Day 4 – 107 miles to Haydock

Tuesday dawned sunny with an autumnal chill in the air as we rolled out of Ludlow onto the Shropshire lanes. 

The route was a flatter terrain, meaning more chance to stretch the legs and pick up the pace.  This morning was what I had imagined RAB would be like.  Quiet roads,  lovely country scenery and time to form groups and chat your way through the ride. A cyclists heaven. 

Our route took through the Cheshire plains before the last 15 miles skirting around the Greater Manchester suburbs. Having made good time I arrived at Haydock Park racecourse without any hold up from traffic,  meaning the post ride routine of shower,  massage and a mug of tea and cake.

The cake part was courtesy of the Princes Trust where an ambassador who had used a grant to start her own baking business had provided a cupcake for every rider.  GBBO at base camp! 

And don’t forget that this ride is about helping raise funds for charity.  As an event it hopes to exceed a million pounds across the causes,  and whilst my contribution will be only a fraction – it all helps.  Go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RAB2017.

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Applying the finishing touches

So with three weeks to go until the start of the Ride Across Britain challenge the months of training and preparation are now nearly complete. Fund raising is progressing well – helped by raising attention through my new Princes Trust cycling jersey.

A nice moment happened at the station last weekend. I was travelling by train to the start point of a sportive in Petersfield – the logic being that after the 60 mile event finished I would then carry on and ride home to add an extra 40 miles to make the total distance equivalent to a full day of RAB. Anyway I was waiting at Guildford station at 8am for a connecting train and a “retired gentleman” approached me and seeing my bike opened up a conversation. What was it made of (carbon fibre), what were the benefits (light weight), how much did it cost (a lot) etc. I told him what I was training for, and so he asked whether I was raising money for charity. I was wearing an over jacket which I unzipped to show my red Princes Trust top. “Oh yes I approve” was his immediate response and he wished me luck for the event. A random conversation from an inquisitive passer-by that made me feel really good about what I was doing and why I was doing it.

There is still time to sponsor me – by clicking on the link on the photo below.

You will be supporting a fantastic cause, that I now know has a really good public appreciation. I am also starting to make plans to be able share photos and content – via this blog and social media – over the 9 days whilst I am taking part in the challenge. I have started re-using my Twitter account – you can follow me @PaulWeald – and there you can find a picture of me ‘at the beach’ from my sportive that day.

Preparing for the elements

The previous weekend I also learned about what it’s like to ride in torrential rain. I was doing another sportive – this time in the Chilterns – and the sky got darker and darker, before the heavens opened. Thunder, hail and a torrential downpour ensued – much more than my showerproof jacket could cope with. So this week I am the proud owner of a much more rain resistant and breathable cycling jacket – all set for the inevitable rain that we might get on RAB in the Lakes or in Scotland.

I also got very wet shoes from the early morning dew walking across the field from the car to event registration that day. The RAB kit list suggests crocs and so, courtesy of some shopping by my wife, I now have my first pair of open toed footwear. A new experience for my feet!

So I guess this is all about getting ready to move out of the comfort zone – that is part and parcel of undertaking a big challenge. Not worrying about what the weather will do, and in September, recognising that chilly damp conditions underfoot are what we should expect.

And getting used to climbing back on the bike after 60-70 miles in the saddle for another 2 hour ride to get you to the destination point for that day. It’s becoming the new normal.

Six weeks to go – time to get my charity fund raising sorted

Now the schools have broken up it is timely reminder that the RAB itself is now just around the corner. In fact in six weeks time I will be packing my belongings into a 90L kitbag and getting ready for the train journey down to Penzance. Can’t wait…..

Training has continued to progress pretty much as planned. This month I had a very enjoyable four days of cycling whilst on holiday in Majorca.

Whilst the hills were good practice for the first two days of RAB in Cornwall and Devon, the 30 degree plus temperatures were not something that I expect we will see in early autumn in the UK!

