Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Welcome to the blog for the July 2014 Lands End to John O’Groats Cycle Ride!
Organised by ACT Cycling tours. Fifteen riders and support vehicle!
Blast off is Sunday 13th July from Lands End!
Saturday, 12 July 2014
After leaving Cambs at 9am today (sat), a long, slow journey to Penzance. People gradually picked up, joining the team. Banter, laughter discussion as the minibus trundled down the M5 and on, and on, and on…….. Finally arrived in Penzance 7pm. Went through a couple of showers n that about as exciting as it got. We have a 50yr age span on this group of riders. Wise heads n young guns.
Eventually reaching The Long Boat Inn at Penzance, and a much needed meal, with steak the order of the day !
Tomorrow will be our 1st day of riding. Starting from the famous Lands End signpost to Liskeard. A few hills thrown in for good measure. A few piccis of group having a quick break from travelling in bus .
Sunday, 13 July 2014
Day 1: Dry sunny day.
Group chipper and wanting to get going when they arrived at Lands End. Once pictures taken and bikes assembled, we were away ! Only 980 (minimum) miles to go. Not a bad start to the ride. Gentle rolling hills for 1st 25mls.
The young guns already flying off the front, especially up the hills. Oh to be young again !!!. Bye bye.
Tea stop number 1. Refilled on jellybabies, tea, bananas. Then off again.
A slight change in the undulations. Longer. Steeper hills. Rob n Craig aka Chuckle brothers finding new routes, through out the day, eventually doing 11 miles more than most of us ! One or two others also decided to get lost, and had to be located! A very typical first day. But between various garmins, ridewithgps and maps, the group did really well. Beginning to gel and ride together, although lessons were learned!
We had some wonderful hill top scenery plus either the local loo or is it the tardis. Colin at time went into a tuck on some down hill only to be passed by David sitting upright on bike.
Surprisingly the spare bike had to be brought into action today. David’s rear derailleur decided to break off. Bike shop visit tomorrow. Unfortunately that didn’t slow him down !
What a day. Hard work but well worth seeing Britain by bike. ! 76 (+) miles through some short, sharp climbs (again, and again, and again ….. Cornwall !!!!)
Finally ending at the fantastic Nebula Guest House in Lizkeard. Not only wonderful bedrooms but Barry and Martine were excellent hosts, preparing a wonderful meal for us after a very tiring day. We will return !
Monday, 14 July 2014
Day 2 – Lizkeard to Tiverton
Total of 64 miles, climbed 2300 metres. (7,590 feet)
A few of us started with a walk around Lizkard in the sun, followed by a hearty breakfast.
The legs on the bike felt heavy, but the start wasn’t too bad, with nice undulating ride through country lanes into Tiverton. Then we started climbing
Roland thought he would do the JOG express today, and try and run down an oap from the zebra crossing on his bike, but she stared him down!
The hills today were tough. A few steep climbs and even steeper descents. It was a particularly long ascent up onto Dartmoor, but well worth the ride. The ponies were waiting for us ! Absolutely beautiful scenery. The descents were exhilarating off the top. Some top speeds reached!
We then traveled down along some VERY minor roads. Which meant getting up speed was impossible, which after the earlier sweeping descents made for a little disappointment.
The youngest members of the tour continue to dominate the hill climbing, but Pete and Phillip keep them in their sights, often taking them on the downhill (weight advantage??)
The tea stops are awesome. Teacake, chocolate, sarnies, anything you want. All out of the white van. This white van man is ace. (What is Craig doing on the right of this picture?)
The riding within groups was really good today, with people helping each other. Everyone did superbly.
Lodge Hill Hotel was a very welcome sight, although the climb up the drive just the final straw!
Tuesday, 15 July 2014
Day 3 – Tiverton to Chepstow
A mixture of a day today. From idealic rural country lanes to Bristol and City and Urban life.
A long ride, but without too many hills. We had one Cat 3, two Cat 4’s and 2 Cat 5’s.
Going through the Somerset levels we could pedal like the tour De France …….. A much much easier ride. It was so good to have some better, flatter roads!!!
Finishing at Chepstow, after cycling over the Severn Bridge. Always an amazing experience!
