2017 Spring Onion

This was an officially sanctioned Oblivion Tour training ride!

This was conceived in the wake of last years very excellent Gloucester Sausage and was the brainchild of Lord Hunter – and what a great day it was too!

Oblivioners from all over the country convened at G!ro cafe in Esher for a very civilised 10am coffee and cake start – but, in true Oblivion style, this was not just any cake but a birthday cake extravaganza celebrating a couple of the ‘old boys’ in the group surviving another year.

Then it was off for a tour of some of the most beautiful parts of Surrey (and enduring some of the most shocking roads!).

The route took us south from Esher, through Ockham and up to the top of Newlands Corner before a fast descent down and then a gentle meander through the lovely villages of Albury, Wonersh, past Lord Hunters butlers residence (?).

Thankfully we then arrived at pretty Cranleigh where a very nice cafe served us more coffee and cake!

Then we took the (slow) sprint back over the Surrey Hills, up the vicious Coombe Lane hairpin finishing with the run back to Claygate.

Lord and Lady Hunter put on a fantastic BBQ spread and we are all very grateful to Phillip and especially Fiona for their kindness and hospitality.

We feasted while we sat in the sun and talked about Strava segments, the importance of buying a new bike and whether you can in fact have too much cake!

A common thread running through the entire day (aside from the omnipresent spring onion) was the excitement building towards the full 2017 Oblivion Tour to the magnificent Ring of Kerry. Read more about that HERE.


And let’s just spare a thought for one of the Oblivion Tourists, our trusty Coins (aka Phil Battye) who is soon to embark on what promises to be an epic challenge.

The mighty MizMal challenge!

In late June, Coins takes on the Ireland Head to Head. This mammoth 600 mile trek will see Phil and 3 friends (Roger Carter, Arwel Roberts and….. the other guy) cycle from the very southern most point of the isle of Ireland at Mizen Head to the northerly most point of the island at Malin Head.

It promises to be an arduous but brilliant trip and we all wish Phil and his mates the best of luck and the very best of weather!!

What could possibly go wrong?

10 things we’ve learnt on LEJoG!

1. The Five P’sprior-preparation

There is a business ethos that we use all the time that says;

Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

In the context of LEJoG, we’d say that the better the training, the more the adventure moves from being about surviving each gruelling day to a feeling of enjoyment.

However, the one thing that is critical is to never under estimate the need for training!

2. You can do it!

Whilst this, like most things is not a race, the idea is right – you have to be in it to win it.

No matter how hard you train, there is always this nagging question in the back of your mind “What if I can’t do it”. The proof, time and time again, is that if you want something bad enough, and you put your mind to it, you can do it!

But do it under your own terms, not someone else’s. The worst accident we saw over the trip was when one rider, who had little, if any, hill experience, decided to follow Jonathan down a very steep hill in the rain, lost control and ended up hitting rocks on the opposite side of the road.

You will be slower than many, but you’ll also be faster than many – so be safe and go at your own speed!

3. The Universal Law of Cycling.img_1355

It is a universal law of cycling that it will rain and you will get wet for a minimum of 25% of all your cycling time.

And don’t believe people when they say there’s no such thing as wrong weather, just wrong clothing!

There’s no way to get around this – you are going to get wet and you may as well just prepare for it.

4. What to take?

On any very big ride, you will get a kit list with information on lights, tubes, pumps etc.

The problem in this country is to know how to prepare for all eventualities.img_0716

But there are three key things we’ve learnt here when it comes to kit;

(a) research what might be needed for practicality and not vanity, in other words, take what you might need, not what might make you look good;

IMG_1112(b) pack economically for example, it is easy to rinse out an item or two in the evening and that item will be dry or nearly dry by the next morning (and if it’s not, it’ll probably be raining soon anyway!) and

(c) if you’ve done the first two things but you still have a heavy bag, for god’s sake make sure that your bag has wheels!!

A couple of other hot tips that we’ve picked up along the way; (i) don’t try and take kit off while moving we saw a serious crunch when someone was trying to remove their waterproof whilst still cycling (ii) be visible and courteous to other road users and most importantly (iii) be generous with the chamois cream!

5. Do it with Style

day-10-coffeeAs per a previous post, a decision has to be taken before a ride whether the ride is going to be for time or for pleasure.

Day 7 scroogeOur Oblivion Tour motto is “Whatever you do, do it with style!” and this enshrines the Tour ethos, again displayed on the LEJoG trip, that we want to savour every moment and enjoy every experience.

Whilst it isn’t always easy to by stylish – if you do have the same attitude to riding, then take time to stop and take photos, allow yourself a coffee and cake stop and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

And always keep in mind that “What goes on tour, stays on Facebook!”

6. You are what you eat!

day-11-cakeIt is no surprise that the quality and quantity of what you eat and drink has a direct impact on how you will ride the next day. And there is stacks of advice available on what you should and shouldn’t do!

