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Ride Across Britain

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S: Ride Across Britain 2011

FC: Ride Across Britain 2011

1: Finally, with 30 miles to go we overtake the bus, arriving at JOG shortly after. The views in this part of the country are spectacular and the base camp has a strange almost nervous buzz about it. Today's journey finishes with 13 hours until the start and we're left with just enough time to meet the other riders, get some food and more importantly some well earned sleep. Tomorrow, 7 months of training will be put to the test as we get ready for the Ride Down Britain! | 24 hours to go! It's 5.30 am on the day before the RAB starts and the bikes are loaded onto the car ready for the 400 mile journey to John O'Groats. Last night saw the final preparations take place in the form of Stuart actually getting his bags packed! I should clarify however that Stu played no part in this process opting instead to stand back and watch his wife do this for him. It was clearly the right choice as everything was packed with military precision and all items from chargers to clothing bagged and clearly labeled with rider name and number (I suspect even Stuart may have 'Cottee - 1169' stamped on him somewhere). Two and a half hours later we are quite literally rallying up the A1, (I didn't know Q7's had the acceleration of a NASA space shuttle but each time we overtake a slow moving lorry I'm looking over my shoulder to make sure the bikes are still sitting securely on the rack behind me). The sat nav says we still have 7 hours to go and apparently Stu's already had emails telling him that the RAB will be easy compared to 10 hours in the car with me! (Pickard, I know it was you) A pit stop and a truck fire later we're entering Scotland and it's a sobering thought that it's going to be four days before we pedal back across the border towards Carlisle. As we approach lunchtime we find out that the rest of the Leeds RAB team have arrived at Inverness airport and are about to catch a coach to JOG. Given we're only 60 miles south of Inverness ourselves this is starting to feel like an episode of Top Gear as we wait to see whether Stu's dad (who I reckon could give the Stig a run for his money) driving a Q7 can close the gap and outrun the rest of the group to the finish.

2: Stu's blog I am currently sat under canvas looking out on a very pretty but very rainy Scotland, pleased to confirm that I did complete stage 1 of RAB. Key matters of note; 1) Woke up at 5-30 am this morning to the sound of the Pro-claimers (100 miles) feeling suitably inspired from the briefing the day before (the story's of the Paralympians put anything we are doing to shame). 2) Slept okay in tent until about 2am when I had to get up for the loo. Not sure why I struggled to go to sleep after that but it may have been that I froze to death walking bare foot through soaking wet grass. 3) Scotland is indeed changeable. We woke up to bright sunshine and the coast and finished in pouring rain and mountains (clearly Mrs C's grouchy moments have been bred into her). 4) Ride was OK to 50miles but struggled after that as a result of hills, rain, wind and lack of food (need to get to pit stops earlier tomorrow). Arrived back at the camp at around 4pm soaked through and knackered, but pleased that I had 3 hours to spare before cut off. 5) Scenery was amazing. We have seen the Orkneys, some beautiful beaches, rivers rushing through the countryside and a long long lake. Will be interesting to see how I get on tomorrow. Suspect it will be a hard day as there are a few horrible looking climbs and I have no doubt I will be tired from the start. | Day 1 - 1 down, 8 to go!

3: The group agrees to temper the pace and after another ten miles, with me and Nathan leading the way, Simon from GES asks us when that's actually going to happen as we rocket along at what is now 18 mph! (He hasn't ridden with us since) The pace and the sun hold out until mile 90 when the heavens open and we all get soaked. Arriving at base camp 14 miles later we are cold, wet and knackered. Before heading off for bed, we hear tomorrow's weather forecast contains no sign of rain. This puts us in a more positive mood and the team starts to talk tactics for tomorrows route. (Ps. The only tactics we currently have are pedal fast, slow or not at all, but it is only day one!) | Tim's blog Just in case you wondered whether Stu made it to the start line, here's picture proof. As for the rest of the weekend, here's a quick update: Saturday starts with the most critical question of the day from Ash (our Birmingham training buddy and unofficial team mechanic) which is, "Stu, what are you going to wear today?" Obviously they are worried about having clashing outfits. However, in his usual direct manner, Stu responds by simply dropping his jogging pants in the middle of the field and saying, "Is that ok?" Thankfully he had his choice of cycling shorts underneath, but I'm not exactly sure what the other people nearby thought was going on - if ever there was a time I wanted a sign that read 'He's not with me', that was it! As we get ready at the start line the Leeds and Birmingham entrants come together, (we're at the back because the bloke from Birmingham took all morning to pack his bag). The sun is shining and everything looks promising. The route is great, with stunning coastline and riverside scenery, slow steady climbs and fast descents. Before long we're clocking 16 mph and I'm seriously concerned that we're not pacing ourselves correctly and are in real danger of burning out by day three (we've already lost Stu and Ash by this point). Arriving at the first pit stop we find there are no sandwiches left and all I get to eat is a bar of flapjack and the smallest bag of Jelly Babies you've ever seen. Things are looking worse.

4: Ashley's blog The prelude The journey up to John O'Groats couldn't have been better. We flew up to Wick and caught a cab to JOG. The base camp was quite a sight with over 300 tents all lined up and labelled. We had the team briefing at 8.30 and started to realise what a long journey lay ahead... Nine days in the saddle to support Deloitte RAB and the 1m target for ParalympicsGB. A real challenge and a fantastic choice for Deloitte. | Stage One Stage one took us 104miles, but not all South unfortunately. When you study the map of Scotland you realise there aren't any roads and those there are don't go direct. More importantly, it is going to take us four days to reach England! The ride goes smoothly for us all. Glorious weather and views of the Orkneys. Unlike some riders that got to camp by 2pm, the Deloitte team took their time and caught up with rain, getting in very wet by 4! Knew the mudguard would come in handy, despite the fully warranted abuse received! Dinner, ride briefing and bed by 9.... We know how to party on a Saturday night!

5: The second pit stop was at mile 72 – only 27 miles to go and according to Lightfoot all downhill from 90 miles. That of course turned out to be untrue (no surprise there), but it was true that we spent most of the miles from 72 to 90 steadily climbing ! | Day 2 - Hills and Thrills | Stu's blog Day 2 complete. Body broken, but elated to have made it to Fort William in one piece. Last night was a rough one. Rain leaking through tent, soaking feet and various items of clothing. Woke again at 2am needing the loo. Grass was soaked but rain had finished. Limited sleep from then on as it appears there was a bear sleeping in the tent next door (snores on a par with my wife!). Choice of music today only added to the gloom. Some classical number, not good for someone feeling sore all over and far from in the mood for getting on a bike. That said at 7am I was on start line, refreshed by my porridge, pills and a sausage sandwich ! It was lucky I was up for it as this was a pig of stage. Two difficult climbs the first of which started at mile 7 and climbed for 3 miles at a fair old incline. The second was equally tough as we went through a series of climbs from mile 40 to mile 55. Both climbs were however worth it as we saw some stunning views of mountains and lochs. From mile 55 we went Nessy spotting – a long drag along the shores of Loch Ness, no monster but plenty of annoying hills (it was flat on the pre-stage map !).

6: I limped back to base camp and 10 cautious miles later I was pleased to find I was yet again finished a stage with 3 hours to spare. The pain (and cost) of sorting out a new wheel was numbed by the camp site location. Truly amazing. As I sit in my tent I am able to look up at the snow covered tops of Ben Nevis. Class – this is why I signed up for this $hit. Stu PS tomorrow is going to be a nightmare. Bad weather, an extended route (now the longest stage 120 miles) and yet more climbing – even more than today ! May be no blog tomorrow as suspect if I make it then it will be food and bed..... | Just when things were looking good and I was nearing the top of what I hoped was the final hill of the day disaster struck. A stone flew up, smashed a spoke, the spoke went into my chain and I was pedalling air. I was then dumped on the grass (wounding only my pride). When I caught up with Ashley a few minutes later he informed me that the damage was worse than I thought as I had buckled my back wheel severely.

7: Tim's blog Today's blog comes from the base of Ben Nevis. Now whilst the view is amazing and should put me in a positive mood for writing this blog, it doesn't. The reason being that I am really beginning to hate the weather in Scotland! You're told Monday will be free from rain then when you wake up it's freezing and you can't see two tents down due to mist. As a result, all the fine weather gear is repacked and I dig out the winter tights. | That proves to be a big mistake too. We cycle no more than 5 miles (btw - we've started late again because the Birmingham lad arrives on time but then decides to fit a new water bottle holder) and the clouds clear and the sun comes out. I spend the rest of the day sweating to the point I thought my legs were on fire! The route today was great but with two tough(ish) climbs before we descend down to Loch Ness don't ask me what it looked like because I spent most of the time with my head down looking at the road. At this point my energy reserves have left me and the ride becomes a real struggle as the undulating route starts to take its toll. Thankfully the guys notice and tow me the remaining distance to the second and final pit stop. After some well earned food we're off again and the journey to base camp passes quickly (at least for us). We later learn that, further back, a flicked up stone takes out one of Stu's spokes which buckles his back wheel and he has to limp the remaining ten miles back - gutting! At the evening briefing we're delivered the final blow. Not only is tomorrow forecast for rain (apart from when we reach base camp when it's due to clear - fantastic) but due to road works we have to include a detour. This effectively ramps tomorrow's route up to a staggering 120 miles (ps did I mention the rain?)! Two positive things though are that, to share the misery we'll be riding with Stu and Ash tomorrow and, assuming we make it, we're celebrating completing a third of the ride with a pint in the bar afterwards, or in Stu's case a malibu and coke! As a result, expect a shortened blog tomorrow if it's written pre beer or a lot of typo's if it's written post. Tim

8: Ashley's blog Sunday 5.30, woken by "Ride of the Valkaries".... I open the tent and shut it again. Surely it can't be that misty, I can't see the next tent. Can it really be this cold in June? On the start line at 7. Opted for head to toe lycra outfit. Wrong choice as the day pans out nice again. Those at home in the Midlands have got rain like stair rods, we know it is coming our way. Some difficult climbs but amazing views. We cycle the length of Loch Ness which is simply stunning. Base camp is at the foot of Ben Nevis. All have arrived safely, slightly sun kissed and privileged to have such clear views of the surrounding mountains. We have a pep talk from Paralympian Gold medallist Danny Crates. Inspiring. Hopefully it will get us over the enormous hills tomorrow. The route summary tells us that we pass a ski station in Glen Coe, sounds like some work getting there to me! The downside is that tomorrow is 114 miles... And road works have added a 4 mile diversion. 2 days down, more news tomorrow.

