Locksbottom man takes on mammoth mountain-cycling challenge
PUBLISHED: 15:27 31 August 2016 | UPDATED: 15:27 31 August 2016
He will cycle through the Alps, Dolomites and Pyrenees in three weeks
A 52-year-old from Locksbottom has taken on the daunting challenge of cycling more than 24,000km of the highest and steepest terrain in the world.
Stephen Ballard is one of only 29 riders hoping to achieve the Haute Route Triple Crown this year - cycling all three of the mountainous routes through the Alps, Pyrenees and Dolomites in the space of just three weeks.
He completed the Pyrenees section of the route this week, having braved high summer temperatures - but was unable to celebrate for too long.
“It’s great to get the first bit done, but I was a bit jealous of the other guys,” he said. “They’re all having a beer and I’m thinking I can’t do that because I’ve got to carry on, I can’t start letting my hair down.
“It’s the achievement, really, that’s enjoyable - and of course the fantastic scenery, the mountains. It’s a beautiful place.”
The Haute Route’s mountainous courses will see him scaling heights of 20,000m on some sections - a far cry from Bromley’s gentle terrain.
“I often go down the gym because I live in south-east London and cycling around south-east London and Bromley is not a brilliant place for cycling, so I tend to maybe cycle at the weekends because the roads are very busy during the week,” he explained.
“I cycle round the South Downs, I cycle in Kent and Surrey. I don’t really stop somewhere or cycle to somewhere, because there’s nothing comparable - there aren’t mountains in England like there are in France so it’s just impossible to train for something like this in England, because you just cannot get anything comparable.”
Mr Ballard said he was motivated to take on the Triple Crown because he always wants to do something “that’s a bit bigger than I think I’m capable of” - and he has no plans to scale down his ambition.
“I’m doing the Haute Route Rockies next year, so I’ve got to keep the training going, I can’t relax after this!” he said.
“I’ve got to keep on training for the Rockies, so I’m really looking forward to that because I’ve never cycled in America before, so that should be really good fun.”