Only two days to go before the off. Everyone is excited about the start but also a little bit nervous at such a huge undertaking. The weather forecast for Saturday is supposed to be very good which means hopefully that we will get on our way being able to enjoy the scenery and the riding without bracing ourselves against the elements.
One or two hiccups to contend with -
- Gadge (Mark Roddam) was bikeless by last weekend due to frames fracturing and buckled back wheels. Fortunately, my friend Ang stepped in with her mountain bike which has only been used on about a dozen occasions, mainly by Ian training or our Thailand ride last January. The last time he used it - he threw it in the river as it was soooo caked in mud, Ang has asked that Gadge does not do the same to it! In the meantime also Cycle Care at High Wycombe came to our rescue with a Bianchi racing bike so at least we will have the mountain bike as a spare if needed.
- Jim has hurt his bike with all his peddling efforts but his physio has allowed him to continue as long as he is sensible (No chance there then) Just keep taking the tablets Jim!
- Swine flu - what to do if we catch it - apparently others have more chance of catching it off us. A few whiskies a night is also supposed to be a good remedy!
- On a very sad note - Kev's dad passed away a three nights ago. Obviously a very difficult time for Kev and a lot of heart searching decision making - but.... he is still going ahead with the ride as that is what his dad would have wanted and he will also do it in memory of him. Rest assured Kev, you will have the full support of a great and caring team around you - just go with the flow.
- On a personal note - I would just like to thank the team for your efforts both in the organising and training for the event. Each of you is doing it for your very own personal reasons, whatever they are - the kids at the Baan Tharn namchai orphanage will benefit - a brilliant cause.
To our families, friends, colleagues and sponsors up and down the country - none of this would have been possible without you - it's now up to us to get the job done - simple as that!!
We survived a fifteen hour journey from Marlow to Skye yesterday amidst much laughter, and whinging about about the hills - comments like 'Gill you told us that it was flat - well we would hate to see what your hills are like then'. By the time we got to Skye it was raining which added to the building apprehension within the vehicle. Ian had created a culinary feast on arrival which we devoured rapidly and then off down to the Stein Inn for a few beers. (Some consumed a little more than others which ended up as an early morning drinking session).
Today, Friday we have been blessed with glorious sunshine and it is only going to get better for the off tomorrow (though Sunday doesn't look too good). We spent much of the morning getting bikes sorted, tested and vans loaded. Gadge is pleased with his demo Bianchi which is good news. We also had a press call at midday so all dressed in our shirts we posed with LochBay as the backdrop, and of course everyone then wanted photos doing so what seemed like an eternity after Willy the photographer from West Highland Free Press managed to escape. Everyone wanted to go for a shake down ride on their bikes so have gone off exploring Waternish and Coral Beach. I have slept for 3 hours yeehaa!! Tonight we have a BBQ courtesy of Ian for the team and people in Waternish who have supported us along the way. Listen out for updates on Radio Oxford.
15 hours to go and counting!!
9 o'clock - 10 cyclists raring to go, nervous anticipation. The people of Waternish waving us off and we're away ...... and then we realise that Digg, the dog (mine and Ian's dog), has decided to join us so a temporary stop to send her back home. And then we are off proper.
The weather is fantastic, blue skies and bright sunshine. Everyone feeling good and just peddling along at their own pace just to warm up. Support crew doing their job well (supporting us!). From deck chairs at the side of the road Ray, the photographer, taking shots at all angles.
Brindy was first casualty and was despatched from his bike after not getting his feet out of cleats quickly enough. Jim was the next after running out of road on a bend and ending up in a ditch.
We had a good lunch courtesy of "the Broadford Hotel" and then on our way for the last section. Third casualty - Jim!! I was riding close behind Greg with Jim behind me (which is enough to frighten anyone) anyway Greg stood up, I slowed down and Jim crashed into me on the roughest section of road. Sore knee and arm. The last bit was just a slog - funny how roads seem flat in a car! Down to the ferry, thanks to CalMac for sponsoring the vans across. Now listening to Kev's dulcit tones singing "Over the sea to Skye" and "Donald where's your troosers!"
All in all, a good start. Weather couldn't have been kinder though tomorrow is forecast storms - yeuiks!