What we found worked for us was actually to eat as normally as possible, but to always have an emergency ration of food like a snack bar or perhaps Fruit Pastilles. Whilst gels have their place, they give a very short term boost to energy levels and good ride nutrition is more about managing a consistent energy release over the period of the ride.img_1700

As a wise person once told me, once the first hour is passed, get in to the habit of taking a small drink every 15 minutes and a small bite to eat every 30 minutes depending on cycling workload.

As Andy says; “Teamwork helped me crack 100 miles in 2015 and 1,000 in 2016. And also enabled me to complete 82 miles in the rain on handful of nuts, a banana and 5 fruit pastilles!!”

But, just to be clear, under no circumstances should you eat curry that glows in the dark from a dodgy catering van!

7. We all need friends.

2016-09-02 20.53.18You can not believe how much of a boost it was for us to be joined on days 3 and 4 by the Oblivion gang and additional friends.

The feeling that you get when friends go out of their way to help is better than the feel of cool bed sheets or unexpectedly finding £20 in your back pocket or even better than Butt’r Cream when you’ve got 100 miles to ride.

Friends make you laugh, they send you messages, they take your mind off your aching body – and like a really hot curry, that feeling of warmth lingers for a long time!

But whatever you do, don’t ever tell your friends that you don’t think they are taking enough pictures of you!

andy-collage

8. People are great!

We met so many wonderful people on our LEJoG adventure. There were many of the other cyclists with incredible stories who we now call friends. Just one example is an extraordinary person that we met, who got a disease 2.5 years ago that meant his inner ear was damaged to the extent that he could not balance enough to walk unassisted. And yet he’s just cycled from Lands End to John o’Groats!

We met a team of people from Discover Adventure who did everything they could (even on the wet and miserable days) to make our trip as enjoyable and successful as possible.the-park-hotel

We met many hotel staff who went out of their way to help us to solve problems at each of our destinations (especially Lynne and Sandra at The Park Hotel in Thurso – look them up they are wonderful people).

We met people in coffee shops and petrol stations who helped us with directions and guidance, with tips and their toilets.

And finally, we met random strangers everywhere who were moved by what we were trying to do and who, completely unprompted, gave us donations to the charities.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – people are great!

One other ‘people’ thought here is that, if a riding partner starts singing or telling jokes, it is perfectly acceptable to speed up until they can’t keep up with you or can’t speak!

9. Do it for a reason.

As you have seen, this wasn’t all coffee, cake and laughs – there were quite a few dark days and low points over the trip.

But knowing that we were doing this for two fantastic charities, Breast Cancer Care and Cancer Research UK kept us all going.

If you have already donated, then please accept our heartfelt thanks, your kindness and generosity has been truly overwhelming.

If you haven’t yet donated, but would like to, then our two charities links are here:

Jonathan raising money for Cancer Research UK

Steve & Andy raising money for Breast Cancer Care

10. Do it – Don’t regret it.

time-is-nowAmerican actress Lucille Ball once said “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done, than regret the things I haven’t done”.

Stating the obvious, you only live once. Yet there always seems to be a good reason not to do something now, usually it’s not overly convenient.

You might be thinking about taking on a physical challenge like this bike ride, or learning something new like sign language or taking up a new hobby such as salsa dancing – don’t procrastinate – put a flag in the ground, commit to what makes you happy and start making your preparations.

Otherwise you may never get around to it!

Thank you for all your support

Jonathan, Andy and Steve

The Oblivion Tour

12. It’s like Christmas!

LEJoG Day 12 – arriving in John o’Groats

It’s actually quite hard to describe the emotions that you go through after completing a physical, mental and emotional challenge of this scale. We aren’t the first or the last to do LEJoG and, of course, there are bigger challenges – but for Andy, Jonathan and I this was the toughest, most demanding and intense experience we have ever been through.

This is a rollercoaster of mixed emotions.

We are sad that this journey is complete and relieved that the adventure is over.

We are delighted to be off the bike and wondering about how soon it will be before we are desperate to be back on the bike.

And most importantly, we are sad to be saying goodbye to all of our great new people we’ve met (that hopefully we will ride with again) – and elated about getting back to our families and friends.

This is the feeling you get when you were a child and spent months thinking about Christmas, your presents, your Christmas dinner – and then it’s all over in an instant!

The day actually starting quite slowly with breakfast in the two separate hotels that the group was using and then we headed off for the last 30 miles.

A detour took us to the spectacular Dunnets Head which is actually the most northerly point in Mainland Britain (as you can see from the map below):

day-12

Then it was on for the final 12 miles to John o’Groats …. in the beautiful September sunshine!

