Today is my first official lazy day since Alex passed away - I am yet to get out of my pajamas, have watched trash TV most of the day and am dining out on cereal as my main meal of choice. Fear not, I am not regressing, just recuperating…
If arranging The Kaiser Challenge wasn’t enough to push me to exhaustion, cycling the 200 miles got me pretty close and then it was the final dancing till dawn, celebrating my boy’s life on 7th July that eventually toppled me over! There are so many tales to tell that it tires me out just thinking of how to collect them all together but fear not, I will endeavour to give you a flavour of what life on the road as a motley crew of cyclists was like…
On the surprisingly dry morning of 5th July I finally got to see Team Pegasus standing shoulder to shoulder with bikes in hand ready to go. After the support vans were stocked, garmins, water bottles and charity vests distributed and media spoken to, the Pegasians stood together in Norfolk Square, eager to get on the road and face the reality of what was to come.
Split into teams to minimize the chance of anyone getting run over/lost, they looked like a funny but united bunch - whether it was the members of ‘Team Sausage’ who hardly had a road bike nor piece of lycra amongst them, or ‘Team Day’ and their matching pink and blue cycling suits, or even the ‘Fast Team’ (later rebranded to be ‘Speedy Wizards’) who looked like they were fresh out of the Tour De France - everyone was keen, there was a buzz in the air and the love for Kaise was feeding us all energy.
As I stood in front of them, with a bank of supporters behind me, it was then that it all became real. How did we manage to get to this point, 55 cyclists standing in the middle of the square up north, ready to embark upon something great. Blimey. It deserved a moment to breathe it in and so I did, before I took to the megaphone in a bid to motivate the troops prior to going into battle.
FYI - if you haven’t ever spoken into a megaphone before, I would thoroughly advise it…and if you can get one with a siren on it too then that is EVEN better. I think by the end of the trip certain individuals wanted to wrestle it off me but lest to say, they didn’t succeed (I am freakishly strong). It is currently sitting next to me on the sofa ready and waiting for me to drunkenly shout at strangers out my top floor flat window later on, but that’s another blog.
As the ‘Fast Team’ set off to the sound of applause, each team mounted their steeds and took their turn to begin - it was only when we saw Team Sausage go past the square twice that we realized that not all had set off in the right direction! Good start!
Now, I am not sure how many of you have been to Glossop but the only way out is by going up hill. Rest assured that I’m not just talking about your bog-standard gentle inclines but instead hills that could actually double as vertical slides at theme parks…Sure, the fast team pounded their way up them, even with Spokey Joe already having two slow punctures and a spoke missing from his wheels, but I am pretty sure that the other four groups spent the first 30 miles cursing both myself and Kaiser, wondering why the hell they agreed to do this and questioning when it would finally get flat?! The answer was, not for a while…
As the sunburn set into our skin, we all cycled/pushed/dragged ourselves to the top of one hill after another, preying for it to be the last. At one point we even had to carry our bikes as the well planned route took us over a ‘lane’ that wasn’t passable by cars nor road bikes - this is when Team Sausage had their moment and showed off the ability of the sweet-ass suspension and tractor like tyre’s of their mountain bikes (although the glory was short lived as there was, of course, another well tarmac’d hill at the end of it).
The Speedy Wizards, using local knowledge that the rest of us chose to ignore (sorry Lorna!), managed to avoid the toughest hill and were free-wheeling their way to speeds of 58 mph during the rewarding moments of downhill whilst the rest of us were still staring at the tops, not sure whether it was a mirage or not. Special mention has to go to Tash in Team 1 who not only cycled up these hills, but also back down them to help struggling team mates, at one point cycling her bike whilst pushing someone else’s to ensure that they made it to the top!
Team Day, or Team Gay depending on who you are speaking too, rode gloriously in their matching uniforms, conquering hill after hill. Even the lesser experienced of the group pushed themselves to breaking point and Nick Day (the leader) wanted to make a special mention for Rog & Jedi who, although more used to smoking fags & drinking WKD Blue, drove themselves hard to try and keep up. I didn’t want to let Nick know that this was because watching his bum in lycra was like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey for them…Nick, I am sure your motivational words were partly responsible!