So my Spanish rides were shorter trips at either the beginning or end of the day to try and avoid the ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ effects of the midday sun. Over the four days I managed a total of 250 km across six different rides. There was a combination of flattish spins out towards the coast and then more challenging rides with 500 metre (1,500 foot) ascents of the local hills.

Most venues had a church or castle at the top. And so the song of the day was Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill“. Very apt!

It was all going well until the final day when I got caught out by a change of road surface on a bend which resulted in me falling off my bike and sliding down the road on my left hand side. Luckily nothing worse than bumps and grazes, although it was a week before I got out cycling again back at home.

It’s time to help others

The other part of the reason for taking on this cycling challenge is to raise money for a good cause – which for me is the Princes Trust. Just like the London Marathon – the RAB event does a lot of social good through charity fundraising. Back in February I attended a Q&A evening put on by the event organisers – at the offices of the Princes Trust. I met one of their ambassadors and heard first hand of the amazing work that they do to help young people – who have fallen on hard times – to turn their lives around. It was truly inspiring and meant that my Ride Across Britain had found its true purpose.

You can click on the image below to donate directly to this charity.

I would also like to encourage businesses to get involved:

  • For example, does your business have charity days – dress down Fridays for example – and would you be prepared to hold an event to raise funds for the Princes Trust?
  • One of my wife’s clients has the idea of setting up a static bike in their offices and then getting staff to take a turn at pedalling. And as ‘cake’ is a well known staple diet of cyclists, then why not combine it with a cake stall?

It would be great if we could arrange some events whilst the RAB is taking place in September. In that way there is a direct connection between those participating through your business with me (and 700 others) who are pedalling across the country. There is still six weeks left to make these arrangements.

So please do get in touch if you think your business could get involved in this way – to extend the reach of my fund raising as a corporate activity. So that together we can give more young people a chance to better themselves.

It’s been five years… and now is the time for the next big challenge

Well, where did the last 5 years go?

After the successes of the 2012 Olympic year – meaning the Dallaglio Flintoff Cycle Slam of course – the legacy lives on with another big cycling challenge for me.

This time it is the Ride Across Britain (RAB) which is a 9 day end-to-end ride across our country. In total, 969 miles to be covered in just 9 days. With over 700 cyclists taking part, it takes in some of the country’s most breath-taking landscapes; starting from Land’s End in Cornwall to cycling over Dartmoor, Shap Fell in The Lake District, Penrith, Glencoe and the stunning scenery of the Scottish Highlands.

I think of it as ‘just’ a 100 mile sportive (which I know that I can do) back to back for nine consecutive days. Oh err… not to undertaken lightly!

Over the past 5 years I have remained active, so the cycling aspect of the challenge is definitely something that I can train myself for, but I haven’t done anything significant by way of charity fundraising. This year I am raining funds for the Princes Trust, which creates life changing opportunities for disadvantaged young people. Through your donations they can offer free programmes that give young people the practical and financial support they need to stabilise their lives. You can find out more about why I am fundraising by reading about a Princes Trust ambassador that I met.

But to kick things off, let me tell you about what I have been up to since my previous blog activity:

  • Top left is me riding last year in the “King of The Downs”, a 125 mile one day sportive which include 11 significant climbs. This was the test of my capability and proof to myself that both bike and rider were up for the ‘next big challenge’.
  • Top right is a shot from Gran Canaria, last Christmas, where I spent a wonderful day cycling in the mountains. I look forward to seeing more stunning scenery when we get to Scotland on this years ‘RAB’.
  • Bottom right is me competing in triathlon, which is the sport that got me into cycling.
  • Bottom left is a group cycling photo with my club mates from Thames Valley Triathletes (TVT). As a coach and ride leader, they all think that the past winter of cycling training has been about equipping them for the triathlon season ahead, whilst at the same time it has been laying the foundations for me and my big cycling challenge.
  • And the 2017 glue that will hold all this together is the fund raising, and the opportunity to give something back for others.

So if you want to sponsor me, there is a Virgin Money Giving page that allows you to do so. And please feel free to follow this blog to keep in touch with my training and the event itself.