And this is what finishing Lands End to John o’Groats feels like:

Then, in true Oblivion style, we drank champagne out of our cycling drink bottles – Perfectly synced with the Oblivion Tour motto: “Whatever you do , do it with style!”

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So, here we are, in the bar nursing our refreshing beers, our fantastic memories and our mixed emotions.

Will we do it again … no!

Would we encourage you to do it …. absolutely!

This has been a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is another item ticked off the bucket list.

After 12 months of preparation and 12 days of hard cycling, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about our next ‘christmas’ … Ring of Kerry, here we come ….. !!!!

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Day 12 Synposis:

Distance: 27.9 miles

Time – Cycling: 1 hours 56 mins

Speed – Average: 14.5mph  Max: 27.1mph

Amount of climbing: 1,280ft

If you want to see a fly-through of our route (and some photos), click here: LEJoG Day 12 The Finale

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11. A Day of Magnificents *

LEJoG Day 11

This is our penultimate day and as we prepared to depart, to be truthful, with only 65 miles to do we were in good spirits.

However, the day started at 6am with this magnificent sunrise!

day11-sunrise

day-11-cakeWe then ran along the A9 for a while battling with the lorries and traffic. As a side note, across the whole trip, we have been really impressed with the respect that we have been shown by the vast majority of drivers on the road, especially professional drivers have been fantastic – sitting behind us patiently even when we are crawling up the hills and giving us loads of space when an opportunity to pass did arise. The only issues we’ve had have been with a very small number of car drivers who perhaps think that they own the road (but that’s a different debate).

Once we got off the A9, it was coffee & cake time. Our stop today was at the lovely Thyme & Plaice café in Helmsdale, and we savoured some great coffee and lashings of their Flapjack, Fruit Cake and lovely Lemon & Lime Drizzle Cake.

Fully charged, we then joined the A897.

day11-carsAnd then we stopped again almost immediately.

We had to acknowledge to 3 vintage vehicles in the garage of the lovely Agnes who was (luckily) quite happy for us to have a look.

Three magnificent classics that are lovely but clearly have done too much mileage and are well past their sell-by date!

We again joined the A897.

This is, quite simply, 38 miles of the most magnificent road you can imagine!

Single carriageway for most of the route, with plentiful passing points, the road follows the meanderings of the River Helmsdale all the way up the valley. Here is a selection of the many, many magnificent vistas that we enjoyed during this run.

day11-vista2

During this valley cruise, we were lucky enough to spot this magnificent stag hiding in the undergrowth in the left. What a beast!

day11-stag

Then on to lunch which was a brief and exposed experience.

day11-lunch

Then on we continued with a tailwind through what must be some of Scotland’s finest scenery.

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day11-forss2As we arrived at the junction of the A897 with the more major A836, we then saw our first glimpse of the ‘real’ North Sea. Not sure quite what that means but we were seeing the Orkneys in the distance (educational bit: the people here are known as Orcadians) and spied the desolate island of Hoy, where they apparently breed cyclists.

We then had a headwindy run along the coast and through the lovely village of Forss.

The ride was liberally coated with weather not knowing whether to rain or shine.

And so we have now arrived in Thurso!

We only have about 30 miles to go to get to John O’Groats and, to be frank, most of us can’t quite believe that we have made it!

Special day tomorrow!

*Just to be clear for the pedants among you (and you know who you are!) I do mean ‘magnificents’ and not magnificence – as I am talking about a plural of magnificent things!!

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Day 11 Synposis:day11-route

Distance: 65.9 miles

Time – Cycling: 4 hours 41 mins

Speed – Average: 14.1mph  Max: 32.0mph

Amount of climbing: 2,822ft

If you want to see a fly-through of our route (and some photos), click here: LEJoG Day 11 – Magnificent!

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10. Decisions, Decisions!

day-10-coffeeLEJoG Day 10

Now, a question that each person has to answer in preparation for a trip like this is; “What do you want out of the trip?” This simple question is important because it shapes how you want to approach the trip.

There are some people in our group who are very focused on speed and getting from A to B.

There are others (and we are in that group) who are determined to try and make the most of every moment.

Neither approach is better than the other – it is just an important decision to be made!

day-10-coffee-2With that in mind, and with last night’s luminous curry in our digestive systems, we set off in the early morning gloom from the hostel in Spean Bridge in search of a good coffee and a nice bit of breakfast. We found it at the wonderful Café Eighty2 where Fee and Megan served us bacon and egg sandwiches on home-made bread – delicious! We even had dates to have with our coffees, would you believe!day-10-coffee-3

While we sat enjoying our coffee, the heavens opened and so we enjoyed a second cup.

Sadly, we lost our cycling buddy, Martin the Machine Blewett, at the drink stop immediately after the coffee stop. There is a rumour that he had a better offer than climbing the big hill immediately after lunch – but he also seemed to have something of a fever brought on by the wettest LEJoG that the organisers can ever remember.

