Day 1 of the CHECT South Coast Spectacular – 12-06-2011

Today is day 1 of the latest charity cycle challenge organised by Ride2Raise. It is organised on behalf of CHECT, the children’s eye cancer charity, and the riders – Dave, Duncan, Matt, Owen, Peter, Richard, Simon and Tristan – have done an amazing job in advance of the ride with their fundraising pledges. Over £12,000 has been raised before a wheel has even turned on the ride!

For me, as one of the support team, I will have the relatively easy job of following the route in the support car, bike maintenance, first aid if needed, and general admin on the three-day ride. Sounds easy… It’s 5:30am. Yes, half past five on a Sunday morning. The ride starts in Brighton and I’m in Essex. My day starts with a drive to Dorking to meet ride manager Richard and fellow support team member Julian (Jules), where I expect to be greeted with a nice bacon sandwich to start the day. I start the day with a disappointment… no bacon sarnie. Still, toast, coffee and we’re on our way to collect Peter King, the ‘celebrity’ of the riding team, and we’re off to Brighton. It’s my first Ride2Raise as a support team member. Jules has done two already so he’s in charge of the driving, a decision the four of us briefly question the wisdom of as the Land Rover Discovery support vehicle bounces off a kerb as we discuss the plans for the day. Oops! You concentrate on the driving Jules.

9:30am in Brighton and the rain is seeping through our clothes, it’s colder than it’s supposed to be in June, the wind is blowing brutally along the seafront and gradually the team of eight unimpressed looking riders arrive. It’s tough to be enthusiastic given the conditions but brave faces are put on, hellos are said, Fiona from CHECT thanks the riders for the work they have already done to secure a fantastic amount of fundraising, and the work they are about to do to justify it and the eight cyclist are off… to the pier for some photographs.

I’m team photographer and I can already sense I’m the least liked person on Brighton seafront at this particular moment so after a quick few snaps the team are off, heading west along the seafront. There are 200 miles of riding ahead of them over the next three days and I can see why they are keen to get going.

The first part of the day is straightforward. The route hugs the coast as much as possible so there is no drama. Sea on the left means we’re going the right way. Jules and I spend the two hours getting to know each other, and the Garmin navigation system, a bit better. We stay close to the riders to make sure there are no problems and go on ahead from time to time to make sure we, and the riders, understand the planned route. Near Littlehampton we spot some stylish and brightly coloured beach huts which will make a great photo backdrop. Newly painted in yellow, green and bright blue they will contrast with the grey, overcast skies and driving rain so we wait for the riders with the camera ready.

This carefully planed photo opportunity is largely ruined by vehicles overtaking the riders but it’s clear as they pass us that the bitterly cold wind coming off the sea has taken its toll and eight faces blasted by driving rain need to stop for a while. 200 yards down the road is the welcoming, award-winning architecture of the East Beach Cafe. Eight bikes are pretty much abandoned outside and the riders pile in to the warm, dry cafe for Coffee and a slice of cake. It’s been a tough start for the riders. I’m sure nobody expected conditions like these, but everyone seems happy enough and I’m already full of admiration for these eight guys. I’d wound the car window down once to take some pictures and that was enough for me. The wind and rain was horrible so I wound the window back up. The riders are two hours, and about 20 miles, in to an 80 mile ride and the weather is as bad as it was at the start.

The East Beach Cafe is clearly a popular stopping point for south coast cyclists. We meet a couple of guys cycling in the opposite direction – heading for Brighton having started in Portsmouth – raising money for Meningitis research, wish each other well, pay the £42 bill(!) and the riders head off into the very slightly improved conditions.

For a while conditions improve. The rain almost stops and the dated, welcoming yet unappealing seaside towns along the coast from Bognor Regis to Pagham and into Hunston pass by unremarkably. After around an hour the support vehicle and cyclists are on the same stretch of road. Conditions are worsening again and a sturdy and large bus shelter is spotted. Fingers are pointed and some strange sign language combined with unintelligible noises from various riders and support team mean that we all understand this is where we should stop for lunch. This, so Jules tells me, is a stressful time for the suport vehicle team. Eight wet riders all want to grab their bags from the back of the carefully loaded vehicle at the same time. They also want lunch and, after they have finished it, will drop bags, rubbish and half empty drinks bottles in the back of the car.