The ‘Peleton’ cycled really well as a group today, especially on the busy roads, keeping close, in formation, at a good speed. Unfortunately never any chance of catching the leading group.
White Van Man Shaun did good again on our breaks. Lunch was scones and Jam & clotted cream. yum.
Andy was playing around the Mulberry Bush with Martyn. Following him as he circled round, checking he hadn’t lost anyone.
Lots of aches and pains, but everyone seeming to be emerging from the previous two hard days really well, and enjoying the tour.
MESSAGE FROM JACK
Day 3 of the LEJOG and just had a lovely dinner with David 1 and 2, Lauren and Shaun. The last 3 days we have hard climbs through Devon and some great descents, again I would like to thank Martyn for giving me the opportunity for doing this. I know it was hard for him because I’m young but its all for a good cause and I have shown him that his decision is worthwhile.
Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Day 4, Chepstow to Clun
72 miles, 5,500 ft Climb.
A mixed bag today of heavy cloud, threatening to rain, but staved off, with a hot sultry day at other times.
After a double sitting at the wonderful B&B of Elizabeth and Rodney in Chepstow, we were off by 08.30. It was a great start, while an immediate slight uphill, the main road onto Monmouth was awesome. A great 20 miles at a cracking pace.
Our first puncture of the tour unfortunately for Ian Wales, but it didn’t hold him up too much. The morning was great. Good roads, good route, and not too many hills………… then bang came the afternoon!!
A CAT 3 climb, 600 ft with a few sharp uphill bits. Shaun our white van man, at the top, with his usual smile on his face. Not sure if the smile is pleased to see us, or the grimace on our faces as we reach the top. This second half of the day was MUCH tougher than the first.
Lauren later on, decided she didn’t eat enough for lunch, so decided to try and eat the tarmac. Fortunately no harm done. Andy also decided a climb up another CAT 3 was not enough for him. He did a little quickstep while trying to get back on his bike!
The last 10 miles to the B&B included three CAT 3 climbs …. not what was wanted!!!
However, when cycling to the top of the first CAT 3, we stumbled upon an archaeological dig. Apparently a really interesting, and important one !! We had a quick tour, and an enthusiastic talk about what was going on!!!
Another fine evening at the White Horse Inn in Clun, but people gradually going to bed earlier and earlier.
Half of the team were in a B&B a mile away, so instead of cycling back, they opted for the van !(Can’t understand why!!)
Another awesome but tough day. Martyn keeps saying they will get easier. We don’t believe him any more!
Thursday, 17 July 2014
Day 5 – Clun to Congelton
78 miles, 3,500 ft climb
What a day. In a way it was a rest day, as there were only three main climbs, but there were no chevrons either up or down the map. YAY!!!!
We did have two punctures though and 1 decking, but all was ok.
The sun was shining from 8am onwards. Andy aka(Pops) did an incredible mile today. The team really is getting together and helping where others are struggling.
Shaun (White Van Man) again came up good, with our jelly babies, sarnies, fruit cake etc.
Ro, (the Old man), and Jack (the youngest), were having a ride off today. Not sure who won, but it was fun watching……
Dave Barnes (aka Tasmanian Devil), came unstuck today. He wanted a bath to relieve his legs, but only showers available!
Our forever faithful Martyn, was there both times to help out on punctures. For that the team thank you …. Ian, our cheeky chappie, after dismantling his bike, taking off locks, bags, racks etc., rode in super gear, looking great, just like a pro rider, instead of a shopping trip around town. Ian actually is the most improved rider. He completed his longest ever ride on Day 1, then again on Day 3. With his, now super light bike (well almost!!), he did superbly today. Well done Ian.
The Thompson twins, Ro and Col, (as they seem to wear the same colour gear every day), helped us detour a loop that may have become a rugged path.
Everyone really appreciated the easier day. Down from CLun on the Welsh border, into Shropshire, then south Cheshire. Lots of just gently undulating roads. Some great surfaces too, so enabling us to speed along well.
