Day five of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain took us along some more familiar roads as we wound our way for 186km towards Manchester.
Starting at the back of the field, I spent the day with Jody Cundy and Barney Storey. The ride started with an ascent up the killer Kirkstone Pass and then dropped away to the east of Windermere and then onto the Levens TT course. The views were breathtaking throughout the ride. If it wasn’t the hills of the Lake District framed by a backdrop of clear skies, it was a view across Bolton and Manchester to the Pennines far in the distance.
It was the perfect day for riding, and I started out with Jody, as Barney was riding from the first pitstop to the end. Jody, on the other hand, was going from the start to the second pitstop. The two of them have been doing roughly two thirds of the route everyday, and that has been upwards of 75 miles a day – very impressive for two kilo specialists.
The climb up Kirkstone Pass took just over 15 minutes, and although it wasn’t long it was very steep, much like the climbs in the Alps – 13 percent at the least and 20 percent at its most testing. Thankfully the descent down the other side was more gradual, and we started to pick off a few riders. Starting last meant that we were once again able to say hello to everyone as we went by. But unlike yesterday morning, when everyone’s heads had been down as they concentrated on surviving the second consecutive 130 mile day, people were in better spirits after conquering the big climb at the start.
It has been truly amazing and hugely motivating to ride alongside the other cyclists. Every one of them has the bit between their teeth, and even if it’s taking up to 14 hours to finish stages, no one is willing to give up. As I’ve gone along the lines of riders, a few have jumped on for a tow, thanking me afterwards and telling me how awesome it is to ride that fast.
It’s hard to put into words what it is like to be riding such a tough event with people who don’t ride their bikes for a living, but who are doing it because they want to raise money to help with our quest for gold at the Paralympics. They are the heroes of this event, so hats off to everyone who is keeping those pedals turning and getting through each gruelling stage. This is the hardest thing I have done and so I cannot imagine how they are all feeling.
Today’s stage was bathed in wall to wall sunshine and also marked the 500th mile – halfway! As we turned to head south, passing down the east side of the M6 and then crossing it to head through Garstang, we gathered a few people who were up for a tow
We soon arrived at the second pit stop, where Jody was climbing off. Barney and I didn’t hang around. The more familiar roads heading through Belmont and skirting the course for the 2002 Commonwealth Games Road Race were beckoning. But first we had to get through some cheeky climbs in the lanes to the west of the Trough of Bowland.
As we traversed the edge of Bolton we headed west towards Westhoughton, and crossed the M61 to meet the roundabout where I’d been knocked off by a car back in January 2006. By now the roads comprised many of our old training roads, and as the kilometres ticked by we knew what was coming ahead, and that definitely made the final 40km far easier than on previous days.
We crossed the very familiar territory of the East Lancs road and then headed through Culcheth and Glazebury. By this time we had the lead motorbike to escort us to the finish, and before we knew it we were heading over the Warburton Road bridge and the five miles to go sign. It was a welcome sight, and all that was left was a few of the lanes near to Dunham Massey Park that we have again used so often for training.
Setting off at the back meant we weren’t the first ones home today, and try as I might no matter of pace-lifting was ever going to drop Barney from my back wheel! We finished with another 30kph average speed and came home in 6 hours and 9 minutes – although with the longer, faster descents the power was down a bit at 180 watts average. It might have been a touch shorter than the previous two days, but there was no respite for the legs!
Tonight there’s a chance to catch up with some of the local Deloitte employees who have continued to be hard at work fundraising. There will be a cheque handed over to BPA for the total raised so far and now that we are well over halfway.
For more of Sarah Storey, visit www.onthedrops.com