9: Day 3 The Best and the Worst so Far The flash update! I'll get this in before Stu does but the inevitable has happened, I fell. Combination of wet weather and slippery roads caused me and my bike to part. The dive off my bike would have looked more heroic apparently, if I hadn't been screaming like a girl. Pleased to report both are OK but the weather is now getting the better of me. We are 50 miles in and I'm soaked, tired and fed up. We have climbed so high today we even passed a ski resort! We've finally reached the first major pit stop but still have 70 miles to go to get to Glasgow. Apparently they're keeping the route open until 8 today given the weather. If I'm out that long they'll definitely be no other blog today! Wish us luck. Tim

10: Stu's blog An epic day. Really don't know where to start, but I guess the best way to summarise today was that it was a horrendous stage for a whole host of reasons (see below), yet probably my best to date and therefore one that gives me a real feeling of pride. Key points of interest; # woke this morning to the pouring rain, felt shocking - ached everywhere and really very tired. # mood improved following a rendition of "Manic Monday" by the Bangles (great song and one I am happy to hear even at 5-30 am), a bowl of porridge and a bacon sarnie. # set off in atrocious conditions accompanied by not only Ash Hollinshead (my official chaperone) but also Mr Lightfoot and a guy called Ant from Birmingham. # Lightfoot was apparently going to have an easy day making sure I was OK. In fact he dragged me round at a pace which left me properly F#cked by the first pit stop, decided to dive off his bike right in front of me in an accident that wouldn't have looked out of place if Lewis Hamilton had done it, sat behind me for the next 50 miles and then raced off and left me at the finish. # Ant was a great addition to the team. Seems he has confused me for Dec (must be the Geordie in me) as he stuck to me like glue. Unfortunately whilst his witty conversation and motivational | the night before... | the morning after...

11: chat was really very much appreciated, he too has identified my windbreak qualities. So much so that he sat behind me for the full 123 miles! Now they say that sitting behind someone makes it 35% easier than riding out front. Add to that a further 25% for my girth (Ant is a skinny chap) and a further 10% for age (Ant is a bit kid) and it would appear that he did about 30% of what I did today! # Back to the ride. Basically it pi$$ed it down for the first 3/4 hours during which time we climbed Glen Coe. During this time I discovered; A) that my waterproof gloves aren't (still wet now). B) that Glen Coe is a ski resort (explains why it was so high and so cold). C) that wearing shorts isn't macho even if you are a northerner (I was soaked). | # We descended Glen Coe at pace and got to the pit stop in time to get a full array of snacks (that is good reason to get a shift on as there is more food if you get there early). We also went for a hot coffee to put some life back into our bodies. Only 70 miles to go. # Following some beautiful lakeside rides, Glen Coe was swiftly followed by Glen Ogle (hard in its own right but with legs already shattered by earlier climbs a real treat). It was at this point in a fit of anger that I realised that the Scots have lots of phrases for "fu#kin big mountain". These include - Ben, Glen and no doubt Bob! I am also going to kill the next person who refers to "a long slow drag" as it turns out this is also code for fu#kin big mountain. At least the sun came out! # So why am I so cheery. Well I made it! Not only that I was at the campsite more than 2 hours before the cut off time and in the middle of the pack. I cycled well - felt really great until almost 100 miles. I can actually feel my body getting stronger (at least my heart and lungs!). I am now 13th from last amongst the Deloitte folk with single tents (I was last bar 1 on day 1). # Tomorrow's another day. In theory an easier stage (103 miles and less climbing than any of the days so far). However, it is expected to be windy (15mph) and whilst my heart is stronger my legs are really very sore (calves, hamstrings, knees and quads). Fingers crossed for a good wake up call and hopefully I will be healed when I get on my bike tomorrow.

12: Tim's blog Hopefully you'll all be glad to know that both me and Stu have survived. Today has been a roller coaster and I'm not just talking about the terrain. After my close encounter with the grass verge at 20 mph we were faced with a gruelling slog uphill. The views were a pleasant distraction but unfortunately once we descended I hit, what has to be, the biggest low so far and was quickly dropped by the group as I flagged behind. Thankfully, after a couple of miles things change when I find Ant, one of the Birmingham lads, waiting at the side of the road to give me some company on the last leg to the pit stop. As we all regroup, Ant explains that it was Stu who suggested waiting for me. However, when an appropriate place to stop is identified, Stu responded with "F that, I'm on a roll" - Thanks Stu! All told, despite what was a horrendous start to our journey we arrived 10 and a bit hours later in Glasgow where the sun was blazing. Apparently, given my accident today and Stuart's breakdown induced fall on Sunday the RAB team have introduced a new sign for the ride (attached). Tomorrow's weather forecast looks promising and our route sees us finally leaving Scotland heading for sunny Carlisle, and who couldn't be buoyed by that? Carlisle, after all, has produced so many excellent things including and most importantly, ME! | Ashley's blog Day 3 saw us leave Fort William, ascend Glen Coe and cycle 121 miles into the outskirts of Glasgow. Sitting here this evening in the sunny base camp makes it hard to believe we were completely soaked for the first 5 hours this morning. Descending Glen Coe at 30 mph with the rain beating against your face was quite an experience. Coffees all round at the Green Welly service station and we had completed our first 50 miles. Soaked and cold, we had missed the views in the cloud, and peoples enthusiasm is being tested but we are all still determined to meet the challenge. 3 men from the wider group down today and we are reminded of how easily accidents can happen! The Birmingham and Leeds teams join up today to make lives easier for ourselves. The strategy works and we all get to the 75 mile mark feeling fresher than previous days. At the end there is a level of tiredness but it is strangely more manageable than the 2 nights before... I think we are starting to realise that, despite the dark spots that inevitably lie before us, we can see ourselves getting there. A third down, two thirds to go.....

13: Day 4 Hell and Back Stu's blog Day 4 can only be described as Grim. At the first pit stop that was all I had to say and I was going to leave the update to Tim, however I did make it and despite my pain there have been some good moments that I ought to share (not least because I have had some nice notes about my blogging): # Woke at 5-30 to "I want to ride my bicycle" by queen. Not funny when you wake in agony. No overnight healing for me, sore quads, calfs, knees and hamstrings. Felt sick and weak. Seems that the efforts of the day before had taken there toll. # Whilst breakfast helped a little I knew I was in for a tough one before we even left the start. # Once again the team said we would cycle together, but within a few miles I was left with Lightfoot and Ant. It soon became clear that both these chaps were sore at my digs in recent days as they left me for dead. Key highlights for my favourite jokers were:- # Tim tried to kill me at an early roundabout by shouting "clear" only for me to be confronted by a 4 by 4 ! Fortunately I braked in time, but I have confirmed to Tim that this and a series of other incidents have led me to conclude that I will never leave any decisions to him and if in doubt I will do the opposite of what he says. # Ant has now backed away from sitting behind me. Unsure if this was a result of my abuse from yesterday or whether the Powerade induced wind coming from my behind was just too much to bear. Ant has developed a whole series of knew tricks from pedalling at ridiculous speeds up hills (as per Lightfoot), to leaving me for dead (as per Lightfoot) or simply joining another group and sitting on their behind. As a final point on Ant (he has had too much abuse) we have added a new deduction to his effort score - having actually seen him cycle today (as he took a turn up front) it appears he only turns the pedals a couple of times before resting and then another couple of turns.... # Back to ride. Well I don't know what to say about the first 33 miles other than they were truly awful. I could hardly turn the pedals, felt really sick, slowed to a pedestrian pace and was stopping every 5 miles or so. Every hill was agony and I was dropping further and further back in the field with every mile that went by. I really feared that the broom wagon was going to pick me up or that I was simply going to fall down either due to a leg problem or what appeared to be exhaustion.

14: # I was however saved by my legendary chaperone (who does deserve an immense amount of thanks) - Mr Ashley Hollinshead. He sacrificed an afternoon of racing with the boys (Nathan and Lyndsey) to drag me round the next 70 miles. I won't say it was easy as it wasn't (especially the last 20 miles or so), but it was made so much more bearable having someone drive you on. Ash is full of great tips, encouragement and best of all he will drop back and let me draft when he can see I am done. It is also fair to say he is a hard task master never relenting on making me pedal down hills hard so I get up the one on the other side without breaking sweat. # enough low lights, below are a selection of today's best bits:- | 1) Whilst my aches and pains are hopefully temporary gravity is a constant. So much so that Ash and I had great fun clocking in excess of 20 mph for the best part of a 20 mile stint of largely downhill riding. During this period we left Tim and Ant in our wake (although Ant claims he was still getting benefit from my wind-break effect some half a mile back !). We were also outpacing the pro's for a while (much to their disgust). 2) At last nights race briefing we were warned to be more discrete about wee stops. Like the good sorts we are Ash and I duly obliged and made the effort to stop at a proper parking spot and head into bushes. We were doing our business quite happily only to get a huge shock as a Virgin West Coast train shot past in front of us with us on full display to the passengers. 3) Entering England. Now I have a Scottish wife, so have nothing against Scotland per-se. However, the crossing of the border was celebrated by all as we have learnt that in Scotland the roads, weather and hills are all $hit. 4) Arriving at a better quality campsite. Carlisle racecourse much better - food on proper plates, proper cutlery, sitting in grandstand, nice bar and area to sit to have a drink, tents away from humdrum so sleep is possible. 5) Arriving at the end in a reasonable time (over 2 and a quarter hours before cut off) largely due to the hill racing efforts...

