WW1 Centenary Cycle

 

A century ago next Monday, Britain entered the First World War. It was to be one of the major turning-points of the 20th century – and the beginning of Blind Veterans UK. The charity was founded in 1915 to support soldiers, sailors and munitions workers blinded in service. Next Monday, I will be embarking on a 5 day WW1 Centenary Cycle to Paris hoping to pay some small tribute to all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice! I am doing this, because it is something I feel strongly about and also to raise funds and awareness for Blind Veterans UK, a charity close to my heart. I have had fantastic support throughout the year but would make one more appeal for any support you can offer, please donate if you can, to help support this wonderful cause at http://www.justgiving.com/FSS2

Unfortunately, I am struggling a little with a knee injury I have picked up,  However, I will be applying a large dose of Rule 5, not to mention Ice and Brufen.  Over the course of the week, we will visit a number of the memorials and battlefields of Belgium and Northern France:

Day 1: 4 Aug – Folkestone to Ypres. Ride to ferry port at Dover for crossing to Calais. On arrival in Calais, cycle through the battlefields of Northern France to Ypres in Belgium. Cycling distance – approximately 99 km / 61.5 miles.

Day 2: 5 Aug – Ypres to Arras. Cycle to Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, before heading towards Lens and the region of the Somme. En route to Arras, pass by the Island of Ireland Peace Park, the Loos Memorial and the preserved trenches and Canadian Memorial at Vimy Memorial Park. Cycling distance – approximately 109.5 km / 68 miles.

Day 3: 6 Aug – Arras to Amiens. Visit Arras Cemetery and Monument to the Missing, before cycling to Amiens, passing by The Ulster Memorial, The Sheffield Memorial Park, The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing and The Lochnagar mine crater. Cycling distance – approximately 96.5 km / 60 miles.

Day 4: 7 Aug – Amiens to Compiègne. Cycle via Bray-sur-Somme and strategic villages of the Front Line. We pass many WWI cemeteries today, for all nationalities. Some of the main sites are The Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, The Australian Corps Memorial Park and The 58th (London) Division Memorial, Chipilly. Cycling distance – approximately 112.5 km / 70 miles.

Day 5: 8 Aug – Compiègne to Paris. Final day of cycling through forest surrounding Compiègne, stopping en route at the Armistice Memorial Site.

Continue on to Paris,  up the Champs Elysées, round the Arc de Triomphe and finishing our challenge beneath the 420m high Eiffel Tower!  Cycling distance – approximately 106 km / 66 miles.

Day 6; 9 Aug – Free morning to enjoy the sights and sounds of Paris before returning to the UK

If you have friends or relatives at rest in any of the places I will visit, let me know and I will try to pay me respects.

My deepest and heartfelt thanks for your support

Ian xx

 

Blind Vets Ramsholt

 

The Dunwich Dynamo

A week ago, I was settling down for a weekend of admin, collecting Ben from CCF camp and perhaps quick spin out on Sunday and then I saw the post from Viv. . . ‘A few of us are doing an 200km all-night ride from London to Dunwich on Saturday night on the Dunwich Dynamo.’

Since completing Chase the Sun, I have pulled back on cycling for a couple of weeks to spend some time with the family but am conscious I do need to get some miles back in my legs in preparation for the ride to Paris.  I had been planning to give the Dun Run a go but had completely missed the date.

The Dunwich Dynamo (Dun Run) is a 200 km ride from London Fields to the Suffolk coast through the night of the July full moon. The ride (once again it isn’t a race) originated in 1993 and has evolved over the years,  It is an ‘un-supported’ and ‘un-organised’ ride (though Southwark Cycles do arrange coaches and trucks for the return trip) and apparently was part of the inspiration for Chase the Sun.  I had a quick google and realised I could just turn up and ride, so the seed was sewn.

Cider and snags - the food of ChampionsOn the morning of the 12th I realised we had arranged to go to birthday party for one of my mates, which put paid to the plan to head to London.  However, the BBQ was about 30 meters off the route as it passed through Sible Hedingham so all was not lost.  During the course of the day I heard from a couple of friends who were also planning to ride, so made some loose plans.  The party was great, with lovely weather, kids on bouncy castles, fantastic food and the odd cider or six. Unfortunately, as the evening progressed, the sun was replaced by rain and a fierce thunderstorm.  Around 11 despite, some significant questions about my sanity, I donned my lycra and headed off into the storm.

