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 .

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!’

Character building…

By Paul Highton

Day 28 Blog

After yesterday’s down pours leaving us damper than an otters pocket I’d prayed that evening that today would be dry and all started so well …
After a pretty decent drive to the start point the heavens opened and the stall was set for the day … In the 1st hr I’d put on and taken off my jacket more times than a pissed up scrapper on a Friday night …
The day was one of firsts and in particular a 1st puncher for Charlie … She has managed to complete an ironman numerous other challenges and the 4 weeks of ride to Rio to date without a single blowout so it just shows that having your own mechanic (Mike West) carries some weight and luck ha …
I’d love to now go on to tell you that today was full of wonder and rain Forrest adventure but it wasn’t !!
It was unfortunately 1 of those days you just need to get ya nut down and grind out whilst smelling like a Damp Alsatian  …
Mile after mile of Tarmac … hill … Corners … Hill … Down hill … Back up a massive hill .. And then a long Arse straight worthy of any final walk scene from the Incredible Hulk.
But luckily the finishing point of the day which just so happens to be a petrol station was in sight and that euphoric feeling no28 kicked in !!
Another day done another day closer to Rio and another huge confidence boost for me
…. Although No champagne showers or ticker tape parades but there was a clatter of local fire crackers and a Solaro !! so all in all I’ve had far worse Sunday’s and as ever feel blessed to have been given this opportunity.
Night
Highto X

Falling in love with Brazil in a pothole, crazy bus drivers kind of way

By Charlie Webster

From what I have seen so far Brazil is one beautiful place. The scenery is just natural beauty at its most stunning, it is only when you see the little kid walking down the road barefoot and the favela’s with back to back shacks made of sticks that it reveals its hardships. Yesterday we cycled through so many of these little townships, we stopped at a few for a drink and the locals despite most likely never seeing a foreigner before were so welcoming, smiling as we pulled up and waving as we went by. The kids all eager to talk to us. I ended up having a chat with 2 kids, well maybe not ‘chat’ but some form of communication through my broken Portuguese and gesturing, their eyes lit up as they looked at my bike and I showed them photos on my phone of our trip so far. I ended up giving them a drink and Keith’s crisps.

Today was very different. We started around 730am and already the sun was beating down on us and the air was so close with humidity. Unfortunately for Mike his bike wasn’t playing ball and he fell off on the first mile. He’s all patched up now. We kicked on as we knew it was going to be a long day of 100 miles and more. For the first 5 hours of the day we literally didn’t see anything or anyone. It seemed like we’d left civilisation behind. The road was just one long line of trees for what seemed like forever. Cycling like that is so hard. There was no turns, nothing to engage our mind apart from hills. I’m sure somebody told me Brazil was flat. It is not! We climbed more today than one of our Pyrenees days. The hills were just constant and what made it worse was that the road is straight so you could see everyone of the long steep hills coming right up, taunting you to take it on.
We got half way through the miles and myself, Mick, Paul and Keith really started to feel it. I went through about an hour of just feeling rubbish, sick, eyes allover the place and head banging. We pulled up for some shade and to take on a few gels and we all just slumped on a makeshift bench, clearly all feeling the same. The hills were tough but the heat just makes it ten times harder.
Somehow after some stupid jokes and laughs about how crazy what we are doing is, oh and Paul nearly having a wee as a school bus appeared infront of him, we managed to pull ourselves together. Finally we started to see signs of life. It started with some favela’s that were of a higher standard than the ones we’d seen yesterday. Some of them were brick built – still all had massive satellite dishes nearly as big as their houses.
We were glad of something to look at, then came the fun and games. The same long road we’d been on all day all of a sudden  turned into the busiest craziest free for all. Buses dipping in and out, no order, no bus stops, no signally, no warning. Lorries, cars flying past, Keith, Mick infront and Paul behind me blocking me. It definitely made us feel alive! Did you ever play chicken as a kid?  It all came back to me today when we had to got across 5 lanes each side of the road to get to the left turn coast road. Honestly we must have looked like a right bunch. I couldn’t stop giggling at one point.
It really is so different cycling over here in Brazil than in Europe. The roads are full of pot holes and things to dodge, the cars wave at you or drive so close you can literally feel them skim past.
We ended the day just before the dark started to close in as the light goes around 5pm here. I was so hungry so within seconds of getting off the bikes after over 100 miles we went to a little cafe on the side of the road where we’d finished. I ordered for us in my mixed Portuguese-Spanish combination which seems to be working whilst 2 guys argued with a crowbar.
The food was delicious despite Keith morning that it was the ‘caravan of death!’ whilst calling me by my new nickname ‘Tigger’ because in his words ‘your always bouncing around.’
Today has ended in lots of giggles, I think this is making us all go a little bit insane. The guys were amazing today, we have now taken to chanting ‘let’s go defense’ to keep us moving. Don’t ask! We are now in Salvador and tomorrow starts with a boat and then we head to Valenca. I’m writing this lying in bed, laughing at today with sore legs and a sore bottom! I’ve changed my seat 3 times now and gone back to number 2 today! Night night….

