A cyclist from Hove has ridden up the infamous Ditchling Beacon 100 times in a row to raise awareness and funds for mental health care in his community in memory of a friend.
Kurt Charnock, 41, set out to tackle the Beacon, which measures on Strava as a 1.4km long, 133m high segment with an average gradient of nine percent, 100 times - a challenge which he has dubbed the Cesaro Climb, in memory of close friend, Fabrice Cesaro, who took his own life.
He completed the feat at 1am on Monday morning, after battling with the weather for a total of 44 hours. Charnock also managed to raise £1,400 towards providing a counsellor for his local sporting community, as well as successfully opening a dialogue about mental health.
The 41-year old set out at midnight on Friday night and rode for 23 hours with occasional tea breaks, then slept for four hours in the front seat of his van, before completing his challenge between 4am Sunday and 1am Monday.
In order to keep count Charnock had to do away with his trusty Garmin Edge 1000, which could only muster 21 ascents before its battery packed in. Instead, he reverted to a rudimentary form of counting in the shape of 100 marked clothes pegs which were carried up the hill individually, and remain at the top of the Beacon fixed to a tree.
If riding up one of the most challenging climbs in the south wasn’t hard enough on the legs, the weather conditions certainly made things a little more exhausting. The Hove man told road.cc exactly how hard it was.
“We had between 35 and 40 mile-an-hour winds,” Charnock said. “I think it was the worst cycling weekend we’ve had this year.
“You know, when it’s that bad people say it’s soul destroying, it really is, you just can’t make progress. The higher up the hill I was, the stronger the winds were.
“I was at a crossroads at 50 climbs. A couple of friends came along and could see what state I was in, and told me that I didn’t have to keep going.
“They said that I’d done what I set out to achieve, which was to raise awareness for mental health, and for Fabrice, who died. I got people to talk about it, and feel comfortable talking about it. But I thought, I had to finish it.
“Climb 80 to climb 97 felt like an eternity, I just got lost in those numbers, it might as well have been 590.
“Cycling the same bit of road over and over again, it’s really tough on the mind.”
Kurt’s decision to undertake this ride stemmed from the tragic loss of his friend Fabrice Cesaro who took his own life last year after a private battle with depression.
“I didn’t want that to be the end of the story for Fabrie,” Charnock said. “I wanted to do something that stood out, something that would help to bring in sponsorship so that we could have enough money to set up a counsellor.
“Now, should anyone in our cycling family, or even the wider sporting community, need to talk to someone, they can get in touch with me, and I’ll pay the bill.”
This one off challenge isn't where Mr Charnock’s efforts and commitment to improving mental healthcare ends.
Following the success of this, the first Cesaro Climb, Mr Charnock has decided to set up an annual event to summit the Beacon 100 times on the last Saturday in March.
“I’m very pleased to tell you that I won’t be doing them all. From next year on, we’ll be doing 100 summits of the Beacon between us. If you want to ride up on the day, you’ll have to pay £10 into the fund to help any athletes who are having difficulties.”
“That'll put at least £1,000 a year into the pot, and will hopefully allow something good and something long-living to come from this.”