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a blog by Chris Barrow

Day 2 of the Asto Clinic "Everest challenge" - Nature tries to stop us

Thursday 9th May 2024 - a day I will never forget

Day 2 begins with coffee and cereals in the sunshine, as we meet to discuss the day ahead.

Fatefully (as it transpires), every iPhone app predicted a day of unbroken sunshine and I can only reflect the day after on how lucky (?), clever (?)I was to pop into my shirt pockets a lightweight Gore waterproof jacket and a pair of long-fingered gloves, which (little did I know) would save the day much later.

We depart from Chez Turnock around 09:00 and head straight into Tourrettes-sur-Loup for a pain aux chocolate in the village square, queueing with local families and other cyclists fuelling up for the day ahead.

Then the long downhill to Pont du Loup and the start of a 19-mile climb up the Gorges du Loup to our lunch stop in the beautiful hilltop village of Gréolières. Today is already going to be the highest I've ever climbed in a single day on a bike, but this first ascent is nothing but a combination of joy and a little pain on some of the steeper hairpin sections.

Lunch of the most superb ravioli served by the lovely Claire, who "gets" customer service like a champion - then on to the next part of our journey, which is where the problems begin.

Intention - a nice ride across the plateau and then a climb through forests to the Col de Bleine, which will be one of our high points of the day.

As we begin our climb, the sound of thunder begins to reverberate around us and, within minutes, I'm rapidly changing into my waterproof jacket as we are attacked (that's the best word I can use to describe it) by torrential hail stones. The temperature is dropping very quickly and there is only one thing for it - to press on to the top and do the work on the bile that will keep us warm.

Hailstones bouncing off the road and off the top of our helmets - relentless all the way to the top.

Steve and I are separated for a while as he has no jacket and we agree that it may be a good idea for him to shelter for a while as I press on - but there is no sign of the weather abating and so he catches me just before the top.

There, a team meeting to decide whether to bail out on the day and turn back to Gréolières and take shelter - or to press on.

It's moments like this where we remind ourselves of our mission for Asto Clinics and the desire to get those "Everest feet" climbed. Decision - press on.

A few minutes later I ask Steve to pull over again and wait a few minutes whilst I change gloves - on reflection, a mistake as in the last 45 minutes or so, the temperature has dropped 24 degrees and we are very quickly losing our core heat.

The next 5 miles into La Faye du Mas I can only describe as my hardest hour ever, not just on a bike.

  • a steep descent with multiple hairpins;

  • roads made slippery and treacherous by hail and rain;

  • lightning bolts crashing down into the valley just to our right hand side - close enough to feel the air tremble as the accompanying thunder echoes from side to side;

  • no feeling in my fingers, so I'm just pressing the brakes and hoping for the best;

  • as I begin to become mildly hypothermic, my body starts to shake and I look like a drunk riding home from a bar - handlebars wobbling from side to side as I cannot control my movements.

The owner of the small epicerie in La Faye du Mas must have thought she was seeing ghosts as we staggered, shaking and blue, through her door - Steve asks for coffees and a packet on bin liners - and he advises us both to strip down to the waist and pop the bin liners under and over our kit like marathon space blankets as we simply down coffees, eat energy bars and try our best to just stop shaking.

My fingers are mostly white as my circulation has stopped - I cannot ride like this.

We are there for about an hour before we feel ready to begin our journey and, thankfully, the rain has stopped, even though the thunder still booms around the mountains.

The next few hours are steady descent and, as the ambient temperature rises, we recover our faculties.

A very long time later we are in Roquesteron and taking stock of what has been an eventful afternoon. Still a long way to go.

Roquesteron - Gilette and amazing views down the valley towards the coast, then another amazing descent to the valley floor, across the Var and then our final climb of the day towards Le Broc, but turning before the village to make a final push towards Vence and our homecoming.

We arrive back at Chez Turnock almost 12 hours after we began - and I can honestly say that we are both knackered and I feel as if I've just run a marathon.

134.51 km, 7 hours 15 minutes in the saddle, 2,203 metres of ascent on my bike computer = 7,227 feet.

In my darkest moment, frozen and quite scared, I kept on reminding myself that we are doing this for a very good cause.

Once again thank you for your continued support - as I write this on Friday morning, our fund raising stands at £4,358 and that's going to make a massive difference to people diagnosed with the debilitating condition of OCD.


I was diagnosed with OCD four years ago, I genuinely thought my life was over and I’d never find happiness again. I was stuck in my own head with horrifying intrusive thoughts that I could not escape 24/7 and spent some time in a psychiatric hospital. I had seen several therapists, one who told me i was an enigma which made me feel more hopeless than I ever had.

 My biggest compulsion was googling my symptoms, I spent 4 years looking for success stories of people who had recovered and were living their lives again. eventually I found a podcast that featured Dr Papageorgiou and Steve being interviewed by a previous client and i knew that there was still a glimmer of hope.

I rang the clinic that day, Sue did everything she could to support me through the process, I was assessed by Dr Papageorgiou and got onto the programme.

I thought i knew everything there was to know about OCD and had tried every trick in the book, I was so wrong! Over the 12 weeks I learnt so many valuable things that I will always have with me. 

I worked hard and completed all my homework which is key. I had ups and downs in the beginning but the downs started to become easier to manage with the tools I had learnt.

Towards the end of the programme I was assessed again, and my OCD was in the mild range, something I never thought was possible.

I continue to use my tools, and have made more progress since the program ended. I no longer fear OCD, as this 12 weeks has turned my life around, and I’m ready should it rear its ugly head again.

I’m super grateful to everyone at the asto clinic, the work you do is amazing, thank you so much for all your help and support. No more googling, I now have the answers! 

Once again, thank you all for everything 


8th May 2024

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