15: 6)Tim has confirmed that he is indeed dim. I could write a book on this but today's classics include; A) only 3 miles to England (as we pass a sign which says eight miles to Gretna). B) we've done 93 miles (of our 104 mile stage) only 9 to go. C) "I bought a RAB hoody for 35. It was two for eh... 65" (has to check that is indeed cheaper). Then asked what saving was - response - "a little bit" - needs calculator. Shortly after one of our colleagues says he got his for 32.50 and Tim gets irate until he remembers he actually bought his with a colleague and his also cost 32.50. Appreciate this is now an epic but a few final points; 1) We have now unfortunately lost a few riders either through injury or exhaustion. Tomorrow is a long one (114 miles) and includes a bad climb (Shap) so it is going to be another testing day. Bad news is that we are told days 8 and 9 are in fact the worst (I can't think about that as I just have to get through tomorrow). 2) Just in case you feel sorry for Ant and Tim it is fair to say I get my share of abuse. Most of it seems to revolve around my eating with:- A) Ash trying to make me work harder by conjuring up images of Blythe fish and chip shop (one of my favourite haunts on our training rides). B) a very quick-witted retort to me suggesting I would lose a lot of weight if I kept the cycling up - "not with what you are eating". 3) I had a real treat tonight as Jules came to see me. She and the kids have put up with a huge amount with the training and now the ride. They are really very supportive and I am a very lucky man to have them not least because they have such gems including Julie's latest claim (from a school teacher) that putting a mashed banana down your cycle shorts helps with a sore ar$e [will be interested to see who tries that first as we are all in a bad way with Scotlands roads]. Right it is way past my bed time. Let's hope tomorrow is a better one and that I survive another day! Thanks Stu

16: Tim's blog After 420 miles we have finally crossed the border and have arrived in Carlisle. We even had a team picture taken at the 'Welcome to England and Cumbria' sign which looks about as worn out as we are. However, Stu has now learned some very important lessons:- 1) Don't listen to Lightfoot. This is following my 'all clear' signal at a round about which turned out to be incorrect when Stu, who was following, was faced with a 4x4 heading straight for him! I promise, at the time I went round it was 'all clear' and you'll be happy to know no harm came to the 4x4. 2) Lightfoot can't do maths. This came when I explained that, given we'd done 95 miles out of a 104, there had to be only 12 left to go. You wouldn't believe I have a degree in maths or a career as an accountant. 3) Lightfoot lies. Apparently, I convinced everyone that the English border was only 3 miles away and we could stop for a break then. 5 miles later there we were still 4 miles away and Cottee was less than impressed. 4) A prevention tip for saddle sores. Apparently this involves bananas. I won't say anymore however if we see any of the team taking any from breakfast tomorrow, we can safely say they'll be riding on their own. Today's ride covered 104 miles which we managed comfortably, although signs of tiredness were beginning to show. With 9 miles to go Ashley decides to give us all a lesson in pack cycling (primarily due to the fact that out of the four of us, two (including me) are completely useless at it. This was however, met with little enthusiasm from Stu as he told Ash that, if he did anything other than pedal right now, he was likely to throw up. Consequently, our lesson was over before it started! Tonight we're camped at the racecourse which finally means there's a decent bar. Apparently, at this stage in the event people tend to get a little grumpy as their bodies adjust to the daily mileage however I suspect a couple of beers will loosen everything up just fine, at least for tonight. Tomorrow, we head over Shap (very big hill) and on to Haydock Race Course. At that point we will be over half way. It's a long one tomorrow, at 114 miles. Although the terrain doesn't look bad it's undoubtedly going to be tough. Till then, Tim

17: Ashley's blog Day 4 turned out to be quite a challenge despite the positive feeling when we went to bed. A long day that introduced us to the worst of Scotland's roads. The potholes and terrible surface levelled the playing field as now nobody can claim they don't have a sore backside! We set off in great weather that improved as we went on. Sun cream a plenty but still have tan lines/red patches in funny places from the cycle clothes. The afternoon brought a few lessons in 'drafting' and the Leeds/Birmingham peloton made good ground, using downhill momentum well to get us half way up the hills. Alas, the road surface finally got to us and we crawled back most of the last 30 miles... However, all was about to change. England. The air is fresh. The land is green and pleasant. The Government know how to tarmac roads! A quick photo stop at the sign and a run into Carlisle where camp is all set up at the races. No horses unfortunately but certainly more luxuries and a few more plugs for the phones and Garmins! Tomorrow we face the Lake District and Shap Fell, talked about by any end to ender. Looks like the downhill will be fun at least....

18: Day 5 done. Past half way and a great sense of personal pride, but at what price tomorrow? I need to keep this as quick as possible as I need every bit of rest I can eek out so apologies if rushed. Also less jokes as I didn't see Tim or Ant for most of the day, but hopefully Tim has some stories to tell. Today was hard. For me possibly harder than day 3. I cycled well pretty much all day but only got back to base camp at 6-20 this evening. It was a killer and I fear my legs will be testament to that in the morning. Key highlights as follows:- # Woke this morning to "Country Road" - I think we need a new DJ! # On the positive side my legs felt much better than the day before so the rafts of deep heat had done its work (as far as possible). | # On the negative side breakfast was awful. Lumpy porridge, no sausage or bacon. Just (green!) scrambled egg and cold toast. I was now wishing for an artery coating Scottish breakfast. # Set off at 7-15 am. Soon realised it was going to be a hard day - strong wind and drizzle combined with a sore bum and signs that the knees were still well worn. # the first 35 miles were all about Shap. I had never really heard of this hill but it is clearly related to Shrek as it is just plain ugly. # We spent the first 27 miles climbing steadily until we reached a pit stop at Shap village. I could have liked Shap, it had two Greggs, and I really needed a bacon sarnie - however by this time the drizzle had turned to proper rain, I was running late and it was freezing cold in the wind. | # I was sore and my bike had to go in for repairs (I wish Halfords could replace my knees). In the rush to sort out the bike I failed to get water and didn't focus on sorting my pain. I knew this within the next 10 minutes as we completed the first of what turned out to be a series of climbs in atrocious weather. My rear was killing me, I had no energy and my knees were throbbing. # This prompted an impromptu pit stop and it was clear that this annoyed Ashley as he was stood in a lay-by as the heavens opened. # Cue Anadins, energy gel and big dollop of chamois cream for my butt and I was ready to go (these stops became a regular occurrence today and I am fast running low on painkillers). I grabbed my bike as didn't want Ash to get any crosser (I would need him later in day). Heard a bang on the nearby crash barrier but just assumed it was a stone from a passing car (big mistake). | Day 5 More hills, rain and proper pain.... | Stu's blog

19: # Pain relief in full flow I positively bounced up the next 7 miles to the top of Shap. Our mood was lifted as the sun came out and we began what was sure to be a fun descent. # we quickly got speed up and I was having a great time (must have been high on gels). Then it struck me that my glasses didn't seem to be getting sprayed as much as earlier - oh $hit - that was because I didn't have them on. They were sat on my bike seat when we stopped earlier and that had made the noise when I picked up my bike (as they hit crash barrier and dropped into long grass). # I quickly concluded they were gone as there was no way I was cycling back and no one else would find the right spot to locate them. I would get Jules to courier a spare set, but mentioned to Ash (so he understood if I was struggling to see pot holes). # True to form he leapt into action. Despite my protestations that I would manage today he insisted on flagging down a support car, insisted he knew where the glasses were and insisted on going to get them (in the support car). He sent me off again as we were already dangerously close the back of the pack. | # I spent the next 25 miles cycling like a bat out of hell. Main reason was that I wanted to beat Ash to next pit stop as I knew he wouldn't be too long in the car before getting back to where we had stopped and then hunting me down. Ash had same thought - he was intent on reeling me in. # The lack of glasses was interesting - on the positive - not being able to see makes you very brave (or stupid) on downhills. However it does mean you can't see signs (as evidenced by my wrong turn in Kendal). # big plus for me was that despite a quick stop for a drink (last of my | - | water) and a fudge I was only passed (net) by one single group of (seasoned) riders. # Ash was also riding like a maniac and went from the back of the field past nearly 70 people. He was shocked that I was not one of those 70 and even more shocked when he arrived at the pit stop to see me lying in sunshine finishing my lunch - gravity mate! # it was only then that it dawned on us that we still had 55 miles to go and that time was pretty tight. We set off for what was a horrible long drawn out ride back to base. Why was it horrible well;

20: D) I lost Ash (turned out he got two punctures in the broken glass that littered the streets!). It was lucky that I had my game head on. # I was pedalling strong and in my element weaving through city centre traffic (lots of practice with nutter drivers in Newcastle). Apparently everyone else hates cycling in the city so I think my cheeriness was a bit grating. # I had discovered that regular and liberal application of chamois cream does the job! # I was fuelled by caramel shortbreads that Jules had given me. # And finally I was not going to be picked up by the broom wagon. I was over the moon when I got in as there were still rafts of people out there and for the first time ever I haven't heard anyone say "that was an easy day" (many comments of what a pig of a day it was). The final arrivals made it in at about 8-20 this evening (well after the cut off of 7-30) and there were a fair few who didn't make it today. The miles and the hills are taking their toll. So I am sat in my tent at Haydock Park race course. Dinner was OK. Knees not responding to deep heat so tomorrow may be tough. 104 miles with a big climb at the end - super! | Tim's blog Day five proved interesting. We woke up to another rubbish song choice this morning. In case I haven't mentioned they blast music out at 5.30 am each day to wake everyone up - how nice. At 7 am we headed out from Carlisle working our way through the back country roads which had a distinct uphill feel about them. What were already tired legs were getting more reluctant minute by minute. Furthermore, the grey clouds soon turn to rain and I'm regretting not wearing the water proof jacket. We finally get into the swing of things just in time for our first pit stop at the bottom of Shap. Following a quick snack and some maintenance on Stu's bike we start our main ascent for today which is a good mile long. As usual Stu stops for a 'power break' half way up and is therefore slightly behind as he reaches the top and begins his descent. At this point he realises he's left his glasses behind (which are the only thing Julie hasn't labelled with his name and number). | A) we went through some of the North West’s best venues - Preston and Wigan to name a few. Lovely towns which make Sunderland look nice! I was actually surprised we got out of there without being mugged for our bikes. Although the Wiganers were friendly (a number of them stood and clapped) - oh apart from the guy with a bat tattoo on his chest who walked in front of me as I went through a nice housing estate. B) Yesterday's map showing that the post Kendal route was flat was b#llocks. I don't know why I am surprised by that it has been b#llocks every day exaggerating the steepness of big hills but failing to flag rafts of others which are real b#ggers (you can tell it was bad as the expletives are back - only for MJ and PTW to tone down!). I don't know why we were surprised that the Lake District and indeed Lancashire are hilly, but it did seem to be a common thread of conversation. This was however particularly bad as these hills weren't the rollers of yesterday, no they were always much bigger than the hill you descended and were always very steep. C) the rain was back - no surprise forecasters predicted no rain in June a week ago. We will probably have a monsoon tomorrow.

