Well, you learn something new every day. Apparently the sign at Lands End gets taken down each night as you have to pay to have your photo taken there. As today was going to to be a big day over 120 miles we would not have got to Lands End until gone 10 at night and then had to have gone back the next day for the photo.
As a result we have decided to cut today’s miles down to around 90 and then have a leisurely 30 miles tomorrow rolling into Lands End for the photos.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us so far. It has given us the encouragement to carry on each day.
The early start brings a big disappointment for Mike. The severe knee injury which has dogged him for the last few days has forced him to abandon (hopefully temporarily) his ride. This is the reality of a trip of this scale, to ride over 100 miles each day, at times in very adverse conditions, would test even the fittest athlete, let alone 4 ordinary chaps, including a ‘plumper’ (no names)
Today’s ride took us through Clevedon, where a very kind chap came over for a chat to explain that he had been involved in a similar charity ride for his nephew and left us with a very generous donation (cheers Johnny). Moving on, we rode by Glastonbury, Cheddar, Wedmore, Taunton, Wellington, Tiverton, then on to our overnight stay in the ‘middle of nowhere’ (Lake, nr Sourton). After last night’s less-than-luxury accommodation, tonight’s hotel in a beautiful 17th century Inn provides a much needed ‘lift of spirits’. Unfortunately those were the only spirits that were lifted, the morning alarms come round far too soon!
A new ride starts, as do the aches & pains. Getting on to the bikes at 6am is a major trial in itself. The groans/yelps can be heard for the first 10 minutes of each day.
With the temperatures yet again in the high 20’s, today’s ride took us down through the picturesque town of Ludlow, then on through Leominster, Hereford and Monmouth. The ride through the Forest of Dean was particularly tough with many very challenging hills to get over. On to Chepstow, at which point Chris asked ‘when are we in Wales’? Unaware he had just spent most of the day in it. Michael Palin he ain’t!
The day ended as we crossed the Severn Bridge back in to dear old Blighty. Our lodge in Bristol was an experience best described as ‘functional’. In an area best described as ‘shite’. None of us cared as we wolfed down some pizzas at 10pm before returning to our cells/rooms for a few hours shut eye before the joy of the following mornings 5am start.
The groans of pain from 5 days cycling in some very challenging landscapes and weather can be heard as we bid goodbye to Blackburn & head south to Shrewsbury. Riding in temperatures reaching the high 20’s via Wigan, Warrington & Whitchurch. All riders are suffering from a lack of sleep, combined with severe discomfort caused by muscle & knee fatigue.
This was a day for ‘heads down’ no-nonsense riding. All riders determined to ignore the heat & pain to get to the hotel earlier than 9pm after 13 hours riding. It REALLY IS that hard. Please keep supporting this great cause, these boys are working incredibly hard to complete this challenge, just4jake.
6am. A sense of achievement was felt all round as we cycled a few steps from our lodging in Gretna to the ‘Welcome to England’ sign. This was quickly followed by the anticipation of the day ahead, 112 miles to Blackburn!
The following is from Jason, our ‘man in the saddle’ who picks up the story:
I seriously cannot explain how exhausted I am today. The reality of 4 consecutive days of 5 hours kip each night, waking up at 4.30am and cycling all day is now kicking in. Every muscle, joint and part of my body is aching or sore, getting on the bike today is a frightening prospect 🙁
This has got to be one of the most difficult (stupid), things I’ve ever attempted.
Seriously if you haven’t donated yet, please do. Apart from supporting a great cause, seeing people help will hopefully spur me on.
A combination of a forecasted hot day and the highest mileage of the trip so far have ensured a 5.45am start while the roads of Greenock, Paisley & East Kilbride are still quiet…or so we thought. Just outside Glasgow a lady cyclist had taken quite a bad fall and was lying concussed on the pavement…she was helped into the support van & taken to the nearest A&E to be checked over. (Hope you’re feeling better Carol!).
After this slight delay it was onwards and literally ‘upwards’ into the hills & dips of the Lanarkshire countryside. With the temperature hitting the high 20’s it became another gruelling day with the heat & hilly landscape taking its toll.
A welcome stop in the hilltop village of Abington where we cleared the village stores of ‘Magnums’ to cool down before a final hard push through the heat to our overnight destination of Gretna Green. Another mega early start in the morning to avoid the heat of the day beckons.
6.45am. With morning mist obscuring the peak of Ben Nevis, aches & pains from yesterday’s hard ride are quickly forgotten as the boys are ready to face the third day on the road. A trip far more challenging than any of us dared to imagine.
Making great time from Fort William through the stunning scenery of Glencoe, today’s ride is helped by sun & lighter winds….or so we thought.
Spirits are up as we progress further south towards Glasgow when the wind picks up while crossing the highest peaks. The fierce gusts slow everyone down to a snails pace. At this point Jason decided it would be a perfect time to take a power nap in the bushes at the roads edge….and nobody was going to argue!
A further few hours along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond the wind died down & we found the holy grail of cycling…a downward sloping hill! The final 25 miles were achieved in record time, getting back to the hotel after 11 hours cycling.
The breaking dawn arrives all too soon as our heroes face day 2 of the challenge. With a ‘full Scottish’ to fuel us, there were huge smiles all round to see the blue skies & sun we had been promised, with the expectation of little or no heavy winds to slow us down..but how long would it last?
All round hugs & encouragement started the day, along with a generous donation from a lovely lady we met at the start point kicked off the day on a positive vibe. All we had to do was to cycle 106 miles through hills, glens, tracks, busy A roads, then through the centre of Inverness and on to the full length of Loch Ness, to our lodge in Fort Williiam…..
The ride to Inverness was pleasant but uneventful. Alex treated himself to a side trip to the Balblair whiskey distillery for some tasting, before stocking up on some ‘essentials’. The riders who had already got to Loch Ness were enjoying a scenic & spectacular ride alongside the famous water for 23 miles. The undulating landscape and 20mph headwinds made it a tougher ride than expected, but we were rewarded with amazing views through the forest & across the valley.
Another tough 40 miles later, everyone arrived at our lodge, exhausted after 13 hours in the saddle, but elated at another day successfully completed.
5.00am: Our four fresh faced ‘kings of the road’ emerge to meet the first of the nine days of cycling from John O’Groats to Lands End with a mixture of naïve enthusiasm & healthy trepidation.
For the next 130 miles facing extremely strong headwinds, phrases such as ‘barbaric’ and ‘nightmarish’ would be heard ringing through the glens & lochs of the Scottish Highlands.
The route took us through some of the most beautiful scenery that the Highlands have to offer. From vast lochs surrounded by heather covered hills & forests to the prettiest of single track roads winding past remote farms & crofts.
Taking stops every 20 miles or so to ‘carb up’ & rehydrate, the boys did a remarkable job in ever changing weather, from bright sun to drizzling rain, to 30 mph headwinds.
Arriving at our Lodge a full 12 hours after leaving this morning, a large curry was washed down with a couple of well-earned beers.
A 5.00am alarm in the morning signals the start of day 2, hopefully wind won’t be such a problem. That said, a lot of curry was consumed!