As I left the house, I could see a steady progression of lights, illuminating the road out to Weathersfield, I rode against the flow for a while but as the roads narrowed, I was causing some confusion, so headed back to the Hedingham food stop.  I had read the blogs and articles but it really does need to the be seen to be believed.  There were hundreds of cyclists on all manner of cycles, many adorned with fairy lights and all in excellent humour (apparently there were in the region of 2000 folk start the ride).

By some crazy twist of luck I bumped into Russ, a particularly mad friend, be-decked in blue lights, as were the rest of his club and we had a quick chat, I then got a call off another friend who had missed the stop and instead was having a pint in The Wheatsheaf in Castle Hedingham so I headed over to meet them. There were blinking red lights everywhere, and several locals outside their houses cheering us on.  It was an amazing atmosphere and as I rode to the pub we were met by a (slightly intoxicated) lady dishing out high fives.

My companions for the rest of the night were Ashley Bond, a mate from work and his friends Rich Plochi and Dan Bagshaw and we spent the next few miles getting to know each other.  The roads were awash with cyclists and generally folk were pretty good at calling out obstructions although it is just as well that there was limited other traffic as the roads were full.  We were making pretty good pace as we climbed out of Castle Hedingham and then swept along to Sudbury.  As we left Sudbury, we were drawn by the crowds outside the White Horse, which despite the hour was doing a cracking lycra clad trade, so had a quick pint.  This was to set the scene for the rest of the night.  The ride may have been unsupported but it certainly wasn’t without support!  In most villages, there were folk out in their PJs cheering us on and several pop up restaurants in gardens and greens, and many pubs stayed open til the early hours

I was having a ball, the atmosphere was great and whilst the route was pretty flat, the lack of light did cause some challenges, especially on the descents but  there was a constant trail of lights to show the route.  We did get burnt just outside Monks Eleigh where we ignored my Garmin and followed the lights as the guys were on a bit of a sprint.  As a result we added a 10 km detour to the ride but werent alone

As the ride progress, we passed a number of groups stopped by the roadside and there was a constant stream of banter, there also seemed to be a huge number of punctures but we were incident free.  As the sky lightened we passed the picturesque Needham Market Lake but decided not to stop until tempted by the Scout Troop stop in Peasenhall (I think) where we had bacon butties and mugs of tea before the final push to the finish. The beach at Dunwich was a sight for sore eyes, there were bikes everywhere and folk of all shapes and sizes stripping off lycra for a dip in the sea.

We also witnessed some of the remarkable folk who had completed the ride, there were folk on tandems, BMXs, a chap on the tall bike and two guys who had completed the ride on their Boris bikes (one complete with fairy lights and popcorn nutrition).  However, we we had passed the most remarkable as we neared Yoxford, 9 year old Oscar, who was doing the Dun Run for his third year (albeit, just from Sudbury) – huge REspect Oscar! (I am sure I have him on video but I haven’t edited them yet)

The queue for the breakfast was huge, so we decided to have a swift half whilst waiting for our lift home.  On balance, we should have had a breakfast and perhaps a massage in the teepees on the green as it was a long wait!  The bravado of a morning pint took its toll on Rich and Dan who had a snoozette in the sun.

I am pleased I decided to join the ride at the last minute as I am now really looking forwards to next year.  It seems the two sun chasing events will both be repeated in 2015!  The Dun Run  was great fun and showed the best of the British spirit.  It wasn’t fast or especially hard (see strava) but boy was it fun! I couldn’t believe the numbers involved or the folk coming out to cheer us on and did earn some useful lessons for next year:

  • I am too old to miss a night’s sleep, should probably not go to a party first:)
  • Wear layers or removable sleeves, it got quite hot, quite early! (yeah that’s too serious)
  • There are loads of stops and it is all about the experience, next year, I won’t carry loads gels but will stop and make the most of the experience – there are plenty of chances to race – this one really is, a ride!
  • Take more pictures, the support was amazing, and bizarre!
  • The journey home is a bit of a zoo – next year – cycle back

Finally I couldn’t resist posting the link to this gif. It’s a Strava visualisation showing all the activity over the weekend of the 12th.  I don’t need to point out the Dun Run.  However, was also amused by the lone track heading south from Chester around midnight! (the pic is a link to the gif ;))

dunwich-8

Credit for this goes to The Human Cyclist.  Check out his blog – It’s much better than mine!

