Paralympic cycling champions set for 770-mile South American adventure

Paralympic cycling champions set for 770-mile South American adventure

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Two of Great Britain Cycling Team’s Paralympic gold medallists are about to embark on their second South American adventure of 2016.

Steve Bate and Karen Darke will be joined by fellow Great Britain Cycling Team rider Jaco Van Gass and Steve’s wife Caroline as the foursome attempt to ride the Carretera Austral in Patagonia, Chile.

The 770-mile route starts at Puerto Montt and finishes in Villa O’Higgins after passing through rural Patagonia.

The Carretera Austral provides access to Chile’s Aysen del General Carlos Ibanez del Campo region and the southern part of the Los Lagos region. These areas are sparsely populated; despite the length of the road it only provides access to approximately 100,000 people.

The plan was hatched by Bate and Darke during a training camp in early January and Van Gass was quickly invited to join them on the expedition.

“In January we were looking ahead to a daunting year, with none of us knowing whether or not we were going to be selected for Rio. We all wanted to have something to look forward to following the Paralympic Games and while our focus always remained on doing everything necessary to give us the best possible chance of going to Rio, it was nice have a project and planning to focus on during rest days or down time.”

They estimate that the challenge will take them approximately 25 days to complete, with the team aiming to complete around 60 kilometres a day.

Darke will be taking on the challenge on a handbike, while Bate, his wife Caroline and Van Gass will ride mountain bikes. They will carry their provisions with them, camping along the route.

All three members of the team have extensive expedition experience.

Before joining the Great Britain Cycling Team in 2014, Bate became the first visually impaired person to solo climb the 3,000 foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, while Darke returns to Patagonia having visited the region in 2009 on a sea kayaking expedition, with her most recent adventure seeing her handbike across Cuba in 2015.

Previously a member of the British Armed Forces, before being severely wounded during his second Tour of Afghanistan, Van Gass gas trekked across the North Pole, helping to raise £1.5 million for Walking with the Wounded and followed that by attempting to climb Mount Everest, an expedition which was only derailed due to dangerous weather conditions.

The group have arrived in Chile and begin their challenge tomorrow and while finishing in Villa O’Higgins is the end goal, Bate says the trip is more about enjoying the journey, rather than reaching the destination.

“This is not about firsts, breaking records or being honoured for the achievement. The success of the trip will be judged by us, not by the clock or the power outputs. The goal is simply to go slow, enjoy the world around us and camp out in amazing places.”

You can read more from Steve about his life post-Rio and the ride in Patagonia on a blog on the British Cycling website on Tuesday.