Day 8,9 & 10 – Hills, Thrills & Bellyaches

By Darren Clark

In the three days we’ve climbed almost 10,000 ft in total. Day 8 was the warm up for two big climbs at either end of day 9 & day 10 was completed by our highest ascent yet 4920 ft (1.5km).

I’ll be honest, I like cycling up hills, the challenge of getting to the top beats the boredom of long straight roads, and then there’s the thrill of the all two short, but quick (just short of 40mph on one section) downhill.

We past over the border into Spain on day 8, which we almost missed as there’s no real sign or demarcation. Bit of a disappointment, I expected at least a welcome to Spain sign for a photo opportunity .. !

Northern Spain is dismal and industrial we could’ve been cycling through any Northern UK town/city, and at one point I thought we’d passed Forge Masters on Brightside Lane..
The climbs on Day 9 were great, a steep incline with switchback bends on the early morning one and long sweeping curves on the second.

For Day 10 we started at the top of last nights climb, and descend over 1000ft in the 1st 5 miles. That means only one thing – no pedalling, which is good for me because my left knee is very tender at the moment. It’s been aching for a few days, but today it’s worse and after a few miles and a dodgy change of gear that resulted in the chain coming off and my leg jarring straight, the pain is much worse.. Lunch in the beautiful town of Santo Domingo is served with painkillers as desert and as we leave we’re pretty much straight into our ascent up the highest point on the ride to date, Puerto de La Pedraja @ 1150m. After the usual team photo at the summit I switch off and the final 20 miles into Burgos in temperatures of 37c drag, so it’s plenty of water / isotonic fluid refills to see us through to the end. Our hotel in Burgos is at the side of the absolutely stunning Catedral de Burgos, and the city itself is definitely worth another more relaxing visit.

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.

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 !