One final climb

By Keith Senior
As I write this we have one final climb up to Christ the Redeemer.
I’m a little bit envious that I never got to do the full challenge and get stuck into the European leg, but saying that I’m happy I got the chance to have the experience in Brazil over the last 3 weeks.
From arriving in Recife and meeting some of the gang for the 1st time it has been a rollercoaster experience, which I knew would be the case.
From having done similar types of challenges I understand the trials and tribulations that are involved, the only difference is I have never done a challenge like this in terms of time scale, I tip my hat to the rest that did the full 6 weeks as 3 weeks away from home was definitely a massive challenge in itself for me.
Seeing Brazil as we have and actually experiancing most of the favelas and cultures was what I wanted to do, never being to brazil this was an opportunity I could not turn down from a selfish point of view, but also raising some valuable funds for some great charities gives it that added special touch.
The poverty is mainly in the north of Brazil and as you work down more to Rio you start to see the difference in lifestyles, one thing I must say no matter how poor some of the people were they still had pride in where they lived, to see some of the locals living in what we would call a garden shed, sweeping up leaves outside on the mud paths leading to their homes made you appreciate what you have, but on the other side of things how they still had a smile on their face and looked after what they did actually have.
One of the saddest things for me was the state of some of the animals in the poorer regions, having a dog myself and seeing a lot of strays living on the streets, some in very poor condition did actually bring a tear to my eye, I even gave up my food at times to feed them, I will definitely be giving my boy Dutch a massive cuddle when I get home.
Most of the days consisted of the same dirt track roads, long distance roads with nothing to see for miles on end except fields, trees and the odd horse,dog or bird, pot holes and speed bumps have been the bane of my life over here, if the road wasn’t as smooth as a baby bum then it was the worst case scenario of massive speed bumps and huge pot holes you could get lost in.
The traffic has been a lot better than what I expected, the locals are used to a lot of locals riding round on these old rust bikes in flip flops riding with their heels, making it look so easy as we are on the proper road bikes, clipped to our pedals to make it a little easier makes you realise just how easy some things are if you put your mind to it.
At the beginning conversations tend to be a little more informative as new people came in and started to find out a little bit about each other, as the weeks went on more and more crap started to get spoken just to get rid of the silence or pass the boredom of just staring at tarmac or the wheel in front of you, if I tried to explain some of them you wouldn’t have a clue what I was going on about, they were just that random.
There have been hiccups along the way as you can imagine, the biggest one was the road that was planned for most of our route to Rio, the BR 101, after doing some more research was known as the highway of Death, so as you can imagine after our first venture on this road and nearly getting taken out by numerous trucks, cars and busses travelling at top speeds a different alternative need to be found.
Tension and arguing was always going to be an issue, when a group of people doing a difficult challenge come together there is always going to be a clash of personalities and arguments along the way, its natural when fatigue and hunger sets in. I’m happy to say I never snapped but I guarantee you I was close to grabbing a few by the neck and throttling them, if you don’t know me i’m a guy that likes the simple things in life, a walk with my dog and keep myself to myself so coming into an environment where it can get frustrating at times was always going to be hard, but things like this are meant to be challenging, we started this as a team, and we will finish as a team, unless something drastic goes wrong tomorrow and somebody flips ha.
The best part of most challenges are the beginning, the end, then the time you get home and reflect on what an achievement it has been.
There have been plenty of highs and lows and has been an awesome experience meeting some great people and sharing this experience with them, one that I wont ever forget.
A big thank you from me to everyone that has been involved, and most of all a big thank you to everyone back home who has supported us, followed our journey and especially for the kind donations that have been gratefully received.
Its been emotional, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Bob on

And now, the end is near….

By Kat Macknay

As we sit looking at the Rio skyline, Christ the Redeemer lit up and hovering over the city, there is a moment of nostalgia to be had. The ups and downs of the last 6 weeks across 2 continents and 5 countries have been at various points hilarious (to the point of tears), sad (tears may have also appeared), annoying, boring but ultimately extremely satisfying.

