Day 12, the final day of our ride from John o’Groats, took us from Liskeard to Land’s End. We made it. 955 miles done. What a trip.
The day itself was wet and relatively hard, with glowering skies and breezy drizzle. At no point could it honestly be said to be ‘brightening up’ (one of Mike’s catchphrases joyfully delivered over the last two weeks). The hills were fewer and shorter than the Devon stage, but equally steep. When the road went uphill it was seemingly never less than a 7% gradient, and usually closer to 10%.
Cornwall’s a beautiful part of the country, but the beauty is mostly around the edges. We went right through the middle where you are surrounded by scrubby countryside, cabbage fields, livestock and former tin mining villages, which have less in their favour especially with leaden clouds overhead. As with yesterday Cornwall continued to have the least accommodating drivers, however we also got by far the most support from locals and drivers alike which more than made up for it – thank you Cornwall!
Regarding the trip as a whole, it’s still hard to fully comprehend what we accomplished. Averaging 80 miles a day for twelve days straight seemed a daunting task from the outside, and it was certainly challenging from the inside. While I’m a regular cyclist, I’ve only done those sort of distances occasionally. Mike’s more of a squash player and has only been cycling for a year, so did exceedingly well to get into the kind of form necessary (and let’s be frank, he’s also ten years older than me). Darren had the endurance base necessary but is a converted runner, so riding up hills is still a reluctant pleasure at best. Chuck in the kind of weather you would expect from Britain in late September and the discomfort you might imagine of sitting on a razor blade for 6+ hours a day and you get some idea.
That all said, everything went remarkably smoothly. We had 1 puncture between us for the whole 12 days, and the only mechanicals were two cleat changes and a front mech adjustment on the final day. More importantly perhaps, we all managed pretty well physically. Once we got into day 3 our legs all stopped complaining and got the idea of what was required of them. Shoulders, necks and triceps got a bit of a hammering and one of Mike’s knees complained a lot, but he obeyed Rule #5, dosed up and got on with it.
Once we’d got past the nightmare weather of Day 1 we started to get into to good shape riding as a team. We found a useful formation with either me or Darren pushing the wind on the front for 10 miles at a time, and Mike tucked in the middle. We also broke the days up into 3 or 4 stints of 20-30 miles with breaks in the motorhome for coffee, snacks and lunch. Which doesn’t even begin to cover it.
We simply couldn’t have done this ride without Sue supporting. She navigated the whole distance (twice, nearly) in a big motorhome, supplied us with the hot drinks we craved at each stop (including Aeropress coffee) and served up a huge variety of carb-filled food including hot pies, Cornish pasties, Scotch eggs, flatbreads, flapjacks, malt loaf and even a bacon roll on the final day. We’d all bought a ton of gels and energy bars but hardly got through them due the veritable feasts Sue provided along the way. A total star.
It was a fantastic trip for the four of us, and a long held dream of Darren’s which I’m honoured to help make come true. Mike was great company and a fine roommate, especially considering we barely knew each other beforehand. Mike also planned the route (borrowing the end-to-end experience of brother Graham) and booked all the accommodation along the way, which was no mean feat considering everywhere we stayed needed to be en route, have space to park a large motorhome, provide a twin and a double room with en suite bathrooms, and have hot dinners and breakfast.
I’m really proud we’ve managed to raise so much money – thanks hugely to everyone who supported us. We’ve so far raised nearly £6,500, and there’s some large corporate contributions to come. As a reminder we’re riding in aid of three charities close to our various hearts: me for Rockinghorse Sussex Children Support, Darren for Rowcroft Cancer Hospice and Mike for the Huntingdon’s Disease Association. If you’d like to contribute, please support us here.