Monday, 30 September 2013

Looking Back but Looking Forward

Just over a year ago I took a trip down to London to see the greatest show on Earth, the Olympics. The motto of London 2012 was "Inspire a Generation" and as we lined up in Llandudno to start the Crudcatcher Coast 2 Coast Challenge in aid of Cancer Research UK it was apparent that we had surpassed that and inspired a generational gap of 30 years between the youngest and oldest riders. This age range gave us a fantastic blend of exuberance, experience, enthusiasm, entertainment and many other words beginning with the letter E (but not eggs in Toms case, I'll explain later).
Everything we accomplished over the last week has been out of sheer team work  and doing it together and just a willingness from the team to help each other out.  From team members helping each other lift bikes over styles, everyone waiting for me whilst I gave a lost Serbian girl directions to Corris, to moments like Mark riding back down the steep slog of a climb we had just done and then back up it to get Nick a new tyre after his exploded, the camaraderie was top notch.  I think the moment that exemplified this the most was on the way to Lynn Brianne when Stuart snapped the rear dropout of his frame putting down a massive stomp of power to get up a steep hill.  It had just started to drizzle again and it was the coldest and wettest day of the ride, we were all soaked and chilly from riding through the rivers at Strata Florida and at that point it would have been all too easy to bundle Stuart and his stricken bike into the support van and carry on, especially as we had the promise of the Doethie Valley to look forward to.  But there was no decision about it, we were getting around as a team, so with a quick bend of the bike to get the wheel free of the frame, we nursed Stuart's bike back the longer but safer way on the road. It was a tough old slog and added a good number of miles to the day's riding which wasn't helped by the fact that one of the forest roads we had planned to use had been closed off to public access, subsequently adding several more. Despite this, nobody grumbled about why we had to do it, yes we may have whinged about the cold and the hills and the rain, but everyone slogged away, bounced ideas around to get Stuart through the last two days and we got to our destination before darkness fell. That evening we were delighted when a replacement frame arrived courtesy of Stuarts son, and he was able to build it up to finish the ride.

A big key factor in the decision we made that day was the wonderful service we had from our support vehicles. When I first started planning the ride in January and the services of Kev and Gill were offered, I thought they would be great at transporting the luggage and lunch and that we would get to meet up with them  a few times a day for drinks and to stock up supplies, I was wrong. They got everywhere they physically could, turn a corner up a mountain and one of them would be waiting, or up a forest track and they would be coming back up it the other way, they even followed us through the river crossings of Strata Florida. Not only that, using our Viewranger software they were able to track us at most times so knew if we had taken a detour and where to meet us if we had.  Gill and Kev were absolute Godsends and nothing kept the morale higher than the sight of a pit stop for water and energy gels in the most ludicrous of locations.

Talking of morale, the wit and humour in the group was outstanding, I have not laughed so much in ages. Things that could have really stressed us became jokes, such as one of the riders not turning up in Llandudno without any notification or Steve's missing chips, which made him make a girl cry or Richie's missing kebab (although if anyone was going to have to make do with a tea of leftovers, the group's human dustbin was probably the best man for the job).  Everyone got the mickey ripped out of them, Tom became the group's  private Pike after his attempts to boil eggs for his lunch left him with a bag full of half cooked broken eggs, stupid boy.  My midlands accent was pulled apart after suggesting we would be seeing some Welsh Mayans (mines) and  Sarah took a barrage of "abuse" for her wagon wheeled, pocket sized bike. Then there was Tom's attempt at getting  some cougar action after ending up on a table for two with Sarah for a lovely farmhouse breakfast left them looking like they were on an uncomfortable first date (If Tom's girlfriend is reading this, don't worry they weren't, but boy does your boyfriend get red and embarrassed very easily). There were cries of "I do like a puddin' pet" in hammed up Sarah Millican accents and shouts of "Briefcase W*nker" at Alex because of his uncanny resemblance to Will Mackenzie from the Inbetweeners. Everything we have ground our way through has been with a bedrock of good old fashioned, route one forum humour. Some of the evenings reflecting back on the day's events, or even rehashing old stories as we got to know each other have had us crying with laughter, which has only helped make this week even more special.

Our corporate sponsors have also been a fantastic help this week. The water from Mitchells and Butlers and Energy Gels and tablets from UES Energy have kept us going through the toughest of slogs and the inner tubes from Trek/Bontrager and rapid C02 inflators from MTB North Wales have really helped keep us rolling and quickly too, especially on day 5 when we suffered a plethora of punctures.  Finally the mapping and tracking software from Viewranger really helped us to not only find our way, but also plot new routes when we needed to and let the support team know that we had done so using the buddy beacon facility. Without the support of these guys we would probably still be on the side of a mountain, hungry and thirsty with flat tyres and lost. Thanks guys


And then there's the fantastic support we have had from behind the scenes. The sponsorship we have received to help Cancer Research UK has been amazing from the largest donations, to the £1 that a little girl who had lost her father to cancer gave to the supporters waiting at the finish line to donate, it's been touching to know that you have all been behind us and that you feel like the cause has been a worthy one.  We have also had great support from social media and it's been noticeable that our Twitter presence has seen us make huge inroads into the number of people aware of what we have been doing, a special thanks on that front, I feel would be appropriate for Lara at @charitybooster  who has tirelessly tweeted to gain support for us. Talking of support, we were overwhelmed that there were so many of you waiting to greet us at the finish line in Port Talbot with medals and drinks and food, it was certainly emotional but great way to end such a wonderful  week.


So something that started out as a crazy idea between a couple of riding buddies has turned into something that meant so much to all of us, collectively. It was clear by how crestfallen we all were when Ben had to sit out a 20 mile section through a bad injury that each other's fight had become our own fight too and behind all the fooling around we had become bonded together by an amazing experience. The magnitude of the whole thing  made even clearer when we hit the southern edge of the Black Mountains and saw the first glimpse of the sea, bringing tears (or grown men trying to choke back tears) and gasps of awe as we looked out towards the bay in the distance.  Sarah's mums story, Tom's and Ben's dad's story in a small part became our story as it was clear just what this colossal team effort meant. There was however still a day to go so with this amazing moment to guide us, we were resolved to get Ben back on the bike and across that finish line and complete the ride as the team we were.  It was with no small amount of guts, determination and ibuprofen that the next day we were delighted Ben was sufficiently recovered to ride, and with a bit of gentle route tweaking, at just after  5pm we rounded the bend onto Port Talbot seafront and crossed the line as a team.

In six days of riding, a group of internet weirdo's who kind of knew each other were now the original "Crudcatcher Coast 2 Coast Challenge Team" and I for one was very proud to be a part of it.


Here's looking forward to the 2014 Crudcatcher Challenge

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