On August 22 I completed a 24 hours bike ride from Newcastle to London to raise money for Ehlers-Danlos Support UK. Ehlers-Danlos is a syndrome my daughter Kelly suffers from. To read more about her disease and my fundraising project please read part 1 and part 2 of my Blog article. Today I would like to tell you how the ride went and, of course, express my gratitude for all the support and the donations!
At the start there was a real sense of excitement, anticipation and some serious trepidation. Possibly as little as 5% of the 350 participants had ridden 500km or more so for the vast majority we were in uncharted waters.
Stage 1: 41 miles to Northallerton
They went fairly quietly, at first through Newcastle city centre with all of its people, traffic and noise but with its iconic bridges for a backdrop. Then up the hills and past the Angel of the North and through the scenic County Durham countryside to Northallerton. My bike had developed a worrying grinding noise every time real pressure was brought down on the right pedal but the bike mechanics worked their magic and solved whatever the problem was with a rapid drive-chain service. A quick sandwich, coffee and refill the water bottles and I was off again to the historic and lovely city of York.
Stage 2: 46 miles to York
Those miles went along without incident or anything of note except that I did notice that I was passing a number of riders who had set off a little too quickly for their own good. The ride through the city of York, on (horse) race day was interesting to say the least. Men in quality suits, women looking lovely in their finery and most displaying a joie de vie brought about by either handsome winnings or a few bottles of fine wine. The later I suspect!
Stage 3: 43 miles to Scunthorpe
This stage went by in a happy blur. The flattest and fasted stage of the day this was a race within a race. I got involved with a group of riders who were tapping out a steady 35kph with each rider taking a spell on the front before peeling off and drifting to the back for some respite. Inexorably I found myself moving to the head of the chain where the wind resistance adds 25% to the effort required to maintain the pace – but having benefitted for so long from their efforts, I had no choice but to man up and do my stint; which I did. And it was a terrific feeling to be leading out a group of riders who were half my age at a very high pace. There was one fly in the ointment, and this was a 30 minute rainstorm approaching biblical proportions but even this could not dampen (pun intended) the spirits but the rest stop to change into some dry clothing and feed up was more than welcome. We had now done 130 miles (210km) at an average speed of 17mph (27kph) which was well above my target pace but I was not concerned as I was feeling so good.
Stage 4: 47 miles to Sleaford
Those were not easy primarily because the route had now swung to the south west which was where the wind was coming from. This combined with more hills than in previous stages, made for it a real “working” four hours of cycling. As we had left Scunthorpe at 08.15pm we needed to put our lights on and prepare for nine hours of riding in the dark.
Stage 5: 41 miles to Peterborough
The ride through the dark hours was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. It was still warm so cycling shorts and short sleeves were all that was needed. Cycling through the historic city of Lincoln at 11.30pm was a bit of an education as the pubs were emptying with revellers moving onto clubs or wending their way home. Some were a bit abusive in their incredulity at seeing cyclists out so late but the vast majority were supportive. Now with 220 miles (350km) in our legs there was a degree of strain in all areas and most of us were now feeling a little tender in the saddle area! Eventually we rolled into Royston, the last feeding station from where we would launch ourselves to the capital, London. But first, breakfast which was muesli, yoghurt, pretzels, ham and coffee.
Stage 6: 46 miles to London
This was where the cursing started. It was the hilliest section of all and we had already covered 260 miles (416km) in just less than 18 hours so were tired and a little leg weary. However, when the end is in sight it is not difficult to stay focused and motivated. London starts around 15 miles from the centre and so we were cycling in fairly heavy traffic (even though it was Sunday) with frequent stops for traffic lights. And then, all of a sudden we were just two miles from the end point, Smithfield Market and I can say that spirits rose, smiles lit up our faces and leg weariness disappeared. We turned the last corner and were herded into the finishing lane with a blast of music, exhortations from the announcer and furious yelling and clapping from the gathered family and friends of the riders. I saw my wife and daughter and a close family friend and their smiles and excitement were all the reward I needed at that moment.
I had done it. At 62 years old, I had ridden 312 miles (500km) at an average speed of 16.1mph (26kph) and most importantly, raised over £3,000 (€4800) for Ehlers-Danlos Support in the UK. Again, thank you very much for your support!