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 .
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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….
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…
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