All’s well that ends well

By Charlie Webster

I had a pretty rough night last night, I felt so sick and then was sick. I ended up sat on the floor in my hotel room balling my eyes out to my mum and my friend. ‘I just feel so sick’ …

My mum and friend were fantastic! I got off the phone, sniffled a bit, drank some water and fell asleep. 
 
I woke up this morning still feeling like I’d been dug up! I’m normally the most smiley, positive person but this morning I struggled to even speak. I managed to force some muesli down me, have a little whimper to Shiv our Ride to Rio team manager and get myself on the bike. I started to peddle and we started downhill which helped as we’d climbed the mountain the night before doing an extra 5 miles to get ahead. I was pretty grateful for that. I decided to do my best to convince myself I was ok and really take care of my hydration and food – and gulped a few paracetamol’s down! 
 
All I kept thinking was control the controllable’s which is what I always say to myself in difficult situations whether in my daily life or on these crazy challenges I put myself through. I also kept thinking what an incredible woman Jane Tomlinson was to have pushed herself for others whilst having aggressive – and do something as hard as cycle day after day! It’s bloody hard!
 
Once I got going I felt a little better and had a good few chats with myself. It seemed everybody was feeling it this morning so I put my smile back on. We covered quite a bit of ground in the morning as we had to do a bit of lorry dodging along a motorway which went through the mountains, we all raced through a tunnel with our fingers crossed, my at the front with a light on and Daz at the back with a bright orange thing on! We made it to the most stunning scenery and the Spanish region of Rioja. A large glass of Rioja  then occupied by mind until our food stop. We passed vineyard after vineyard and then stopped in a stunning medieval town called Santo Domingo and had food by a large cathedral. It’s so hard to intake enough calories as we are burning so much and always trying to manage our nutrition so not to have a blood sugar dip – bonk – in cycling terms. 
 
The final part of the day was just so hot, 37 degrees of cycling on a long road with the heat just radiating off the concrete. About 8 miles of that was loose gravel chipping’s and every time a lorry came past it was like being paint balled up close with concrete. The van was up ahead and so was my lunch. I quickly pulled over by the van, threw my bike at Stephen, Mike’s son and support crew member and then threw up. 
 
I got myself straight back on the bike, I didn’t want my head to drop or to have a moment to think ‘I don’t feel well.’ 
 
Literally 5 minutes later I found myself climbing a mountain of 1150m. I had to laugh! I made it and actually at a decent pace. The sun beating down unforgiving of what we were and are trying to achieve.
 
The sign for our final location of today and 80 miles later was a big relief. I’ve almost got myself into a bit of a routine of looking at the map at all the names of the villages we go through and setting them as small goals to get me to the end of the day. At this point I’m always desperate to get off the saddle and take my shoes off. I’m not kidding taking my bike shoes off at the end of the day has become my favourite thing. We are now in a beautiful place called Burgos and tomorrow we cycle 85 miles to Valladolid and that will be day 11. It’s hard to believe that we’ve spent all this time on a bike and we’ve made it to Spain! The hardest bit by far is waking up in the morning knackered and getting myself back on my saddle, again and again and again. 

One day at a time (Sweet Jesus)

By Mike Tomlinson

A potential major issue with the ride to Rio was that the number of days we had was limited and therefore each days average mileage was predetermined. It is therefore important to top load the big miles early in the journey to build in a contingency.

Ideally it would be best to ease the riders/support into the ride like the Tour of France. So what has happened this week is that the average mileage has been 100 and bodies are blistered, aching, struggling to get the calories in and fatigued. There is a need to gel a team of 9 individuals many of whom have never met before.

In every sense this week has been a huge success but there are many dangers and challenges ahead.

Still 32 days left so one day at a time or you’d be outfaced. Pyrenees and Spain tomorrow.

 

Day 7 – Lost Bearings

By Darren Clark

Two references here – (1) we had our normal cycle around the town we stayed in the night before whilst we try and find the route and (2) my back wheel. The wheel appears to be the mechanical version of my backside – broken and in need of repair .. so it was on with a spare and the journey continues, the marvellous support chaps will try and get the bearings replaced tomorrow when France re opens..
The other highlight today was Pauls 3rd fall from his bike, this was the most spectacular yet, a Colt Seavers style slow motion from The Fall Guy is the only way I can describe it.
Tomorrow the Pyrenees await ..