21: Poor Ash has to flag down a Halfords van to go and retrieve them. Meanwhile Stu is left to career down Shap in the wet, virtually blind! After Shap the terrain was supposed to be flat however that was a blatant lie. I am faced with rolling hills through the countryside on which you can barely maintain a decent pace. I'm on my own at this point as I'd given up waiting for Stu and Ash, not knowing about the glasses incident, and everyone else who went ahead didn't bother waiting for me. Things get tough and lonely for the next 33 miles to pit stop 2 and I'm sick of fresh air, fields, tractors, grass and hedges and I'm longing for a main road, cars, pollution and a town with some sign of civilisation. When I finally get there Stu's not far behind and I find everyone has found the terrain equally hard going which is a relief. The next 54 miles flash past relatively quickly as the terrain improves and so does my mood (slightly). Trying to navigate Preston and Wigan in rush hour traffic however was a bit tricky. At least it wasn't the countryside! | Tonight, Mum, Dad, the dogs, Kate and Neil arrived to say hello. Well actually Neil was told to come and collect the washing and Kate was there because she'd heard there was a bar. It was real boost to see them all and I'm feeling much more confident about tomorrow which despite the forecast of rain is supposed to be relatively flat. We'll see. Ashley's blog Another long day. Should we be surprised by now? We set off over Shap Fell as trailed yesterday. Not much luck with the weather as it was misty on the top. Still, it kept us cool on the climb. On the way down, a certain tax partner from Leeds (Stuart Cottee) announces he has left his glasses on the top. I flag down a Cadbury support car | (we should think about getting one of these), pop the bike on the roof and the driver takes me back up to find them. Stuart is encouraged to carry on as pace hasn't been his thing. Glasses found and I set off back, only to find that Stuart now thinks this has become a race to the pit stop. He wins, marginally, but let's not forget the 30 minute head start! Excitement for the day over, we head South through rolling countryside, followed by the busy towns of Preston and Wigan. City cycling practice sees us through and having traffic to contend with helps focus on something other than the legs. I get completely dropped with a couple of punctures to deal with... Checked the trusty stead into Halfords this evening for a new chain and boots. Not doing punctures on the side of the road again! Night at Haydock Park this evening. Another night in tents but pretty accustomed to the drill by now. James Cracknell has arrived to join us for the second half. If he beats us tomorrow it must be down to his fresh legs! Down to Ludlow tomorrow, fairly flat through the Cheshire plains but over Wenlock Edge at the end to add a challenge for the day (at least it is not Long Mynd!). See some of you there no doubt!

22: Stage 6 (106 miles) done. You will gather from the title it was another tough day. Less so physically (albeit I did struggle for the last 35 miles) much more about my mental state. Whilst I don't want to put people off doing this event it is so much harder than I ever imagined (and I knew it would be tough). Summary of key events for last 24 hours is as follows:- # Went to bed later than intended, concerned about the lack of impact the deep heat was having on my knees. It was a rough night as it was noisy next to the M6 and I was also woken by the constant stream of over-hydrated people running to the loo. # Woke up at the obligatory 5.30am start. First action was to stretch my legs and much to my surprise the pain had passed. Tune for the day was "Morning Glory" by Oasis. Normally a band I like so it was clear from that moment on that I was in a dark place as I muttered once again about the song choice. # It is hard to explain how it feels to wake up for the 6th day in a row knowing you are going to be pushed past your pain threshold whilst your (very sore) ar$e is parked on a seat which looks more like a knife. However, that is what I have chosen to do and it is really starting to take its toll. I guess my mood for the first 35 miles can be summarised by the following:- | 1) If I had been able to locate a sledge hammer I would have happily smashed my bike into bits. I used to love it but now I can't stand the sight of it. 2) When confronted with something called bacon roll (rather than some proper bacon) and yet more scrambled egg for breakfast, I simply couldn't be bothered to fight it. I just took a bite of the former refused the later and trudged to a table. 3) I pretty much refused to talk to anyone over breakfast or in the run up to the start making it clear I was grumpy. This was further emphasised when I deliberately fell back from Ash, Tim and Ant so I could ride the 20 miles to the first pit stop on my own (I didn't want to talk to anyone). 4) I muttered to myself throughout the next 20 miles about how much I hate cycling and cyclists. I also found myself drifting in and out of consciousness having strange thoughts about how much cyclists like the Borg (Star Trek for the uninitiated) - they are simply machines, grinding out the miles, no real personality of their own (sorry but it is true of many of them). They form collectives and communicate by osmosis (or at least strange hand signals (no not wan#er signs). I concluded I was cracking up. # That first stage was horrible. I was on my own (admittedly through choice) and struggled to pedal at more than 8mph. We received the monsoon I mentioned yesterday and were drenched in a 15 minute period of raindrops and hail like tennis balls. # I was dragged through by the odd cheery onlooker who took the time to shout encouragement. I was ultimately picked-up by one of the Paralympians (blind and riding on a two seater with his chaperone - puts me to shame) who took pity on me told me to draft and they pulled me up to a group that were doing a sensible pace | Day 6 - I hate cycling Stu's blog

23: and cracking jokes. That got me through the last few miles, but my mood was still very dark. # things changed 100% between pit-stop 1 and 2. There were a host of reasons for this:- 1) I was able to get a proper bacon sarnie from a entrepreneurial cafe owner who must have made a fortune - no one was interested in the normal pit stop supplies. 2) I dosed up on my fix of anadins, energy gel and chamois cream. 3) We set off from the pit stop and I suggested we played the name game (basically a-z of a chosen topic). We did girls names in quick-fire fashion which caused a few titters (mainly as Tim was struggling to keep up) and I demonstrated the benefit of having practised this with my family as I made it through the alphabet without a fail. 4) We managed to find a great peloton where the chat was good, the pace was generally sound (and fast) and before I knew it we had knocked out another 40 miles without the need for a break and were only 35 from the finish. # The only issue with our blitz to pit stop 2 was that it drained me physically and when we set off for the final leg it was clear I was going to struggle. My knees we're gone again and that was not good given that this was the hilly bit. # The headwind was now strong and we plodded forward at a stately pace (indeed I thought I was in reverse at one point). We then stopped at a pub (closed - which summarises my day) to stock up on gel, anadins and cream before we hit the hills. # These were really tough and included some of the steepest ones I think we have seen so far. Hills are never good for me and my belly but steep ones at | the end of a long day really sap the soul. That said I made it up them all with some great support from Tim and Ant (really great of them to hang back and help). # We were further demoralised by yet another drenching - I am not sure we have had a dry day yet! This prompted an unscheduled garage stop to stock up on fizzy pop before the last hill - Tim refused my offer of ice cream in disgust as we were only 7 miles from home, but I couldn't go another step. # Post Lucozade I was happy (especially when I twigged that Ludlow was going to be downhill - clue is in the name and I am now worried I have spent too much time with Tim). The next 7 miles flew by and we made it to base camp at around 5-30 just before the next huge shower. # Following some fun with tents - tried two before I finally got one that wasn't already inhabited (lucky my mood is slightly better) - I am now showered, fed and ready for a big sleep. Tomorrow is a shorter (91 miles) stage - now we know why the Exec are doing this as their day stage).

24: # on the downside it is fairly hilly and the weather forecast is awful with strong winds and heavy rain predicated. Hopefully I will have my happy head and my sore bits will be rejuvenated... Tim's blog Two thirds of the way! I should feel positive about that but having seen the route profile for tomorrow there's no getting away from the fact that the next three days are going to be extremely tough. Again, today has seen some highs and lows. Most notable highs were:- - Seeing the look of horror on the Birmingham lad's face when, shortly into the ride at a set of traffic lights, Stu decided he hadn't applied quite enough chamois cream that morning, so whips a tub of it out of his back pocket, takes and hand full and applies it to his backside there and then in the middle of the road! This action is repeated by Stu regularly throughout the day and by lunch there's a discernible squelch every time he sits down on the saddle. Well, needs must, I suppose. - Seeing Stu almost fall off his bike. Throwing his hands in the air, having won a game of eye spy we were playing to pass the time on the ride, his elation soon turned to panic as he hits a pot hole and Stu and his bike start to career across the road. Thankfully, he regains control before any serious damage is done. | - Riding for almost 20 miles in a true peloton, even having a go leading the group and actually getting it right! It looks like I may have learnt something from the last six days after all. - And finally, watching Stu crawl along the floor in the dining room just to get a signal on his blackberry. Currently, we're both slumped on the floor next to the charging stand (making the place look very untidy) typing our blogs on our BlackBerry's as they charge. Unfortunately, I'm closer to the door than Stu and so I've got a signal and he doesn't. So as not to disconnect his phone from the charger he is now slowly crawling past me across the floor with phone in hand seeing if he can get a signal before the wire on his charger won't reach any further. It's truly comical! Unfortunately, we had some lows as well which included:- - More rain! Apparently it wouldn't be England if it didn't rain a little everyday. Today we're assaulted on various occasions by torrential downpours which made riding very uncomfortable. - The arrival of grumpy Stu. As we enter pit stop 1, so did a fairly unhappy Cottee. This was brought on by a number of things including bad weather, weary legs and as you may have already guessed from the above, a sore ar*e, just to name a few. Thankfully having trained with Stu before, I spot a quick fix for his mood when I see a sign saying 'Bacon butties for sale'. A sarnie and a coffee later, a much happier Cottee exits the pit stop ready for stage 2.