Its just amazing that five days have gone already. We are now moving into unknown territory for most, i.e. 5+ continuous days of cycling. Some have done this before (Phillip is probably our most erstwhile cycling traveler), but many have not. A few aches and pains, but generally everyone is getting stronger, and continuing to enjoy the ride. Our trip to the National Cycle Centre tomorrow being greatly anticipated!
Staying at the Inn Keepers pub in Bereton, just near Congelton tonight, for refuelling on some well deserved carbs.
John O’Groat’s here we come!!!!
Friday, 18 July 2014
Day 6 – Bereton to Malham
84 miles. 5,100 ft.
Today was the longest day, starting out from Bereton, near Congelton, winding along rolling hills, before entering Stockport and Manchester, to Sport city, Manchester, where we had a tour of the Velodrome, at the National Cycle Centre. An amazing place, but it did add an extra hour to our journey. We watched 70 year olds racing around the track at 30 mph ! It looked amazing.
Then a teabreak, then a ride along the Rochdale and Oldham canal. After negotiating, cobbles, steps, bridges, locks, rubbish…. We then decided to get back on the road. We had to negotiate traffic systems like we had never seen before.
Ian had another puncture today, soon followed by Roland, during a long, 8 mile climb out of Rochdale. (No cowboys seen), to find Shaun, high above Burnley. Refuelling on rolls and sarnie fillings today. Thanks Shaun.
After lunch we continued through Lancashire towns, heading out to beautiful Yorkshire. Just a few hills to climb …… Aaaaaargh!!
Another casualty stop because of mudguard malfunction, on Martyn’s bike, located at a handy laundrette, which offered tea and a loo!!!
From here was a long, uneventful ride to Malham. Lots of ups and downs, feeling very tired, it was a very long 5 miles that went on and on. But cycling through such beautiful, peaceful countryside, what a change to the busy and bustling, but grey and depressing towns of Lancashire.
Finally got to our destination, Malham Youth Hostel. Freshened up and had a lovely meal in the Buck Inn. What a day!
Rob, Craig, Dave, Lauren and Jack decided to take the scenic route through Settle, adding just 5 miles, but virtually an extra 1000 ft!
Saturday, 19 July 2014
Day 7 – Malham to Birdoswald
88.3 miles, 5,800 ft
What a start to the day. Raining from the start, and continuing virtually all day long !
After a quick start from Malham Youth Hostel (Not really appropriate for most of us oldies …), we ran immediately into a Cat 3 climb about 2 miles long!
The young whippets Jack and David were off up the hill first of course ! Once at the top, wow, what a view. Well worth the pain to see it. We then cycled along the tops for about 5 miles. Wonderful views of Malham Cove and surrounding area.
Today was the 3 Peak Challenge in Yorkshire, and seemed to be all over our initial route. with walkers everywhere.
Then came the CAT 4, up to Dent Station and beyond. Two words come to mind on this one ……..
Not sure from where, but Shaun comes by in his white van, smiling away. On this climb, Colin had a fall, but not too serious. The clouds were very low as we went over this moorland. Pen-y-ghent was shrouded in mist. Even in this weather though, with constant rain, and cloud swirling all over, the Yorkshire Dales is a beautiful place. Stunning even in bad weather.
Unfortunately on the middle section, as the rain kept drizzling, sometimes heavier than drizzle, the roads at certin points became treacherous. Phillip took a tumble, while negotiating a country lane chicane, under trees. Off to hospital with Shaun, a broken collar bone was diagnosed. Unfortunately Phillips tour is now over. We will all miss his gentlemanly ways. (While Pete, David, Craig and Rob attended to the injured Phillip, the midges descended and made life even more difficult for them).
After that a little more subdued atmosphere, as we all gingerly negotiated the wet roads. However, they improved a little, and got slightly wider, and more rolling, so we steamed along onto Birdoswald. A Roman fort on Hadrians Wall. Unfortunately a sharp hill up the last couple of miles took its toll, but we are all thankful for an amazing place to stay.
It was a self catering evening though, and thanks to our Tazmanian Devil Dave, a brilliant Spag Bol was served to all. Jacks Grandad who joined us for the night, kindly fetched the liquid refreshments for the evening. Some of the cans were a little lively after the ride in Andy’s Top Box on his Yamaha BT1100!!!!
