The PPHC group were doing this in memory of lost friends and support of Chris, one of the group – diagnosed with a tumour last year. As a challenge for Chris as he learns to live life with visual impairment following treatment for his brain tumour the group are going to help him as PPHC cycles the Way of the Roses. A 170 mile cycle ride from Morecambe to Bridlington over three days in September this year.
Phone call from Pete. Chris ‘Benny’ Goodman is recovering from brain tumour. Would I like to ride across country for the Brain Tumour Charity with Chris? “Yep why not, how hard can it be? – it’s for a great cause and will give me a fitness target to aim for”. Chris’ plan was to get the old Portsmouth Polytechnic Hockey Team to get together to ride the Way of the Roses from Morecambe to Bridlington.(PPHC Does Way of Roses). I haven’t got a suitable bike, don’t cycle and know nothing about the latest kit. A few training rides out on my mountain bike & I quickly realised this wasn’t going to cut it in terms of training and completing the Way of the Roses, 170miles from Morecambe to Bridlington, I needed a different bike!
I’d just picked up a 25 years’ service award at work – this meant it was 20 years since I played hockey with the guys I’d be cycling with. I decided to buy a bike with my reward voucher from work, second hand wasn’t an option and only a few shops were able to take it so Halfords sale it was. I didn’t have a clue, I still didn’t know if I would enjoy cycling. I thought Cyclocross bike would suit me best. A few training rides in, but couldn’t really find the time or will power to go past the 20-30km ride. I knew I was going to need to do more to get ready for the 60 miles per day and some of the big climbs I had seen on You Tube.
Being ex hockey players the inevitable banter started months ahead of the ride – was Tappy going to make it on his BMX Mongoose Supergoose with sky ways?
I think I am starting to enjoy this cycling – time for some upgrades – thin road tyres, spd pedals and shoes. Spoke to various knowledgeable people – Billy of Trivelo bikes, my boss, and Duds – who all said I needed to do some longer rides. One Sunday morning planned a bigger 40 -50km including Portsdown and Butser hill. 15km in and was feeling ok but became aware of cyclists around me – a couple sitting in my slip stream. I soon realised I was caught up in a sportive – they are going to be really annoyed if they follow me up Butser because I’m sure the organiser won’t have planned route to use the narrow lane I planned to use. Fortunately for them they knew the route and turned off one road before mine. I sat at top of Butser hill having drink and snack overlooking Portsmouth and the Solent, the view out to the Isle of Wight was great. I was enjoying this cycling lark. It took me just over the 2 hrs to complete the 45km. The route became my routine training ride.
With Steve Duds in the team and others gaining experience the banter turned to ‘expert’ advice. Get puncture resistant tyres, small saddle bag and tool kit, carry spare inner tubes, wear thin layers, get proper shoes to help with climbing. No doubt the best bit of advice was to get decent pairs of shorts. My wife and boys really didn’t know what to say when I first donned my bib shorts!
Time to get that fundraising started – a charity BBQ and raffle night organised by Pete fantastically supported by our wives we raised over £2,000 to kick start the pot. It also gave some of us the ideal opportunity to meet up, the first time for years, and go out for a practice ride. We all knew Benny had lost his peripheral vision so it was key to learn to ride as a team and help him. The weather was poor and there was lots of traffic but we had good 50km ride up and around Portsdown Hill and Hayling Island – with a pub stop of course!
A couple of friends had also bought bikes and were keen to join in on a training ride. A trip round some of the Isle of Wight was planned. My first 50 mile ride was a good one although I did miss my ferry and was late for dinner! Notice I only changed to talking miles once the number got big enough – it helped mentally with training. My training increased as the date approached. I tried to go out with different friends so I could gauge my capability and fitness.
Thurs 9th Sept.
No turning back now – i got picked up by Pete and then onto Duds. We started our journey up north. We were meeting the support vehicles and some of the team at Benny’s in Tame, Oxfordshire. We had a van to carry the bikes and mini bus to carry the team and stuff. Ably driven by support crew of Tony and Roger. Some of the team were a little giddy with excitement of what laid ahead – not something you see often with middle aged men! We are arrived Lancaster at 7pm and met up with rest of team. Then out to a great pub for some carb loading and catch up.
Fri 10th Sept.
Breakfast – plenty of nervous energy. A lot of shaking of heads from Duds and me as we watched the full breakfasts being served. I had already been converted to granola and yogurt by the wife! The chat was all about the weather forecast, easterly in our face for day 1 and pouring with rain, day 2. Not ideal.
After application of anti chaffing cream and pre-event warm up balm provided by Physique Management we were ready. A few of us decided the little ride down into Morecambe first was a good warm up plan. Following the obvious team photo alongside the Eric Morecambe statue the ride began. The 1st few km just disappeared as we enjoyed the relatively easy start, pumped up with adrenalin and catching up with old friends. As it started to become more difficult we started to learn to work as a team and what the dynamic might be over the next 3 days.