25: Mixed emotions and performances. Lindsay put in a strong ride coming home early, I had a fast day managing to get into some serious peloton action on all 3 stages, getting in 3 hours earlier than my 'bad' previous day - hey, I had an afternoon not on the bike and I even got to clean the trusty stead for tomorrow. Ant, well, he failed to look out for the blindingly obvious signs and got lost... He was going materially in the right direction.... :) The mileage was again high at 108. We had a complete mix of weather, with torrential "wipers on full speed" rain and glorious sunshine. Good job they make cycling kit in multi parts so you can change on route! Just been to the briefing on tomorrow. Everyone was thinking it was the easy one... 92 miles, and the Deloitte execs are on it. However, we were warned it is going to be a toughy.... Some serious steep hills in the Forest of Dean, heavy rain and a strong headwind. Just seen Andy Hodge at the bar... A keen eager one dayer full of enthusiasm... Let's see what they all make of tomorrow!! Well the end is now in sight, 3 more days. We all think we can now do it, but we still fear the tortuous hills of Cornwall.... Why oh why didn't we go the other way! Anyway, its getting late (9.30!) and I'm late for bed.... More news tomorrow. | - A mile too far. Having cruised through the first two stages (and with over 600 miles in our legs by this point) we find the last leg extremely drawn out and, with some challenging hills, the last 30 miles are a slog to say the least. We eventually limp into base camp just after 5 pm desperate for a shower, some food and then bed. It's fair to say that this event is not easy and, having spoken to people during the ride and in the evening, it's clear that it is taking its toll both physically and mentally on everyone. Tomorrow's route takes us to Bath. It's shorter (at 92 miles) but there are some 'grippy' moments, as the ride co-ordinator explains. Apparently 'grippy' is code for tough and 'double grippy' means it's going to hurt! It's also forecast for rain (again) and he then tells us that none of this matters as tomorrow's easy compared to days 8 and 9. Oh no! Before I go, I do want to say thank you to everyone for their emails of support this week. They have helped a great deal and been a real boost. (PS I have just heard thunder outside. Tonight's going to be fun sleeping in a tent in this!) Ashley's blog What a day! Can you imagine getting up at 5.30 am for a week, cycling over 100 miles a day and then being told to leap out of your tent, full of the joys of Spring as we are being filmed for ITV news. It was clear some people weren't for persuading!

26: Day 7 - Short sharp pain for the executive Stu's blog Day 7 done. Billed as the shortest stage it was another tough one - possibly one of the toughest when you take into account how tired we are. 91 very hard miles, lots of very steep hills, a strong headwind and of course the obligatory rain. That said we were back at a respectable 5pm (a few hours before the cut off). Key highlights:- # first decent sleep for a few nights (I think the tiredness had really kicked in). Woke early as it was noisy (people are now trying to get to breakfast before all the food disappears). # Tune for this morning was Eye of the Tiger. Much more uplifting and got me off to a good start. Soon learned that our Borg collective had been wired up different today. I now had my happy head on - lucky given what was to follow. Tim - normally the cheeriest man in the world - was a downright misery. | # bad news at breakfast as we learnt that neither Peter or Simon could go any further. Subsequently learned James has also had to drop out. Real shame but don't underestimate what those guys have done often whilst carrying injuries. # my mood was however further brightened by the fact that a bacon and sausage bap was back on the menu (it does appear that if I were a car then my equivalent of diesel would basically be pork, fat and more fat). Each to their own, it certainly seems to rev me up!

27: # I set off with my two chaperones (Tim and Ash) on a cold miserable looking morning. Forecast wasn't great so I was in trousers for first time this week. Soon realised this was a mistake. Firstly because the rain decided to turn up much later than planned (indeed I did see the sun for a little while) and secondly because the constant climbing meant I was drenched in sweat by the first pit stop (31 miles). # The day was marked by the fact we were honoured by the presence of the Deloitte exec on this stage. Aside from Mr Hodge (who is a seasoned cyclist and rocketed round in no time) the rest of the exec seemed to be less cycle friendly (indeed Ash (I want to keep my job) has suggested that some of the kit on display had only just come out of the box). # the journey to pit stop 1 wasn't really that eventful (almost a nice change) and we were roared into the pit stop by a load of school kids who had taken a break from lessons to support us as we went through their village (nice touch). # Mr Sproul was in attendance at that first pit and we saw quite a lot of him from that point until around 25 miles from the finish. It was great to see him and the rest of the exec come out and support the ride. # The chatter at the pit stop was generally upbeat as the sun was out and the terrain had been pretty forgiving. However, dark whispers were circulating about heavy rain, high winds and big hills. We were also told that it was likely to be a rough night as Bath Racecourse is exposed to the elements. # It was at this stage that Ash mooted a sneaky hotel booking for the night. Sceptical (after all isn't that cheating) I agreed he enquire with his PA to see what options we may have. # We cycled on to mile 50 through some wonderful scenery (Forest of Dean) to the first of the climbs. Seasoned pros (what a laugh) we stopped at the bottom of the hill to fuel up on energy gel, water etc... to prepare for the ascent that was to come. I also decided that some of my layers had to come off and timed the old "dropping of the trousers" perfectly (just as Mr Sproul arrived in our lay-by). I am sure I must be the only partner who has done that to our chief exec! # The climb was tough (one of those long drawn out ones but it was also noticeably steeper) and it was a sign of things to come. As we began the descent the weather turned. It began to rain and the wind began to pick up. I still had my happy head on so nothing was too much trouble but the mumblings had already begun from Mr Lightfoot. # Steep descent into a beautiful Chepstow and time for a quick rest and a picture in front of the castle while we waited for Tim. We still drop Lightfoot for dead on the way down the hills but this time the descent was a proper racing one, long straights and sweeping bends, and I was clocking close to 40mph at times. Leaving Tim behind was not improving his mood, but once again my Geordie approach to life lifted the mood as I commented on the ruins of the castle and the damage to the local cathedral in the mode of Oz. "Looks like some serious $hit happened here lads." Ash cracked up and we carried on.

28: # We were now hearing rumours that the weather had got pretty bad up ahead and Ash's P.A. had found us a room in a pub at the end of the driveway at bath racecourse. After a brief pause I relented and agreed that we would have a night under a proper roof (turned out to be a masterstroke). # This is where the trouble began, the rain was getting heavier and Tim had got it into his head that there were no more hills until we got close to bath. However, we exited Chepstow via yet another steep ascent and the air turned blue. Every other word uttered by little, polite, mild mannered Tim was an F word. F'n hills, f'n weather and f'n Andy Cook (course director). He was not a happy boy and if only he knew what was to come. # We next crossed the Severn Bridge. A nice interlude before more climbing. Firstly because of the toll bridge itself (a real icon of bridges crossing a very broad and full river Severn) and secondly because despite the mood of our resident joker he still managed to crack yet another corker as we passed a welcome to England sign it was clear he hadn't realised we had ever left England. When I questioned him about the Welsh signs it was like a light bulb had come on and he confessed to having been confused by the signage at a certain bus stop. You do have to wonder but I guess his excuse today was that he was tired and grumpy. # From this point on it was basically climbs pretty much solid to the finish line. We stopped at a village at mile 58 for the second pit stop. We were still feeling OK at that stage (ignoring Tim), but when Sproul and the rest of the exec arrived it was clear that they were tiring. To our surprise the pit stop board was showing that it was only 27 miles to go (we shouldn't have taken any notice!). # We emerged from pit stop 2 to heavy rain and it didn't stop again for the next 18 hours. We passed Sproul on the way up a hill and I got the impression that my words of encouragement weren't that helpful! We then made it our mission to gobble up as many of the rest of the executive as we could (childish I know but we needed something to motivate us). # We nailed some of the steepest and most difficult climbs to date including one where I spent a good 10 minutes on my haunches as sitting down would have caused me to stop or even go backwards with my weight pulling me down the hill. I was muttering some rubbish about not "f'n walking whatever it took!" We (mistakenly) assumed that this was the end of the climbing as we had been told there was a pig of a hill at the end. # We then had a race with a local youth who was cycling up a hill on a mountain bike, no hands and "smoking a tab". We passed him on a downhill stretch and the cheeky bast#rd came back past on the next uphill. That was it! All I had said to Ash over the days about worrying too much about his pride (he doesn't like being passed by ladies with large bottoms or the man on the stepper machine) was out the window. I cycled like a madman for 5 miles to ensure that the youth was put in his place. Ash did the same. Tim was dropped and beaten by the kid. (Sorry to kick you Tim when you were on a down).

