This newsletter is a slight departure from the norm. I could say well done Tony and Chris for completing your challenge, but it just wouldn’t sum up what they have been through. So for a change this is our recollection of their epic journey thanks to Steve’s regular updates and the ride tracker website.
When we heard that Chris and Tony were intending to cycle from London to Edinburgh and back to London and were looking for sponsorship for the Heritage Centre in memory of our volunteer Malcolm Law our first thought was “What! They must be mad!!”
We knew Tony had been a long time supporter of the Heritage Centre and we often spotted Tony with Malcolm around the site, so raising funds to help complete one of the many projects that they worked on together seemed appropriate.
But it’s just a bike ride…
Up until this point we simply thought “Sponsored cycle ride, well you get loads of those don’t you”. Then we asked ourselves, “London to Edinburgh and back? How are they going to do that?” Time for a quick Ecosia search (other search engines are available).
So this is an event that takes place every few years, for hardened (or is that mad) cyclists. “This is a test of your mental and physical resilience” their website says. At the checkpoints the organisers provide
- Hot meals
- Showers and towels
- Dormitory beds (and earplugs!)
- Two bag drops and
- mechanical support
Earplugs?? What’s that all about?
So Sunday lunch consumed I wonder where they are now? So Chris is ahead. I wonder why? Let’s think about this. How far is the route? 1519.9 km. What’s that in old money? 944.4 miles! So 5 days means they need to complete 300+ km (nearly 200 miles for those of a certain generation) per day. So Chris must be aiming to reach the checkpoint at Hessle. Hessle? Where’s Hessle. A few clicks of the mouse later…. Hull! The Humber Bridge. In a day! On a bike!! But they didn’t get to start until 11 am.
We are only just starting to grasp the scale of their challenge.
Monday morning the first job of the day is to get the laptop warmed up so we can see how Chris and Tony are managing. Tony arrives at Louth at 23:18, whilst Chris manages to get to Hessle at 1:46 on Monday morning.
The reason for the earplugs now becomes clear. Riders arriving at all times, taking a shower, catching up on meals, and trying to get to sleep surrounded by exhausted cyclists.
This is starting to get addictive.
What the tracking site doesn’t tell you is when they start out, unless of course you log on before they set out, and you see the little orange circle change to green and make its slow progress across the map. Something we never managed to do. Sorry Chris and Tony, I feel I let you down there.
The laptop is now continuously showing their progress. Tony reaches Hessle at 09:13. Did he catch up with Chris? No, Chris reaches Malton at 9:48. What time did he set out? But he didn’t get to bed until, what, say 2:30. He must have set off at 7? Before then??
Malton? Ah yes, near to Castle Howard with that lovely countryside and those stunning views over the valleys (and hills). I wonder if they get to take in the scenery? Chris’s pace seems to be changing now. The tracking website thoughtfully provides an altitude map (see above), so you can see which sections are uphill. So they climb 1215 m in this stage, and in total? 13,295 m. Yes but it’s a circular route so there’s as much down as up. Is 13,295 m a lot? How high is Mount Everest? 8849 m. And base camp? 5364 m. And Snowden? 1085 m. So in this section they climb Snowdon (and a bit more), and 12 times up Snowden in total then. I’ve been up Snowden! I caught the train, both up and down!
Things look a bit strange. Tony has caught up Chris, and they arrive together at Brampton at 04:39. What has happened to Chris?
At ten my inbox pings with an update from Steve.
“Problems started on day one when Chris became badly dehydrated around Boston and had to work extra hard to reach the next check point for food and water. After a rest he was back in the saddle. The hot weather with temperatures of 31 degrees is less than ideal”.
“Monday Chris was struggling with pains in his feet caused by a swollen nerve and decided to take a break at Barnard Castle and wait for Tony who was following on behind. In the spirit of the song “Two Little Boys” they tied both bikes together and set off on the final 40 mile stretch for the day over the north Pennines to Brampton near the Scottish borders, with Tony towing Chris all the way!”
It’s a tense day as we watch the little green circle slowly make its way North with Chris and Tony registering at each checkpoint together. Finally they reach Dunfermline, the half way point at 20:48, toasting their achievement with a wee dram of the local beverage.
Another early start and the pair seem to be making solid progress throughout the day. It is reassuring to see them both checking in together at each checkpoint. When I go to bed they are well on their way to Barnard Castle, where they will eventually arrive at just after midnight.
All appears well from the tracker. Steve forwards us this text message from Tony.
“We will aim to get to Louth today for teatime then shower & sleep for some hours & consider riding throughout the night south to avoid some of the heat, the wind also turns back from the north which makes a hell of a difference especially across the fens- we are both suffering with fatigue & lack of sleep it’s touch and go. We need to arrive at the finish for 8pm Friday…”
But during the evening the data from the tracker suggests something isn’t right. It’s strange how the slow relentless movement of the little green circle can be so reassuring, but when it stops and turns orange you feel powerless. Then at 8 pm another e-mail from Steve, it’s not good news.
“Chris and Tony were pushing hard today to reach the Humber Bridge to cross before it closes to cyclists each evening (I didn’t know that). Coupled with fatigue and temperatures of 36 degrees, Chris was hit very badly by heat stroke just short of the bridge at Hessle and has had to withdraw. There was no chance of Tony towing Chris this time, he was just too ill to continue and his son Harry is on route as I type to rescue him.”
“Chris isn’t the only rider to have been affected by the heat. Over half of the 1500 riders taking part have had to withdraw over the last day! It has just been too hot for most to cycle the distances involved.”
So sad. We can’t appreciate how Chris must feel and hope that he makes a swift recovery.
So Tony reached Louth on Thursday night, and registered at Boston at 07:07. How can he set out from Louth and arrive at Boston before we have eaten breakfast?
Progress looks good but in the afternoon we get a further update from Steve. Tony has problems with his gear cable. Chris is recovering but still feels terrible with headaches, dizziness and is unable to concentrate.
Our evening is quite tense as we will Tony to the finish line, and a cheer goes up as we see him arrive at 21:05.
Well what to do this morning? I read Steve’s update from the previous evening. Is that really Tony? Sorry Tony.
There is no way we can understand how physically, and mentally, challenging this bike ride has been for Tony and Chris.
I doff my hat to you both.
There is still time to donate at https://gofund.me/80ff64fa. You will be helping us complete Malcolm’s last project.
… and finally a message from Chris and Tony.
“Thank you to all who have so generously contributed to this wonderful appeal, and thank you also for your many kind and encouraging words, on behalf of both Chris and myself. These made me all the more determined to try and complete the challenge. In fact, multiple challenges would be more appropriate. As well as tiredness through exertion and sleep deprivation, my fingers were numb due to holding the handlebars for hours and hours, so much that I could barely change gear yesterday. And I won’t even mention what my bum felt like after being sat in that saddle for so long 😗 The ride was both exhilarating and at times debilitating, depending on what you were going through at the time, and knowing you were really up against the clock, especially on the return. Our favourite areas were the North Pennines and Scottish Borders, as well as riding right over both Humber and Forth bridges, and through Edinburgh itself. We also saw some wonderful full moon rises over the hills. Our only regret is that we didn’t have time to stop and take more pictures.”