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.

 

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!

‘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!’

Navigation blunders

By John Miller

Today’s navigation blunder occurred in the opening few minutes, and once rectified, the road became a dirt track which caused some more confusion as it lasted just one kilometre before turning into smooth Tarmac for 18 miles passing oil fields and lonely farms – but no traffic. We realised why when a rickety narrow bridge signalled the end of the road – and the start of 23 miles of sandy track, which proved slow and treacherous. Two falls and a bit of swearing later and we were back on the blacktop for the last 39 miles to tonight’s stop at Linhares, passing thousands of workers cottages for Petrobras – the local oil giant. So 70 miles further – and all into a relentless battering headwind. Highlights today – comical cows chasing us along the fences, Cokes at the back-of-beyond beach bar, trying (and I think failing miserably) to explain to the locals in Linhares what the Garmin was, and a road sign for a caption competition…

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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

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 one in Brazil

By Paul Highton

So that was a strange 1st day in Brazil and in particular Recife. After an uneventful lie in I decided to get up and make a dent into my mountain of washing that was slowly gathering mould as quickly as it was flies. After a quick game of hunt the travel wash I decided there was only one thing for it and that was to start at outfit 1 and get in the shower clothed and get the trusty complimentary hand soap on it (it felt quite nice if I’m honest). After change of gear no7 the water wasn’t running as fast but my pules were .

I then got the call to say some of the group were heading into Recife City for a mooch about and a bite to eat so swiftly joined them. This gave us a good opportunity to take a look at what the road conditions were like in Brazil and how the traffic treated us iron pushers and as it happens not too well.

We arrived in Recife and were dropped at a busy local market and for some reason we all gravitated towards the huge cathedral in the centre which as it happens had armed security on the front doors !!! this kind of set the standard for how the next few hours would go. We started to stroll around the markets and couldn’t have screamed out tourist any louder if we tried, from me stuffing my phone and wallet down the front of my strides to Shiv and Mike reading a map whilst trying to control it in the wind.

The streets we walked over the next hour or so threw up everything from children trying to sell us a bottle of water and a straw to some of the team trying to access a mini bank which was once again under armed control the city really was a rabbit warren full of people really fighting it out to make a living but amid all the poverty and hardship I really felt a sense of gratitude and purpose walking around the streets and bridges that I have dreamt about for so many years and I can only thank everyone involved in this journey for helping make this a reality on the back of doing so many good things for organisations like Janes appeal and RL Cares.

Now Let’s not get too carried away and nostalgic as we were very quickly reminded about the quirky and dangers of brazil as our cab driver ploughed into a guy on a motorbike waiting to pull out!! Personally I had no sympathy for the guy having come off my own bike 3 times and haven’t once made a song and dance like he did.

Anyways of for tea and to see what the fall of darkness brings in this wonderfully freaky part of the world !!!

LATERS

Highto

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

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.

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.