29: # Upon arrival we were exhausted. No pleasantries exchanged, cue cab to pub and warmth. We got lots of stick in the pub from the tent and luggage crews for taking the easy option and not camping. However, we had a pleasant evening, fish and chips and an early night (9-30pm), whilst outside the wind was howling and the rain was coming down in sheets. I am afraid that whilst I started this blog that evening I was physically drained and sleep took priority. Not least because we knew that the next two stages had always been billed as the hardest of the whole journey! Seemed very hard to comprehend given what we had been through. # Mr Sproul did make it to the end and I have to say that I have deep respect for this as there is no way he would've trained for what he faced. It was a truly awful day and it would have been easy for him to slip into a lay-by and get a lift back to the end. He was however committed to the end and I know that gave us all strength when we were talking the next day. | # The only issue with my attempts to become the next Chris Hoy was that I burnt every ounce of reserves I had left so when we hit mile 85 and there was no sign of the end I was in trouble. 3 (crawling) miles later we were now resigned to the fact that this was a 91 mile stage and we were sat in a lay-by looking up at a winding road that looked like it belonged in Tour de France. I think the quote from me was "if I have to get up where those f'n cows are then they are on another f'n planet". This caused a few chuckles as I then proceeded to empty every pocket of sweets, gels and drink to put some energy in my body so I could get to the finish. This was also the first day that I displayed "the shakes" - basically I was just totally exhausted and my body was showing the signs. # Somehow I sat on that bike, smiled cheerily and climbed the hill never showing signs of cracking even though my knees were groaning loudly. At the top we had 2 horrible miles to go in monsoon conditions. | “A man cycles 950 miles and learns that there are only 2 things along the way that make him smile. A Costa coffee shop and a QuickSkip.”

30: Tim's blog We arrive in Bath (late) and it starts raining heavily (again). We'd been told today was going to be heavy showers all day so went out today fully wrapped up in wet weather gear. The only problem with that is when you only get intermittent light showers and brilliant sunshine in between, you end up nearly passing out from heat exhaustion because you have so much clothing on. Whilst the route was tough which was to be expected, there were some highlights worth noting:- - Firstly Cottee's chamois cream makes a reappearance and as he stands in the lay by with a dollop of cream in one hand and a bunch of jelly babies in the other we have to remind him which hand goes where as he's too busy nattering and nearly makes a vital mistake. - Secondly Cottee manages to drop his trousers in public again (this is becoming a habit). This time he whips his wet weather trousers down (cycling shorts are worn underneath thankfully) in a lay-by just as David Sproul (head of Deloitte UK for those non Deloitte readers) arrives on his bicycle. A very shocked Sproul is then greeted with the words "Wey hey! I bet you've never had a partner do that before, have you David?" Poor guy didn't know what to say. - Thirdly, we eventually pass another 'Welcome to England' at which point I have ask Stu "When wasn't I in England?". It turns out we'd actually been in Wales and had just crossed the Seven Bridge. Stu was somewhat disappointed that I hadn't noticed the signs had been in Welsh and English for the last 10 miles or so. Clearly, he hasn't noticed from my driving yet that I don't ever pay attention to road signs! | - This is also the day me and Stu seem to switch roles. He's much more optimistic and I've been in a foul mood which was caused by a combination of being too hot and the unpleasant roads, I even flagged behind on a couple of occasions and Stu had to wait for me to catch up - things must be bad! - Finally, Stu has a confession to make. Expecting a stormy night in the tents due to the weather, both Stu and Ash check into a nearby hotel for some nice food and a good nights sleep. CHEATS!

31: Ashley's blog We set off from Ludlow for Bath. We are joined by a number of day riders from Birmingham that bring fresh legs to enable us long term riders to hide behind... for the first 20 miles before we get dropped! This is also the day that the Exec join us, they set off strong but by pit stop 2 they are showing signs of tiredness and join the rest of us in appreciating the size of today's challenge. That is except for Andy Hodge who has apparently finished whilst the rest of us are still 30 miles away..... Remind me to never go cycling with him on a Sunday! The day is mistaken for the first easy day being only 92 miles. We soon however learn the reason for this - hills - and more importantly the Forest of Dean, which all 3 of us have ridden through before in training and we know the hills there can get serious. We enjoy the long descent after the days climbing into Chepstow and have a picture by the castle. Then it is a short trip across the M4 bridge (no toll to pay for bikes but I do think to myself what would the organisers have done when I read the sign "the bridge may be closed to cyclists in strong winds"). Ant gets off his bike to take a photo and jumps straight back on as the wobble is disconcerting....Does sitting on a bike make it any more safe/reassuring? He ups the pace and gets back on solid land. We ascend an enormous hill to get to Bath racecourse. The weather is heavy rain again but the end is now in sight.... Just Somerset, Devon and Cornwall to go!

32: Day 8 - Broken man Stu's blog Day 8 done, although I am not sure how. My body is in pieces I am full of pills and my knees are still screaming at me. Billed as the hardest stage to date but that was a serious understatement in light of the conditions. Eventually completed the 112 miles at around 7-15 pm (a few minutes after official cut off, but a good 2.5 hours before the last arrivals who came in (in the dark) as I was nodding off to sleep - nutters!). Please note this differs from Tim’s timing as he seems to have lost an hour (perhaps he thinks we crossed a time zone given his geographical prowess !). Key highlights:- # Woke up at 5-30 feeling pretty sore. Knees were clearly destroyed by yesterday’s exertions and I had a strange feeling of being out of body. That said I do think that sleeping in the hotel had been a good thing as when I saw Tim some 40mins later he looked awful after a very rough night under canvas. # No idea what the tune of the day was (could vaguely hear it) but really didn't care as I was waking up dry. Our nice landlady had left us cereal and yoghurt which we consumed quickly before leaping into cab to racecourse. We then dug into the bacon sandwiches and at least started the day energised. | # First stage was great fun and we largely ignored the rain (which was punctuated by the occasional burst of sun). We cycled down into Bath and back up the other side (an early introduction to steep hills), enjoyed some reasonable terrain before the descent down Cheddar gorge. Definitely the most beautiful part of the whole ride (I know Cheddar but had just forgotten how wondrous it is). # Having flown down the first 2/3rds of Cheddar at pace we had a rude awakening as the road became slick with rain and corners all of sudden became very tight. I flew round one bend shouting "woh, woh, woh and Ash left the road into a car park). Caution then prevailed which was a result as it meant we then spotted a Costa Coffee on entry into Cheddar Village. # We felt that a nice warm coffee was in keeping with our Pub stay last night and soon found many other riders had felt that this was an appropriate stop.

33: # Coffees and cakes ordered I reached the front of the queue, felt for my wallet only to find it wasn't there! Hugely embarrassing not least cos I knew Ash wouldn't have any money (he hadn't had any on previous dates. I cursed and looked at sky and the rider behind asked if I was OK. I think he was German and therefore we were having some communication issues (my English not his), however, I somehow explained my problem. Poor fella got out a 20 note (in retrospect I think to pay for both his and our order) and I grabbed it. He was so shell-shocked he didn't object. I took his race number promised to sort him out and dashed off embarrassed. # Warm coffee in place we cycled on to the first pit stop at 41 miles and were in reasonable spirits despite the fact that the showers were getting longer and the sun patches shorter. Stop was brief and we cycled on to around 50 miles where we knew another major ascent was due to begin. # our journey to 50 miles was broken by a fall. I was hurtling towards a little hill in a village, dropped my gears only to find my chain had come off. Before I got chance to unclip I was falling sideways into the road. Damage was minor (small amount of blood from knee and sore bum / wrist), but it was mainly my pride that was hurt. A nice old lady offered to take me for a coffee which was a lovely touch. # as we cycled on it appeared that the fall had impacted more than I had thought. I was struggling (perhaps with shock) and therefore we decided to have a quick coke in a pub. At this stage we looked to be making reasonable time. | # things then went down hill we had 62 miles to go and they were simply horrible. Key reasons were:- 1) The hills were again extreme. We did most of the 3,000+metres of climbing from that point on (bear in mind there was less than 2,000m the day before). My legs were really starting to cause me issues and I had to start taking ibuprofen to prevent them swelling. 2) The rain was just energy sapping. I had been wet all day and noticed it was so bad that it had actually stretched my shorts so they were falling off my ar$e. This made riding even more uncomfortable than previously and the chamois cream was disappearing fast. 3) The wind was getting very strong. We were now finding that we had to pedal like crazy to go down hills and that were no longer carrying any momentum into the uphill stretches. # We reached pit stop 2 (65 miles) and it was clear that we were dropping off our normal pace. Still a depressing 40+ miles to go and it was fast approaching 3pm. This pit stop was in a school, but I just couldn't get warm as I lay on a bench shaking. # We set off again and within a very short period I was again out of energy. My knees were in shocking pain and I had developed a pain in my left shoulder which was excruciating. Every hill seemed to drain me and Ash was getting concerned (suggesting another stop). I put my head down and just ploughed on. I knew there was a power pit stop at 86 miles and decided

34: that I just had to get there if I had any chance of making the finish. I gave it everything and we powered to the pit stop at pace. # We arrived at the pit stop during a rain interlude. Ground was dry for first time in a while and I got off the bike and lay down in the car park. I was close to complete shut down and Ash left me to it as he knew that there was nothing he could do. I lay there for a good 15-20mins putting food gently into my tired body and taking pain killers so that I could get back on to the bike. It was a horrible feeling as I was shaking uncontrollably, but I told myself that I had to get up and push on as I didn't want (Ash in particular) to be picked up by the broom wagon. # After that stop the rest was hell. It took us a good 3-3.5 hours to do that 25 miles and a good hour of that was probably the last 5. The wind was now howling at 25mph+ and it was killing us. # We crossed line and I was broken. One of the Deloitte support team congratulated me and asked if I was OK. I nodded yes but I wasn't and I felt myself begin to cry with the sheer emotions of getting across the line. # The organisers clearly knew that this was a tough one as they had organised for our bags, held in a marquee, to be carried to our tents. # Showers were broken so Ash and I trudged to the food marquee. Food was great (mixed grill) cooked by college kids (6th formers I think). I asked for a bit of everything made it to a table and slumped down. I didn't speak for 25mins, just sat dazed and picking my way through my dinner. # It appears that I had chosen the worst table in the world. To my left was the most annoying man in the world. It is hard to explain but | fundamentally he was a "gob$hite". He knew everything, had finished the ride before weather had got bad, was telling everyone within a 100 mile radius how good he was and his opinions about everything and anything. I was too tired to say owt but I think my face told a story as Ash suggested I move up a bit following a spillage issue with some orange juice. One seat up stopped me nutting the bloke (I couldn't have lifted my arms to hit him) only for me to be presented with some pushy woman who without asking parked herself in Ash's seat. I don't recall speaking but she got message and left up to another part of the table. I do recall telling Tim and Ash my views on these people but had thought I was relatively subtle (too tired to talk loud), but having read Tims note it would appear not. # Whilst I do think many cyclists are quite unpleasant people (pushy, obnoxious, with huge egos) there were always things on RAB which would bring you back to earth. Firstly, Alan (our wheelchair rider) arrived - amazing feat in what must have been hell for the fella and secondly