That may well be the case but I don’t get to see any of that. It comes to light that Simon, one of the riders, has only had one gear for most of the ride so far. Respect to him for keeping up but inspection shows a woeful lack of servicing on what we learn is a borrowed bike. The rear outer gear cable is frayed and split, the inner cable is exposed and twisted and there is simply no movement at the rear derailleur. The only solution is a replacement cable. Fortunately, Ride2Raise support vehicles carry spares for such situations. Unfortunately the rain is as strong as ever and the only shelter for miles is full of cold and wet cyclists stuffing themselves with Waitrose sandwiches and Hula Hoops. It’s a good job RideRaise support teams are tough, and revel in challenging situations. The cable is replaced at the side of the road, the rear brake which has obviously been dragging on the rear wheel since the start of the ride is freed up a little, and the team set off for the afternoon.

There’s a lesson here for anyone who thinks they can do a long-distance ride without paying at least some token attention to basic servicing. You can’t! On a Ride2Raise managed ride there’s a service team to fix your bike no matter what the conditions, even if you are sixty miles from civilisation. On most other rides you’ll be on your own. Service and clean it before you go on the ride or you’ll be the one with water dripping off your nose, filthy hands and a bunch of frustrated fellow riders breathing down your neck!

Back to the ride and things aren’t improving for the riders. The wind and rain is clearly not going to let up all day but morale at lunch has been great and somehow it doesn’t seem to be affecting them at all. They point themselves toward Chichester and Havant and head off again. Jules and I stay behind for a while to eat our own lunches and lose track of time a little. When we set off we’re not sure how far the riders are likely to have gone since lunch. After a slight wrong turn we’re convinced that the riders are behind us so we turn round to re-trace the route in case there has been a problem. It turns out we must have turned round about 200 yards behind them as we double back again and catch up with the team stopped at the side of the road, and a bike clearly undergoing repairs at the top of a climb near Brockhampton. It’s a puncture for Matt and the repair is almost finished when we arrive so we leave the riders to finish the repair while Jules attends to a minor grazed knee caused by a slight fall. We’re up high at this point and up here the wind is as brutal as we’ve experienced so it’s a quick pump up of the tyres and the riders set off for the last 15 miles of the day. After a few miles Jules and I part company with the riders as our job includes making sure everything is in place at the hotel, ready for the riders to head straight for a hot shower when they arive.

Everything is in order at the Mercure Southampton and the staff are very helpful, bags are deposited in rooms and bang on cue the riders arrive after another puncture for Matt and probably one of the toughest days of cycling most of them have ever experienced.


CLICK HERE for Day 2 diary of the

CHECT South Coast Spectacular


7 Responses to “Day 1 of the CHECT South Coast Spectacular – 12-06-2011”

  1. Day 3 of the CHECT South Coast Spectacular – 14-06-2011 « Ride2Raise Says:

    […] Day 1 – CHECT South Coast Spectacular […]

  2. Issue 19 « Raise Digital Magazine Says:

    […] A full diary of this year’s CHECT South Coast Spectacular is HERE. […]

  3. Ride by Ride – the story of Ride2Raise in 2011 Says:

    […] Read the ride diary HERE. […]

  4. CHECT South Coast Spectacular – 3-4 June 2012 Says:

    […] To get a feel for what you can expect, you can read about the 2011 CHECT South Coast Spectacular HERE. […]

  5. Ride2Raise News: April 2012 Says:

    […] photograph was taken on last year’s CHECT South Coast Spectacular which you can read about HERE. Share […]

  6. Meet the Ride2Raise Team – Tim Watling Says:

    […] South Coast Spectacular (3-day version). […]

  7. Introducing CHECT, the Childhoood Eye Cancer Trust Says:

    […] To get a feel for what you can expect, you can read about the 2011 CHECT South Coast Spectacular HERE. […]

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