Many thanks to Viv for the heads up.  Unfortunately I didn’t see him but a great steer thanks!  Thanks also to Pugsly, Rich and Dan for putting up with an old man on their first Dun Run and Kudos to all who did the full ride.

Here’s looking forwards to next year’s Dun Run – The next ride is on 4th July 2015 – See you in London Fields for the start

 

Unite & Bike

Unite & Bike FSS2

 

I’m getting very excited now as we approach the finale of Finally Seen Sense 2 Wheels.  When I decided to support Blind Veterans UK last October, the first challenge I signed up for was Unite & Bike for Heroes and we are nearly there!

The Challenge will run from 4 – 9 Aug and will be part of the commemorations of the centenary anniversary of the start of WW1.  There is a reasonable amount of cycling but I am most looking forward (if that is the correct phrase) to visiting the various battlefield sites and memorials and being able to offer my respects to those that have made the ultimate sacrifice

The plan is:

Unite& Bike for Heroes route

Unite& Bike for Heroes route

Day 1: 4 Aug – Folkestone to Ypres. Ride to ferry port at Dover for crossing to Calais. On arrival in Calais, cycle through the battlefields of Northern France to Ypres in Belgium. Cycling distance – approximately 99 km / 61.5 miles.

Day 2: 5 Aug – Ypres to Arras. Cycle to Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, before heading towards Lens and the region of the Somme. En route to Arras, pass by the Island of Ireland Peace Park, the Loos Memorial and the preserved trenches and Canadian Memorial at Vimy Memorial Park. Cycling distance – approximately 109.5 km / 68 miles.

Day 3: 6 Aug – Arras to Amiens. Visit Arras Cemetery and Monument to the Missing, before cycling to Amiens, passing by The Ulster Memorial, The Sheffield Memorial Park, The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing and The Lochnagar mine crater. Cycling distance – approximately 96.5 km / 60 miles.

Day 4: 7 Aug – Amiens to Compiègne. Cycle via Bray-sur-Somme and strategic villages of the Front Line. We pass many WWI cemeteries today, for all nationalities. Some of the main sites are The Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, The Australian Corps Memorial Park and The 58th (London) Division Memorial, Chipilly. Cycling distance – approximately 112.5 km / 70 miles.

Day 5: 8 Aug – Compiègne to Paris. Final day of cycling through forest surrounding Compiègne, stopping en route at the Armistice Memorial Site.

Continue on to Paris,  up the Champs Elysées, round the Arc de Triomphe and finishing our challenge beneath the 420m high Eiffel Tower!  Cycling distance – approximately 106 km / 66 miles.

Day 6; 9 Aug – Free morning to enjoy the sights and sounds of Paris before returning to the UK

If you have friends or relatives at rest in any of the places I will visit, let me know and I will try to pay me respects.

Really looking forwards to the experience and hopefully raising funds and support for Blind Veterans UK

Stay safe

Ian

x

Just giving donate

Chase the Sun 2014

Last October, a Sapper friend (Dave C) posted on FB about this crazy ride on the Summer Solstice. I mentioned the idea to some friends at home and as you know have been training ever since.

Chase the Sun is a ride (not a race) across the UK from dawn to dusk, 330 km in under 17 hrs.   The idea was spawned by Ollie Moore in 2008 with two of his mates and it took him 3 yrs to beat the sun. Last year 23 people started but only 6 made it in time, however, this year, there was a huge interest with over 100 people registered to ride. There were two teams from Braintree; Rule #5 consisting of myself, James Crysell, Mark Coull (Coully), Matt Walker and Ben (my Son in support), and the other with Mark Wadford (Wads), Andy and Mark Irving (‘Mark’ (not Penfold) in support) from BRUFC together with Dave and Michael. We had ridden together a few times during training and so decided we would join forces for the race (sorry ride)

As you can see from the rest of the blog, we had done a fair bit of training, with some highs and personal lows. We had done a fair bit of training but the furthest I had ridden was 205km so there was a degree of nerves as we approached the date.

