To find out more about what we are doing and why, please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/Helyx where you can also sponsor us online.
Day 0 – Lands End. After 12 months of discussion and 6 months of training, the team set off today from Tewkesbury for Land’s End loaded with 220,000 calories worth of energy bars, powders and gels. The White Van arrived in time for the official Land’s End photo, a sunset and a couple of pints of Cornwall’s finest real ale with the hard graft due to start tomorrow at 0800. The only casualty being the prize poppy in the garden of the Land’s End Hostel which might have suffered from a van being reversed over-enthusiastically. Next stop – Okehampton.
Day 1– Land’s End to Okehampton. Miles cycles – 104 miles, Elevation gained – 8,500ft. Two things about Day 1 that struck us, first it was sunny, more sunny than any of us expected; fortunately Ben had the foresight to pack suntan cream (although that didn’t prevent a range of sock, tee-shirt and glove lines). Second it was hilly, the first half was fairly lumpy, the second half was just plain steep. In all we cycled uphill about 8500:, funny, but the downhill bits never seem to compensate. Some interesting route choices meant that we managed some off road stuff and visited an English Heritage stately home / castle. Not sure how many gels and isotonic power drinks we got through, but nothing compared to the fresh sausage rolls provided at our first stop at ‘Nick’s cafe’, or the post Day 1 Guinness.
Two stops today after setting off from Land’s End at 0800. First stop in Chacewater will be remembered for the quality of the pork pies from the local bakers – still hot when the team arrived. Passed Micky who we met last night going up the very steep hill out of the village. The second stop was just short of West Taphouse and then up over Bodmin Moor to re-join the A 30 to Okehampton where I drove past Steve (again from last night) in his rather up market white van (envy). Team arrived at 1700 and then quick clean up before rehydration therapy in the pub.
Day 2 Okehampton to Bristol, Miles cycled – 114miles, Elevation gained – 4,500 ft. What a difference a day makes, after the heat and hills of Cornwall we felt like we were breezing through a slightly lumpy Devon and into a very flat Somerset. Nick’s diner (no longer a café!) served bacon butties after 36 miles followed by sausage sarnies at 80 miles. It was all going so well! (although the A38 as a cycling route is fairly dull!), but once off the main road the excitement began. First 10 miles along an old railway line now a dirt cycle route (the Strawberry Line) gave us our first puncture of the trip. Soon fixed this was followed by a completely random detour inserted by a gremlin inside our route planning software (thanks Strava!) that took us up a hill, over a golf fairway, through a wood and down a walking track!! Otherwise everything went absolutely according to plan, including a splendid evening meal following by some very special cheese……! Stoke tomorrow.
Day 3 – The Longest Day for the team with the very welcome addition of Mark Richardson from Envitia who’s training regime was interrupted by the birth of his daughter (excuses!!). We left the shadows of the old Severn Bridge earlier than normal to fit in the additional miles; we did find some off-road cycle tracks, fortunately these were planned, unlike yesterday. We found our way through Gloucester and before we know it we at the Helyx Offices in Twyning for a very welcome break, breakfast baps and real coffee with loads of encouragement and good wishes from the home team. From Twyning we went north to Worcester and then north, then further north and even further still, through Droitwich, round Birmingham to the west of Wolverhampton, over the M54 and on to Stoke. The road North is long; with two days under our belt Day 3 provided us with a real test of confidence for the remaining days. Nicks diner set up outside the Hinksfield Arms and provided an excellent sandwich selection, only H was brave enough to drink anything other than orange juice and lemonade providing him with the second wind needed to get him through the last 30 miles or so miles. Mark got through the day on adrenalin and humour, his only complaint being an ache in the ‘seat area’; as usual Ben looked like he could have just kept going. A great effort all round, tomorrow we head further North to Kendel, back to some proper hills and the True north.
Day 4 – Stoke to Kendal, Miles Cycled – 114 miles, Elevation Gained – 4,000ft. What a built up area Stoke and it’s surrounding area is; we spent the first hour weaving around the rush hour traffic going a measly 10 miles or so. Newcastle under Lyme was followed by some nice countryside up to the Manchester Ship Canal where we crossed an old bridge that shook with every car that crossed, playing havoc with the camera! Nick’s first cafe stop was next to an alpaca farm; in the absence of any cyclists I think he made some new friends!!