The torrent continued for the next couple of hours, but it didn’t dampen our enjoyment of even more magnificent scenery.


day-10-loch-nessglenmorangieThere were many moments when Scotland’s beauty snuck through the clouds, like when we went past Loch Ness.

It is alleged that one of the 3 actually spotted the Loch Ness monster. However, unlike many sightings it was clear that the monster wasn’t black but was in fact quite bright white, with a pointy nose and was moving at speed as she was creating quite a wake – special moments!

As the long day wore on, and we continued north, it was a pleasant diversion that our last drink stop was at the Glenmorangie Visitor Centre.

Unfortunately, Jonathan had another mechanical drama when a spoke broke on his back wheel making his wheel wobbly which meant a late arrival at the drink stop!img_1206

Amazing how a bit of red tape meant that he could keep going and limp to the last drink stop.

From there it was the final push up, at speed,  to our night stop in Brora and our first sight of the North Sea.

We felt that it was particularly heartwarming that this run was supported by a number of drivers who honked their horns and waved their support to us as they drove past ridiculously close and at ridiculous speeds.

Maybe they were also people who were very focused on getting from A to B as fast as possible.

The Royal Marine hotel is lovely although our bikes are now stored on a curling ice rink!

Tomorrow, we head up to Thurso as our penultimate days riding, before our final push to John o’Groats.

It is beginning to seem very real that we might actually make it from one end of the country to the other … who would have thought it??!!

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Day 10 Synposis:

Distance: 97.6 miles

Time – Cycling: 6 hours 50 mins

Speed – Average: 14.3mph  Max: 42.7mph

Amount of climbing: 4,721ft

If you want to see a fly-through of our route (and some photos), click here: LEJoG Day 10

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9. Electricals, Digitals and Mechanicals!

LEJoG Day 9

Electricals, Digitals and Mechanicals!

img_1159Well Day 9 has been a tough one, not to mention a wet one!

Despite the rain, there were many highlights including Electricals, Digitals and Mechanicals!

So we left Loch Fyne in the pouring rain (again).crauchan-photo_visitor_centre

 

 

 

Our first coffee stop wax was at the Scottish Power  (Electricals) power generator Crauchans visitor centre…shocking stuff! (groan) .. where we had hot chocolate and cake (their coffee machine had broken down).

img_1167Our second range of stoppages were for photos (Digitals), because the scenery continues to be absolutely breathtaking and not to be missed, despite the weather.

Our Third stoppages were mechanical problems with Jonathan’s bike resulting in us finding the only bike shop in Fort William.

Coincidentally the bike shop was filled with other LEJoG riders solving problems!

One particularly poignant moment came when our friend and fellow LEJoG-er, Gary Maddog Owens found that his 20 year old cycling shoes had finally bit the dust, in spite of all the red tape that had been holding them together.img_1172

So there was a very moving moment when he said good bye to his old shoes while his fellow riders offered a silent tribute with the Last Post being hummed in the background. Gary shed a tear although it is not quite clear whether that was as a result of the sad loss of his old new shows or the £120 price tag of his new ones!!

A good day, but an exhausting one!

 

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Day 9 Synposis:day-9

Distance: 95.1 miles

Time – Cycling: 6 hours 35 mins

Speed – Average: 14.4mph  Max: 37.4mph

Amount of climbing: 5,868ft

If you want to see a fly-through of our route (and some photos), click here: LEJoG Day 9

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Thank you!

We have been blown away by the generosity of all of our colleagues, friends and family in supporting this ludicrous attempt to ride from one end of the country to the other.

You might be interested to know that as of tonight, the total Oblivion picture is as follows:

Steve & Andy – raising money for Breast Cancer Care – currently sitting at £2,262.36 (plus £451.31 gift aid) – Just Giving site HERE

Jonathan – raising money for Cancer Research UK – currently sitting at £2,789.83 (plus £515.10 gift aid) – Just Giving site HERE

This means that, so far, the Oblivion Tour LEJoG gang have raised £5,052.10  (plus £966.41 gift aid)

This gives a grand total so far of = £6,018.51

All three of us are truly humbled by your kindness and generosity – and it makes all the pain and tiredness worthwhile to know that, together, we are helping those less fortunate than ourselves!

So, from all 3 of us, please accept this huge …

THANK YOU !!!

 

 

8. To all Scots …

LEJoG Day 8

What a country!nardinis2

We were not happy to be leaving Kilmarnock for more cycling in the rain!

But when we got to our first drink stop in Largs (which ended up being in the lovely Nardinis Cafe, which I am reliably informed is owned by the family of actress Daniela Nardini as in “This Life”) the rain eased.

Then we started to get a taste of how beautiful and dramatic Scotland really is:img_1113

img_1146 img_1117

We took the ferry from Gourock to Dunoon.img_1142

 

Of course, it is always important to keep a watch on the little people, as this ferry sign aptly reminded us.