Unfortunately our team didn’t have such a carrot (jokes Charlie, your bottom is enough to make anyone cycle faster - but just in the opposite direction from you) but we did have great banter, two cyclists new to ‘clipping in’ which resulted in an average of 3 hilarious falls a day each whilst being stuck to the bike and a couple of northern lasses who could have given Mr Motivator a run for his money and so we made it to lunch - just.
After the first hill I had to raise my hands in defeat and pass the GoPro Headcam to Lorna ‘I like to sing whilst going up near vertical inclines’ Fisher as, although it only weighs less than a pound, with every metre I could feel my head being dragged closer to the floor. This would not have made good footage and I think the soundtrack of my extremely heavy breathing may have, while hilarious for a bit, got a little freaky as time went on!
We all regrouped (bar Team 1) at the ‘lovely’ pub on route, by this point no one cared about the sticky floor/hair in food/strange locals as there was a mix of elation and exhaustion knowing that the first 40 miles - which were to be the hardest of the entire route - were done. As food was inhaled out in the garden, tops were whipped off (due to the excitement over the unexpected rays of sunshine that were being cast down, many of us seemed intent on trying to achieve optimum dehydration and sunstroke before getting on the bikes again as the challenge just wasn’t hard enough you know?!) and lack lustre lunges were done.
Unbeknownst to us, Team 1 were trundling along, being led by the most amazing two ladies - Snix and Tash - who were keeping motivation high/being on hand to wipe away tears/pushing people up hills whilst helping each member achieve their potential. This group included the most determined of individuals with the least amount of experience and the heaviest of bikes, thankfully the Support Van hero that is Rico was on hand to give a cheeky lift or two when the going got too tough but I know that those girls had to be clonked over the head and thrown in at first as they didn’t want to give up - utterly amazing the lot of them.
As we all set off after lunch, one team after another, the route was kind and the miles went past quickly. At one point we did 10 miles in 36 minutes and tempted fate by starting to think about our ‘imminent’ arrival at the hostel…That was until we got to Telford. Bloody Telford.
Let me tell you about Telford, it was basically our final rest place and so when we cycled past the cheery ‘Welcome to Telford’ sign, I air punched. A big triumphant air punch. I was proud and elated that we were nearing the end of our first day - surely food and a hot shower were only a couple of short miles away.
Well, if someone had told me at that point that ‘Welcome to Telford’ (if that is even its real name) actually means ‘Welcome to mile after mile of relentless A road that leads nowhere and - haha - Telford doesn’t even exist’ then I would have done a ‘Sarah Banfill’ and thrown my bike down in a fit of rage, refusing to get back on. It went on forevvvvveerrrrrrrrrr, the light started to dip, as did motivation - I must have inhaled a mars bar for each final mile just to get me through.
We did get there though, cycling through somewhere called Paradise in the finally furlong that really did feel like it could be when we saw a huge mansion with a YHA sign out the front…of course on closer inspection it wasn’t OUR YHA, why would it be - that would be too easy!
On arrival, we high fixed each other, shared congratulations and did a bit of a head count - Team Day were the first there, already gobbling down plates of sausage and mash and Team Sausage were getting the beers in, so other than us there were just Team Snix and the Speedy Wizards to finish…Hmm, a niggling worry worked its way into my head - I knew to expect Team Snix to be a bit delayed but the Speedy Wizards? Even with repeated toilet stops thanks to one small bladdered team member, intent on marking his territory every 5 miles, they hadn’t really been seen for dust throughout the route - even the Kaisers (who followed the route, providing invaluable motivational cheers along the way) said that they almost cycled too fast to catch on camera. So where were they?
About 20 minutes or so, Team Snix rolled in to triumphment cheers from all of the Pegasians present (admitably I was in the process of getting the support vans ready to go on a recon mission for them just in case)…But that still left the Speedy Wizards…
After checking with the YHA staff that they definitely weren’t off having a group shower or anything, I picked up the phone and tried to call Ches, it rang…and rang….and rang…and then,
“Ches?? Are you okay? Where are you?”
And then followed the answer I didn’t want to hear, my worst nightmare for the ride…
“Oh Sarah, there has been a terrible accident….”
“We have…….fallen into the pub!!”
Cue a large amount of expletives on my part and promises of physical harm, Ches explained that they had arrived around 1.5 hours ago but not quite made it to the YHA.
Therefore, technically, the Speedy Wizards were last after Day One….a real life tortoise and hare story for you folks….