Day 5 – Kendal to Abington. Miles Cycles today – 113 miles, Miles cycled to date – 581 miles. Elevation gained – 5,500 ft, Elevation gain to date – 24,000 ft. Today was Bens day, he led for most of the morning and much of the afternoon. We went from Kendal to Windermere and up the Kirkstone pass; over a 1,000 ft of Cat 2 climb that H was adamant that we went for, to be fair he was on the nail with this one, an excellent route choice, lots of ups, some stunning scenery and a dramatic decent into Ullswater and our first stop. More hills a sustained sprint by H into Carlisle and before we knew it we had arrived in Scotland to be greeted at Gretna by Nicks Roadside Dimer with deep fried fish and chips. Just the job; we screamed up the old Glasgow Road to our next stop. The wind was behind us, the road surface was smooth and mainly flat or downhill. It was a different story for our final 20 mile session; somehow the tailwind became a head wind, all roads went uphill and the road surface went from smooth to bone jarring. But, in the end and after 5 days we’d cycled 581 miles and we’re within a spit of Glasgow, tomorrow onwards and upwards to Glen Coe.
Day 6 – Abington to Glencoe. Miles Cycled – 117 miles, Miles cycled to date – 698 miles, Elevation gained – 6,000ft, Elevation gained to date – 30,000ft. Epic (except breakfast) – into and through Glasgow, coffee and a Glasgow breakfast bap provided by H’s oldest mate who worked about 100m from the route and very close to the cycle path that followed the main river through the city centre. We even managed to find a cycle shop for H to finally buy some proper touring tyres – no more punctures. We followed the National Cycle Network routes too and then along the side of Loch Lomond – absolutely glorious, and flat. In fact, by the time we met Nick for the second time on the shores of Loch Lomond we’d been cycling downhill for 40 or so miles, and on the flat for 40 miles. From Loch Lomond we went uphill for the final 30 miles following the A82 for the whole way with H leading the peloton up to and finally topping Rannoch Moor before beating into a headwind for the final few miles to the Glencoe Resort. Cycling up to Rannoch Moor and to the Glencoe Resort was stupendous……words fail, see picture!!
Day 7 – Glencoe to Evanton, Miles Cycled – 123 miles, Miles cycled to date – 821 miles, Elevation gained – 3,700ft, Elevation gained to date – 33,700ft. The penultimate ride, starting with an alfresco breakfast from Nick’s Restaurant (recently upgraded from a diner!) served us with enough food to get through the first 50 miles or so. Coming down from Glencoe in the morning sunshine (and a bracing wind) was almost as emotional as cycling up, less effort, but the views……we ploughed through Fort William discovering that roads alongside Scottish Loch’s are by anything but flat; and up the Great Glen. We had a quick photo shoot at the Commando Memorial before meeting Nick at Castle Urquhart. Although the scenery was stunning the road itself was disappointingly ordinary (traffic, roadworks and lots of tourist buses), particularly after yesterday evening’s climb up to Glencoe. To make it more interesting we found another detour, this time alongside the Caledonian Canal, then cross country until we found route into Inverness. Out final stop at Nick’s Restaurant was Muir of Ord, suitably fuelled we flew the last 13 miles into Evanton and the Black Rock Resort.
Day 8 Evanton to John O’Groats , Miles Cycled – 103 miles, Miles cycled to date – 924 miles, Elevation gained – 5,200 ft, Elevation gained to date – 38,900ft
The last day was never going to be easy, it wasn’t the rain (the only rain we’ve had all week) soon after leaving Evanton, it was the side and head wind and the slightly lower temperatures which meant that we never had the right combination of kit, were either too cold or too warm and, with some stiff hills on the way gave made the last 100 miles a grand finale. The route has been described by the White Van Man, I just need to add that the rain, just before our first stop at Dunrobin Castle made us acutely aware how hard this ride could have been had we not had fine weather almost the whole way. Fortunately we were able to warm up in the castle café before heading up the A9 and back into the wind (via a rather strange tour of the castle grounds thanks to H). The second leg gave us increasingly baron scenery and a days’ worth of hills crammed into a 5 mile stretch of road. Our second stop was an ever-lasting supply of pancakes before the final 20 miles into the wind and along the A99 before our gentle decent into JOG. All done, three bikes, 8 days and 920 miles of our glorious countryside covered – now for the hard part, back to Twyning today and in work tomorrow.