The work put in by the riders – 5 in Europe and 7 here in Brazil –  has been phenomenal, they get up at silly o’clock, have brekkie, get bikes sorted, pick up water and then ride for anything up to 100+ miles stopping only for food and water top ups.

The work put in by support, myself, Roo Harrington and Siobhan Curtis has, in my opinion (and I may be slightly biased) been phenominal in a different way. Ensuring that the riders have what they need, when they need it, making sure we know where they all are at any time (I refer you to a previous blog and the term herding cats) as well as ensuring all is in line for when it is required, be it food, water, first aid kit and a hundred plus other things is a full time job.

I have said before that I feel both blessed and honoured to have been able to help with this challenge – the inspiration of Jane has really helped focus what it is that we are all doing and when you think what she undertook while terminally ill, we realise that horrid roads and bad drivers pale in comparison with the things that really matter.

Life is a journey not a destination and the last few weeks have been a hell of a journey.

 

My Staten Island…

By Mike Tomlinson

On 31st August 2006 Jane stood on Staten Island looking across at Manhattan knowing the next day she would cycle through Brooklyn over Brooklyn Bridge and complete her ride across America.

We looked at each other and knew her athletic exploits were over and she would head home knowing her days were limited. On the ride she gave everything despite aggressive liver cancer and extensive issues with bone disease. She felt a huge relief her cycling journey was complete but an overwhelming sadness that her life was drawing to a close.

To my fellow cyclists thank you for sharing the journey and to the support crew you have all been awesome.

Today I look out across the sea to Rio hoping that tomorrow i get to the top of Christ the Redeemer. I know at each pedal stroke tomorrow i will think of Jane and the mighty achievement she made happen 10 years ago. Apart from a very select few no one realises how hard you dug in.

This is my Staten Island moment, my last day of 15 years of challenges.
Thank you to everyone .

Nearly there…

 

By John Miller

70 something miles further today on wearisome roads where we all spent the whole day looking over our shoulders wondering whether the next truck we saw would be our last. Nevertheless we’re all here in one piece, and just one more day cycling should see us literally within sight of our goal – Rio de Janeiro, the “Marvellous City”.

It’s been quite a journey through Brazil, from the poverty and roller coaster hills of the north, to the flatter, busier, more sophisticated south with an ever present headwind and some dirt tracks thrown in. Through it all the people of Brazil have been friendly and curious, and once they understand “Recife to Rio” eyebrows are usually raised, hands shaken, photos taken.

Jack and I wanted to show some family support by riding and he has shown his usual determination to put up with an ongoing foot injury throughout. Mike and I have successfully completed our auditions for “Grumpy Old Men” but the family wouldn’t have us any other way. Mick is of course a triathlete and a machine but he’s kept his frustrations at our slow pace in check.

We’re very grateful to our high profile team members who have given freely of their time and efforts and deserve much credit – Paul was by his own admission no cyclist before this challenge, but he has done brilliantly and can certainly call himself one now. Keith and Charlie are both in such great shape that they’ve made it look easy, but don’t be fooled – Brazil has served up some very tough cycling conditions.

Our support crew have been the real unsung heroes. Shiv, Kat and Roo have been there through thick and thin, calmly picking up our teddies and putting them back in the relevant prams – all the riders have had their moments… A small but typical example – today three of us arrived at a bar after 50 miles for a drink. Kat appeared, but before thinking of herself was quietly refilling our bottles. This sort of selfless attitude has been their hallmark – people of real quality. I’m sure all the riders will agree we are deeply in their debt.

