Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ride UK24 - Manchester to London

A Team from QBE’s Norwich and London offices, comprising Samantha Howells, Karen Baker, Dean Pointer, Neil Sutton, Neil Higgins, Alex Fitzgerald and myself, Paul Whitlock took part in the inaugural Manchester to London Ride UK 24 cycle challenge on the 8th June, the idea being that you cover the 250 mile course within 24 hours by bike!

For me, the idea was to have a goal to work at and to try and get fit for this year, having always been a mountain biker that had never really cycled over 70-80 miles before, the idea of donning lycra and attempting such a distance I knew would be a really tough challenge. Training has meant that my wife has been a “cycling widow” and most of the weekends for the last 3 months have involved doing 100 miles sportive rides in an attempt to get ready for what I now know was the toughest 24 hours I’ve physically endured.

Despite it being a charity ride and even though the distance itself was a challenge, the organisers didn’t leave it at that, the very first stage comprised of some very long road climbs out of Manchester, across the Pennines and the Derbyshire Peaks and even at 185 miles into the ride the organisers placed in a gruelling Cat 3 road climb and they never took the easy option with the route.

For everyone that took part there were both physical and psychological highs and lows, there are points when you question why you are doing it and feel that you could not turn another pedal, but there are also points where you realise how far you have come already and that realistically you can make it if you can just keep going.

I think we all agreed that riding the opening stages in the sunshine and admiring the beautiful Peaks scenery  was amazing, the camaraderie between the riders was great and the event organisers were brilliant, often they would drive past whooping and hollering and giving you that little bit of a lift needed to keep going to the next rest stop. There were 6 rest stops enabling you to take on food and drink and at 4am they resemble something out of the Living Dead with lycra clad cyclists just trying to summon the energy to eat, let alone get back on the bike to ride the next stage. It does take real self-motivation when you have been riding in the dark for hours and have stopped in the warm for a half hour, to go back out into the cold knowing that you still have over 100 miles to go and have to navigate going across the centre of London when you can barely stand up and the saddle is the last place you want to sit!

It is an incredible event though, with 139 of the entrants of the 141 having finished and 129 of those within the 24 hours, I think that as a team we all did amazingly well and crossed physical limits we did not know that we could prior to the event. I can remember thinking during the night stages the elation I would feel at crossing the finishing line, but by that point I could barely muster the strength to stay upright, the elation came later after a few hours sleep, some food and that first pint and thinking “I have just cycled from Manchester to London in one go….!”

All in all, we will have raised over £9000 for Little Havens Hospices so the sore legs we feel now and have been worth it.

If anyone would like to still add to the fundraising, the link is here:

A few quotes from others:

Samantha Howells:  
Lows – “Being sooo hungry I was like Man vs Food at the food stops”, “6 hours in the dark country lanes with one good light between 3 bikes and bats flying round my head”
Highs – “Having a lovely young man accompany me the whole way because I was last!”

Neil Higgins:
Lows – “ Finishing Stage 2 which time we were 7 ½ hours in, still 35 miles from halfway and with the night cycles ahead. The finish seemed a mighty long way off at this point”, “not being able to keep up with a man on a weird gym bike thing”
Highs - “None!!”

Neil Sutton:
Lows -  “The unexpectedly brutal climb in the Chilterns at 3.30am had me swearing very loudly”, “being overtaken with a mile to go by a man on an Elliptogo”
Highs “..a very acceptable lasagne and focaccia at 2am in a school hall in Oxfordshire”, “crossing the finishing line and seeing my family waiting for me”

Alex Fitzgerald:

Lows – “Lying on the floor of a school hall at 1am not knowing I could sort my bike out, let alone finish the ride..”, “knowing that you’ve got another hilly 80 miles to go at 1am almost broke me..”
Highs – “Riding the Peaks, alternating between the beautiful views and the guy in front’s rear wheel…flying through some beautiful Midlands villages, many hosting fairs with bunting across the street”

Dean Pointer:

Lows – “Punctures! Riding through London after 24 hours on a bike with no sleep”
Highs- “ The climbs and drinking beer in London knowing that we had thoroughly deserved it”

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