DISTANCE = 61 miles
We stayed last night at Mallaig backpackers hostel. What a night!! Ian got up at 4am, had a shower and was then told it was not 6am as he thought so back to bed. Amongst the various snoring and other bodily noises we managed to get broken sleep - some more than others. Richard snores for Britain.
Ian got up again at 5.30 after not being able to get back to sleep. We all slowly came alive to the sound of gales and torrential rain. How nice to have stayed in bed, no such luck. Support crew sorted the vans, Ian sorted the eggs and crunchy nut cornflakes.
The ride started at 7.30 straight into an appalling headwind and hail - yes hail. At one point, going down hill, if you stopped cycling the wind blew you to a stop. Yes it was that bad.
We did have a lovely ride along the inside of Loch Linne - it was flat and the sun came out on the Corran Ferry (thanks to the Corran Ferry crew for sponsorship across).
A very welcome lunch at the Isles of Glencoe Hotel (thank you Tracy) we arrived there soaking and managed to leave all chairs soggy. Brindy got caught in the gents stood next to the hand dryer with the front of his shorts pulled open to dry his bits. Yeah right Brindy!
And then - the big one - 8 miles up to the top of Glencoe, what a haul. Gadge and Steve Butler on their road bikes sped away and suddenly halfway up from nowhere Steve Tolmie went whanging past. Must have been on something. Again a hellish head wind at all times, and more rain. The sort of conditions that you cannot stop peddling. And then the sting in the tail - a 300 metres climb up to the railway station at Bridge of Orchy where we are staying tonight - the converted railway station. Showers and now sat in the dining room drinking beer and waiting for a home cooked 3-course meal thanks to our hosts Steve and Helen. Can't wait. We are all knackered, hungry, glad to have finished and I'm now receiving threats from one or two of the team for organising this. I'm suffering too!!
DISTANCE = 83 miles
Steve Tolmie fell off his bunk bed ladder not realising he was still 5 feet up. Not injured though nor pissed. Unders what can you say about Unders - what is he on?! Up early for breakfast at the railway station. Ray slept on the platform due to Richard's snoring! Off at 0800 and guess what - rain and more rain and wind and a long hill straight away.
Through Crianlarich in the rain and next to Inveruglas in the rain. At least all the way along Lomondside was flat to Balloch. The views would have been fantastic if we could have seen anything!
Lunch at the Tullie Inn - Tony you are a star. What a feast - so much food and much more - in fact lunch tomorrow is now catered for. What a wonderful place. Then onto the National Cycle route all the way through Glasgow City centre following the canal and the Clyde. The sun shone we felt good and cycled along at a leisurely pace. Brilliant afternoon apart from four punctures. Made things more interesting by developing a system of Chinese whispers so if the lead bike shouted cyclist (coming towards us) the next one back shouted something completely different sausages etc.
Mad flyer on the main road down to Hamilton and into our accomodation at Hamilton University Halls of residence - thank you Nina for organising that. And now we are showered and sat in a lovely Italian restaurant waiting for pasta. And guess what - single rooms means that no one has to put up with Richard's snoring!
DISTANCE = 79 miles
Up at the normal time of about 6.30am - at least we had rooms to ourselves at Hamilton University. We had a lovely Italian meal at Leonardos Hamilton last night - really good pasta and wine and beer. No one disturbed by snoring or Unders bottom.
Ian made the porridge which got us off to a good start and when we actually walked outside the weather was bright......
10 minutes later the wind whipped up yet again and got stronger by the mile - head on into our faces the whole day. It did not let off once and at points was causing real problems keeping on your bikes. I will tell you how strong it was - there were cyclists fully laden with panniers cycling faster uphill than we were going downhill!! We climbed for ever, plus some, and even downhill you had to keep peddling. And then it rained and then a bit more.
As you can tell from the feel of my update it was not one of my favourite days. What a challenge though and a real sense of achievement by everyone. Unders can be forgiven for his bottom because he is a star when it comes to pace setting. The support crew were spot on with their safety cover and at Happenden services they had actually set out a table with tea/coffee/cakes you name it. Again well done Gwenda and Ellen for your cakes.