Of course the main reason we’re here is to mark Jane’s remarkable achievement in riding across the USA in 2006. Jane has been an inspiration to all who know of her – one memory that has stayed with me was in October 2005 when I had gone to Leeds to collect Steven to take him to Grandma in Settle. Jane asked me if I wanted a brew (yes, obviously) and then insisted on getting up and making it herself despite being hardly able to walk across the living room. Yet this was just a few days before she was due to fly to Florida to attempt a full Ironman event. I got to Settle and told them I had no idea how she thought it would be possible. But despite everything that was exactly what she did in November 2005 – so when I’m having a hard day I often find myself recalling that, and can then usually find an extra gear.

Thanks to all who have generously donated – and there is still time!

North, South divide

By Mike Tomlinson

I was asked a question in an interview today of why I had chosen to ride to Rio,
“because I have always wanted to go to Christ the Redeemer and I didn’t want to pay the airfare”

I got a telling off and it was asked to be cut from the interview. The reason why is that it made it look like the charity was paying when in reality I am paying my own way.

To be truthful there are times when I have felt it may have been best to have just donated the money to the appeal. Jane and I felt like this as she road across America as it wasn’t until the last day that any significant sums were raised.

It also hard to be riding through a country like Brasil and to be raising money when there is so much need here. We can, rightly, bemoan the north/south divide at home but in Brasil it is extreme. Whist there are still areas if extreme poverty further south they are not as frequent and there is an affluence that could not be envisaged 1500 miles north.

Finally the Olympics start this week and I cannot see why a country with so many issues would want to pay the sums required to host the games, it us obscene. It is only now as we enter the state of Rio that there is any noticeable interest in the games. How there is any relevance to the kids of Bahia and above is beyond me.

‘The end is in sight, Christ Redemeer, I can’t wait to meet you’

By Charlie Webster

I think it’s fair to say we are getting to the point where we all would quite happily throw our bikes in the sea and never see them again. That’s saying something as I love my bike. We have 3 more days to go and I can actually see Rio on a map, if I zoom out a bit anyway! We have nearly cycled 3000 miles which despite doing it I can’t quite get my head around. Every day I’ve worked hard to get through the days challenges and at some points thought how on earth are we going to do this on a day to day basis. All of a sudden I’ve found myself on day 36.

Today the sun came out more like you would expect in Brazil after 3 days of monsoon like conditions which I literally needed a wetsuit to tackle. At one point I cycled through a flooded road where the water came above my pedal and crank, my front wheel wobbled and I could see on everybody’s faces that I was about to fall off. I didn’t, somehow!
This morning wasn’t great if I’m honest…it was like they often so obviously say in football commentary, it was a game of two halves.
The first half was rubbish and the second was a bit better!
The first 30 miles took us through a village which had a deserted train track line weaving its way through it. We crossed this numerous times which actually makes your brain shudder, a bit like when you get brain freeze eating ice cream. We stopped on the side of the road for a pit stop and I spoke to the Yorkshire Post about our incredible journey – quite apt being Yorkshire day. It was funny at times to try and explain exactly what we’ve gone through and the challenges we’ve faced. I sat on the edge of a field doing the interview and the cows which seem very intrigued here came over to me and just stood and watched – it did make me chuckle to myself, it would have made a good photo.
Keith even said ‘you’ve had enough of talking to us that you were really just chatting to the cows pretending to be on the phone!’
After this we kicked on, got our heads down and I led us to the end. I took a little bit of my frustration out on the bike, I was flying!
The day finished at Macae. Brazil is such a country of extremes, where we are now seems relatively wealthy. There was a helicopter field surrounded by oil stations – whenever we see oil installations, this is reflected in the next town on. The people are different, the houses are as we would know. The total opposite of where we finished yesterday which was ghetto, derelict and immediately radiated wariness on all fronts.
Other areas are just favela’s for miles, stray dogs and barefooted kids. The scenery though no matter what the social demographic has been stunning!
I can feel my eyes closing so I will say goodnight. A really big thank you for all your strength and encouragement throughout this. We are nearly there and I absolutely can’t wait for the 14 mile climb to Christ Redeemer and to scream over Rio ‘I’ve done it!’