Kev, Stoner and Paul took the scenic route, more miles which I could not even consider doing. Meanwhile, I'd had my adductor muscle restrapped and it was just about holding out and the last 30 miles was a long plod with very little entertainment. 

One hundred miles a day for 14 days takes it not only out the legs and body, but also numbs the mind...being on the roads for 10/11 hours a day is tough to keep yourself plugging away. But again, we did it, pushing each other on.

So after a long last stint, the troops all made it to the hotel...today marked cycling over 900 miles, (currently at 917 for me) over 9 days and marked the supposedly last day cycling 100+ miles.

Five days remain, and the group are slowly beginning to see the finish line. There are, however, still near on 500 miles to go and I for one am taking each day as it comes with my leg and general body...Elsa has told me my whole body is a mess, and that cause of my bad leg, means all my other muscles are compensating for it making them worse.

Day 10 looms, and with no restaurants or shops open cause of Sunday and French people closing all trade, means there are a few hungry bellies around, so tomorrow morning might be an early breakfast stop. 

Saint Pourcain Sur Sioulle to Chatearoux is the challenge ahead, and as I write this, we are £1 short of having raised £14,000 which is unbelievable and I am humbled by all your support and wishes.

Day 8 

Les Tourrettes to Lyon​

Turns out cycling 90 miles through rural France isn't actually that exciting and makes for writing a blog quite tough. 

I had to cycle the last 30 miles with just my left leg as I did some damage to my right hamstring and couldn't push through any power on my right side. Once I got back to the hotel and saw Elsa the physio it turned out that I had badly torn my adductor muscle next to my hamstring and I may not be able to cycle tomorrow, hopefully it magically heals overnight. 

I give to you the 5 things I have learnt about cycling since we started last Friday. 

1. I hate cycling

2. I hate mountains 

3. I hate headwinds 

4. Dogs in Europe really don't like cyclists 

5. I hate cycling

Day 7 

Aix en Provence to Les Tourrettes

Day seven, and we were covering 109 miles from Aix en Provence up north to Les Tourrettes. The day was a journey from the Rhone Valley and this was the flattest day yet. If only that meant it was easy...

Headwind in cycling is the worst word one can hear, alongside mountain ahead (2 words) and closely followed by puncture and sandbagger.

Today, we received a lovely headwind (this is when the wind is blowing into you), and by lovely I mean horrendous. About 70 miles of this stage was into this headwind, and it caused the pace of cycling to feel like walking pace, as well as doing a good job to hold onto our bikes.

Day 6

Frejus to Aix en Provence 

Our first full day in France, and how I miss Italy already. Not for its stupidly big mountains, but for the views and scenery.

Today, we cycled for 87 miles...85 miles on the same road in rural countryside with no views other than of crops, vineyards and the occasional small town.

This monotonous trip did, however, mean we could tick off the miles quickly and with fairly flat roads (in comparison to Italy) meant that today was probably the flattest day to date.

​Day 5  

Imperia to Frejus 

Today was the day we conquered our stint in Italy and made the start of the jaunt through France. 

After some early directional confusion and one group (mine) taking a short trip down a busy road we weren't allowed to go on apparently (147 euro fine if caught but we didn't see this sign), the main peloton was split into 2.

Today's journey started with a ride down the coastline of the Italian riviera and we soon arrived at the border for the venture into France. Italy had proven very tough and ridiculously hilly, really testing all the riders to their max, however it was time to wave goodbye, and after some photos, make the trip across to France. 

The views, along the French riviera were nothing short of spectacular. The undulating roads were baby hills in comparison to the mountainous terrain in Italy, and with the sun beating down on our frazzled bodies, we made our way to Monaco.

Day 4

Genoa to Imperia - Miles covered 78, total miles covered 426 

Well, after the toughest physical day of most people's lives yesterday in the Alps, today's stage to Imperia was a baby route in comparison - 78 miles along the west coast of Italy with some wonderful views, the team, after a lie in til 7 headed off on the fourth day of pain. Bodies were now beginning to tire and people were aching in places they never knew existed.

The day of cycling literally couldn't have run any smoother...zero punctures or mechanicals, zero fallers, zero people taking the wrong routes. It really was a day where we spun our legs trying to save as much energy as we could for the upcoming jaunts.

We climbed over 3000ft during the day, which for those of you who aren't quite sure how high that is, neither am I... But what I do know is that it's really high up and requires cycling up hills and mountains.

That last 2km was the hardest part of today, but again, the troops churned their way to the top and down into the busy city of Imperia. 