35: (after a warm shower) I attended the final night briefing where emotions were again running high. # Mack the organiser of this whole event is a great guy and you can tell he really cares. He spent half the time apologising for the weather and the tough rides we had endured but that is life and we all signed up for it! He talked us through the final day and some amazing stories of peoples struggle to date and I felt the wave of emotions once again. As Ash and I talked about the day to come and my desire to complete the ride I again felt floods of tears running down my face. I do have a softer side but this is something I can't explain and I know that every time a think about it the tears come back. It does appear that I was just broken at that moment. # I climbed into my tent with a view to getting to sleep as early as possible. Tomorrow was another long one 111 miles and the climbing was closer to 3500m. We had been warned about Cornwall’s hills. # In preparing for sleep I had managed to find the tent of my German friend and return his 20. I had also done all I could to repair my body, fed, recovery drink, cream, hot shower and deep heat. I was annoyed by the number of people who were conducting loud conversations in the field, but drifted off to sleep exhausted which prevented me sharing my views with them. Tim's blog Today was going to be tough. The distance was long and the level of climbing required was high. We started by dropping down out of Bath only to have to climb back up again for about a mile. It seemed completely pointless however it was a good warm up regardless. | The first stage rolls for a bit and then flattens and we made good progress. As we near pit stop one, we get what has to be the highlight of the journey, the ride through Cheddar Gorge. It was an amazing descent with wide winding roads which could be navigated with relative ease if dry. You did however, have to watch out for the odd sheep doing a suicide run in front of you as you zoomed by. We later learn that further back Stu and Ash had a different experience. By the time they passed through, the rain had arrived and taking one of the bends too quickly Ash had to use a car park at the side as a run off to avoid loosing control. He was lucky as most other bends were faced with a rock wall on either side. Given the shock they clearly revert back to the more sedate approach to RAB, opting for an alternative pit stop at Costa Coffee instead. It's charming, as every time I ride with Stu, the best I get is a break sitting on a wall outside an abandoned pub! The terrain toughens a little through stage two but for the last ten miles it's all a long steady downhill to the power pit stop. At this point we're feeling relatively upbeat with 88 miles done just before 3pm, and only 24 miles to go. Things quickly change however as the rolling hills become bloody big hills and there's a 20 mph wind blowing in the opposite direction. Consequently, there's no ability to get momentum on the downs to compensate for the exhausting work done getting up them. The rain also comes back with force and as the pack gets drawn out I crawl into Oakhampton at around 5. An even wetter Stu and Ash arrive just after six by which point the wind and rain had gotten even stronger. As Stu sits in the dinner hall (opting for food first over a shower) he stares blankly across the table, eating with shaking

36: hands and not saying very much at all. If I didn't know better I'd have guessed he'd just come from back to back rounds of electric shock therapy! Stu finally rejoins the land of the living when some poor and slightly rude female cyclist decides without asking to plonk herself in Ash's seat (who has just gone to fetch drinks) . Stu promptly (and politely) tells her the seat's taken so she moves to the other side of the table instead. At this point a less polite and definitely grumpy Stu informs us how he hates cyclists, they're all rude and he's in a good mood for a fight with one if only he had the energy to lift his arms (this of course in ear shot of the poor woman now sitting across from us)! It is true however - as the journey went on it became easier to spot the club cyclists. They were the one's who'd never say hello back when passing you on the ride, would do so at speed without warning unless you were in their way at which point they'd just yell at you and would later brag about how easy the days ride was at dinner whilst everyone else looked like they were at deaths door. Ashley's blog The last but one. The adrenalin must get us through this one right? No. The worst headwind I have ever experienced and for the first time I concede to Lindsay that rain is much better than wind. The hills in Devon are what is known around camp as "grippy" and we have 3000m of ascent and 112 miles to do. We set off in good spirits, a bit of drizzle and freshly oiled chains. All is going well until mid morning when the wind starts getting up. It is so strong we have to cycle downhills and this really zaps the legs and uses excess energy. | We drag ourselves over the hills and like teenagers on Duke of Edinburgh award walks, declare every summit as "the last one", only to find another steep down and up to cycle. We get back after 12 hours of cycling. A quick dinner, followed by a shower and straight to bed. The camp organisers have been concerned all day with how people are getting on... We hear people being applauded back at 10 pm... What a day. The wind continues through the night. Maybe the bike will be blown away!

37: The final leg is .....done. Hurrah! I sit writing this with pain throughout the lower half of my body. I have two toes on each foot that I can't feel (apparently this is nerve damage but it "should" repair itself), I have an ar$e that is blistered to the extent I struggle to walk and my knees are badly swollen (but surprisingly pain free). I am more tired than I have ever been before but I can feel a deep sense of pride and satisfaction coursing through my veins. The final day was as hard as it was billed, but the weather was slightly better (a god sent in the circumstances). # First woke at around 3am for a toilet trip. Was concerned to find that my knees were still burning with pain and hoped to goodness I was going to be able to mount my bike the next morning. # Woke to the sound of "the Final Countdown" at an obscene 4-30am (they had moved start time to 6am for the final day and were also allowing people to go from 5am if they wanted to). A good choice. | # I leapt out of bed. Whilst my body was still done in I was mentally right and ready to "kill those f'n hills". # Breakfast was great. Kids did us proud - bacon, egg, HASH BROWNS (you beauty) and beans wedged in couple of sarnies. # I wasn't messing. Threw my bag on truck and was off on my own not long after 6 (I had agreed with Ash that I would get going and he would catch up). # Cycled 20 wonderful miles at a great pace until I reached a pretty fishing village in a Cornish town and stopped for a drinks break. I was soon caught by Mr Lightfoot who was in good spirits. He asked me what I'd thought of all the hills we had climbed and I had to confess I hadn't noticed (not sure if this was the single mindedness or the painkillers!). We were soon joined by Ash and we headed to pit stop 1 (scheduled for 36miles). 5miles out and a few hills later the energy well was empty again. A worried Ash saw the shakes come back (much earlier than the day before) and we had a serious | chat. He checked I wasn't quitting (of course I F'n wasn't) and then basically told me that he had dragged my "sorry ar$e round for 8 days and he was damm well going to drag it to the finish". # Post pit stop 1 I had my Mojo back. Climbing hard and getting ever closer to the finish. It was starting to seem like I may actually make it to the finish. This was a good thing because I swear that the masochistic course director had built in a diversion via a huge hill just to test us to our limits (we did three right turns in a row which suggests to me a diversion!). # We made it up this ascent primarily as a result of the support of the Cadbury's boys (not the riders - their support team). # These guys deserve a special mention. They drove two Volvo's from JOG to Lands End and were hugely supportive of both their riders and the wider rider population throughout. I think we saw them at every pit stop and at many points in between. They always shouted encouragement, | Day 9 - The end is nigh Stu's blog

38: passed sweets out of the car and were just great guys. They were a bit like Bill and Ted. Happy people with a lovely turn of phrase like "great job dude" and "well done man". People you need as motivators. # I think this is something Deloitte could look to do next year and if they need volunteers Ash and I thought we might drive a camper van (got to be better cheerleader than rider!). # Anyway the Cadbury boys excelled themselves at this point as I was greeted half way up an ascent by a cheer and the statement "come on big man, you are a f'n machine!" to which I responded "I am a f'n idiot".... 30 seconds later cue Volvo passing me by with dance music at full blast and Cadbury bloke leaning out window raving to the music and willing me on. He then rode all the way up hill, music blaring and pushing me on. What a star! # Following that very tough ascent we began to wind back down from the tops. We stopped at a little shop for drinks and some banter with other RAB riders and were b#llocked by a local resident because we had apparently put our bikes in her flowers! I can tell you they were weeds and not very attractive ones at that but anyway we shifted our gear and | parked ourselves on a wall (were expecting to get shouted at for that as well). # Following this pit stop we set off again down a nice steep hill (great way to start). Disaster struck - in one split second I realised I had left my helmet at the shop and in the next second as I hollered to Ash to stop I realised that he had missed the right turn. I couldn't chase him as he was flying and I needed to go back for my helmet so I stopped and grudgingly started to walk back up the hill. Having caused great amusement to the Germans who watched me trudge up the hill (Germans do have an odd sense of humour) I made it back to shop. My helmet was still there and rather worryingly I hugged it like a small child. Imagine being pulled off the ride cos you didn't have a bike helmet after over 900 miles of cycling! # I had no idea where Ash was so was on my own. Focused I cycled hard towards pit stop 2 (72 miles). Had a purple patch (probably driven by concern that I had lost my buddy) and cycled well (punctuated by some well timed stops for sweets and drinks). There were a few killer climbs (not least the climb into Truro on a very busy dual carriageway) but I was on a mission. | # When I got to pit stop 2 I was overjoyed to see Ash and he was similarly happy. He had checked with the crew to see if I had been through and was concerned to find I was still out there somewhere. Cue big hug and a few tears. # During the pit stop the lady dispensing the water reminded me I was within 40 miles of finishing the epic journey. Cue more tears... Oh $hit.... I am supposed to be from Sunderland and have turned into a big jelly girl ! # Whilst 40 miles was always going to be something I was going to do there were some big barriers to come; 1) I had run out of pain killers. My knees were swelling and the hills had again taken there toll. I was concerned something may snap and I would have to walk to the end. 2) There were some serious hills to come (indeed some were billed as the worst of the whole trip). 3) I had the shakes in a big way and was zoning out again. # The next 22 miles were horrible. It was like the string that had been there between Ash and I had given way and I just kept dropping back only for him to have to come

