Sunday 20th June 2010 will forever be remembered for the day we arrived in Land's End to a huge crowd, clear blue skies and in excess of £315,000 raised for ParalympicsGB.
With 1017.5 miles behind us during the 9 day event, the relief of seeing the finish line was almost too much for some riders and there were so many happy yet exhausted faces munching on Cornish pasties and cream teas! For one gentleman the day will also be remembered as the day he proposed to his wife, riding across the line with "Jo, will you marry me?" scrawled on a white t-shirt.
For the most part the ride had been an exhilarating expedition taking in what felt like every hill in England and Scotland! With best parts being the views from every change of direction we took, it was hard to choose a favourite place on the ride. Towing a small group of riders to the bottom of Glen Coe and then the awesome views as we ascended during the first day of blue skies was a pretty special moment, but then the views as we entered the Lake District and the wild ponies on the top of the moors really we spectacular. High up on the moors between Bolton and Blackburn also gave a stunning view across to the Pennines, with the city of Manchester and Salford sprawled out infront and then as we rode through the final two days, the views out to sea from the Cornish coast were just amazing. Our final view of St Michael's Mount was a wonderful surprise amongst the cheeky climbs of south Cornwall and it also marked around 15 miles to the finish. With the weather on our side for the final 7 days of the ride, there really was no better place to be cycling.
Of course, with any gruelling event there will be plenty of low points and for me Day 3 and Day 6 were two of the worst. After the exhilarating climb over Glen Coe, the road down the side of Loch Lomond frightened the life out of me and things didn't get much better as I grovelled my way through the lanes off the Erksine bridge. It was here where the road surface was in pieces and doing nothing for saddle sore! Day 6 started so well and ended so badly and with no warning about the gears needed to climb Long Mynd I was one of many miserable riders trudging uphill and pushing the bike!
Although I keep saying it, there really was no more inspirational people than those we rode past everyday we started out last. No one had ever ridden so many big mile rides back to back and for those taking 12 hours or more to finish as stage there was very little time before they were back out and in the saddle again. Hats off to everyone who took part and a huge thank you to all the fundraisers, the money raised goes beyond everyone's expectations and is a testament to the dedication of the riders and their support crews.
Apart from the riders, there were many other people on the road giving everything to keep the riders safe. Our motorbike marshalls had their work cut out with the spread of ability, but they handled the event brilliantly and kept everyone safe. Then there were the chaperones, the guys on push bikes, out everyday to the bitter end keeping the riders moving even when they thought their legs weren't working - these guys were also the unsung heroes. It didn't matter where we were, there were always family and friends lining the route in support and so many local people waving and cheering from their gardens. From tasty food each night, to the security keeping us safe on camp and the Halfords team keeping the bikes all working, it was a fantastic atmosphere. ParalympicsGB and Deloitte were always there to welcome us and with so many riders to chat to on the way, the atmosphere was fantastic.
I can't thank my own support crew enough either, because without their famous jam butties and the constant supply of coke and vimto, bananas and chocolate, the daily massage and all the washing done in the blink of an eye, our journey could never have run so smoothly. Following for hours in the car, helping out anyone else who needed a gel, some water, a blast of air from the track pump or just a word of encouragement, they were out on the road everyday and keeping us fuelled and safe.
It's great to be home and reflecting on all those miles in my legs and of course there's not long to wait before I test them out this weekend at the Nationals with the rest of my Horizon Fitness team mates!
– Pauline Courtois leads after first day
World Weightlifting Championships