Day 3

Pisa to Genoa 

An early start for the estimated 112 mile journey from Pisa to Genoa, everyone out on the roads for 7.30am for what had been billed as the hardest day of the trip...the legs took a while to warm up having completed 227 miles in the last two days, but on we went and within the first 10 miles we received our first proper fall.

A mix up in the peloton led to Pete clipping Jim's back wheel and ending up head over heels on the ground. After this mishap the group ventured on knowing that they would need to push on early doors to eat up some miles before the daunting Alps came along...a solid breakfast of Lasagne and we had enough energy to cycle on through the searing heat and sun, hitting temperatures of 30 degrees.

A slog up the 1000 ft mountain occurred, however, the views that we witnessed at the top overlooking the coastline and of Pisa and beyond were stunning and well worth the pain of cycling up. The rest of the group cleverly followed the correct route and missed this mountain, cycling through tunnels and reaching the checkpoint far before us.

This started what was to be an 80 mile journey over terrain that was quite simply ridiculous. A lot of ups and downs occurred for a while, before we stopped for lunch just short of the valley that would lead us onto the first of the two mountains that we would have to climb.

The first mountain came out of nowhere, and lasted about 5 miles averaging around 7% gradient. I've been fortunate enough to have completed a lot of sporting events, but these climbs were the hardest thing I have ever done.

The physical pain of feeling the burning in your legs whilst cycling in the lowest gear you have on your bike for over 40 minutes and having completed hundreds of miles over the last two days is one thing, but on top of that, the mental pain of knowing the road isn't ending anytime soon, and seeing the road keeping going up, and up, and up, and up is really hard to tell yourself to keep going.

Dripping in sweat, and drinking about 40 litres of fluids, we finally reached the peak - and wow, the views. Again, even through all the pain of the climbing made it worthwhile.

A lovely descent into a small town and enjoying the chance not to pedal for a few miles was soon wiped out when, reaching ground level, another mountain was looming over us.

The 50 kilometres to Genoa was anything but simple. Undulating roads; flat road, uphill, downhill repeat, was the course of these roads. Yet, it didn't stop us. 

In fact, as the day grew older, and it did after cycling for over nine hours, some were finding a never say die attitude and ploughing on even though the pain was great and it could've been easier to just chill at a cafe for an hour. By the time the 'super six' passed the lovely town of Rossalo (if I was a travel agent I would highly recommend if you want to take your other half away, beautiful place and scenery), it was dark.

A 14 hour day since leaving the hotel, Genoa was in our sights, I could smell it...or maybe that was just the sweat from my shirt...but either way, it was close. The final climb, up and over the hill and into Genoa centre...we had made it.

Day 2

95 miles from Grosseto to Pisa​

An early start for the group, all stocked up on porridge to get us through the early stages, we packed up and prepared for the day ahead. Sore bums were at a premium, with bum cream being very popular amongst the camp.

There wasn't too much entertainment or stories for the first 60 odd miles when we stopped for lunch. And my God did we fill up.

The pizzas were about 16 inches and could've fed a family, however we happily scoffed it down and headed off for the last stint down to Pisa.

I say down...we experienced our first taste of a big climb, in the 30 something degree heat which was tough but we all made it up, and saw some nice views at the top.

We finally hit the last few miles before Pisa, when the dreaded sight came up in front of our eyes...The Alps At this point, the group went silent.

Once we tried to hide them from our view and cycle the remaining roads, we arrived at end destination...Pisa. After a few stereotypical tourist photos of holding up the leaning tower and photos for social media telling people we've survived day 2, we made our way to the hotel to shower, eat and lay down

Sometimes I wonder why I agreed to this painful fortnight, but then when we all complete this challenging and gruelling task we will know that we have made ourselves, our family and friends and our beloved Stevie B oh so proud and personally that's what will pull me through.

Day 1

Sweltering heat at 8am wasn't ideal, and so we tried to tick off as many early miles before stopping for brunch. Thirty eight miles ticked off before the first stop at a little cafe, of which we had all their stock...literally. Upto this stage there had been no fallers. And updating now, I can say there were 0 fallers today.

Heat + exercise + headache and feeling sick + no lunch until 80 miles into the ride = a dead jacques. 27 miles of struggle and pain trying to stick (the worst I've ever felt doing exercise) with the 'magnificent 7' group of Tony, Craig and Kev Mathie, Dean, Matt and Paul, who helped me through and we finally got to our last stop before heading onto the end point.

A couple of punctures from Greg and matt meant they were splitting the first round bill between them...until Craig had a proper puncture burst near the end to split the bill 3 ways but only 3 punctures on the first day isn't bad. 

The group eventually all made it to the end of a tough 132 miles (recorded on my armin) so a long long first day for all the group. But pleased to say, without any disaster, that is the longest day out the way.