39: back and get me. I found myself calling him all the names under the sun as he wouldn't let me stop at the tops of hills, he just kept on going so I had to the same. The pain had now hit breaking point, both knees were visibly swollen and the shoulder pain was back. I was wincing at every turn of the pedal. Seeing my suffering, Ash made a trip to a newsagent and got me some more painkillers. These helped and got me to the power pit stop. # We were now just 17 miles from the finish. I walked like a ghost into the stop and sat down in a bus shelter. I leant against the wall and put my head back. I then woke up 5 minutes later having literally stalled. I sat eating a sandwich which I had taken from the last pit stop. I wasn't really hungry but had to get some energy from somewhere. Crusts were left, just the juicy bit eaten. Ash checked on me and I told him I was fine and we could go shortly (liar). # I then rose from the bus stop mounted my bike (sort of nodding to Ash so he knew I was off) and just went. Whilst I was without energy I somehow had gathered the mental strength to go again. I knew I had 7 miles before we hit the big hill at a place called Newly. I also knew that Mrs Hollinshead was getting impatient | to see her other half so once again I went for it. We clocked around 20mph for the next 7 miles (helped by the terrain, sea breeze (in our favour) and the wonderful sights (especially the island at long rock). # Ash caught me half way along the sea front. I was pale and tired but happy cos we were nearly there. When we got to the bottom of the big climb we just resolved to walk it (I had surrendered to the fact I had to conserve energy at an earlier climb and knew that this was the case here). It was a ridiculous thing to put in the road after 950 miles of cycling, but many people made it (including Mr Lightfoot). I on the other hand walked, nearly broke my calf muscles in the process and then mounted my bike for the last 9.5 miles. # Sure enough that wasn't easy either. Several more silly climbs and a drained body. We just kept going. I was so tired that there was no hint of celebration (just more tears as I counted down the miles from 9 to 8 to 7.....). Two miles out, last hill done the pain lifted. I had done it. I managed to control Ash from cycling off like a loon not least because I knew the two miles would seem like longer and when we turned the final corner I have never been so happy to see a blow up inflatable blue | thing (the finish line) in all my life. # crossing the line my first action was to give Ash a big hug (probably should have been Sarah that did that not me - sorry) and more tears flowed. I just didn't know what to do or say. # We got our medals from Sarah Storey and I thanked her for being so great. Both her and Danny Crates were great all week. Sarah because she always said hi as she flew by us. And Danny cos he was in amongst us, fighting his way up hills in as much pain as us and angling for Costa stops like one of the boys... # I shared (another tearful) handshake with Mack the organiser. As I said in an earlier blog. Truly top chap. And....it was done. Would I do it again? Well I wouldn't say never but I think it is fair to say 2012 is out of the question. Did I enjoy it? Yes most of the time, but there were undoubtedly some real lows. What were my highlights? Too many to mention them all but I still can't believe the pi$$ing in front of a Virgin train incident and I am still replaying the descent down cheddar gorge in terms of views.

40: So what takeaways do I have from RAB:- # I have some great mates. Tim, Ant and in particular Ash have just been brilliant as have all the various well wishers who have sent me emails and texts over the past 9 days. I have spent the whole day with Tim today - two coffee houses and a pub later I was still ripping the pi$$ and he was still lining them up. I have also spoken to Ash - no doubt he was just checking I was still alive. # It is indeed true that we are capable of things we just can't comprehend. I have been past my limit and beyond and am still standing. I have learnt things about myself that I would never have seen absent this challenge and I will take those with me for the rest of my life. We all need a challenge in life. # The best cyclists are hill climbers (you never see the Tour de France won by good sprinters). I have lost a bit of weight (despite all the junk food) on this adventure and now need to keep it off if I am ever going to climb Kirkstone pass without getting off my bike. # I have a great family and I have really missed them over this period. Jules and the kids have done some wonderful things and | sent me some great messages and it has brought home to me just how lucky I am. Finally:- 1) I am a f'n idiot signing up for these things (I have 3 triathlons in July). 2) I don't like camping. It is cold, cramped and a pain going to the loo in the night. That said I have surprised myself by not really missing TV. 3) I am never going to be a mad keen cyclist unless I can carry a gun with me to shoot the ar$eholes from amongst the Borg. Social | cycling is however recommended especially with appropriate (pub and cafe) pit stops. 4) Your ar$e is your most valuable asset, closely followed by your legs (you notice this when you can't sit down or stand up!). 5) Britain has a pi$$ poor climate. Who could have thought it would rain every single day between 10th and 19th of June. 6) I enjoy this blog $hite. Unfortunately this is my last cos I have a day job to do. "more is in you" Stu.

41: Tim's blog This was a solo ride for me. Everyone had a strong desire to see the finish line and I spent nearly all of the journey somewhere between the fast pack and Stu and Ash. The route was tough. In fact, it's been a general theme that each day has become progressively harder and today was the hardest. It consisted of mainly hilly and twisty single track country lanes (btw - if I ever see another country road again it will be too soon) which meant that you couldn't go quick on the downhills for fear of a car coming in the other direction. In general it was a slog and we had to grind our way through every single mile. Even people's bikes were starting to show the strain with two of the group having to call out Halfords for repairs along the way. Today was advertised as including the hardest hill of the entire route. I knew there was a tough ascent coming near the end and, even at the power pit stop at 93 miles, the organisers were referring to it as just a little climb. It wasn't until some little old woman and her husband came across the road, intrigued by what was going on, who said to an organsier "Which way are you | going to Lands End then, you can't possibly be going up the hill from the seaside can you? That would be awful." The organiser retorted with a very unbelievable "oh nooo, they're going up the little one to the side", but he was clearly lying. She then decided to go on so much so about how bad the hill was that I was inclined to throw her under a passing car if she didn't stop. And given the smug look on her husband as he saw the look of pain on our faces he could have quite easily joined her. It turned out the 'big hill' was a 0.5 mile ascent up a 16% incline which I'm proud to say I made it up. I've certainly done tougher hills but never after 100 miles and not up a narrow road with buses coming at you, which meant you had to mount the pavement to avoid them! After that we started our final ten mile run to the finish line. The views are amazing along the coast and it's not long before we start seeing people cycling back who have already finished (nutters). With a couple of miles to go the terrain levels and my pace quickens as the finish line comes into view. There's just enough time to zip up the jersey straighten the helmet and glasses ready for the finish line photo | (well there's no point in riding all that way for a rubbish photo!) There's a strange feeling in the last few miles of the journey as you start to look back over the last nine days and think about what it involved, what you got out of it and whether you'd ever do it again. It's clear that this ride has challenged us more than just physically. What I definitely found hardest was dealing with the mental side of the challenge. Spending hours riding on your own, churning through the miles in constant wind and rain, not to mention being faced with hill after hill after hill and route profiles which just got harder and harder each day can be soul destroying. But that side of things is almost the easiest to get over and as I crossed the finish line those feelings soon washed away within seconds. What I got out of it was a challenge (and a big one before hitting 30 today) and it was an eye opener. It was also the chance to raise some money for charity and make a couple of new friends along the way. Would I do it again? Not likely. I have contemplated giving up events like this at a couple of points along the way however

42: there are still other challenges I would like to do, the New York Marathon next year perhaps if Neil allows it. It will be a long time though before I undertake anything so big again. Before I close out this last blog I should take the time to thank some people:- - Thanks to everyone for their sponsorship, support and kind messages over the week and especially Kate who has been a fantastic throughout the nine days and Ant, who has dragged my sorry butt around some of the earlier, more difficult legs of the journey (having someone wait at the bottom of Glen Coe really pulled through one of the toughest moments of the ride). I couldn't have done it without either of you. - Thanks to Stu and Ash,(a true demonstration of real team work), and for not holding it against me when my pride got in the way and I stormed off so as not to be beaten across the line by the younger ones in the group. - Thanks to my Mum for always saying "You can only do your best". I never believed it and always thought there was room for more which is why I've ended up doing challenges like this one. And thanks to my Dad for teaching me | to cycle, which I've loved ever since. I remember when I begged you to take the stabilisers off mine and you vowed I couldn't ride without them. After endless protesting by me you relented and as I rode off round the block without falling, I think your exact words were "Cocky little b*gger did it!" - finally and most importantly, thanks to Neil for putting up with me through all of this (or as you call it, my mid life crisis). You're a star! Until next time. Tim Ashley's blog 4.30 am alarm call. We are setting off early after yesterday. You may think it early but after a week of 5.30s, it was fine. Everybody was up and about, eager to finish this challenge. The team set off and I (not being a morning person) find myself 20 minutes behind in packing up. I set off in pursuit. The weather is good and the wind has dropped. The hills in Cornwall are something else. Not particularly long like those in Scotland and the Lakes, but steep, short and numerous! | Lindsay and Ant put in a strong performance and come in mid afternoon. I stick with Stuart to encourage him home and we aim to finish strong. This was assisted by us somehow losing each other on route, each of us thinking the other was in front. We ended up putting in a fast stage each thinking we were trying to catch the other. I have to confess we finally conceded on a hill 15 miles from the end.... We got off and walked. It was up a residential street in a seaside town. One of those where the locals drove up and down it when popping for a pint of milk as it was so steep. We knew it was coming but gave it a miss so as to preserve what little legs we had left to get us to the finish.

43: The last 10 miles changed the mood. We had done 950 miles and the sea air was back in our lungs. It was a complete mix of emotions, a sense of achievement, an understanding of what you can overcome, and how you can help each other when times get tough. We had done it, 6 month of preparation, Tom looking at me of a morning concerned about the lack of turbo training sessions, freezing January rides, crashes in Wales (sorry Craig and thanks for being understanding).... But despite all of that, a real sense of achievement and a lesson in your own mental and physical ability. Could it be you next year?!

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  • By: Tim L.
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  • Title: Ride Across Britain
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