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Canterbury to Rome Cycle Tour (aka “Tour de Europe for Jo”)

Our members undertake some very impressive feats of endurance and it is a pleasure to be able to publish another; a report Phil Turner. Not only has Phil completed a memorable cycling adventure, he and his team have raised considerable funds for St Barnabas in the process; over £18.000 so far. Read on for Phil’s story:-

“The Tour was a 2,000km / 1,300 miles ride from Canterbury to Rome in 22 days.  We’d planned the Tour ourselves rather than paying for a package tour.  We had 4 campervans driven by partners and friends and this proved to be invaluable.  I have a fresh admiration for the many people we met along the way who were self-supported. Our route to Rome was a mix of the “EuroVelo 5” and the “Via Francigena” which are based on old Pilgrimage Paths.

There were 6 riders who started in Canterbury (2 others joined us later in Zurich and Milan) and I was the only one on a standard road bike…the others choosing gravel bikes.

We started at Canterbury Cathedral at 7am on Friday 2nd June and cycled the 30km to the Eurotunnel…met the vans, a 35 minute train, then dropped off just outside Calais for another 80km.  We rode through France for 2 days heading towards Roubiax and then Belgium. Planning our route was pretty tricky…we wanted to take a direct route given the distances we were covering, but also wanted to avoid crazy flint or off road tracks and big climbs (obviously!). Day 2 involved some rough off road tracks and we had 3 punctures in one section (not me) and were questioning our plan.  Spoiler Alert…. We only had 1 more puncture in the rest of the Tour and I had none.

Belgium, as many will know, is made for cyclists.  Great infrastructure and so much cycling history you see along the way that gives you a “lift”.  We stayed at Bastogne before heading across Luxembourg.

I’d never been to Luxembourg and didn’t know what to expect….I’ll definitely be going back.  We crossed Luxembourg in a day (110km) and the day was probably one of the highlights for me.  Dedicated cycle paths through forests and alongside rivers…silky smooth tarmac and no one else around.  A tail wind probably helped plus a sunny 24c and the 6 of us were riding more as a Team now.

Germany next…lots of cycling along rivers paths (Moselle and then Saar) which means you can cover the distance quickly.  The downside is that you’re static on your saddle for hours and …well….not so good for your bum.

We crossed back into France where I had a catastrophic mechanical.  We had only covered 5km on Day 7 when my rear derailleur started jumping, next thing I know the whole rear derailleur was chewed up in my rear wheel, the gear cable had broken and the derailleur hanger and chain had both snapped. One of the vans picked me up and the other riders headed on.  I drove to the nearest Decathlon to get the parts needed and luckily I had brought a spare hanger with me (top tip for sure).  All fixed by lunchtime, so I met up with the others to carry on the afternoon.

Next up was Switzerland and the Alps.  We were in Switzerland for 5 days and the roads were very similar to Luxembourg… smooth and zero potholes or drain covers to worry about.  The Alps were getting closer and closer and there was a definite sense of anticipation.  The ride from Lake Lucerne up to Andermatt was another highlight.  Stunning scenery to distract you from the climb (regretted my 11-28 cassette choice).  The descent down was so much fun… except a lot of it was cobbled.  

On Day 13 we made it to Northern Italy …. What a difference to Switzerland.  The road surfaces were terrible and the drivers just ignored you – passing within inches. A real shock and not a great experience.  As we headed further south through Italy the road surfaces never really improved but the scenery did.  Tuscany was amazing albeit you always seemed to be climbing or descending, but the scenery was spectacular.

The route through Italy included a lot of strade bianchi (literally meaning white roads) – challenging chalky farm tracks, but I can definitely recommend Continental 4 Season 28mm tyres.


The route into central Rome was a dedicated cycle path along the River Tiber. They certainly know how to treat their cyclists.  We had an emotional reception from the Support Crew and other friends and family as we finished in Vatican City.

If anyone wants more info then drop me a message … .everything is on a spreadsheet and I’d 100% recommend a long Tour for your bucket list.

We named the ride “Tour de Europe for Jo” after my sister-in-law who sadly passed away last year and had a passion for cycling.  All donations go to St Barnabas Hospice, so if you have a few quid it would mean a lot. Thanks. The link is HERE