Day 6 – Flat cap & ferret

By Darren Clark

What a difference a day makes.
We started and finished the day on ferries, one from Royan (think Southend in the off season) to Pointe de Grave and the 2nd from Le Cap Ferret, hence the title, to Arcachon (an upmarket Blackpool). This really focused us and thankfully today’s riding was along arrow straight, flat roads with a light breeze allowing us to really work as a high performing team (reference for anyone from work reading this drivel) Drafting and taking turns at the front allowed us to maintain an average speed of 15-16mph which is a vast improvement on the previous two days…

Oh yeah talking of Day 5 I forgot to mention the d733, or western France’s version of the A1 as we found out on joining and leaving very shortly after – there’s only so many coaches and wagons travelling at 70 mph you can take passing you with inches of space !!

Day 4 & 5 – Miles Digby-Wind & The Punctures

By Daz Clark

Nope, not the name of a new avant-garde band, but a one line summary of the last 2 days in which we’ve covered over 230 miles, mostly into a strong headwind, had 5 punctures (2 for me on the same wheel), 1/2 the team were molested by the worlds biggest farm dog which was caked in cow shit, and oh yeah Paul managed to snap his chain which damaged his derailleur in the process..

All in all a very tiring (approx 25 from 48 hours) but ultimately very satisfying 2 days on the wheels.

Tomorrow we’re on the ferry across the estuary of gironde for another 90+ miles day, which is gonna be a hard one if the aches in my legs tonight are anything to go by.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

By Kat Macknay

A very long time ago (well, just over 10 years), a kind hearted girl (that would be me) asked a work colleague if he needed any help with a small event his family was setting up. Roll the flashback forward and the off the cuff remark I made to Mike Tomlinson has seen me help with a variety of tasks from packing envelopes for the first Leeds 10k (it will be the tenth one in just over a week) through senior marshalling, for too many events to count, to now sitting in a hotel room with a sea view in Royan, France writing a blog about doing support for Ride To Rio.

The support role is just what you would imagine, it starts before the riders set off for the day with ensuring they have all the liquid and fuel needed for the first stage of the ride, to ensuring you are on hand should any problems occur (we are on day 5 now and have had 6 punctures and a broken chain). We scout ahead on the planned routes and identify spots for refueling / coffee breaks and wander round foreign bakeries and supermarkets to ensure lunch is to hand when we know when and where this will be. We hunt the riders down if the Sat Navs go a bit wonky and herd them all back together if they have misplaced each other. We are there at the end of the day to ensure they get to end points and hotels and give them recovery drinks when they finish (much needed as these guys have been riding 100+ miles a day) and clean down bikes. And after all that we ensure we have all the bottles, water and energy supplements to do it again the next day (as I type this, it is half past midnight and Shiv is in the bathroom armed with a bottle of washing up liquid, a bottle brush and a lot of bike bottles). Roll on tomorrow – lovely places to see and riders to support.

 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

By Mike Tomlinson

There is little point in setting out on an endurance challenge if it isn’t actually a challenge. But what actually is the challenge, the distance, danger, the terrain. All of the above usually but for each of us it’s different.

Today we have cycled 130 miles, a life time best for me, for a large part into a head wind with constant issues with the route and bikes. When you’ve been on the road for 5 days in the saddle for between 10 to 13 hours, a different bed each night eating late into the evening sleep deprivation becomes a major issue. Many of the support and riders have managed only little more than a couple of hours sleep, sharing rooms with stranger.

For me I’m a miserable git at the best of times and the challenge was to remain cheerful throughout. Paul Highton said on Wednesday he gave a himself a good talking to, a rollicking, to get him up the hills. I’ve promised myself and the support for the next 5 weeks I will change my personality and become a reasonable human being…………….some chance !

Eggs, muddy paws and mechanical issues…

By Charlie Webster

This morning seems so long ago. I remember waking up trying to boil some eggs for ages with Mick, long story, the conclusion, we ate half done eggs. We jumped on our bikes in the rain all trying to smile and crack a few jokes to get us on our way. I got the Duncan Wood horn this morning from Paul – it is my turn to give it out tomorrow. Our first miles were on a bit of a dirt track which was an old railway line; we had to go steady because of the terrain, so I had a good old chat with Paul. Our bikes did not like the gravel and that kind of set the precedent for the day. Paul and Mike got punctures and Mick got a stone stuck in his chain. This is where we met Digby! If you haven’t already met Digby then take a look at the video on my twitter. He basically ran out of a farm as we were fixing punctures and tried to hump us all, he seemed to show a bit of unwanted favoritism to me. This wasn’t helped by Mike ‘Go to Charlie, good dog’ whilst he giggled away! I was covered in slaver and paw marks. Digby was absolutely massive and so strong. We couldn’t stop laughing despite stinking like dog. I had paw marks all over my back!