Ian was at one point struggling with the wind and managed to hitch a slipstream lift at the back of the transit and ended up passing the whole field at about 30 miles an hour!
No nice meals today just services, though we still had sandwiches and sausage rolls from the very lovely Tullie Inn from yesterday. And tonight..... Todhills Travel Lodge at the southbound services. The check-in was swift and the bath was absolute luxury though the hot water was a bit nippy round my sore bits. I won't go into any further details!
Steve Butler and Gadge have definately got it easy on their sleek racing machines - I wish I had never got Gadge the sponsored Bianchi now because he is too fast on it.
The total distance today was 83 miles and we have officially passed from Scotland into England where we all stood at the border and had a swig of whisky to celebrate.
Tomorrow's weather forecast - North West England severe weather warning!!!!! All I can say is for every pound sponsored we should be sponsored five because the conditions are really testing the team and they have really earned every penny sponsored over the past 4 days. PLEASE GIVE GENEROUSLY.
DISTANCE = 83 miles
We woke to the dulcit tones of the motorway sounding like it was in the hallway. Watching the news - still severe weather warning, camp sites in the Lake District evacuated. We were not looking forward to this one.
We left the Travelodge in the pouring rain and had to transport the bikes round to where we finished yesterday as we couldn't nip down the M6 on them (well I suppose we could - no one would have noticed 10 bedraggled cyclists legging it on the hard shoulder.
Breakfast was courtesy of Cumbria Police at their new HQ. Steve Tolmie has a mate, Roy Ledingham who works there so we arrived dripping wet and were immediately given towels to dry off and to sit on so we didn't ruin the new canteen chairs. No - great hospitality, good food and tea - thankyou Cumbria Police and thanks also to Steve Johnson, the Area Commander. Had to have numerous press photos and a flying interview with the local CFM Radio. Whilst in a completely clear car park Jim managed to get a great big nail in his tyre. Jim then managed to fall off in slow motion right infront of the Radio station offices. Anyway, back on track but later than expected and down the longest and straightest road in the world - but where was the bad weather? - it was getting brighter though the mountains in the distance couldn't be seen.
Regroup through Penrith and then tea stop in B and Q carpark. All the best places.
Our main worry from here was the Shap summit which I had driven whilst route finding and it impressed me even then. Just as we left the first village on the long climb up, we had to stop to wait for the group. Steve Butler stopped, couldn't release his feet from the cleats and crash landed on the verge. We did not laugh - honest. Unders went off at speed and as we got to the village of Shap he was stood in a pub garden drinking a pint of Guiness with a great stupid smile on his face. The summit was a slog but everybody got up in one piece - Unders still with a smile on his face. And at the top, tea and rice pudding - what a treat! Steve Underwood should now be wearing an apron as he has now got to grips with the stoves etc. Only five days but got there in the end.
The sweep down from the summit was awesome and we all arrived in Kendal on a high. Riverside Hotel in Kendal for lunch, thank you to Helen there for organising this. I got caught in the ladies by a bemused lady waiting to use the cubicle I was in. I had been quite happily rubbing more vaseline to my sore bits, and sort of gave an aargh with relief and then walked out with the vaseline tub in my hands. Between me and Brindy we have done well at being caught in loos.
Lunch was spent eating sarnies to the sound of Unders busy organising car parts - Kev sadly received more bad news that his wife was seriously ill in intensive care with swine flu and so had to leave us to get back down South. So the team was down to 9 cyclists which kept confusing us when counting everyone in. Just as we were leaving we were met by Pat Queenan and Deano Imbimbo and some Gurney Orphans (police orphans).
Off again, and through Natland and Sedgwick, and then back onto the A6 for the last 25 miles to Lancaster University. Unders led the way with headphones on and was obviously in the zone coming up fast to a roundabout - Jim and I held back a bit to watch him scream up to the roundabout and then screech to a halt having woken up out of his zone - we did not laugh (again).
Push on up, yes up again, through Lancaster and then, turn left into Lancaster University driveway we were faced with the steepest hill of the five days. What's going on? And good weather still.
Rooms on campus are very good - all en-suite and a laundry which means that tomorrow we shall smell of roses!