We then had a very pleasant lunch at the Benmore Botanical Gardens … or more accurately in a barn at the Benmore Botanical Gardens – the second barn lunch in 2 days. But this was a lovely barn. Full of barnly things but pleasingly not smelling of cows! Not that we mind the smell of cows, but it’s just not a great smell when you are trying to construct yourself a club sandwich with nice pink ham and some strange white opaque sort of ham.

Anyway, we digress.

The afternoon was a blur of wonderful rolling roads, placid lochs and stunning scenery. We spotted Inverary across the far side of Loch Fyne approximately 1/2 mile away – but it took another 15 miles before we finally arrived at Inverary, passing the Inverary Jail, the Fyne Ale Brewery and then our destination for the evening, the Loch Fyne Hotel, for dinner and early to bed!

Tomorrow is the big day that we are all looking forward to and dreading.

We are dreading it because we will have to cycle 95 miles, but this will include 0ver 7,500 feet of climbing. This will be the most many of us have ever climbed in a single day … and this after already having had 8 days of tough cycling!

We are looking forward to it because we have all fallen in love with Scotland – even after such a brief taster – and just want more of it!!

You don’t need us to tell you, but to all our Scottish colleagues, family and friends we say;

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY!!

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Day 8 Synposis:day-8

Distance: 82.3 miles

Time – Cycling: 5 hours 54 mins

Speed – Average: 14.0mph  Max: 38.7mph

Amount of climbing: 2,287ft

Relive the route: LEJoG Day 8

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7. Welcome to Scotland!

IMG_1101LEJoG Day 7

Last night being in the same hotel as Mark Cavendish and the entire Tour of Britain entourage was a talking point. This morning, we got a chance to see the professional set-up, up, close and personal … and it was very impressive. Then it was time to leave Carlisle and continue on our relentless journey northwards.

After only 10 miles, we crossed into Scotland.

Like piranhas in a tank, there was an absolute frenzy of photo-taking and the excitement and emotion of having got this far was palpable!

IMG_1091We therefore did the only thing that pro-cyclists can do in those tense situations …. we had coffee and cake (with our good mate Martin Bluett)!IMG_1093

Then after a fleeting stop to refill the water bottle(s) we hurtled slowly towards Dumfries and had the opportunity to catch up with our good mate, Stuart Callander (who runs the excellent Metrik Office serving Dumfries and the surrounding areas).

When he asked what route we were taking north, we told Stuart that we were going to be on the A76 almost all the way up to Kilmarnock. Stuart was being very supportive (with a wry smile) when he said “Och, that’s a horrible road … with loads of HGV’s rushing up and down … but at least it’s not raining!”

So, with Stuart’s motivational words ringing in our ears, we left Dumfries and it started to rain!

It rained all the way up the A76 until we got to the lunch stop which was in a cow shed. Now we have nothing against cow sheds, but we were cold, wet and hungry. But the farmer loans Discover Adventure this cow shed for free and this keeps the cost down, and this means that more money can go to the charities, is the logic.IMG_1107IMG_3995.JPG

We left the lunch stop and it carried on raining. In fact, it rained all the way up to 10 miles outside Kilmarnock. Then the sun finally broke through and we started to get glimpses of the lovely rolling Scottish countryside.

The last drink stop provided a welcome surprise for one of the trio – can you guess which one?

There are 3 specific highlights that we’d like to share today;

Making it to Scotland – when you hear about the casualties that this trip has already incurred, this is not a given! Another significant crash today with one of the guys on the tour going over his handlebars, another being taken to hospital with chest pains and yet another taken off the bike after struggling with asthma yesterday following the very wet day up from Preston. This trip is absolutely not for the faint-hearted!

Your kindness and generosity – the totals on our two Just Giving sites continue to grow and Jonathan, Andy and Steve are all immensely grateful for your kindness and your generosity! Thank youDay 7 scrooge.

Facebook Banter – we all understand that there is a certain sadistic pleasure that can be gained from the fun of social media – but it is made for things like this and the 3 of us now seem to be in competition to see who can post the most unflattering, banter-encouraging picture of each other – and we are absolutely loving your involvement!! It gives us a real boost to know that you are not only looking at the daft stuff we are doing and posting, but that you are joining in – this is fantastic support, thank you!

Tomorrow we head off for what we have been told is going to be one of our loveliest days of cycling!!

But perhaps just one last chore to be done …IMG_1112

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Day 7 Synposis:day-7

Distance: 94.5 miles

Time – Cycling: 6 hours 12 mins

Speed – Average: 15.2mph  Max: 32.2mph

Amount of climbing: 3.228ft

Relive the route: LEJoG Day 7

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THE STORY AFTER 7 DAYS

7 days

6. Get down, Shap!*

LEJoG Day 6Diggles Cafe, Lancaster

After 6 days of tough cycling, there are aches and pains and all sorts of ‘tender’ places!