A great way to end the day, but a sad day to be losing one of the team.
Roland got a smile on his face as he realised he hasn’t slept with so many different people in 7 days……
We can safely say the team was in good spirits, but knackered.
Sunday, 20 July 2014
Day 8 – Birdoswald to Peebles
75 miles, 5,400 ft climb.
What a lovely place to wake up in! Birdoswald is set in a beautiful location, and it has been a pleasure staying here. Its facilities were well used, and when we came down to breakfast the aga was covered in our washing, drying from Saturdays downpour.
After Saturday’s down pour all day and 88 miles, today our faith has been restored in cycling. The weather started a bit cloudy, but soon warmed up. While there were hills at the beginning (same as usual – short and sharp, out of the saddle), ten miles in and they became longer, sweeping climbs and lovely long downhills.
But the best of today was the breath taking views when at the top of the climbs. Deep green valleys, highland cattle and their calves…..deep ravines. Houses dotted in the hillside and no traffic
They have some intersting pub names on our ride today, including the Cock and Swan, The Moorecock Inn, The Tiddler, but unfortunately we had to speed along past them all.
75 miles, but such a relatively easy day, that the first group were in Peebles by just past 3, and the second around 4, which gave us a great opportunity to wander into the town later that evening and enjoy a lovely curry (or other lovely grub), and let out hair down. What a great little town.
You can tell the group are all doing well, when 75 miles and 5,400 feet becomes an easy day! Everyone is doing extremely well.
Monday, 21 July 2014
Day 9 – Peebles to Perth
68 miles, 3650 foot climb.
Our guest house in Peebles was an old Victorian house with original features, and maybe Mrs Muir has been there as long. She was a lovely host. It was a chilly start but soon warmed up. Cycling was at a steady pace, with just a few lumps and bumps on what seemed poor Scottish roads.
We gradually made our way out of the border area, down towards Edinburgh.
A picnic stop was destined after the Forth Bridge. Before we got there, we had a diversion through a wooded estate, and came across a beautiful country mansion. The view was spectacular off the forth of firth.
Approaching Edinburgh and seeing Arthurs seat was a lovely sight in the sun.
Churckle brothers decided to do their tour of Edinburgh and lost their way out.
Shaun was a welcome sight at 34 miles. we apparently are like a load of kids on a day out, when we reach the van. Not sure what we’re eating, then off again.
No mishaps today, but a bit more hillier in the afternoon. It was another hot day’s cycling. Wonderful weather!
Cornwall seems a million miles away. Less than 300 to go. Staying at the Huntingtowers hotel. Very swish.
Tuesday, 22 July 2014
DAY 10 – Perth to Ballater
71 miles, 3,600 ft climb.
What a lovely place we stayed in last night at Perth, with a great choice for breakfast. Leaving Huntingtower Hotel we believed we had a 71 mile relatively easy ride ahead ……’umm’.
The weather turned warm very early, so lots of fluids were quickly taken on board.
All along the route thought there were the most spectacular views. Scotland really does deliver when it comes to scenery. The roads though …… atrocious at times!
The route then started to have a few lumps and bumps, and gradually getting harder as we approached 30 miles. Then they started getting serious. Fortunately Shaun was waiting for us at 37 miles (yes, going for one stop strategy nowadays), where dinner was once again ‘yum’.
Then, BANG, up came the Spittal of Glenshee. A steep bend of a climb. Not the hardest we’ve had, but certainly one of the most spectacular as it weaved its way between two mountains. All in all it turned out to be a 40 mile climb upto the Spittal, and then 30 mile downhill on the other side, along to Ballanter.
We stopped though at the bridge at the bottom of the main descent to regroup, after an exhilarating downhill. While waiting for Martyn to catch up (after his tyre blow out), we decided to be naughty boys and girls. Socks and shoes off, and into the cool river to soak our feet. Then a water fight. Bliss. All finished by the time Martyn turned up.
Onto Braemar, where we stopped for a bevvie and icecream.
Andy our silver fox showing us youngsters up when doing the hills. His legs seem to go at 20 to the dozen to get to the top.
