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Darlington cyclist gears up for king of the mountains contest
A MILITARY aircraft navigator is preparing to tackle his toughest route to date – a 780km charity bike ride across some of Europe’s highest mountains.
Flight Lieutenant Jonathan Berry, from Darlington, hopes to raise £5,000 for Armed Forces charity Help for Heroes by completing the challenge, which begins on Sunday.
The 38-year-old, who is based at RAF Lossiemouth, in Scotland, with 15 Tornado Squadron, is the only UK rider setting off on the Haute Route across the Alps, from Lake Geneva to Nice. Labelled as the toughest amateur cycling route in the world, the sevenday challenge is expected to involve 500 riders from around the world.
Sections of the ride will cover more than 21,000 metres of steep climbs.
One part of the course is the L’Alpe D’Huez climb, an 18km route that rises almost vertically over 1,000 metres.
Flt Lt Berry is a keen racing cyclist and member of the RAF Cranwell Cycling Club, and is no stranger to tough cycling courses.
He has already competed in many home and international events, including the famous French Etape du Tour stage events.
But he is in no doubt that the Haute Route will be his toughest challenge to date.
He said: “I have been putting in a lot of very hard work for this. It’s going to be very demanding, but I am confident that I will complete the course in a respectable time.
“I’ve been getting in plenty of miles on my bike in preparation.
I’ve been going to some of the hillier areas, such as the Peak District, to practice.
“I’d like to come in the top 20 or 30 per cent of riders, and higher than that would be a real bonus.” During the ride, Flt Lt Berry expects to feel the heat – quite literally.
He said: “The weather forecasters are predicting highs of 36 degrees, which is ten above average for the region. That is going to make it very tough.
“I shall have to ensure that I replace the minerals and salt my body will lose during the ride by eating lots of power bars and drinking lots of highenergy liquids.”
To sponsor Flt Lt Berry, visit bmycharity.com/ jonathanberry