(http://www.braintreeandwithamtimes.co.uk/news/north_essex_news/11278981.Ale_festival_is_hailed_a_roaring_success/)

Photo credit: Braintree and Witham Times

Our last ‘training session’ was a planning session at the Braintree Beer festival, which didn’t end so well but at least we had a plan (and were the poster children of the event). Ben and Mark would wait at a number of checkpoints so we could meet up and collect food and water without having to carry a day’s supplies. Coully and I showed our military heritage with a level of OCD that was beyond scary.

 

The Rule #5 support car was a fair rival for Team Sky with signage, collection tins, spare bikes, wheels, tubes, tyres, food and 40 bananas. It was quite an impressive sight as we headed down to Kent with Rule #25 well and truly covered !

Unfortunately James had to work on the Friday but the rest of us headed down early with all intents of having a warm up ride in the afternoon and to sort our kit out. Unfortunately, no plan survives contact with Chips and Cider and so when James called to see if we needed anything picking up; mischief ensued…

We met James at the hotel where he dished out the supplies we had ordered; more porridge, stodge and Red Cabbage! He was most intrigued by our new found knowledge that Red Cabbage was the new super food with miraculous properties for carb loading when made into a shake. We finally had to tell him we had made it up but by then ‘Le Tour de Chou Rouge’ was born!

We headed off to the pre-brief where we met Ollie and the rest of the teams for the first time! There was an expectant buzz as Ollie explained again it was a ride not a race and handed out our orange id tags. We calmed our nerves with 5% Apple juice and headed back to get some sleep

Start to CP2 White Hart – 20 miles 1hr 15 mins

We awoke around 3 am to get some breakfast after limited sleep due to the heat of the hotel, Matt’s snoring and sleep tourettes! James however, had his ‘best sleep for ages’ in his love nest over the road. We loaded the car and headed to the start for a Sunrise pic, met Wad’s team and set off around 04.45.

Matt’s garmin immediately decided to go kaput and mine invented some spurious directions so we ended up depending on Wads garmin and my laminated route cards (I did mention my OCD didn’t I J) to guide us on our way

 

It was a gorgeous morning and brought back varied memories for ex Sappers Andy and I as we headed through our old stomping grounds in Chatham. There were a few mechanical issues with us passing one poor sod whose seat clamp had snapped! (Somehow he managed to get it fixed and finished the race ahead of us!) Michael struggled with his chain and cleats before finally the bike jammed in the big cog

CP 2- Michael gets a new Bike

CP 2- Michael gets a new Bike

OCD Coully had planned for a 20 mile first RV in case we needed any early assistance. This proved vital as after a 25 minute attempt at repairing Michael’s bike we gave him one of the spare bikes and Ben and Mark headed off to get his repaired at Cadence.

CP2 – CP4 Cadence 48 miles 3hrs 20

Michael’s problems continued as the seat was too low on the spare bike but he struggled through the Kentish hills despite losing chains and cleats. We decided to roll through the first CTS Audax control at Bromley without stopping after 3 hrs (43miles) and pushed on up some decent climbs into Crystal Palace and our first planned C/P at Cadence cycling (48 miles) 3hrs 20. We had made up most of the time lost but spent longer than planned whilst folk had breakfast, changed clothes and took several comfort breaks (perhaps the midnight fish and chips weren’t the best plan J) Despite these delays, we still didn’t manage to get our Coffees which took a ridiculous amount of time!

CP4 – CP5 Somerfields Bagshot 82 miles 6hrs 20

We set off around 20 mins behind schedule with Michael back on his trusted steed and headed across London. This was the most painful part of the ride due to the stop / start traffic and London drivers. The heat was also starting to pick up. We headed across London and through Richmond Park with hundreds of cyclists riding round in circles before following the river through Kingston watching the rowers. The traffic picked up again in Chertsey where we had our first really impatient drivers and then eased off through the narrow cycle routes across Wimbledon Common and out to Chobham Common nature reserve. Despite the traffic we pulled into the Bagshot C/P just 5 mins off schedule. This was to be a recurring theme with good road pace but too long spent at stops

 

CP5 – CP6 Bramley in for Lunch 100miles 7hs 50

CTS_23After an elevenses of tuna / sweetcorn pasta and Costco sausages we headed out of Bagshot on the A30, making good time on the fast road, despite the traffic and some small climbs. Having ticked off my previous homes in Chatham and Bagshot, we then passed The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Camberley where I had trained as an Officer. Needless to say we didn’t dawdle there and were soon out in the country lanes around Blackwater.

