250 Miles, 15 Hours

It’s been a month since I completed the Manchester to London Bike Ride for Cancer Research UK so it’s prime time to say thank you for everybody’s support. Thanks to the generosity of family, friends and colleagues my total sponsorship reached £2,195.

With another 150 cyclists, I set off from Manchester Velodrome at eleven am Saturday 8 June and arrived, by the Olympic Park in London at a quarter to eight on Sunday morning. I was lucky enough to be in the first group that finished. Our actual cycling time was 15 hours – the rest of the time was spent eating or waiting at traffic lights. My bike computer calculated that we used 15,471 kilocalories – which is about as much food as I usually eat in a week, or put another way 67 quarter pound burgers and four gallons of beer (which would make a decent barbecue).

The ride itself was 246 miles with 3,191 metres of climbing. The ride through Manchester and Stockport was punctuated by traffic lights. It didn’t feel as if we’d got going until the roads opened up into the peak district and we started the first major climb of the day: 300m in just under half an hour followed by a glorious descent into Buxton.

The first food stop was a relaxed affair enjoying a coffee in the sunshine while the mechanic tweaked my gears. The next stage was some of the best riding of the day. We were all thoroughly warmed up, riding with a slight tail wind. The pace picked up , the hills and miles disappeared under our tires. Our group of twenty five arrived at the first hot food stop with enough provisions for 150 people though it’s difficult to say how much was left once we’d eaten our fill. Faced with lasagne, chips, salad, Stilton, roast chicken and possibly the largest slice of carrot cake I’ve ever seen, I had my own “Man vs Food” moment. Man won. This was much needed energy as the the third stage was a brutal succession of small climbs. The pace of our group picked up – we averaged 18.6mph over the next forty miles. Many of the group were dropped on this stage. Five miles from the end of the stage, my legs gave way on a hill and I was dropped from the group. I fought my way back only to be dropped again a mile from the end. Fortunately, this was still close enough to rejoin the group after topping up with coffee, pretzels and anything else packed full of sugar and salt.

By the start of the fourth stage, the sun had set and the temperature was dropping. The countryside turned into a blur of darkness and bike lights. This was the point, after 120 miles when we started to feel the fatigue. The group worked well together, keeping spirits high with thoughts of hot food at the next stop. We were running ahead of schedule and so stopped for almost two hours. More coffee, more crisps, more potatoes, more pasta and more cake.

We started the penultimate stage at 1am. After 10 miles we hit Stokenchurch hill, climbing 200m in 45minutes. The descent was fantastic. I was in the middle of the group as we spread out and speeds picked up. All I could see were bike lights spread out in front and behind. Shortly after this we arrived in Marlow packed with revellers shocked to see a peloton cruising the streets at 2:30am. The reaction and cheers from the crowds were brilliant.

After another long break at the next rest stop while the signing was finished on the final stage, we set off at sunrise. The last 36 miles through London took in some surprised early morning drivers, the Strand, Buckingham Palace and the Olympic Park. We finished with a medal, a glass of champagne and a bacon sandwich. I collected my bag, sat in my brother’s car and fell asleep.