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a blog by Chris Barrow

Day 6 of the Asto Clinic "Everest challenge" - The Final Push - "Spectacular" becomes an over-used word

As there isn’t quite the time pressure, we sleep a little (but not much) later this morning and have a slow start to the day.

Steve has to ride his bike back into Vence and pick up our hire car, as well as some groceries - so we are not very happy when the grey skies at dawn turn into a light rain - but needs must, and so he sets off, leaving me to write the previous day’s blog and generally get myself ready.

As the morning progresses, we can see that the weather is going to improve, so not only do we wait for the rain to stop, but also for the sun to dry the roads, making life much safer for us.

Our final ride begins almost right on 12 noon and we are looking at quite a distance but a lower climbing target (lower meaning “only” 3,800 feet) to finally bag our Everest target.

Steve has really chosen a treat of a ride today - back in to Vence and then along what has quickly become one of my favourite roads, to Saint-Jeannet, Gattières, Carros and around the Var valley wall to Le Broc - high above the river, skirting the sides of the mountains, in and out of the sunshine.

In Le Broc we expect a coffee stop but the bar by the fountain is closed but we do manage to find an epicerie and buy a couple of cheese and ham baguettes - although Steve asks that we carry them as he has a favourite lunch stop in mind later on.

From Le Broc, we begin climbing further into the mountains, along what ST describes as the best balcony road in the area - and it doesn’t disappoint.

The journey to Bouyon just gets more and more specular as we progress, with almost vertical drops to our right, beyond the small balcony walls (not for the squeamish - and that includes me!).

As we approach Bouyon, Steve pulls me over to the roadside and asks “do you fancy a challenge?” - we have a steep climb into the village (already done a few days ago) and ST suggests that I go for it and mark up a PB but also test myself to my limits on a short, sharp ascent.

In for a penny, I agree and after a few moments of readying myself, we begin - Steve following me, shouting instructions to help with my technique, pacing, gear changes and keeping a close eye on my heart rate - 115 beats per minute (BPM), 120, 125, 130, 140, 145 bpm - at this point my lungs are gasping for air and my legs are burning but, from somewhere, I manage a final push for the summit, 150 bpm, pull in by the water fountain, dismount and sit on a bench in the shade, waiting for my body to recover.

I have a very big smile on my face - I’ll never compare that on Strava to the really fitter, younger, riders who will have done it over the years - just a happy memory of pushing myself to the limits. Once again, thank you Coach Turnock.

Once my heart has stopped trying to escape and my breathing is back to normal, we continue our journey and I’m treated to even more spectacular (most over-used word in this blog series?) views both up, down and across the valleys, with the snow-capped Alps as our distant horizon.

Along the way, Steve pulls over into a very small lay-by and we eat half our baguettes, perched on a wall with stunning views - his favourite lunch place.

Les Ferres - Conségudes - each one a picture-postcard medieval town and (sometimes) fortifications that perch on hillsides and cliff edges, seemingly defying gravity.

Then, a lovely, incredibly long descent through forests to Roquesteron, where we reach the half-way point on our journey. We find that the Maison du Bonheur hotel is open and Steve pops in to order coffee - imagine my delight when our waiter emerges with two Creme de Brûlée - heaven.

A decent break for this treat and then it’s time to get our mind and matter into the second half of the day. We have a tough stretch ahead of us to Gilette, traversing the opposite side of the valley we have just climbed, on long roads with slight inclines - so we decide that, once again, I’m going to “draft” Steve - tucking in with my front wheel less than a few feet from his, eyes on his back wheel, on his gear changes, on his body movements and on the road ahead - total focus.

One of the lessons I have learned on this trip is how much I enjoy the “drafting” - it requires 100% concentration, the ability to pull back a few feet on descents and then power back to that back wheel as soon as I’m able to.

It is 22km of exhilaration and I’m spent as we pull into the village square at Gilette and enjoy the beautiful view down the river valley to Nice and the coast (and another slice of Steve's Mum's fruit cake).

A short recovery break and then the fiercely technical decent down to the valley floor - tight switchbacks made more demanding by the busier traffic on this road.

Cross the valley floor and the Var and then begins our final climb of the day - which I find very challenging because by this time the batteries are running low in my legs.

The climb up to Carros really takes it out of me and I have to dig deep when Steve asks me to draft yet again all the way back to Gattières and Vence.

At this stage we have to compare notes from our bike computers to determine exactly how much we have to do to hit the Everest target. It’s close but I’m still around 400 feet short, so the decision is made to head all the way to Tourrettes-sur-Loup. On arrival, I have a tantalising 250 feet to complete, so Steve takes me away from the village centre to a nearby side street that climbs sharply north - and asks me to just drop down to my lowest gear and beast it up the hill.

Attempt #1 - I get about 150 feet up before my lungs are bursting and I have to unclip and roll back down again.

Attempt #2 - another 150 feet and it’s done - Everest climbed - and as I gasp for breath, Steve records a quick video.

Man hugs follow and, just as we are about to roll back down again to the village and grab a pint, a voice cries out - “hello!” and we turn to see a suntanned man waving from a pool balcony above us. He is joined by his partner and she asks if we would like a drink with them to celebrate.

Thus we meet semi-retired veterinarian Hans and meeting venue host Irene, who live in Amsterdam and were able to buy their villa when Hans sold his practices to a UK corporate.

A lovely hour follows, enjoying local rose by the pool and taking in their views of Antibes as we learn about each other.

Which brings us back for a late but superb dinner and much celebration.

Job done - by the time we have called in all of our promises, we will have reached over £5,000 of fund-raising (including Gift Aid) - enough to fund treatment for 5 patients. Which means that we (and you) have made a difference.


114.97 km (71.43 miles), 

1,187 metres (3,894 feet), 

Moving time 5 hours 16 minutes.

Totals for the week:

Total Distance - 349 miles;

Total climb - 29,059 feet;

Moving time - 29.50 hours;

Calories burned - 21,935.

It has truly been the trip of a lifetime and this 70-year old is feeling quite proud of himself.

So, finally, a word about Asto Clinics and the reason we are here - I’m finally going to share an extract from Steve’s own story.


I have been suffering with one form or other of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for fifty years now.

Early in 2017, I started to suffer with a form of severe, clinical OCD that was completely debilitating, and it eventually caused me to put my life on hold.

The intrusive thoughts I was experiencing spread into my driving, cycling and skiing. Life was starting to become very difficult indeed. I was getting lost in my own mind. My quality of life was diminishing by the day. For the first time in my life I felt both vulnerable and fragile. Not pleasant at all.


I was referred by my doctor to a psychiatrist at a private clinic in Manchester, who confirmed a diagnosis of severe OCD. The psychiatrist referred me to a clinical psychologist, who amongst other things, runs a group therapy session based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

In April 2018 I started the series of 12 group therapy sessions. At the end of the programme, I had shown sufficient improvement, that I was classed as in recovery.

I continued putting what I had learned into practice, and had three more private therapy sessions. In November 2018 I was declared as OCD free. I had my life back.

The future

My experience gave me an insight into the lack of provision for the care of people suffering with mental health problems, and in particular, access to effective services.

I decided that I would devote my time and energy into finding a potential solution.

That solution is Asto Clinics.

Profit will not be our driver, and never will be. We aim to deliver high quality, effective, patient outcomes. Our guiding principle is:

“For better mental health, not for profit”

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