Nathaniel Jones and Saxon Brewer-Marchant are school friends from Guernsey who became close at university and bonded over a love of cycling once they returned to the island.
Wanting to push themselves, explore somewhere new and do some good along the way, they created an 8 day cycling challenge across Europe this summer to honour Nathaniel's grandfather and raise money for charity. It's an impressive undertaking for two guys in their mid-twenties, showing grit, determination and commitment.
Read on to hear their story.
I personally got into cycling during university, a way to explore more of Cornwall from Falmouth, where we both studied. We have actually known each other from our secondary school days, but became close friends at university in Falmouth. When we both moved back to the island, Saxon took up cycling as another form of fitness. We have since pushed ourselves, and each other, with a number of endurance challenges. whether it was Rapha’s festive 500, cycling 500 miles between Christmas and New Year, or a 200km ride on midsummer's day.
We both enjoy the challenge of cycling, but were both craving the idea of exploring somewhere new and a more substantial challenge. Mentally this would push us knowing each day that our bodies will find it harder and harder, but pushing through this is what endurance sports are all about.
The idea of Venice to Ventoux came about in 2019 when Saxon and I were thinking about what kind of cycling challenge we could undertake. We wanted to undertake a European multi-day cycling trip to see new places, push ourselves physically and visit some bucket-list cycling destinations. We push each other to perform our best when cycling and motivate each other to undertake challenges we wouldn’t normally consider. Doing this kind of event by ourselves would be mentally much tougher, so having each other’s support is key.
The route Venice to Ventoux was inspired by my late grandpa, who spent a lot of time in Venice and Northern Italy during his time as an artist, and loved cycling and Mont Ventoux in particular. My grandpa would often read a book of famous Tour de France climbs with the famous Mont Ventoux being his particular favourite. It was also one of his favourite landscapes to paint and is one of my favourite pieces of his art. However, this mountain is famous for being a harsh, inhospitable landscape to cycle in with the summit likened to being very lunar. This mountain also claimed the life of Tom Simpson, one of Britain's best known cyclists, when he collapsed at the side of the road during the 1967 Tour de France. We will be visiting his memorial on our ascent of Mont Ventoux.
As we began to map out a route, we realised this would be a perfect trip for us to undertake. It's definitely a challenge combining big mountains and distance with amazing scenery and new locations to discover, culminating in an ascent of Mont Ventoux. Unfortunately, for the last two years the pandemic has halted our plans, but finally this year with easing restrictions we are driving down thei summer to complete this adventure. From Venice, we will head north west through Verona and Bergamo to Lake Como via the Madonna Del Ghisallo, a pilgrimage site for cyclists, and down towards Turin before heading over the Alps and the Col D’Izoard towards Gap and Mont Ventoux itself. Starting on the 4th June, we aim to complete this route in 8 days and finish on the 11th June.
We also knew throughout our plannning phase that we really wanted this cycling trip to have a greater purpose and this is why we are raising money, and awareness, for MUG. MUG is an amazing local charity that raises awareness of male cancers and general well being in Guernsey. They help Guernsey males through a number of key initiatives, from running awareness campaigns and education to sports initiatives and medical training equipment. Over the past few years we have got involved with Bermuda shorts and Beard up campaigns as we both massively support the work MUG does. These are causes that we both feel strongly about and a charity that has supported our trip from concept to planning and execution immensely.
Organising this trip is unlike anything we have ever undertaken before and we have had a lot of help from local bike expert Ian Brown (also a member of the MUG team) and his colleagues. From bike fits to servicing and kit recommendations, they have been invaluable. During this trip we are planning for the worst scenarios so taking spare parts and extra kit is necessary. For example, the alps will still be snow-covered the we ascend so that is something we will have to contend with. Our colleague Elina will also be supporting us by meeting us each evening which is a huge help. It's amazing to have that level of support.
You can follow along with Nathaniel and Saxon on their journey on MUG's social channels.
You can also donate to the cause here. They are aiming to raise a minimum of £5000 through a number of events in the lead up.
Good luck to the boys from the team here at The List!