Archive for the ‘CHECT’ Category

Day 3 of the CHECT South Coast Spectacular – 14-06-2011

June 16, 2011

Day 1 – CHECT South Coast Spectacular

Day 2 – CHECT South Coast Spectacular

Day 3 – CHECT South Coast Spectacular

I don’t know if it’s true or not. Last night, although we ate dinner in the Richmoor Guest House, where some of our party were staying, I was staying with the remainder of the group in the Esplanade, a few doors down the road along the seafront. So maybe it’s true. Maybe there WAS bingo followed by pole dancing in the lounge of the Richmoor just before we arrived for dinner. Perhaps I’ll never know. Perhaps I don’t want to know. Whatever the truth it was clear that the riders had got on well the previous day and banter and joking between the team members was flowing.

Personally, I like it when a group of people feel relaxed enough in each other’s company to be able to do that. To laugh and joke at minor misfortunes which other riders have experienced is healthy in my book. You’ll get it back, of course, but when you do you wear the badge of someone who is completely accepted by other members of the group. It was clear at dinner that everyone was wearing the badge. This is a good group of guys who have all got each other’s backs and don’t mind a bit of stick.

When you live in a busy city it can be strange to experience the more relaxed way of life in a place such as Weymouth. Breakfast this morning was at eight in the Esplanade and eight thirty in the Richmoor so an early start was always going to be difficult. In the Esplanade, “World’s Happiest Man” Rob had cooked up a great breakfast for us. Riders were feeling the effects of two days in the saddle. On top of that it had been known since the start of the ride on Sunday that Tuesday – the final day – was going to be tough. Properly tough. Even Peter King, the most experienced rider in the group, and a man who has cycled around Britain solo, and raced over the years with some of the best, was showing signs of nerves and suffering the aches and pains of a couple of tough days. He knows today’s route quite well, having ridden it in the opposite direction in the past, so he knows what is coming up today.

A reasonably early start is essential for a number of reasons. Least pressing of those at the moment is that two riders, Tristan and Simon, have train rides home booked from Exeter late this afternoon. Most pressing at the moment is that if we don’t set off soon the warm, bright sunlight which is all around us will convince us that the best thing we can do today is grab a deck chair and make the most of Weymouth’s delights for the day.

I quite like Weymouth. It’s not the slightly run down and slightly depressing British seaside town that most of us remember from our past. It IS a bit like that, and I for one find that kind of seaside town appealing, but Weymouth is different. It’s trying to improve. Trying to embrace the modern visitor. Trying NOT to be what we know it is. I hope it achieves its aim, and the Olympic sailing in 2012 is already casting its influence on Weymouth, but I hope it keeps an element of that black and white, box brownie photographed charm.

Weymouth’s charms are resisted and with almost nothing but a quick wipe down needed for the bikes, the riders set off along the seafront away from the town heading for Abbotsbury.

It’s a pleasant ride at first. We pull off the main road and gradually the scenery becomes more rural. We can see the daunting hills in the distance but for now we just notice historic monuments sitting on top of seemingly inaccessible peaks. We ride past thatched cottage after thatched cottage. Stone walls line the narrow roads. It is truly beautiful and the view back over Chesil Bank as we climb Abbotsbury Hill is truly one of the most stunning I have ever seen.

The riders probably didn’t quite feel the same. Jules and I are in a Land Rover, remember. Half way up Abbotsbury Hill we find the riders in groups of two or three walking up the hill pushing their bikes. What we in the support vehicle haven’t really taken in is just how steep it is along this long climb. It is brutal and all but Matt have been forced to admit that the severity of the climb has caught them out and Abbotsbury Hill has beaten them. Cyclist are proud people. They certainly don’t like to walk, and they most certainly won’t let a hill get the better of them unless it is seriously challenging. This was. Steep hills can be fun for cyclists. Long climbs also, but a combination of the two, close to the start of the day, proved impossible so thankfully the riders stepped – or fell, in the case of one whose initials are RK… – off their bikes and trudged up the hill. Not an easy task in itself wearing cycling shoes. I know they were disappointed but at least they got a chance to take in that stunning view.

But let’s not forget Matt. Admittedly his bike was slightly better set up for serious climbing but we can’t take away from the fact that to make it to the top of Abbotsbury Hill was an astonishing achievement and he deserved all the respect he received from the other riders and support crew at the top.

I admit that I thought one or more of the riders would call it a day at this point. They had all been feeling the effects of some tough climbs at the end of yesterday’s ride but they were nothing compared to this. Some of the riders were not hugely experienced, with maybe 10 miles each way on fairly flat roads being their more usual daily cycle. This had now become serious. We’re possibly less than 10 miles into a 60 mile ride, the first of several serious climbs of the day has almost broken the riders, and the finish in Exeter probably seems an almost unachievable aim. But I wasn’t riding a bike. After a surprisingly short break at the top to take in the views and some refreshment, the enthusiasm to get going again took me by surprise.

Of course there were jokes about hanging on to the support vehicle up the next hill, or calls for some of whatever it is that Tour de France riders take to help them appear super-human. But to a man it was clear that the team were not going to let a setback like this beat them. We are going to Exeter… Bring it on!

For the next few miles things are thankfully easier. We twist and wind along rolling hills on the way to Bridport. South coast village life is evident all the way. Shutters are being painted, roofs are being thatched, gardens are being tended. It’s an appealing picture of a lifestyle most of us rarely experience.

Coming out of West Bay I notice Exeter on a road sign. It’s still a long way off but for the first time the end is, though not really in sight, a genuine target.