 

The ride became much more scenic with country lanes, historic monuments and randomly a Blind Veterans UK van who was quite impressed with Coully’s and my jerseys.

After 7 hrs 50 mins in the saddle, we reached the lunch stop at Bramley inn where we registered, changed, powdered and drank. The forty bananas had been getting a pounding as had the gels, so it was good to get some decent food, although apparently the hotdog and chips weren’t a great choice.

CP6 – CP7 Pewsey 137 miles 11 hrs 36

Somehow, we assembled to leave dead on schedule but still left 5 or 10 mins late. The long break took its toll and Coully spent 4 miles fighting a bonk until the food reserves kicked in. It’s a huge tribute to his strength that no one noticed him suffering but he came back stronger than ever.

The route started to climb steadily to the highest point outside of the gorge and the midday heat and narrow gravelly lanes made going tough. I started to struggle with the hills a bit (fat guys can’t climb) and Coully held back a bit to lend morale support. There were some decent climbs and the guys waited for me to arrive before we sped down the descents. From the GPS tracks it seems the guys only waited around 15 mins for me in total. However, I’m sure it felt like more. The descents had their fun moments as well with me nearly burning out a tyre when I locked out my wheel avoiding a van and miraculously avoiding a wipe out after overcooking a corner and hitting a load of gravel (apparently creating chaos in my wake). Wads also came face to face with the largest tractor in NATO but somehow managed to avoid coming off.

CTS_13

 

The hills and heat started to take their toll and I had a bad 10 miles. It was certainly a bonk of sorts but more likely a featured some heat stroke as I was talking gibberish and just desperately wanted to go to sleep. Again Coully and James offered support and the moment soon passed.

As we headed down into Peswey the roads started to deteriorate and with 3 miles to push my tyre started to flat out. I managed 4 km gradually getting bumpier and more squirrely until the last 500m when I was on my rims. I ran to the checkpoint, after 11 hrs 36 in the saddle and swapped out the tyre and tube, grabbed a sausage and we headed off. This was not my best leg of the ride J

 

 

CP7 – CP8 Rising Sun Pub 162 miles  – 13 hrs 33

As we left Pewsey we descended to the Plains, passing the Alton Barnes White Horse on the highest hill in Wiltshire (294 m). The lanes got narrower and the terrain flattened out for bit. We were making much better time and things turned a tad surreal, passing a windy miller lookalike on a ladder by a signpost directing passers by and nearly falling off our bikes when Matt got a steam engine to sound it’s horn. Everyone was in pretty good shape at this stage with Matt, Wads and Dave looking pretty bombproof! Michael continued to demonstrate why his nickname is ‘Chaos’ with his attempts to stretch off handsfree whilst on the move. He may not have had a crash but he’s seen several. It got a bit busier as we rode through Devizes but the roads were good. After a short but uneventful stage and 13 hrs 33 on the move we rolled into the Rising Sun Pub when Ben, Mark and Michaela (Wad’s wife) were waiting for us, with cakes and doughnuts from ‘The Blue Egg’. Unfortunately, as we rolled to a stop, Coully forgot to uncleat and fell on his broken back. He was fine but in a lot of pain.

CP8 – CP9 Chilcompton Coop – No Stop 178 miles 14hrs 53

CTS_22As had become the norm, we left the Rising Sun about 15 mins off schedule due to comfort breaks, cakes and a ‘Doughnut’. The first part was flattish but then started the climb up towards the gorge. A couple of navigation challenges cost a bit of time and split the team up. We then started the serious climb with some seriously steep hills around Kilmarsden – up to 25 %. We were caught by a couple of guys as we approached Kilmarseden who were struggling with the heat so Ben supplied them water and the last of our sausages!

