Days 6 and 7 of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain gave me the opportunity to
ride in a bigger group for the start of both stages.
On Day 6 we were leaving Manchester and heading to Ludlow and it was from here that some of the other para-cycling squad would join the ride for the
day. Helen Scott, tandem pilot, Terry Byrne and Shaun McKeown, both class C4 and coach, Chris Furber, all made the early start for what was billed as an
108 mile stage, but ended up being 111 miles.
The start was flat but busy as we contended with the rush hour through
Knutsford and Middlewich, however soon enough we were out in the Cheshire lanes and heading for a brief time over the border into Wales and then skirting Shrewsbury before the hilly finish into Ludlow.
We'd all been told there would be a steep-ish climb at the end of the ride, but no one was prepared for what we actually faced. It might as well have been a rock face as we slowly approached this sheer climb from the steep side of Long Mynd.
With the 39x25 ratio most people seemed to have, there was little chance of
us pedalling up and I sadly became one of the walkers. I'm told only 12
people were able to ride up it, but only because they had been fortunate
enough to have been on a triple or compact anyway. If only we'd been told
the severity, we could have been prepared!
After this the run into the finish was far longer than everyone realised and
everyone we spoke to was glad to have made it back.
Day 7 was starting with some filming with Channel 4, the broadcaster of the
London 2012 Paralympic Games. This meant a slightly later start than normal
and also meant we had the event chaperones held back, to ride with us so
that the film would have the sense of the mass participation event. Once the
filming was over and we set off at our normal pace, Barney and I got to ride
with the chaperones up to the first pit stop and it was a fantastic section
of the route.
At Deloitte Ride Across Britain the chaperones have been the angels of the
event as, along with the motorbike marshals, they have been the people
making sure that everyone is safe on the road. The chaperones are the event
helpers on push bikes and they are on the road until the bitter end
everyday, making sure that everyone is getting home. Sometimes they have to
push the struggling riders, sometimes they have to talk them through, but
whatever the weather and whatever the time of day, provided it is daylight,
the chaperones are out there keeping everyone moving. It just so happens the
chaperones are all from Chippenham Wheelers and they are led by Andy Cook.
So once our filming was done, we put the hammer down and with the help of
motorbike number one, we made our way at full speed through the lanes around
Hereford and towards the Forest of Dean. It was great to hammer along at
30mph and at times it felt like a Crit race as we sprinted out of corners
and through villages! All these guys are great fun and told us of the people
they'd helped and the long days they'd been keeping.
After arriving at the first pit stop the remainder of the ride was a solo
effort for me, apart from a short distance into the second pit stop when an
amazing guy came whizzing past me on a downhill and sheltered me into the
It's got to the stage of the ride where everyone is starting to marvel at
how far they have come over the past week. On Wednesday we were in the Lake
District, whereas now we're in Devon! The conversations have been about the
incredible distances we've covered, not to mention the extra unnecessary
bits, just to take in yet another climb! It's been great to catch a few
words with the other riders as we move from group to group and they are
usually telling me off for riding too fast!
Today's stage was another gruelling and very hilly slog across 117 miles
from Cheddar to just past Launceston. It was the penultimate day of riding
and it was very noticeable how people are now ready for the ride to be over!
Although we have seen some incredible sights and will no doubt do so again
tomorrow on the final leg, everyone has sore legs, knees and bottoms and for
the people who have spent 14 hours a day getting through the miles, there
has been very little time off the bike over these past 8 days! I really do
take my hat off to the people surviving from one mile to the next, I'm
getting lots more rest at the end of each day because I can finish inside 7
hours and yet I am still struggling to keep the pedals turning at times.
For me today's stage was extra good because we were passing through the town of Tiverton and this is the home of one of my best friends. Joanne Railston and her husband Damian moved down to Tiverton about 6 years ago and they are sorely missed up north, so it was fantastic to be able to stop at the side of the road and have a quick chat!
After Tiverton the hills just kept on coming mile after mile and with a head
wind added in, it meant there was very little rest before the next switch to
the 39" chain ring. I was really grovelling by the time the lead motorbike
found me and helped me negotiate my way through some tricky villages and
narrow lanes. At one point the road was lined with grass down the middle and
I was leaning towards the middle as the trees were hanging over a long way!
Base camp and the end of the stage was a welcome sight and I was thankful
for the cooling cologne and flannel Colin was wiping me down with! The sun
has been shining for these past few days though and with less than 100 miles
[hopefully] ahead of us tomorrow everyone here is looking forward to seeing
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS