Cyclist riding on road through autumn leaves
Jered Gruber

About Cent Cols Challenge

A STORY OF HIGH ROADS, BOLD RIDERS AND MOUNTAIN MAGIC.

Portrait of Phil Deeker Credit: Julien Braeckvelt

Phil Deeker, founder of Cent Cols Challenge

Adam Erritzoe Portrair Credit Phil Deeker

Adam Erritzoe taking over from Phil in 2023

Concept

Q

How and when did the Cent Cols Challenge concept first emerge?

A
In 2007 Phil Deeker took on a personal challenge of riding 300 Cols in 26 days. He managed it , just, and his life had to change as a result. He had discovered how the Mountains can help us all. Thanks to them he had achieved something that along the way he often thought he wouldn’t. He wanted to create an event whereby others could experience this connection with the Mountains and the discovery of one’s true potential. With encouragement and backing from Simon Mottram, who had recently created a company called Rapha (and had sponsored Phil for his 300 Cols ride) , the first Cent Cols Challenge was held in 2009.

Since 2009

Q

How have the events changed since 2009?

A
From one event per year in the early years to seven in 2022, the routes themselves explore many more remote roads than before, since a sense of discovery and journey has become more central to the events than a simple process of ‘ticking off a bucket list’. Stages have become slightly more challenging, mainly due to the very high return rate of clients, many of whom look for ‘an even greater challenge’!

Future

Q

With Phil ‘retiring’ in 2022, what happens now?

A
Adam Erritzoe discovered these events as a client in 2019 and was immediately struck by the unique approach to riding in the mountains that the event proposed, and which many ‘CCC Vets’ around him seemed to confirm as something very special. This passion was quite clearly Phil’s energy source and that same feeling resulted in Adam stepping in to prepare to take over from Phil in 2023. In 2022 he & Phil will be putting in place a small team who will handle the logistics. Phil himself will continue for two more years as a consultant, helping to create a smooth transition for all involved.

Spirit

Q

Will the events change much?

A
The CCC Spirit that Phil has created over the years is quite clearly the central asset to any CCC event. Above all else, it will be this spirit that will continue to make these events so different to anything else around. But the actual format will change somewhat, mainly in order to create a clearly defined spectrum of events, ranging from the introductory level event to one that is perhaps as hard as it is possible to offer. Above all, the aim will be to continue to nurture what Phil took years to eventually define as The Cent Cols Magic. In his own words The Cent Cols alchemy is all about three very simple ingredients...

The first is The Mountains themselves.

In winter I have two very good reasons to train for the Cent Cols season:

-one is to suffer less and enjoy more when riding long hard days in the mountains;

-the other is so that I feel WORTHY of the mountains. I want to DESERVE access to them. I love the idea that as I train in winter on my home roads, the mountains I will be sharing with others in the summer months are hidden, often inaccessible, under their white winter cloak. They will allow us to meet them for just a few months of the year. They keep me humble and command respect. Their beauty, their grandeur and their sense of eternity attracts me. But I know that I need to accept their violence and anger at times too. Like cathedrals, they give us an opportunity to look up to something greater than ourselves, but also to look within.

The second is The Roads. We’re cyclists, not mountaineers. We sign a deal with the roads to follow their lines, sometimes eagerly following their attractive curves to the top; sometimes, in an act of blind trust, knowing little about where they are taking us. Some have stories written on them, others are crumbling indications of a time when they were still served a purpose to the local community. Some we glide over, others shake our bones. They each have a unique way of leading us up, and then down: they lead The Dance – we follow.

The third is The Bike. The Mountain is our goal; The Road is our guide; The Bike is our tool. The first two only reveal their special magic through the channel of our bike. A long day in the saddle in the mountains can often create a sensorial-overload, such is the intensity of our dialogue with the bike.

I have tried to put into words how the magic of these three ingredients works within us, but inevitably I think, there has to be a part of unexplainable mystery. Strangely, despite our sense of wonder about the Mountains and an almost child-like fascination with the Roads, I have come to think that the mystery actually resides in the Bike. Only fellow cyclists don’t have to explain “The Why”. We all just get on our bikes and ride. Another case of the greatest mysteries being found in the smallest of things? I’m happy with that!"

Adam cycling downhill Phil Deeker
Adam cycling downhill Phil Deeker

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