Things were going well, learning to call and signal hazards ahead etc – however it didn’t last long – 1st crash – right hand turn up a hill – a call of stop from behind as a fast car approached the junction. The rider in front of me stopped dead in my path, I ran out of tarmac and elected to take the softer option of the roadside bush. No real harm done but it proved we did need to work on our comms.
The scenery, paths and roads were fantastic that first morning. We had a well-earned stop for tea and cake at Wray, lovely ladies in the cafe looked after us and donated to the charity. We even had time for some additional training!
We then had to complete the first few tough climbs, we had a long way to go so we had the occasional walker on the steeper parts.
We knew the ride out of Settle was intense so we prepared with lunch at the Game Cock – cider and sandwiches – perfect. Back on the bikes we set off for Settle. A short cobbled section is at the bottom of the climb to start you off followed by a long 1:5 climb. I had to bail a few 100m from top. I ran out of gears, legs or both. Only two of the team made it to the top. Day 1 finished in Burnsall a lovely spot. 55miles done and over 1500m climbed. We packed up bikes into the van and drove to our hostelry for the night – the Cow and Calf at Ilkley. Great pub, dinner and breakfast. A great spot when the Tour went through Yorkshire.
Weather forecast for early part of day 2 was awful and we woke to pouring rain and very low cloud. We opted to make a later start to avoid the worst of it – so we thought! As we started our fist climb of the day the weather started to clear and the waterproofs came off. One hr in and the heavens opened and continued to pour down for next couple of hrs. The team became a little disconnected breaking up into groups of 2 or 3. We also had the demanding decent into Pateley Bridge to contend with in the wet. It was a brilliant view not shared amongst all the team – I am a speed junkie although I did approach it with caution.
Lunch break couldn’t come soon enough, we stopped at the first pub in Rippon which wasn’t actually open, however the landlord was amazingly accommodating and let us all in. The team dried off in the back bar and to be fair it looked like a tag wrestling team convention at some stages. The pub laid on a great spread of sandwiches and soup to sort us out for the last 30 miles of the day.
Things got better as the hills got smaller and weather cleared. The last few km into York were on the path next to the river Ouse. The path can be narrow and slippery – as my group of 4 found out, a loose dog ran across our path and we completed a team synchronised tail out skid and unclip. Beautifully executed with no spills. As we rode out of the centre of York to the hotel we learnt how to cause chaos in a group of cyclists – a jovial local called out wrong way, wrong way. The confusion almost lead to a mass pile up in the centre of the city.
Day 2 done – total of 115 miles completed and another 1000m climbed.
Lots of pre-ride prep required. Pre-event hot balm, strapping and anti-chaffing cream applied. Hodgy led us out of the hotel, as he had planned the route – or so he claimed. A few extra loops round York meant we caught a few of the sites before finally getting back on track. Not far into ride we had the challenge of an unmade track across a farm – the hybrids came into their own – the road bikes had to tip toe across.
One of the team needed attention today and a couple of us elected to wait with him at Stamford Bridge for the support vehicles to find us. Once sorted the team of 4 needed to play catch up – time to work on our team pursuit technique – the four taking turns in front for approx. 30s as we lifted our pace – we arrived in Pocklington, our next schedule stop only a few minutes behind the support vehicles.
One reasonable climb left that day in the Yorkshire Wolds up through a dry valley, far more enjoyable than the wet climbs the day before. The gentle straight decent from Huggate meant we could really have fun cranking it on the quiet roads. The support team had found The Way of Roses Café in a garden centre for lunch – we were greeted with pots of tea, plates of sandwiches followed by cake and ice cream. Perfect for us athletes.
The final section to Bridlington was a completed at a much more sedate pace. We met up on the final hill overlooking the north sea and Bridlington to regroup and put on our Brain Tumour Charity shirts. As we descended into Bridlington you could start to feel the emotion in the group as we quietly pondered what we had achieved. We all followed Benny in (although we kept eye on anyone fancying the glory of final stage win). We made it. Huge hugs and a few secret tears behind cycling sunnies. A really great feeling. Although cycling can be done alone, achieving as a team was fantastic. Day 3 complete – a total of over 180+ miles, 3250m climbed and only one puncture !
Although the cycling element was important to Benny the whole experience was much more than that. Meeting up with old friends, working as a team, getting fitter, recovering his confidence and of course making money for the Brain Tumour Charity.
Congratulations Benny on a fantastic achievement.
About the author – For Ivan cycling has helped get fit again and really enjoyed it. Anyone selling a carbon endurance road bike? The Brain Tumour Charity is at the forefront of the fight to defeat brain tumours and is the only national charity making a difference every day to the lives of people with a brain tumour. We fund pioneering research, raise awareness of the symptoms and effects of brain tumours & provide support.
Brain Tumour Charity (The) Registered charity number 1150054
If you wanted to help Ivan donations can be made here