The rest of the day was long and windy. I found parts of today pretty hard mainly because of the strong head winds. We pushed on to a late lunch and you could tell we were all feeling it as not one of us was talking. The village before lunch was on the Tour de France and that is where I really started to feel my head go purely because I was having a bit of low sugar moment. The next 14 miles to lunch felt so long and I really had to dig. I should have had a gel, lesson learnt. When I eventually saw the next village, I whispered under my breath ‘please, please, please be our food stop.’ I saw Shiv at the top of the hill by a church waving, what a relief. I lied on the floor wolfing a sandwich down as quickly as I could. There were a lot of hills today and very long sweeping roads that just seemed to go on forever.

At this point we had 36 miles out of a 100 to go. We flew for 18 miles of this until Paul’s chain snapped. My left shoe cleat had also broken and kept coming out of the pedal. We all pulled up at the next village to help Paul try and sort his chain. I wasn’t much use so I just sat on the tarmac shouting moral support. I literally could have fallen asleep then. I felt gutted for Paul, as it is so frustrating when something happens like a mechanical which isn’t under your control.

18 miles to go and knowing we weren’t far from the end we really pushed, myself and Mick got a little lost as my Garmin died but the amazing support team found us on the side of a roundabout looking sorry for ourselves. We followed them in for the last 3 miles and collapsed. Long day! Please turn the wind machine off for tomorrow’s 114 miles or at least turn it in our favour. Thanks.

 

 

Mange Tout Rodney

Day 3 – Darren Clark

We’ve arrived in France after a choppy crossing of  le channel. 1st stop a cafe, were the TV news is Brexit and Hollande asking when are we buggering off (shakes head) …
80 miles done today across undulating countryside so hills a plenty, all good training for when we hit the Pyrenees .. !

2 highlights today,
1.Me demonstrating my grasp of the French language ” Je m’appelle Darren, j’habite à Rothwell et j’ai treize ans , oh et soixante neuf” which for those that don’t understand rudimentary school boy French, this translates to “My name is Darren, I live in Rothwell and I am thirteen years old oh and 69..” – cue general hilarity in the classroom.

2.Today’s grub, a Greggs esq deep filled Apple pastry for brekkie and a cheese and ham baguette for lunch followed by an eclair. – Definitely enjoying the cafe culture.
Finally I’d like to say it’s been a real pleasure cycling here so far, the roads are smooth and the drivers courteous..so now I’m off for a creme de menthe with an umbrella in it..mange tout Rodney, mange tout !

Blood, sweat and tears

By Charlie Webster

We started in beautiful bright sunshine and finished today in the pouring rain of Portsmouth. It has been a funny day and actually the majority of drama came from my end, whoops sorry guys! I’m currently writing this sat waiting for my dinner to arrive, the thing with doing such a mammoth challenge of this, you have to get your nutrition right, so…I’ve ordered fish n chips, mushy pies and for an extra £2 I get scampi, battered sausage and chip shop curry sauce.

It’s arrived, hang on….
Ok I’m back that was lovely, the extras really hit the spot. Back to today, we started off really well, apart from going down a one way street. I blame the Garmin! Half way through we decided to kick on and just quickly scoff some OTE sports flapjacks. Our first serious hill so far and my chain got caught in my derailer, obviously my superb crunching of the gears up a hill! We sorted that after 10 mins but then a link in my chain had locked so we had to make a decision do I jump on the spare bike which is a little bit small for me or crack on! I cracked, and clicked and crunched my way to Portsmouth. You could definitely here me coming. To be honest I think it made me go faster because I had to make the bike shop, Cycle World Portsmouth for 4pm who kindly fixed it for me. I made it with 2 of the team, Mick and Paul who pushed on with me. It rained with a little bit of hail for the last 5 miles which made it a go quite cold in the end. We finished the Ride to Rio route to the ferry in Portsmouth and then I cycled back up to the bike shop in the pouring rain.
A very lovely guy fixed it and cut his arm open at the same time on my chain ring. Whoops! I was very apologetic!
So now we are just waiting for the ferry to take us over to Caen, France where we get straight off the ferry and cycle to Mayenne for day 3. Last few hours in England so I’ve just had a brew. Standard!