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.

 

An old lesson

By Mike Tomlinson

This is Day 32 of Ride to Rio and there is no doubt that it was never going to be easy. But, as often, on these rides the cycling can be the easiest part of the trip. Long days, a different town every night, strange bed, no chance to do laundry are just the tip if the iceberg.
Everyone is affected differently, with me I crave the solitude and head space that is hard to find in the environment.

This has been heightened in Brasil. We landed in Recife two weeks ago. We were all shocked by how poor the country was and the quality of housing. People had little, work seemed scarce. Like many poorer countries I have visited the quality of life has been excellent without the demands of materialism.

There was though an undercurrent of danger from robbery, never felt by us but advised by the locals. As darkness falls by 5:30 we were advised not to go outside of the accommodation and I felt trapped. The people  were to a person, smiling pleasant and very helpful.

As we have moved down the country, about 1000 miles, the wealth has increased considerably, especially in the Cities and so has the aloofness of the people. There is a considerable north/south divide, ring any bells, I know where I would rather be.

Brasil is an outstandingly beautiful country, many places unspoilt, since we have been here we have seen no western or American visitors; who knows how long that will last.
So for all the long days in the saddle, the one thing that I will take away from me is that wealth does not mean happiness, its the simple things that matter the most.

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 17 – It’s been emotional

By Darren Clark

We’ve arrived in Lisbon and for me the last day in the saddle is complete.
Since the 27th June we’ve covered 1,100+ miles across the UK, France, Spain and Portugal. There have been some ups and downs – emotionally, physically and most definitely in the road.

I’ve seen some outstanding views and some utterly dismal towns.

There are places I want to return to as a tourist to investigate more, there are others I want to forget completely.

Good luck for the rest of the challenge to my fellow European leg cyclists, those that join in Receife and the amazingly patient support team – remember the old management saying “team work, makes the dream work” or in this case makes the cycling much bloody easier…

Finally, special thanks to Vicky, Jenna and the rest of my family for their support and encouragement not only over the last 3 weeks but all the times I’ve woken up said “I’m off for a short ride” and returned 5 hours later over the last 6 months.

Until the next one … Au revoir, Adios, Adeus and si’thi

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.

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 !