Now eating curry in a pub down the road as we are tired and hungry but happy - though chef had gone home early so we had a choice - chicken curry or chicken curry. And then Steve Tolmie and I didn't get our meal and so we had to wait for - wait for it - beef curry....
It was strange that we were talking about Hamilton (day 3) and it seems like weeks ago. We are well over halfway miles-wise and already focusing on the finish in 3 days.
Tomorrow I promise not to mention Jim or Unders again but it is difficult. They are obviously just attention seeking.
Good work by the support crew again for - well - supporting!
DISTANCE = 79 miles
Punctures so far = 5 + a valve
Crashes = 10, including a very late entry from Steve Butler who pulled into the Uni carpark tonight and couldn't uncleat again. We didn't laugh.
Broken helmets = 1 (Jim, after head butting a road sign when he fell off at Gretna) - sorry I wasn't going to mention him again.
As we returned to our digs last night I happened to mention to Steve Underwood that he had really got to grips with the stoves and water brews. He responded with - 'well, I might just invest in a camping stove to add to my cooking repertoire alongside my micro wave' - well at least someone has gained something from the ride!
And we got our washing done and so.......
- we started smelling of roses but.... did it rain and rain and then some more. So the start was with dull spirits and general accusations about "Gill's Tours" again. And within 2 miles Brindy got his first puncture, but the sun did come out. Fixed tyre and a mile further on, 2nd, 3rd and 4th punctures for Gadge and Brindy. What a bad start but what can you do? Anyway after all tyres repaired we started our merry way southwards weaving in and around Preston, and beyond through the delightful Lancashire countryside - not. We didn't see any, just road after road of industry and housing and very young children smoking and yelling abuse (different in Thailand!)
However we did get a few bargains at a very good cycle warehouse and then lunch at MacDonalds on the road into Warrington. (I really am looking forward to vegetables and no more sugary drinks at the end of this.) Whilst at MacD's we stuffed our faces though and Unders (sorry I had to mention him) announced after lunch that he was going for a MacDump!! - what is he like. But then he came outside and in full view of the restaurant proceeded to freshens his nether regions with a wet wipe. (You should have seen him administering vaseline the other day - I had to avert my eyes) - he 100% good value at all times and he is a brilliant lift for the group with his leading the field.
Just at this point want to say a big thank you again to Ellen and Gwenda for their cakes which we have nearly eaten. Good for what's the matter with you or what!
Stopped at a pub about 15 miles from the finish and sat in the sunshine that had now been with us all day, drinking a pint and having a chat.
I'm not sure what Ian takes at lunch but for whatever reason he transforms from a sloath into a greyhound and annihilates the field completely - must be the Skyeskyn sheepskin saddle he sits on. Arrived at last at the Travelodge in Crewe with a swift book in and baths again - luxury. Just going to go for more food - our lives revolve around administering vaseline, drinking energy drinks and eating.
DISTANCE = 74 miles
- Brindy - 6
- Gadge - 4 plus valve
- Jim - 2
- Me - 1
On a very sad note - Kev phoned today to say that his wife Carol is critical in intensive care with Swine Flu and only time will tell. Kev if you read this - we are constantly thinking of you matey, send our love to you and your family and hope that things work out. Just hang on in there - and I think that we will all be saying a little private prayer for you all xx
Just a couple of snippets from last night - one of my reliable sources has informed me that Brindy fell off yesterday, he denies this allegation and reckons that he saved the situation by extending his arm by 8 inches. Thanks Steve Butler - your secret is safe with me!
Steve Butler also has been given some very valuable dietary advice to assist with his running training (by Unders) eat plenty of pork pies, old fashioned Lucozade and beer. You heard it here first.
Onto today - Ray got us off to a fine start with a brilliant breakfast cooked up in the hotel carpark - porridge and sausage and beans. Cheers Ray, down wind of both Unders and Ian was not a good place to be.
The route was straight into rolling Staffordshire countryside and good weather and everyone was happy except Jim who kept whinging about the hills.
At our first stop we met a lovely lady - Pat Murray who had a chat with us and sponsored us also - so thank you Pat.