However, today was a good day.

We left Preston in sunshine and hurtled towards Lancaster for a very enjoyable coffee stop at the gorgeous Diggles cafe in Lancaster. While we there, a lovely lady gave us £5 towards the charity. This follows donations from random strangers yesterday! Apparently some people are quite impressed that we are cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats for Breast Cancer Care (Steve & Andy) and Cancer Research UK (Jonathan) – people are very, very kind!

Anyway, back to today.IMG_1383

After leaving the lovely town of Lancaster and a brief drink stop, we headed north through Kendal (and just like Sir Edmund Hillary, we enjoyed some lovely Kendal Mint Cake) then on towards the ominous sounding Shap.

Shap is known for it’s pink granite – it’s also known for the 6 mile long, 1,400 feet of almost non-stop climbing. To be honest, I think we were all a bit nervous about whether we would be able to handle it after already having had 5 tough days in the saddle.

But like most things in life, it wasn’t actually as tough as we had anticipated. Climbing Shap was really just about endurance and, although we didn’t stop, many on the tour were stopping to admire the magnificent views.

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We kept going to the top, knowing that the summit of Shap was also significant as we had cycled a total of 480 miles. This is therefore also the halfway point of our Lands End to John O’Groats journey.

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With Shap conquered and a quick lunch of pasta, sandwiches and, yes, you guessed it, a bit more Kendal Mint Cake, we then had the very enjoyable run in through Penrith to Carlisle.IMG_1420

To add a little fun into the proceedings, the Tour of Britain are staying in our hotel – there’s a lot of autograph hunting going on – but we’ve just had to say that they need leave us alone and respect our privacy!

However, tomorrow we have another big 100 mile ride to Kilmarnock – and the rain is forecast again. How does the song go … “there may be trouble ahead”?

(* Note on title – this is a wordplay that only old people will understand / remember, so if you don’t know what it relates to ask an old person!)

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Day 6 Synposis:day-6

Distance: 87.0 miles

Time – Cycling: 6 hours 11 mins

Speed – Average: 14.0mph  Max: 30.6mph (as i forgot to switch the Garmin back on, this doesn’t included the blitz down from the top of Shap which was around 38mph)

Amount of climbing: 4,219ft

If you want to see a fly-through of our route (and some photos), click here: LEJoG Day 6

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5. Wet, Wet, Wet!

LEJoG Day 5

When we woke this morning in Shrewsbury, the sun was just peaking above the horizon.

When we peaked outside the hotel doors with our bikes, the rain was just dropping from the sky – and it continued to do that for 8 hours!!

The one thing about cycling in the rain is that there is very little pleasure involved. You get rain coming from above, and then you get a constant deluge of rain from the cyclist in front (who obviously doesn’t have mudguards) and from passing cars. Then there is the spray that comes up from you own front and back tyres (as obviously you don’t have mudguards on your own bike) which allows you to get a real taste for the road!

But we were still buzzing from a great with the Oblivion gang and friends the night before, so after a quick photo of the hotel, we set off in the rain. And we got wetter and colder. So much so that we decided to deviate from the Discover Adventure plan and forego lunch and the drink stops so that we would get to the hotel quicker.

Drowned Rats

At one point, Andy went ahead to scout for a coffee stop for the trio, found one that unfortunately didn’t seem to have anyone that would serve him coffee and because of more rubbish phone and internet reception (Digital Britain .. really?) Jonathan and Steve missed the venue that Andy had found and ended up heading on another 10 miles before they found a stop. But again with no phone signal, couldn’t tell Andy where they were.

But we all reconvened about 20 miles further up the road where the decision was made to make haste to Preston, the hotel and dry clothes.

There is little to say about the route as the tough conditions meant that it was head down virtually all of the way, but tomorrow promises to be much better. The weather forecast is improving, we hit the Lake District on our way to Carlisle and, all being well, we should pass through the half way to John o’Groats point – very excited!!

day-5==============================

Day 5 Synposis:

Distance: 87.0 miles

Time – Cycling: 5 hours 49 mins

Speed – Average: 14.9mph  Max: 32.2mph

Amount of climbing: 2,969ft

If you want to see a fly-through of our route (and some photos), click here: LEJoG Day 5

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4. Carrot Cake and wye not!

LEJoG Day 4 didn’t start too well.

Walking over a wet wooden floor in cycling cleats at the Marriott Hotel (that had no ‘wet floor’ sign) meant that Steve went clattering over and landed on his ribs and ended up winded and badly bruised – but we supportively said ‘man up’ and he got on his bike anyway!

