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

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.

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.

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….

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

Day 15 & 16 – Location, Location, Location

By Darren Clark

The cycling has been pretty uneventful over the last two days, that is if you consider one puncture for Paul in the carpark before we managed to set off and a second 1.5 miles later the norm for day 15, over 4000 ft climbed on roller coaster type single track roads the norm for day 16 (when promised ‘it’s all down hill, from here’ by Mike the day before) and oh yeah the truly awful cobbled Portuguese town main streets – after the last one I felt like claiming for vibration white finger disease…

So I thought I’d share some thoughts on 3 distinctly different hotels we’ve stayed in / staying in since we crossed into Portugal…

Hotel 1 –  Alfraites.
Just over the border from Spain, a very quite family run hotel. I can’t really figure out who would normally stay here, maybe it’s used by drugs mules or arms dealers given its proximity to the border.

On Sunday night we had the entire restaurant to ourselves and our host and his wife kindly laid on a homemade four course banquet for us (they don’t normally do Sunday’s) and to make the night complete they moved the tables to allow us to watch the euro2016 final. Needless to say our host was suitably happy with the result.

Hotel 2 – Castello Branco
My 1st thoughts on cycling up, along with – who the hell picked a hotel at the top of a steep off route climb, was Bond villain hideout. The hotel was perfectly perched at the top of a hill with glorious views across the valley from 3 sides, and on entering my thoughts came to life as the reception resembles the room used in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to brain wash a bunch of femme fatales.. The bedrooms were pleasent, although the the air con was only powerful enough to cool a space the size of a shoe box, so Mick and I resolved to open the balcony door. All went well until a bunch of what appeared to be school children upset the local dog community at about 11:30pm and all hell broke out for the remainder of the night with occasional stereo effect howling continuing on & off, normally with prefect timing to start just as you felt yourself drifting off…

Hotel 3 – Abrantes
Wow, what a place tonight’s accommodation is. It’s actually a retired show jumper / antiques dealers house and it is amazing. It’s as though the last 90 years have passed this place by, ornate bedrooms/bathrooms, stunning views and some truly remarkable antiques on display.

The standard is set high for my last night on the ride tomorrow….

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