Gadge discovered that his Bianchi bike was full of rainwater which was obviously affecting his performance - not! I must make mention of Gadge's choice of cycling shorts - either kingfisher blue and very shiny, or black and very short. I had the pleasure of being tucked in behind him yesterday and Little Britain's - Daffyd - the only Gay in the village sprung to mind, though they do need to be shinier.
Lunch was a splendid affair courtesy of Asda where we sat outside eating sarnies.
We soon approached the outskirts of Walsall and managed to navigate ourselves right to where our support vehicles would leave us - however Malcolm and Richard never actually found us and sadly had to spend four hours at a pub waiting for us to emerge south of Birmingham. The route through Walsall, West Brom and Birmingham is all along canal towpaths and nearby roads which is where our first problems began. Gadge got two punctures today (obviously going for the leader board). Ian fell off in slow motion in the mud - we did not laugh - much. Then Unders cut inside Jim on a ramp off the canal forcing him into the side where he fell off onto Brindys back wheel resulting in a very buckled back wheel. So 9 of us sat on a bridge in the middle of Birmingham for an hour waiting for Ray and Steve to find us with a spare bike. Off again through Birmingham and out the other side where we met a lovely old guy on his bike peddling the same way. We overtook him but were quickly overtaken by him a short while later. We overtook him again and again he overtook us (travelling this route twice daily teaches the locals all sorts of tricks and short cuts). We overtook him again and yet again he overtook us by the river when Steve Butler got his first puncture (about time).
By now we were running really late and went through a road closed sign only to find the road flooded, we steamed on through - and after being dry for the first time in days were now completely soaked.
We met up with the very chilled and mellow Richard and Malcolm at the pub where Steve Butler discovered he had another puncture (just a ploy to stay in the pub i think). Unders now has tyre changes down to 4.5 minutes and after all the changes today no longer could be bothered to wash his hands. He was seen to wipe them on a cloth and then blow his nose with the same cloth - good lad.
Then a fast sprint, 16 miles to the finish in Stratford. Jim nearly got wiped out with a very dodgy overtake though assures me that the one he had earlier in the week was closer.
All safely at the Travelodge in Stratford-upon-Avon where the rooms are comfortable and the food and beer is good so everyone is tired but happy.
DISTANCE = 80.5 miles (though felt much longer as we had been on the road for over 12 hours)
- Brindy - 6 plus a buckled wheel
- Gadge - 6 plus a valve
- Jim - 2
- Steve Butler - 2
- Me - 1
- Still waiting for Steve Tolmie and Ian on their Trek hybrids to blow a tyre or two.
The staff at the Travelodge, Stratford-upon-Avon were brilliant - they came in an hour early so we could have a breakfast before we left - so a big thank you to them for setting us up for the day. And then guess what! - it started to rain and then some. So immediately we were soaked before we even started.
Within the first mile we had our first incident. Gadge announced that he was stopping for a pee, so everyone started slowing down apart from Unders who did not, braked hard and went flying over the handlebars buckling his wheel and bruising his hand. At the same time Greg got his first puncture (about time). Within a short distance again Greg got his second puncture (this was a late attack on the puncture league table) though he said it was deliberate to get a mention on the daily updates (sorry - I didn't realise I had ignored you).
Jim started whinging about the hills and then Ian asked me if there wwere any more hills. I did happen to point out that we were cycling through the Cotswolds at the time so there was a very high chance that yes there would be. Jim also asked me if I could ring him if I was going to organise another ride next year - just so he could tell me to feck off! These guys are so unappreciative.
We ate lunch at the Red Lion, Islip where the land lady, Tracy had very kindly sponsored us lunch - another thank you to Tracy for good sandwiches and chips. At this point I must mention that Greg's folks had turned up with a Great Dane as big as a horse called "Oscar" who promptly walked into the bar and very nearly wolfed the lot down. Good job you are a dog handler Greg.
And then we were off again and before we knew it we were faced with a very steep hill (still raining). Steve Tolmie actually thinks that a strange phenomenom has been following us because quite literally every time we got on the bikes it poured - get off and go inside - not a drop outside. Anyway we were cycling along and I kept asking if we had everyone - the reply was always "yes". I then asked where was Ian and was told that he had stopped for a pee. Eventually we decided to wait to let him catch up, and we waited and waited. The next thing a passing motorist stopped to say that Ian was pushing his bike with a puncture (his first one - about time too). Unders to the rescue while we sat outside a pub in the rain. Greg happened to mention that Ian wasn't particularly enjoying this part of the ride so we decided that rather than slashing his wrists in despair he had slashed his own tyres.