Our retreat tonight is a converted school house in Ballater. Tomorrow we attack the Lecht!!!
This evening though we had a lovely meal at the ‘Station’. the old railway station now converted into a restaurant. Not only did we have a duo playing scottish folk songs (fiddle and guitar), but then the local bagpipe troop started up right outside the restaurant for about half an hour of marching and playing. Martyn goes to such lengths to look after the riders!!!!
Wednesday, 23 July 2014
Day 11 – Ballater to Inverness
74 miles, 5500 ft climb
We had a hearty breakfast at the School House in Ballater, (Many thanks Sandra), then piled bags into the van, and were off again by 08.30am.
A warm start to what ended up, a long hard days climbing. Our challenge today was “The Lecht”.
After leaving the School House, there was out first hill. Not much but bad enough to wake our legs up.
Onwards and upwards until we came to our first CAT 3 climb. It felt like we were in an oven. Riding about 10 miles in scorching sunshine, we could see for miles ahead, and the road going up!
Again the sting was softened, just a bit, by the fantastic scenery. An ocean of green valleys.
After plodding (well some of us), up this first CAT 3, there was a little respite, before the main event, THE LECHT. Right turn straight into a 20% uphill battle.
This went on for about 600 metres, before we turned the corner, and WOW, words cannot describe what we saw ahead. Just stunning until our eyes got fixed on the road ahead. ‘Ooh Dear’. Here we go again. It was full speed down the little bit of a hill to get as much momentum as possible. Then huffing, puffing, sweat dripping out of our helmuts, we climbed and climbed and climbed.
Finally we all made it up to the ski lift, then once again, over the top and down. What a morning.
Leading up to stop 2, (it was like an oasis in the wilderness), there were more lumps and bumps, but generally downhill riding. Refuelled and off again, I’d like to know who said, with 12 miles to go, its all downhill into Inverness. What a load of B……S.
Once again we reached our overnight stop by 4pm, and settled into the Raigmore Motel. Certainly not the Huntingtower, but clean enough and a place to rest our weary legs…..(and butts).
Our two days in the Cairngorms have been amazing. Stunning scenery, and hard climbs, but we would not have ever wanted to miss such wonderful countryside. It truly has left an huge imprint on our memory.
Thursday, 24 July 2014
Day 12 Inverness to the Crask Inn
66 miles, 3600 ft climbing
Where do we start. Leaving the motel in a shroud of mist, today was a bit chilly, but warmed up very quickly. We quickly moved into a CAT 3, and didn’t even realise we had done it, due to the constant chatting.
25 miles in Shaun was waiting with his white van and tea, plus goodies, all ready for us.
Our second stop was spectacular, by a waterfall ‘Falls of Shin’.
Cycling along the top, all the way to the Crask Inn, we were in the middle of nowhere. Amazing landscapes, relatively flat yet surrounded by mountains in the distance.
At the Crask Inn, surrounded by sheep, midges and horse flies, there are twelve of us, 2 girls and 10 guys, sharing 1 loo and 2 showers, in this cyclist’s ‘paradise’.
The Bothy is owned by and just 50 yards from the Crask Inn. The only two buildings for miles around. Our retreat for the night is amazing. Love it or hate it, but lots of ‘wildlife’ ready to attack us!!!
Jack is sleeping on the stairs, Craig under the stairs, with 5 lads in one room, three in another and the to gals in a twin. A little tight, but sufficient. Getting hot water out of the shower was an art in itself, and could only be done when the central heating was on ! Its been 26 deg’s plus here today !!!! Electricity is run off a generator, and lights will go off when the generator is turned off shortly !
Martyn was commandeered into shepherding the sheep (150), across the road, while Rob noticed a strange man enter our bothy and help himself to a shower!!
Due to the pre-dinner drinks and very hot weather, its going to be a long long night. We did have a wonderful meal at the Crask this evening, all home made, delicious.
We are now getting to the end of our journey. Double figures only left on the clock. Bikes beginning to click and creek, especially due to our last Saturday deluge.
Ro didn’t get a puncture today, which was a plus!!
Once again, we rode today through some amazing countryside. Fantastic views all round. An amazing landscape.