The plan for a rendezvous with the Oblivion group plus friends worked perfectly this time (apart from one small chain malfunction) and we headed off up the magnificent Wye valley. This is a real gem of a ride with Tintern Abbey as it’s centrepiece …. one wit in the group has since commented that it’ll be lovely when it’s finished!!

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As we left Monmouthshire and headed off to Hereford, we again deviated off the official route (we shouldn’t keep doing this as it doesn’t really help the excellent Discover Adventure organisers keep a track of us).

We had a wonderful trip to visit with Jane McAra’s sister, Kate and her family. Not only do they have a beautiful home, but I can tell you that Kate can bake a mean Carrot Cake!!!

Kate 1

We had our second mechanical malfunction as Jonathan realised that he could not change gear – so he and Olivia hurtled off into Hereford to find a great bike shop (Climb On Bikes) who fixed the problem in about 5 minutes!

One other great moment on todays ride was when the ‘lead’ group were cycling past a lovely couple, Sin and Hayley, who were having their wedding photos taken in front of some very impressive gates … perfect photo bomb moment … and what was bizarre was that they seemed to love it!!!

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After a second rendezvous, we were off again although the plan that was agreed is that we would split up for lunch so as not to cause any further problems for the organisers. That was the last we saw of the group until dinner that evening. With routes changing and very long hills to climb, it ended up being impossible to re-join the two parts ofthe group, but spirits were very high when we did all meet at the Peach Tree Restaurant in Shrewsbury.

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The photos speak for themselves about how great it was to have everyone together, but the highlight was the lovely Charlotte joining us (Jonathan’s sister and twin of Kate, who is the reason that Jonathan is doing this trip – read here for more details).

What you can’t capture with photos and a few words, is how much it meant to Jonathan, Andy and Steve to be joined by friends and so many of our Oblivion buddies – the support was both overwhelming and humbling!

Big hugs of thanks to you all!!

day-4==============================

Day 4 Synposis:

Distance: 98.3 miles

Time – Cycling: 7 hours 38 mins

Speed – Average: 13mph  Max: 49.2mph

Amount of climbing: 5,870ft

Suffer score: 165

If you want to see a fly-through of our route (and some photos), click here: LEJoG Day 4

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3. Say Cheese!

LEJoG Day 3

After leaving Tiverton, we headed out on our run to Chepstow … and then got lost.2016-08-31 15.33.42

We took a wrong turn and instead of turning around and going back, we headed on assuming that it would all work out in the end – it did, of course, but not without adding a big detour

And then we joined the A38. If you’ve never been on the A38, count yourself lucky. It’s a busy road with not much space for bikes, and lots of very fast articulated lorries!

2016-09-01 13.02.48When we got to Cheddar, we then split off from the official route and headed off through Cheddar village to our agreed meeting point with the rest of the Oblivion gang.

Scheduled meet at 1pm came and went with us sitting having pies and a Cheddar ploughmans lunch in the lovely Cafe Gorge with Olivia Battye … and no Oblivion Tourists.

They were having lunch in a different cafe … true Oblivion planning!img_11162016-09-01 13.24.30-1

Then it was time to cycle the Gorge itself. This natural limestone fissure through the landscape, which is logged as one of the top 100 rides to do in the country, was lovely.

It was sunny, and we meandered our way, enjoying the scenery throughout the climb.

This was one of the 3 big highlights of the day.

The second highlight was the ride down from the plateau above the Gorge.

This was on a wonderful, smooth, very fast and winding road which led us rapidly to the third highlight, which was meeting the Oblivion guys at their lunch stop!

img_1119Then we raced back on to the official route and followed a very industrial route from there to the lovely Marriott St Pierre Hotel at Chepstow.

A great dinner ensued at the Riverside Inn in Chepstow and the Oblivion gang was joined by Nick Redman, Kiran Mistry and the wonderful Ian ‘Magoo’ McAra!

We went to bed buzzing after having had a great time at Cheddar and boosted by the fact that our friends had all come to join and support us!!

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Day 3 Synposis:day-3

Distance: 96.7 miles

Time – Cycling: 6 hours 45 mins

Speed – Average: 14mph  Max: 39.6mph

Amount of climbing: 4,024ft

Suffer score: 153

If you want to see a fly-through of our route (and some photos), click here: LEJoG Day 3

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2. Moor and more rain!

LEJoG Day 2

There might be a light shower at about 11am, they said!

We set off from Liskeard in grey murky conditions this morning, but the conditions deteriorated as the morning went on. Then we went up on to Dartmoor and the light shower turned into a fully-fledged, can’t-see-where-you-are-going, glasses-fogging-up summer downpour.IMG_0813

This meant we got cold and wet – but spirits were high nonetheless – we were well on the way in day 2!

After lots of undulations, we eventually starting descending and that’s when it got really hairy. As per yesterday, when you are going downhill, you know there is going to be an uphill soon after, so you hurtle down the hills trying to build as much speed as possible – but today, we were doing that in wet foggy conditions.