View from the road…

By Mike Tomlinson
Not to trivialise the achievement of cycling from London to Lisbon this challenge was always going to be Brazil. We arrived in Recife in the early hours of Friday morning. My first impression was not good, incredibly poor living conditions, rats the size of cats and lots of feral kids out on bikes (even at 3 in the morning).

By Friday lunch we ventured out into the City centre to explore. Trying to blend in was hopeless, we were the only tourists and may well have had a sign saying “mug us”. After an uncomfortable hour sweating in the heat and for our safety we got a taxi back to the hotel only for him to knock over a motorcyclist who could have given Ronaldo an acting lesson.

As for the cycling the first two hours was like Russian roulette, buzzed by trucks, avoiding potholes which should have their own postcodes and vehicles that ignore every law. At one point there was a road sign, a rarity in itself, warning of bulls. I thought my chances of surviving 19 days were pretty slim.

This though is a wonderful country and the majority of people we have met have been happy, polite and very helpful. There is extreme poverty, shacks without roofs and windows but there is a crazy vibe, music blasting from pimped out knackered car’s, ranchers, kids cycling the wrong way up 6 lane highways, it’s mental. Cycling down the Atlantic Coast the scenery is so beautiful and every sense is heightened.

Day 14 – Groundhog Day

By Darren Clark

After a well needed rest day we’re back on the good old N620 today for another 40 miles before we switch to its slightly older, narrower, less straight and less smooth cousin the SA62. At least it’s not busy, miles & hours pass by without us seeing any other traffic – cycling bliss.

To keep ourselves amused during the day we’ve had a bit of bike karaoke. We’ve had a crack at everything, the Stone Roses, the long forgotten 1986 classic Male Stripper (thanks Paul), Spirt in the Sky from Charlie – Dr and the Medics not the 60s original & thankfully not the Gareth Gates version, The Macarena from me, yes The Macarena, including full no hands cycling dance moves, The Fraggle Rock theme tune (again one from Paul) and Mikes standard cycling tune – Ini Kamozies 90s classic – Here Comes The Hotstepper. I kid you not.., this 1st appeared on one of our training rides to York and is frequently sang (in the loosest sense of the word) by Mike, so much so that we’ve all started to sing the bloody thing at different intervals…

Today saw us cross the border into Portugal, which was slightly more memorable than the France to Spain crossing as it was at least sign posted and even more memorable at the top of hill..!!

Tomorrow we head a further 60 miles into Portugal and a choice of The Birdie Song or The Time Warp including moves awaits…

10 days on the bike; 750 miles no rest days

By Mike Tomlinson

10 days on the bike; 750 miles no rest days. Sleep deprivation, a different bed every night, countless hours waiting around. Every day punctuated by moments of sheer bliss and amazing scenery.

In the hills you crave flat roads, on flat roads I spend my time swiping right on my garmin to check speed elevation and the route.

Each day i live in my own bubble, I am the least talkative of the team, happy to cycle on my own. Time to reflect on loved ones, family and home.

When things are at there best we are working well at the team but the challenge is an individual one. The aches, pains unique to the rider.

Today we were in st Domingo and I talked to pilgrims walking camino de Santiago a walk of 754 km. As a Catholic its probably something I should know more about. As we cycled in the aftenoon we passed many of them on the road to Burgos. We all have our journeys for many reasons mine is to raise money so people didn’t suffer like Jane which why now my arse is so sore i may never sit normally again

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. 

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.