The alarm went off at 5am and signalled the start of an epic journey. 4 months of training and planning and this was the day…. No turning back.
The route was set, starting at the West Brom site, up to the Nottingham office and on to the Manchester base. Sounds easy when you say it like that!
After a quick kit check and photos we were off. Tour De France riders are on closed courses with clear directions. Rich and I had loaded the route onto bike computers with 1 inch displays and immediately took a wrong turn…. The first turn of the day…. One job….Welcome to West Brom!
First sections of the day were mainly along canal tow paths which on Google earth looked quite rideable. In reality they were bumpy and stoney which made for slow going. Aside from that the views were ace, and we saw a lot of wildlife including Herons, Mallards and a few really angry, hissing geese. Welcome to Burton On Trent!
After a few hours of tow paths, foot paths and a few miles through a farmers field set up for clay pigeon shooting (luckily not being used at the time!) we saw a sign that we couldn’t pass… Starbucks in Sinfin. Top level athletes ensure they are well hydrated and keep as cool as possible… advice we immediately ignored as we tucked into hot coffee and cake, baking in the 25 degree morning sunshine. Welcome to Derby!
The next segment saw yet more canal paths, narrowly avoiding a dip in the water while navigating our way under a few very low bridges. More twists and turns including one that lead us over some particularly rough terrain and POP a puncture. Tour De France teams have a troop of mechanics ready to swap bikes and wheels on the road at any point in a race… Rich and I were immediately offered assistance from a guy on a mountain bike….who had amazing handling skills given he was holding on tight to a can of Skoll Super in one hand and a Benson & Hedges Gold in the other. Welcome to Sandyacre!!
Finally at the Nottingham office, and hour and a half behind schedule, we were ready for lunch. Professional riders have a team of skilled nutritionists planning a high performance diet…. and they can keep them!!! We had one better…the one and only Tom Bennet who made an amazing chicken, bacon and avocado pasta pesto with rocket and Parmesan shavings. Best. Lunch. Ever. Welcome to Nottingham!!
Then reality hit, we were 62 flat miles in , we had 73 more to go if we were to complete the challenge and it was time for things to get real. The hills. The terrain from Nottingham to Matlock was particularly lumpy and the temperature was rising. We were glad to get onto the A6 which offered a flat final few miles before a quick pit stop for ice cream and Diet Coke (in the shade this time!) Then it was onto the next town for Sausage cobs and water refills. Welcome to Bakewell!
Now the climbing really started, the long drag along the Monsal Trail offered breathtaking views but was tough going on the constant incline. Off the trail and into the biggest climb of the day. Banter stopped and the views were ignored as we battled up the final unrelenting climb. We. Dug. Deep. Then we crested the final wall of a road and were immediately gifted with a fast, long downhill ride. Welcome to Chapel En Le Frith!
It was the last section of the ride and all downhill, we had missed the rush hour traffic so the going was good. Tour De France riders have staff called soigners who are placed along the route, standing at the side of the road with arms outstretched with fresh supplies. Rich and I had a bloke at a bus stop holding out a Rothmans Super king shouting “here you go lads!”. Welcome to Stockport!
That was it, we had done it. 136 miles 4,400 feet of elevation with 10 hours riding time on the clock. Laura and Dan were very kindly waiting for us at the Manchester office (well the pub next door!) with cold beers and congratulations. That beer is in my top 10. Welcome to Manchester!
This wasn’t just a personal adventure for Rich and I, but a hard challenge to raise money for an amazing charity. Please give generously to the Trussell Trust and help us reach our target and help people who really need it. If you wish to donate, please follow this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/musclefood1
Big thanks to the Charity Committee for helping to organise the ride (especially Danielle), Tom for feeding us so well, Laura and Dan for waiting to see us at the end and Chloe + everyone else who pedalled away on the spin bikes. Special thanks to Elwyn for his messages of “encouragement”….and finally to our unnamed mechanic and soigner.
Will and Rich