Another gruelling climb out of Bridport and the riders enjoy some on-road bonding with another cyclist. He is going solo from Sittingbourne to Exeter and beyond. It’s a nice moment and although he doesn’t stop with us at the top of the climb, Jules hands him an energy drink as he pedals past which he takes with a smile and shouts his best wishes to the team as we wave him on his way.

The morning continues with climbs, short stops to catch breath, then more climbs. Technique is improving for everyone as the hills are seen as a challenge rather than a chore and although it’s been a really tough morning and 16 legs are really feeling it, behind the obvious pain morale is as high as it’s ever been. Every one of the ride team has really pushed their own limits today. We knew today was going to be hard. Really hard. But watching these guys achieve something to be genuinely proud of on every climb is amazing to see, and to feel a small part of.

Lunch will be in Lyme Regis. The original plan was for fish and chips for the riders but a chat at the last refreshment stop concludes that will be too heavy a meal for the riders given the final climbs into Exeter. Jules and I are given the task of sourcing something more suitable so, once we know the riders are as comfortable as they can be for the seven miles into Lyme Regis, we head off ahead to find some locally made sandwiches. We get lucky when we pile into Lyrindas deli in the heart of one of the south coast’s busiest resorts. Kelly and Ben, the staff, couldn’t have been more helpful. 10 fresh sandwiches, 10 bags of crisps, 10 cakes and 10 drinks, all in double quick time at the busiest time of the day. We can’t thank them enough. Better still they offer a nice discount and the lovely Kelly gives us all the change she has in her purse to add to the fundraising pot. Thanks so much Kelly. If you are ever in Lyme Regis they are worth a visit. Website HERE.

Good as the sandwiches are, the riders are struggling to eat. The morning’s gruelling climbs mean that rest is the most important thing on their minds. Food is essential fuel for the rest of the day, as more energy sapping climbs are on the agenda, so the stop is fairly lengthy. That’s fine though. Lyme Regis is a lovely, typically picturesque seaside town. It is also very busy and the sight of our support vehicle and a bunch of riders in CHECT branded jerseys generates a few donations from passers by.

What is clear is that the riders are now focussed on the finish. It’s not that far away. Maybe 30 miles between here and the finish. The last push won’t be easy – there are more stamina sapping climbs to come – but this is the last leg. Brighton is a long way behind us. Even Weymouth, where we started the day, is a distant memory. It’s all about Exeter Castle now. The finish.

Rousdon… Axmouth… a few navigational issues as the minor roads fail to appear on the navigation systems… Stepps Road… Seaton… all very nice to visit but they are quite challenging for the riders so Jules and I stay at the back to protect them from the light traffic on these narrow country lanes.

We ride through the village of Beer. Something for the team to look forward to! The hills are still as tough as they have been all day but pace is surprisingly good. This is a great bunch of guys. Motivating each other, warning following riders of dangers on the road, enjoying the fact that this is something special for every one of them. Maybe I haven’t expressed very well just how tough today has been. Believe me, many groups of riders more experienced than these eight would have found this an impossibly difficult day of riding. All the bikes are performing flawlessly and although the team are tired there is no way they aren’t going to work together to make this happen. This is a very personal challenge. Dave and Sarah’s friends have stepped up to support a charity which means so much to them and have done CHECT proud but it’s more than that. Personal goals are being achieved here and, hard as this day has been, the riders probably wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Branscombe… tick. Weston… tick. Salcombe Regis… tick. On a climb around this area we run into a slightly cocky bunch of local riders. Surprisingly the local riders are quite dismissive of our team. Jokey comments are normal between cyclists but there’s a different atmosphere here. Our guys are not very happy about being accused of not being serious cyclists by the locals. “How far to go?” Richard asks one of them as the local aggressively rides past. “I don’t know where you’re going” is the flippant reply.

Others in the local cycling group almost barge past our team on the way up a challenging climb. They hear Peter jokingly ask “whose idea was it to ride this hill?” as they pass. “That’s what you get in Devon, mate” is their dismissive reply but just at that moment one of their group has a noisy tyre explosion and comes to an abrupt halt ahead of us.

OK, it’s not something we are proud of – we’re supportive of all other cyclists at whatever level they ride – but there was a slightly satisfying feeling as Peter instantly came back with “THAT’s what you get in Devon, Mate!” on the way past the stricken group. We all allowed ourselves a slight smile. We deserved it. We’ve worked bloody hard to get where we are and nobody is going to make light of that achievement!

It’s the final motivation the team needed. There are still some hills to take on as we approach Exeter and drop down through Weston, Street, past the donkey sanctuary and in to Sidford, viewing the climb back up the other side, but we’re nearly there.

Jules and I have one last task before the finish and it’s one of the most important. Champagne! Eight exhausted cyclists will deserve a celebration at Exeter Castle, the final destination after 200 miles of rain, wind, bike problems, hills, hills and more hills. We fill the drinks bucket with ice and a couple of bottles of fizz before parking up in the castle car park and wait to guide the riders in through the clogged rush hour streets of Exeter.

It’s over! A final short climb up a cobbled street and the South Coast Spectacular is finished. Eight amazing guys have helped each other to dig deeper than they have ever done. To ride through some of the toughest conditions I have ever seen for cycling. To climb hills they never though they could consider taking on. Then taking on the next, even tougher, hill. I’m feeling quite emotional as the hugs and handshakes are shared. It’s a big, big moment. It’s been a big, big challenge, and I’m really, really proud of every single one of you.

Dave, Richard, Peter, Duncan, Simon, Matt, Tristan, Owen, you have all been amazing, and it’s been amazing to be a part of this incredible experience. I can’t thank you enough.

Tim

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See all 324 photographs from the ride here: CLICK
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