Friday, 25 July 2014
DAY 13 – Crask to Thurso
67 miles 4200 ft climb
After having an eventful night at the Bothy cottage and a hearty home cooked breakfast at the Crask Inn (Home made marmlade , freshly picked berries, and eggs), we set out, once again in glorious sunshine, along this single track main road going up through the heart of Highland Scotland. What an amazing place.
After cycling 8 miles we picked up Dave and Lauren, who had stayed at the B&B in Altnaharra (Many thanks Mandy), and continued up, over glorious open spaces, lochs and more amazing scenery.
This was now the best weather we had had for a ride, starting at 7 and ending up at 26-28 degs. It was like riding in a fan oven, all day, clear blue skys above.
We must say we have been spoilt by the views. It is so unspoilt riding along the north coast. We did have a head wind for the first time on the tour, and it was tough cycling up and down this rugged most northerly coast of UK mainland. The bays and coast are spectacular. Complete opposite to the southern coast where we started.
We saw deer on the hills and Golden eagles as they soared over the mountains. Many found today a very heard day, with the head wind, and only 20 miles from the end! So near yet still so far.
The puncture King struck again, but hopefully Rolands last one.
A proposal was made today!!!!!!!
When the main group got to Thurso, tired and hot, a dip in the North Sea seem appropriate!
However, we did have one very unfortunate incident. A reckless mad farmer, was speeding down the narrow A road, and nearly knocked all of the front group off their bikes. Most managed to just evade the large bales of straw on his trailer as it swered around, but poor old Pete got hit and knocked off badly. Needless to say the driver never stopped. Very battered and bruised a trip to the local surgery at Tongue, cleaned him up a little, and found no broken bones, just much bruising over the back and shoulder. bloody fingers and knees.
Pete knew he was in a bad shape, and that if he finished at Thurso tonight, he was unlikely to be able to get on a bike tomorrow for the final day. He was going to be extremely sore, and probably stiff as a board. So, dosed up with as many drugs as the surgery would give him, Martyn and Pete set off with the idea to complete the extra 20 miles this evening, so enabling Pete to finish his tour to John O’Groats. At first it was very slow. Pete struggling to get up the hills, but gradually as the miles to JOG went down, and the drugs kicked in, he gradually got quicker, and determined not to be unable to finish his tour, he and Martyn arrived at John O’Groats at 6.30 pm. Well done Pete.
Unbeknown to him, Shaun had been in constant contact with his family, who in secret were driving up to see him arrive into JOG tomorrow morning, and now had to put their foot down to get there in time. They arrived literally one minute before Pete.
Finally everyone retired to the Pentland Hotel for our final meal, all together. A great evening was had, with awards being given out. Ro of course won the puncture King. Ian of course was voted by the other riders as ‘Most Improved Cyclist’ of the tour. Best Dressed Cyclist of the tour was won by Ro again ! The vote for ‘Best team rider’ went to Dave Barnes who had helped many of us during the tour by his encouragment and advice. A real ‘team’ man.
Only 20 miles to go!!
Saturday, 26 July 2014
Day 14 – Thurso to John O’Groats
20 miles, 679 ft climbing
Last day today. The team were all in their own world as to why they came along to do this challenge. Only 20 miles to do as we set off about 9am.
Today we cycled as a group for the last time. Some very close to tears, as they reflect upon their challenge, that now lays behind them. Cornwall in some ways is a distant memory. After the second day in the West Country, we all wondered what the hell were we doing. MADNESS.
By the end of the third day, legs, minds and determination set in. The team gelling well and encouraging each other. Dave our Tasmanian man helped our cheeky chappie up a few hills, but by the end Ian was showing us how it was done.
Cycling the last 20 miles, we all reflected on this, the amazing scenery we had seen. The friendships we had made. The different people we had become.
Highs and lows, thankfully more highs than lows.
Turning the last corner down to the end, there were friends and family waiting. A lovely site to see those loved ones who hve supported the whole team.
At the post, hugs, tears, bikes being lifted, photos all getting mingled together. An amazing experience.
WE HAVE DONE IT!!!!!!!!!!!