Two cyclists have set off from Guernsey on a 2,500 mile journey to Istanbul, in preparation for the next Tour de Sez.
Gary Hooks and Leon Howard will cycle from 'home to Rome' - the Tour de Sez 2021 route - before heading to Istanbul to continue their "personal challenge".
The Tour de Sez will once again fundraise for the Sarah Groves Foundation, which the two cyclists are supporting on their trip.
"It's a double-edged sword," explained Vic Groves from the Foundation. "They're going to Istanbul via Rome and the reason for that routing is very simply because they're doing a recce for the Tour in September 2021. We have to plan the route down to the last detail; where we are going to stay at night, where we're going to stop to eat and all the rest of it. That's what they're doing on the first part.
"Most people would turn around and come home but they've decided they're going to carry on regardless and cycle to Istanbul! It involves going across Italy, on a ferry across to Greece and then through a couple of other countries until they get to Istanbul."
Pictured: The cyclists, their team and Kate and Vic Groves.
The pair decided to take on the challenge about a week after returning from last year's Tour de Sez, during a "drunken" discussion that soon turned into reality.
"With the training from the previous tour and the tour before it never really stopped," said Leon. "For this sort of event we're going to be looking at doing much greater distances and there's going to be many more days than what the shorter tour will be in 2021.
"We do as much [training] as we can but you're never going to be able to get in 12-14 hours a day every day when we have full-time jobs and all the rest of it. We just train as much as we possibly can. Both Gary and I are experienced cyclists so when we get out there we just need to grind it out.
"The thing I'm most concerned about is making sure that we get this first half nailed down for all the riders that we have in two years' time coming with us. Those that we take with us go from very experienced to novice so we need to make sure it is perfectly safe for them and that the routes are nice and scenic."
The pair set off yesterday afternoon and expect to arrive in Istanbul on 2 October.
Pictured: Last year's Tour de Sez.
"It's a massive challenge," added Gary. "There's a lot of climbing through the Alps and through the Greek mountains. Italy is all mountainous as well and the heat is going to be a real factor for the pair of us.
"We've done a lot of challenges but none to this extent and covering this many countries. We've done 1,000 mile stuff before but this is 2,500 miles and it's a long time on the road. The most concerning point for me is the element of danger on the Roa and the amount of time on the road. We've got to be extra vigilant at all times. There's a few in Bulgaria which are up these mountains and the nearest traffic is a goat or something! But as long as the surface is okay, it doesn't really matter how wide they are or how high the elevation.
"I can't wait to get up into the Alps! I'm looking forward to bonding with this team and bringing back some information for our launch date."
The 2021 Tour de Sez is due to launch on 9 November.
Pictured top: Gary Hooks and Leon Howard on their bikes.
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