Harry Potter star invites riders to join Alp charity epic

After a few magic lessons, many a cyclist’s first incantation would be to a ride through the French Alps with pro-cyclists and support vehicles.

But it turns out an education in wizardry isn’t needed as, this September, both intermediate and advanced amateur riders just like you will have the chance to take part in this dream ride.

The Big Mountain Challenge takes place from 20 to 24 September this year to raise money for Thames Hospice, giving you the chance to experience four magical days of riding – with subsidised accommodation and transfers.
And while avid riders everywhere clamber to get involved, the draw of the event is such that even Harry Potter star James Phleps – who played Fred Weasley in nine of the hit movies – has charmed his way into the list of big names taking part.

A golf lover and fitness fan, the 33-year-old has squeezed the conquering of the Tough Mudder and the Three Peaks Challenge into his successful acting career, along with taking part in litany of charitable sporting events.
He’ll be joining pros from the AG2R and Vital Concept teams along with the many cycling enthusiasts taking part in the event.
Chain Reaction Cycles will be there too, providing support alongside Mavic, while High 5 will be laying on nutrition and spare kit.

“Chris Froome was very kind and introduced us to the team.”

To learn more about the Big Mountain Challenge, we got the James on the phone to find out why he is taking part and if the Birmingham native’s love of cycling was shared by his fellow cast members.

How did you get involved in the Big Mountain Challenge?

“I’ve known Jason Bevan – one of the event’s promoters – for over 10 years now and have gotten to know some of the great things the Thames Hospice charity does.
A few years ago, I took part in a 5k Santa dash dressed as Father Christmas to help them raise some money, which was great fun.
So, a little while ago, he rang me up and said they were doing this Big Mountain Challenge and did I want to get involved. Without thinking about it, I just said yes, so here I am.”

What are you most looking forward to in the event?

“All of it really – maybe the views more than anything. That’s what I love about cycling. It beats just driving through these amazing places and failing to appreciate your surroundings. This region has some of the world’s most stunning landscapes, so it’ll be amazing.

“I’m also looking forward to meeting some of the teams and pros who are taking part – they are a completely different breed. I hope they don’t mind me picking their brains for tips, but it’ll be just too good of an opportunity.
Believe it or not, I’m also looking forward to the screaming legs and to the comradery! It’ll be an awesome couple of days.”

The Big Mountain Challenge details

The Big Mountain Challenge offers a four day experience from Lake Annecy, supported by Mavic’s iconic Tour De France Yellow Cars and mechanical units from Chain Reaction Cycles.
Pro-cyclists from the international tour circuit will be riding each day with film crew.
All cyclists with be guided in groups of 10 to 20 by ride captains and mobile welfare units with High 5 nutrition and spare kit.
Thanks to generous event sponsors, full package cost including hotel, accommodation and transfers £395 versus the usual cost of £1200.
A basic cycle-only package is also available at £290.

What bike are you bringing?

“I’ll actually be riding a top-level bike supplied by Vitus, so I’m looking forward to giving that a spin. It’ll be the first time I’ve ever ridden a bike that light, so it’s very exciting.”

There are pics of you riding at the Tour de France in 2017 – can you tell us a bit about that?

“Yes, in 2017 I was at a rugby event and got chatting to some of the guys from Tissot, who were sponsors of the rugby and the Tour de France. They invited my brother and I along and we thought it would just be a to have a look around. Instead, we got to ride the last 25k of one of the stages about an hour before the actual Tour came through.

“There was so much joy in those tiny little towns we passed through and it was incredible to experience it as would a proper cyclist, which was amazing. It was a great feeling when we rode over the finishing line.

“I had cycled for a bit before going on the tour but what I’ve really learned to appreciate since then is the warmth of the cycling community. It’s huge and I’ve experienced it first hand, especially in the East and West Midlands. It’s a little bit underground but it’s very real and there’s no other sport like it.”

The Big Mountain Challenge Routes

Routes of varying difficulty are available including iconic climbs from the Tour De France. Total ascent of each route equates to the height of the world’s most famous mountains:

    • The Matterhorn route, total ascent 4478m. Over four days approx. 3-4 hours cycling per day.
    • The Mt Kilimanjaro route, total ascent 5895m. Over 4 to 5.5hrs cycling per day.
    • The Mt Everest route, total ascent 8848m. Over 5 to 7.5hrs cycling per day.

You’ve a huge Instagram following and fitness seems to be a big part of your life. Is it difficult to keep to a fitness schedule while filming?

“I’m very strict now. I’ve always been naturally skinny but as you get older things those aspects begin to change. I generally set aside an hour each day and I’m using the DDPY programme quite a bit – it’s like yoga but a bit more intense, so I do that for about 40 minutes to an hour each day and it leaves you nice and stretched.
“My mantra is to make it fun and I like to set myself different tasks to complete, which keeps me motivated.”

Were there any other cycling lovers among the Harry Potter crew?

“There was quite a few! Alfie Enoch (who played Dean Thomas) did a lot of rowing when he was at Oxford. He never boasted about it but came in on to the set one day and was completely shredded. We all had to ask ‘when did that happen’? He was very into fitness.
“A lot of the guys on the crew were also big cyclists and MTB riders.”

Which cyclists do you admire?

“On the tour in 2017, we were on the Team Sky bus, which was a great privilege. I had expected the atmosphere to be very intense and serious, but it wasn’t like that at all.

“Chris Froome was very kind and introduced us to the team. It was around the time he had the yellow jersey and was competing for another title.

“I’ve the greatest respect for Team Sky and I hope they can continue what they’ve been doing with all the recent changes.

“I’m also a fan of Greg Lamont who just has an amazing legacy.”

Have you ever tried riding mountain bikes or are you strictly a roadie?

“Mountain biking is something I love the idea of more than being ready to do it. I don’t think I’m ready to go speeding through the woods but if there’s an opportunity to go over some open ground I think I’d find that more appealing!”

Apart from the Big Mountain Challenge, what are you up to over the next few months?

“There’s the opening of a Harry Potter theme park in Florida. They asked me to go and offered a nice trip, so of course I said yes.

“My brother and I are starting filming in July on something new. It’s looks to be a huge production but at the minute it’s all being kept a big secret – so secret, in fact, that we’ve only seen a few pages of the script. I’ve never worked on a movie like this so it’s very exciting.”

The Big Mountain Challenge takes place from 20 to 24 September this year to raise money for Thames Hospice and you can get involved now. Join the Chain Reaction Cycles team, James, pro riders, and many more all helping to raise money for Thames Hospice by clicking the link below.

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