CYCLING: Incredible Ives, 77, reflects on 3,600km Tour of Italy

Veteran cyclist Mick Ives riding through the mountains in Italy
Veteran cyclist Mick Ives riding through the mountains in Italy

Baginton rider still raising money for four charities

Twelve years after completing the Tour de France route solo - in a day less than the actual race - Mick Ives,77, has just finished an even more astonishing challenge. He has ridden the entire 3,600km Tour of Italy for charity.

Mick Ives is raising money for four charities

Mick Ives is raising money for four charities

“Back in 2005 when I became the first rider to ride the Tour de France route solo, it was very tough , but something I am very proud of,” he explained. “In doing so I raised over £20,000 for Cancer Research.

“Now at the age of nearly 78, I took on this mad idea of riding the route of this year’s Tour of Italy pro bike race, the 100th edition over a distance of 3,600 km.

“Well I have always liked a challenge, and now after racing road and cyclo cross events without a break - the only British rider to have done so - I am getting to the end of my career, so why not?

“There are a lot of people out there, many of them children, who are not as fortunate as myself, and if I can help them in any way by raising funds for four UK charities, then I feel I have contributed to something in this world.”

Mick’s chosen charities are: Barnardos, having recently been appointed as their Cycling Ambassador, Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice, Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People and the Padraic Sweeny Kidney Research Fund.

Mick’s tour started by flying out to Sardinia for the first three stages, then over to Sicily, where he found the worst roads he had ever ridden on, with pot holes the size of house bricks.

One stage finished at the top of Mount Etna which was covered in snow, despite billowing smoke as the volcano had erupted recently.

After stage five a short trip on the ferry followed, to take Mick to mainland Italy.

At Reggio Calabria he and his project manager were joined by the rest of his support team – two drivers and a media officer. They slowly worked their way north, often with long transfers between the stage finish and the following day’s start.

Following old habits Mick ate and drank very little during each ride, but his diet included fruit and the occasional bread roll from breakfast with ham, jam or honey, along with a total of 30 Mars Bars. In the evenings he says he must have got through 20 pizzas with salad and water, but no wine.

“Stage 7 was along the southern coast and I rode 60 miles on a dual carriageway, which turned out to be restricted to vehicles over 150cc.

“I found out when the police asked us to get off. I wondered why I had seen no cyclists and why traffic was coming past so fast and close! Very scary.”

After the departure of his Project Manager Stage 9 saw one of the toughest climbs, the Blockhaulst, 1,674 metres high with snow at the summit.

“The countryside changed as we went north and on Stage 14 we were up into the Po Valley and miles and miles of rice fields,” he said.

“The stage finished at Oropa at the top of a climb out of the town of Biella.

“It was on this stage that we experienced problems with our support vehicle and it meant losing the official rest day while it was fixed.

“Slowly we made our way towards the mountains for the final week.

“The biggest climb of the Tour the Stelvio Pass 2,758 metres high, was hot at the bottom, freezing cold at the top, with 8ft walls of snow at the road side.

“The climb was over 20km long and it took me two hours, but was well worth it. A very tough stage.”

More days in the mountains followed, in fact there were a total of 40 classified mountain climbs in the tour.

“Eventually we got to the final stage of the tour, a 28km time trial from the Monza racing circuit to the centre of Milan,” he continued.

“This stage we couldn’t ride as the Monza Motor race circuit was closed and it would have been impossible to ride directly into the centre of Milan, so we chose another road to do the time trial on. We stayed in Milan over night and made our way back by road to the UK the following day.

“To ride the Tour of Italy (Giro di Italia) route solo, is something very special and only a handful of riders have done it, to do it at the age of 77 is something I am very proud of,” he added.

“Will there be more big challenges? I am not sure. My heart says maybe, but my family are saying no!

“The roads were generally very bad, although there were stretches of brilliant surfaces, but few and far between. Tunnels were also a problem with poor lighting and no hard shoulder, very scary.

“Up in the Alps and Dolomites the roads were much better and far less traffic.

“During my racing career (which has seen me eight times World Masters Cycling Champion and 79 times a British Champion) I have ridden in two World Championships in Italy, but never had chance to really see much of the country. Now I can say I have seen and ridden it from top to bottom.”

Mick would like to thank his sponsors Jewson Polypipe and McCann for their assistance, without whom this challenge could never have taken place.

Also to all his equipment providers, who helped with everything from the bike and support vehicle to nutrition and ferry crossings.

He is also grateful to everyone who has made donations and the media for their coverage.

“But It doesn’t end there,” he stresses. “I am still hoping that people will donate to the fund and details can be found on my challenge ride website: www.micksitalianjob.co.uk”