We British have a history of doing daft things to prove that most adversaries can be overcome, and at the same time raise money for others less fortunate than ourselves.
All of us have more in us than we believe; this can be exploited in a team environment sharing a common cause. This was particularly true in my case – at the weekend my 9-day 969-mile cycle ride came to an end. Riding as the Alliott Group International team, we managed to get over the finish line at John O’Groats, completing the 2014 Deloitte Ride Across Britain charity cycle. In the process, well over £3,000 has been raised for my chosen charity, Rennie Grove Hospice Care.
I saw partially sighted cyclists cross the line on the back of tandems, and people who had never ridden a bike before the start of the year enjoy the elation of achieving one of the toughest challenges non-pro cyclists can undertake.
Club riders train for one or two 100 mile sportives a year. We have just completed the equivalent of nine of these back to back. I have seen riders of every shape and size pedalling on one mile at a time, some super fit, others carrying a few surplus pounds (like me).
The team kept each other going, cajoling each other through the dark moments when hills appeared to go on forever, everything ached, legs had turned to jelly, and the body was yelling “stop”. We learned to ride as a unit, encouraging one another, and riding wheel to wheel inches apart (which requires a degree of trust in the riders in front of you) to reduce energy consumption by improving wind resistance and sharing the buffeting encountered by the lead rider.
Every horrible hill has its downside and an opportunity to recover. The pain was tempered by glorious weather and fantastic British countryside.
I have experienced a positive approach from everyone involved, from the team cleaning out the portable toilets to the Halfords mechanics fixing broken bikes, to the doctors and masseurs fixing broken bodies. For nine days, 800 people were focused on achieving a common goal whether on the bike or as part of a fantastic support crew. We knew that everyone had a role to play, and despite personal discomfort, I didn’t hear a cross word or a negative comment from anyone.
Cycling can be very dangerous especially when bodies are exhausted. We came through the tragedy of a beautiful mother of three young children who was fatally injured in a collision with a car.
I have some fantastic memories and I will bore you with the pictures and anecdotes in the coming days. My aches and pains will disappear, and at some point, I will be able to sit comfortably again.
My message is that any challenge can be overcome: prepare properly, don’t give up when things are tough, and work together with others.
Thanks to all at Sherrards for all of your support.
PS – To sponsor Andy, please visit his Just Giving page