I don't know whose idea it was, or how I actually ended up agreeing to it, but planning for our cycle ride from Carlisle to Inverness began in 2006. Originally, we had planned to start in Inverness, but some bright spark soon pointed out that the prevailing wind in the UK blows from the south west, so we quickly changed our minds. This was despite the glaringly obvious fact that, according to any map of the world, it is all uphill from Carlisle to Inverness...
The majority of the group is from my old team at Procter & Gamble, namely, Alan, Colin, Graeme, Ian and Ken, plus some communal friends from Harrogate, Dave and Ric, whilst Neil offered to be our support driver. So, nine of us in total.
Being an active sportsman, I had planned to ensure that I was physically fit in the months leading up to the cycle, and then transfer onto the bike. Having previously completed a tri-athlon, as well as several long-disctance cycles, I was not unduly concerned. Then we all met up as a group for the first time in April, where Ken informed us that the total distance would be around 450 miles over 7 and a half days. Significantly longer than anything I had completed in the past.
Shortly after, I was in Cologne with work and met the team from Simply Knitting, with whom our company works quite closely. To fill you in, after four years' spent selling tampons for Procter & Gamble, I joined Sirdar in July 2006 to sell balls of hand-knitting yarn. I certainly know how to pick 'em. It was Simply Knitting's second birthday and we were having a drink to celebrate. I was chatting to Amanda, the Advertising Manager, and happened to mention my cycle ride. She said that another of Future's titles is What Mountain Bike and the idea was formed...
Back in the UK, heads cleared, and Amanda was frantically contacting various editors for approval. I had been planning to complete the 450 miles on my trusty old Marin, which would frequently leave me with numb hands due to its lack of suspension during any kind of off-roading. But then I got lent a Focus Killer Bee, which is brilliant with disc brakes all round, as well as front and back suspension.
Sincere thanks must go to my old colleagues on the Gillette team at Procter & Gamble who have sponsored our kit. I can now honestly say that I have all the gear...
... But during our last major outing before we set off, we somehow accumulated eleven punctures between seven of us. Plus, a twig (literally) managed to bend Ian's derailler 180 degrees into his rear spokes, meaning that he had to walk back to the nearest road and get picked up, his bike in need of severe repairs. So, as a group, we're full of confidence ahead of the start on Saturday 19th May.
I will be raising money for a charity called Christians Against Poverty (CAP), whom a very good friend of mine, and former colleague at Procter & Gamble, Helen Johnson, now works for.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is an award winning national debt counseling charity offering a professional, state-of-the-art service to people disadvantaged by debt. CAP operates across a network of more than 50 community-based centres, all offering an in-depth service of debt counselling, financial education and practical services. CAP's unique personal approach means that people are supported every step of the way to help themselves out of debt and poverty.
Such is the standard of CAP's work that in 2006 the charity was awarded a Centre for Social Justice Award, a regional Business award for "Customer Focus", and a UK Charity Award for "Best Charity to Work For".
My target is to raise Â£1000. If you would like to sponsor me, please visit here.