Deloitte Ride Across Britain – Ludlow to Cheddar
Quick blog today as I'm writing this just before England kick off. Now as a Scot, I know that my homeland relatives may be supporting any team but England, but as I have lived in London for 20 years, I have to support the lads in white (at least until the final, then we’ll see – I may find I have some Brazilian genes).
The route today from Ludlow to Cheddar was published as 104 miles. I suspect Deloitte RAB has kind intentions but according to my calculations it was a little more! The route was described on our breakfast cards as undulating – this is Deloitte RAB speak for eff** hilly, and so it was. We had some guests on the team today. It’s interesting when you have new boys who aren’t used to the pace. One of the newbies took his tri bars to the front and ramped the speed up to 45kms. Ugh. The old hands looked at each other but we kept up the pace at least until newbie was spat out the back a spent force at about 45 miles. I’ve learned bucketfuls of lessons about riding this week and one of them is pacing.
There were only two climbs today. The first took us up into the Forest of Dean and it was relatively benign. The pace of the first 30 miles combined with the climb stretched our ten man group and we began to lose some of the team. We descended into the Wye Valley taking us down to Ross on Wye which looks every part the beautiful town of its reputation. Must return. One of the great things about Deloitte RAB is that he has made sure that the local schools know that we will be passing through. It gives a real boost to cycle past a whole school, pupils and teachers all positively screaming encouragement. Man, we felt like Tour riders, well a tiny little bit.
Some more climbing, and then a heavenly descent down to the Severn Bridge. By this time there were only three of us together, me, Ballymena Dave and Sticky out bit Rory. Sadly, Les had dropped back much earlier feeling sick – he eventually rolled in 11 hours after the start, five hours after us, having ridden the route pretty well all on the granny ring. He could have given up and taken the broomwagon as he clearly was not well but Les is made of much stearner stuff and he kept on going. Chapeau Les, we need to keep an eye on you. Actually, one of the lads said that Les had taken a turn for the worse yesterday on the steep, scary descent off Long Mynd when his Lycra bib shorts seemed to expand inexplicably.
We went over the Severn Bridge using the cycle path. We had a very quick photo stop in the middle. Ballymena Dave is fine with photo stops as long as he is in the photo. Dave is convinced he is very photogenic and will improve any photo with his craggy good looks. Into Bristol, we were suddenly on the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It’s as spectacular as advertised and I managed to get a couple of photos of the gorge as we cycled along.
At the second and final pit stop we saw our opposition from the previous day leaving as we arrived. They had left Ludlow half an hour before us with James Cracknell (my very good new friend) who was being filmed by the BBC for his new adventure with his adventure buddy Mr Fogle. The lads said that they had been briefed that JC intended a steady ride out at circa 18 mph – he immediately ramped up the speed to 25mph, exhorting them to press on with short sharp spells of no more than 30 secs on the front, pushing and pushing as if they just had 200 metres left for the rowing gold. They covered the 35 miles to the first pit stop in record time but then had to leave JC to hammer on alone. He is still a class athlete.
Davie Boy, Rory and I discussed another bridging effort reckoning that we had made up some 20 mins with the lads still 10 mins ahead. We agreed that it was pointless to knacker ourselves chasing them down and that we would take the last 30 miles at a steady pace. Now Davie Boy’s competitive streak is the size of a small planet, and may just outclass JC’s. Any talk of steady riding was just for show, to put me off the trail. We turned left out of the pitstop with DB on the drops and off we went in pursuit. Jeez Davie, can we not have just one leg to ride steady and watch the countryside roll by! Clearly not.
We had a go reckoning we might catch them on the last big hill, a couple of miles at around 6-8%. Davie gave me encouragement all the way up the hill seeing I was struggling. “Come on son, you’re doing really well”. Davie is 20 years younger than me. We didn’t catch them up but when we met them they were racking up their bikes. They had been just two minutes ahead. We then all went in the back of a tractor for a lift for the long haul from the bike racks to the tents and discussed the day with good humoured banter. They had known that we would go all out after seeing them at the second pitstop so they had put down the metal as we had known that they would. We are nothing if not utterly predictable. I can hear my wife, and indeed every wife, saying “boys will be boys”.
One last word. Michelle’s, she of unbelievable endurance, last name is Glenn. Last night she rolled home at 20.30, 14 hours after she had started, still smiling, thanking the crowd that had gathered to clap her in. If she could capture and bottle her spirit she’d be a very rich woman.
Nigel was the winner of our Deloitte Ride Across Britain competition, winning a place on the ride and a Boardman bike. Follow Nigel’s journey throughout the week.More more information on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, please visit: www.rideacrossbritain.com