IMG_0804Where we did enjoy moments of visibility, it was stunning, but the rest of the time it was just plain scary!

“Well just go a bit slower” I hear you say ….

“really????” you’ll hear me say back!

Max speed today 46.5 mph … boom!

On a serious note, a quick word for our new friend Paul Sweeney … an excellent bloke who went headlong into heather and rocks on one of the sharp bends. He is battered and bruised with soft tissue damage to his lower back, but has survived to tell the tale and is keen to get back on his bike tomorrow – what a star!IMG_0829

We’re now enjoying sometime in the lovely town on Tiverton. What we saw of Dartmoor was stunning, but I now have a newfound respect for friends that I know cycle this area all the time – and I am thinking particularly of the machine that is Andy Unstead, who does a massive amount for charity checkout:  http://www.velociraptorcycle.org.uk/)

So we have survived today, a little moister and a little wiser (perhaps) but tomorrow is a special day.

Most of the Oblivion Tour gang plus some additional friends are joining us at Cheddar – we will then cycle the magnificent Cheddar Gorge on our way up to Chepstow – and I can honestly say that Jonathan, Andy and I are really looking forward to seeing all of the gang … and that’s because they make us look good!!!

Can’t wait!!

day-2==============================

Day 2 Synposis:

Distance: 69.6 miles

Time – Cycling: 5 hours 24 mins

Speed – Average: 13mph  Max: 46.5mph

Amount of climbing: 6,995ft

Suffer score: 122

If you want to see a fly-through of our route (and some photos), click here: LEJoG Day 2

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1. Is there nothing flat in Cornwall?

LEJoG Day 1

Now don’t get me wrong – Cornwall is beautiful.

Everything about it Cornwall is fabulous – the coastline, the views, the people, the food – the list goes on.

However, when you are cycling around Cornwall, there is nothing flat.

Just have a look at the grey elevation chart below the map and you are constantly either going up or down!

Day1 Detail

Now up and down is not necessarily a problem.

However, in Cornwall, when you get a downhill run, it is invariably through a tree-covered, difficult to see bit – with a junction somewhere at the bottom, at which you have to stop or at least slow down.

Then comes the stinger. You’ve been hurtling down hill, but have now had to slow down so much that when you hit the uphill, you are probably in the wrong gear, in the wrong place on the road and with a parade of cars all waiting patiently … silently … ominously behind you!!

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Cornwall is very, very pretty.

This is my first visit to Cornwall, but I promise that it won’t be my last – but next time I’ll be driving!!

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Day 1 Synposis:

Distance: 75.2 miles

Time – Cycling: 5 hours 19 mins  Total: 6 hourse 59 mins

Speed – Average: 14.1mph  Max: 46.3mph

Amount of climbing: 6,184ft

Suffer score: 63

If you want to see a fly-through of our route (and some photos), click here: LEJoG Day 1

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It’s great to Ride London

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This weekend, a number of Oblivion Tourists, completed the 100 mile Prudential Ride London. Jonathan (Flash) Whitmore, Phil (Coins) Battye,  (Lord) Phillip Hunter, (Capn) Andy Thornley and I had a wonderful day.

This is a truly remarkable event with over 29,000 riders taking part in the 100 mile closed-road ride around London and Surrey. In 2013, the first Ride London had about 15,000 riders which is clear evidence for how rapidly cycling has increased in popularity. Now, including the 100 mile ride, over 100,000 cyclists get involved in the various different events over the weekend in what has become a true festival of cycling.

The 100 mile ride itself is special, not just because it takes place on closed roads, but because the atmosphere is fantastic with crowds cheering you on for almost every mile of the ride. These supporters are cheering for hours and hours!!The #RideLondon Medal

These closed roads also allowed us to hurtle around the course at astonishing speeds (even for us low-level mamils) averaging over 17 mph and with a maximum speed of 50 mph!

At this point, we must share a thought for those that were involved in incidents during the ride (33 in all were hospitalised including 2 with serious injuries and one person who, tragically, has since died) – whether this was as a result of inexperience, the speed, the sheer volume of riders, the challenge itself or just a freak accident, our hearts go out to their families and friends.

It’s also worth saying that the organisation and the staff were fantastic in dealing with problems and throughout the whole event, so a big thank you to them for putting in so much effort!28 Days to go

This event is a great advert for cycling and for Flash and I, this was an important part of our preparations for Lands End to John O’Groats.

It’s a sobering thought that, as we rest tired legs today, what we’ve done in one day, we are going to have to do every day for 10 consecutive days!

We now only have 28 days before we take on the toughest bike ride we’ve ever done!!

So, please consider supporting us at (and the fantastic team at Breast Cancer Care) at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Oblivion16