Kilmarsden Hill is the fabled Hill of the nursery Rhyme Jack and Jill and was bloody steep. Coully nearly came off descending a hill at 35 mph when his chain came off and James nearly parted company with his gel. By this stage we, and our steeds were covered in energy gels, sticky and very grimy.

 

Ben had decided to follow us along and was blasting us with tracks from ‘The Wanted‘ and providing water replens through the window (not at all required but yet again, it amused me). After my previous challenges, I felt fine but was slower on the hills so I told the racing snakes to head off and I would catch them at the Gorge. We had decided to ride through Chilcompton but I had to stop briefly to say hi to a colleague from work (David Maxwell) and his wife who had turned up with food and drinks. Unfortunately time was tight so we couldn’t stop for long so Thanks and Sorry David!

 

CP9 – End the Pier (Reeds Arms) Burnham on Sea 207 miles

The climb to the top of the gorge wasn’t too bad, it was long with some gravelly roads but only 5 – 8 % – no where near as bad as Kilmarsden. On the way up I caught up with James and Mark (who had waited for me) and we entered the gorge. The initial descent through the trees was tranquil and deceptive – James and I were expecting a dramatic drop off but realised the false flat was in fact the start of the gorge as we gathered speed. We then rounded the corner to the Cheddar Gorge proper – dramatic rock faces and fast switchback roads. As we descended the 16% hills we feathered the brakes but were still hitting 40 mph until we encountered the first goats on the road when we slowed some more. We caught up with Michael who had been left by the others and gathered him up for the descent to Cheddar. The descent made the whole ride and there was lots of fist pumping and hands in the air as we hit Cheddar. As we left Cheddar for the sprint home, Ben left us; unfortunately so did Michael but we eventually found him. We made a good pace for the final 15 miles or so, pushing around 20 – 25 mph for the last few miles until we reached the M5 and realised we still have 3 miles to go. As we rolled into Burnham on Sea, Garmin had a final blip and sent us off the wrong way until we met some other riders who set us straight. We pootled onto the Jetty, just as the Sunset was finishing, about 4 mins too late. However, we were delighted to have made it and had an emotional reunion with the rest of the team who had made Sunset with minutes to spare (and were featured in the local press!). The quickest teams had arrived some three hours earlier and teams continued to arrive after us. I finally switched off my GPS at 16hrs 59mins and 26 secs – so I beat 17 hrs – just!

After the ride

CTS Wads_3

Olly and Team Wads

All the training sites recommend you have protein and carbs within 30 mins of finishing exercise and a proper meal in an hour… We had cider and beer! Ben had checked us in earlier so we stayed at the bar and chatted with the other teams and Ollie for a while before finally wandering off for a kebab and chips after midnight. We got the bikes back to the rooms and finally removed the filth of a day in the saddle and went to bed around 0130, almost 23 hrs after we had gotten up!

 

 

 

 

Stats off Strava

click to see the Strava details

So all in all, I beat 17 hrs and had a superb day out! I did struggle with hills and heat on occasion but really enjoyed the company and the event. I would like to thank all the guys from Braintree that helped achieve this fantastic feat, Ben and Mark for providing such superb support, Michaela for the doughnuts and encouragement, Ollie for setting up the event,  everyone who has donated and of course my family for the time!

Next year event is on the 20th June 2015 . . . I am considering booking my hotels now! Anyone interested?

Thank you!

Afternote:

So what of ‘Le Tour de Chou Rouge’ – Once again Ben excelled himself. Pretty much every shot he took featured the fabled Chou Rouge and alledgedly, some support teams found a little presence in their vehicles. I see a new name for Team Rule #5 in the future!

After After Note – It appears, Red Cabbage shakes are a thing!!!

Vive Le Chou Rouge

CTS_27

 

Chase the Sun is the first of two major cycling events I am undertaking this year to raise funds and awareness for Blind Veterans UK. I am now training for the next major Challenge, the ‘Unite and Bike for Heroes’ ride to Paris as part of the centenary memorial for the start of World War 1. This ride takes place from 4 – 8 Aug 2014.
If you would like to donate, please follow the links:)

Thank You and Stay Safe

Ian x

 

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