Anyway Ian and Unders soon came round the corner and Ian threw a mini tantrum about being left behind, and anything could have happened to him - no sympathy from anyone so he gave up trying.
Off again and the big climb up Stokenchurch Hill which went well - in the rain. At the top we stopped and ate some chocolate squares that Gwenda had brought along for us. We also had a team hug as we knew that this would be the last time that it would just be us as a team and wanted to have a moment together which I thought was quite touching.
Then onto the Kings Arms where Brindy attached a tow-along bike onto his (well Kev's bike) and we were then up to our original strength of 10 cyclists because his little boy - Samuel joined us for the ride - which was just as well because he managed to provide all the pedal power from behind to help Brindy along the way - so well done little Samuel for keeping your Dad going.
Down the road to Bovingdon Green where we met up with our Chief - Sara Thornton and ACC Nick Gargan who had cycled all the way ahead of us from Stokenchurch and joined us with friends and family down into Marlow. Along the way we also collected the Tolmie family on their bikes (thank you for your support). As we got further down into Marlow more and more people started cheering and clapping and as we approached the Prince of Wales (our final destination) it was quite overwhelming to see how many people had turned out in the rain to welcome us here. So a big thankyou to our supporters.
And then our ride was over. We were off our bikes for the last time and everyone one hugging and a few tears were shed. Beers were in hand, food out ready to eat and photos/interviews. The lads presented me with a beautiful bouquet which was not necessary but none the less appreciated. Thank you again.
The rest of the evening was spent in the Prince remembering things said/done, places passed through. Thank you to Simon, landlord of the Prince for a couple of rounds of drinks and allowing us to use your premises and to Safia for feeding us on arrival.
I left the pub this evening to Jim still whinging about the hills, the weather and anything else he could possibly whinge about. Greg has already typed out his advert to sell his bike on Ebay saying never again. Unders is as happy as ever already signing up for the next tour (did I say there would be another one?)
I just want to say a big and personal thankyou to the team. I am sure that they were all willing volunteers but they say they were forced into it under false pretences and that the early brochures mentioned nothing of extreme weather, long hills, sore backsides and sharing bunk rooms with Unders' bottom and Richard's snoring. I truly appreciate your efforts - this has been a mammoth task, not once did you ever decide to stop (two or three times maybe) - this has been an amazing achievement and it has been an absolute privelege to cycle the distance with you. To our support crew who have made it all possible, who have kept us fed and watered throughout, loaded and unloaded bags/bikes day in day out, navigated (and or lost) - brilliant job and never complained about sitting in a heated van whilst the rest of us were soaked to the skin. Ray the photos are looking brilliant - fantastic job - though you did get some funny looks from passing motorists when you were lying in the grass with your big lens.
A thank you to all who have fed us along the way including mine and Greg's mums, plus the pubs, hotels and police station in Carlisle.
A thank you to everybody who has sponsored the team in any way and to our friends and families for supporting us throughout.
A special thank you to Kathy Drogemuller who has waited patiently every evening for my update so she can put it onto the website for you to read.
FINAL DISTANCE = 67 miles
- Brindy - 6 plus a buckled wheel
- Gadge - 6 plus a valve
- Jim - 2
- Steve Butler - 2
- Greg - 2
- Ian - 1
- Me - 1
Steve Tolmie didn't get any so a word of warning Steve - just watch your tyres - your time will come and you won't have Unders around to fix it for you.
Cakes eaten - lost count. Calories burned - about 4000 a day - calories conxumed - about 10000 a day!
The last thing I want to add is that Kev is still at his wife's side - she is still critical. Kev you have been missed on the ride but you are in the right place. We all want to let you now that we are thinking of you through this very difficult and distressing time.
Sadly today Kev informed me that his wife Carol has passed away. Our thoughts are with Kev, Jack and Rebecca at this extremely difficult and distressing time.