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Stelvio Pass Cycle Challenge

  |   MASKS Charity

MASKS supporter takes on the infamous Stelvio Pass

Simon Wheeler is about to embark on an epic challenge for MASKS, on Friday 7th July he will be riding the infamous Stelvio Pass.  The ride entails a 24.3km cycle from Prato to the Passo dello Stelvio in the Italian Alps: an 1808m ascent from 950m to 2758m at the top. Following this Simon will be heading to Bormio to the Passo dello Stelvio (attack the other side of the mountain) in a 1533m ascent over 21km.

Simon will be tackling these 2 climbs on 7th July 2017 to raise money for MASKS (Make A Special Kid Smile) and the Stocklake Park School Therapy dog that MASKS supports.

Simon Wheeler is the Managing Director of Agria Pet Insurance. But in addition to his day job, these past few months he’s been training for this rather big challenge.

We’re so delighted that he’s chosen to cycle for our charity, we thought we’d catch up with him and find out some more about what he’s up to…

Tell us about your challenge!

I will be cycling up the notorious Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps from both sides. It’s a ride of over 45km up a route that’s famously included in the Giro D’Italia, from Prato up over the Stelvio Pass and then again from Bormio.

It has quite a fearsome reputation as being pretty relentless, with an average gradient of 7% over the climb. While that doesn’t sound TOO bad, once you take into account there are many sections reaching up to 12%, it’s not going to be a walk in the park!

Luckily I won’t be alone: 11 of us from the Agria cycling team are tackling the challenge. We’re very supportive of each other, so having us all there will be a great help.

Why have you chosen MASKS to support?

MASKS (Make A Special Kid Smile) is a local charity that supports young people with a range of complex learning, communication and behavioural needs and provides opportunities to help them realise their full potential and be as independent as possible.

Agria was introduced to MASKS by Dogs for Good and generating funds to support the charity’s important work perfectly matches our ambitions when launching our community support programme.

And why the Stelvio Pass – it looks pretty tough…?

I love pushing myself and I love cycling and, following last year’s Mont Ventoux challenge, Passo di Stelvio is just another one of those things in life that ‘just has to be done because it’s there’. And if taking on such a tough challenge encourages people to support the Agria team by donating funds for MASKS, that’s a huge bonus for a little bit of self-indulgence.

What’s your training regime?

I’m continuing with my usual bike/swim weekly training. Although, obviously, good fitness will be needed, I believe that succeeding with a challenge like this entirely depends on having your head in the right place. Doing this for a great cause helps tremendously with that focus, as does being part of a team all going through the same mental preparation and physical pain.

What are you most looking forward to about the challenge?

The incredible buzz I anticipate as I turn the final corner and can get on with considering the impending descent…

And do you any fears about taking something like this on?

No fears as such, I’m just keen to ensure I enjoy the entire challenge – even the really tough parts. Also that my elderly, squeaky bike will be as enthusiastic about the climb as I am.

What’s the hardest cycling challenge you’ve done up until now?

I’ve done quite a few tough rides – all of them have been very challenging in their own way. These have included Mont Ventoux, Ride the Rockies in Colorado – 600 miles in 7 days including 8 x 10,000 foot mountains and Bealach na Bà out of Applecross in Wester Ross which is steep and the greatest ascent of any road climb in UK.

Do you have a secret weapon to get you up the fearsome climb?

Copious amounts of red wine the night before … numbs the pain in your backside and the headache takes your mind off creaking legs!