Can you imagine cycling up this steep, winding road? Simon Cook, a Prospect Burma supporter from Australia, did just that back in 2008 to raise money for Prospect Burma scholarships. In the 20th anniversary edition of our newsletter we celebrated the incredible feat.

Simon decided to take part in the 16th Etape Du Tour, a challenging race which covers a 103 mile stage of the Tour de France course, including over a climb to 8,500 feet up the Col Du Tourmalet mountain pass and the Hautacam mountains. The race is carried out under the same conditions as the Tour de France, with roads closed off to traffic and a structured course which will feature a stage of the Tour de France route. Simon took on the daunting challenge to raise much needed funds for Prospect Burma.

Simon told us: “The race was just excellent. There were 9,000 entrants. The conditions were pretty testing; it was cold and wet for the majority of the day. The first two climbs seemed to be relatively easy, getting pulled along by the bike pack and the excitement. I completed the first 100km in under three hours and with only 69km to go I was more than halfway there.

Not long after the break I saw a sign for the Tourmalet 22km, which didn’t sound far at all. Unfortunately at that point the road inclined and my speed slowed from 30km+ an hour to 6-7kph. Everyone around me had their heads down, heavily breathing with the occasional groan and sigh. The futher we climbed the more people started to get off and walk. It was as if we were biking somberly into some abyss. I felt that I must have done something very bad in my life to have deserved this painful punishment.

After much stomping and agonising about the pros and cons of walking, I finally reached the top still on my bike. It was then a dangerous and cold descent down the steep, wet road. Towards the bottom the cloud began to clear and as we picked up a good 40kph speed all looked good. Before very long I was 12km from the finish line at Hautacam and going very well. Alas, as expected, when we hit the Hautacam ascent speeds slowed to 6kph and ominous heavy cloud cover came in. It was made a little more dangerous by the road, which was very narrow at this point, and groups of tired and swerving cyclists. It was a case of having a very large sugar intake and settling in to the saddle for two hours of grinding to the race finish.

Approximately 9,000 calories lighter, I finally made it to the top of the infamous Hautacam. What the race organisers hadn’t emphasised was that although we had finished, we still had to make our own way back down the mountain…”

We wrote to Simon to thank him for the £1,100 which his incredible effort raised for Prospect Burma. He told us “I was looking for a small charity that invested in Burma for the long term; Prospect Burma seemed to fit that bill just perfectly.”

Are you inspired by Simon’s story? Why not take on a challenge event yourself and fundraise for our scholarships programme. Find out how to get started, and how we can help you here.