Day 14: Mariestad – Gothenburg

Final day of phase 1, and what a day! 112 miles down to Gothenburg was supposed to be a stroll in the park. Mother Nature had other ideas. From the moment we set off we had gale force wind directly in our faces. Ten miles in and it felt like 30. This was going to be a tough day, a day where we needed to work together as a team. Try we did but the elements were against us not only destroying our energy but also our resolve. We were looking for anything to help – a tractor going in our direction would be a help. Dave managed to tag one for a few miles but most were going in the wrong direction. Battle on we had to do and battle on we did. Eventually at 8:10pm we arrived to meet the back up team who were loudly cheering us in and broadcasting live on Facebook. Phase 1 completed, conquered, The Arctic tamed!!!

This has been an epic adventure from the drive up to Nordkapp with horrendous traffic and a broken windscreen and then the highs of being cheered off by hundreds of tourists wishing us well, completing a long hard days cycling and sinking a well earned beer to the lows of being 215 metres under the Arctic Ocean at 3:00am on a Monday morning riding a bike or cycling for 12 hours in the rain and even snow!

Everyone involved has been fantastic. *All the cyclists for their training, preparation and determination, for never giving up when things got tough, encouraging each other when heads fell and working together to get through the day. This was a massive challenge and remember one of the cyclists Lee only bought a bike and started cycling in March!
*The back up team, who I am sure didn’t think it was an easy holiday but I am equally sure that they didn’t expect how hard back up was going to be! From day 1 they were right behind the cyclists even waiting up until 5:00am on the first day to watch us in. It was supposed to be the cyclists set off in the morning, the back up then had the day to themselves all they had to do was to get to the next hotel. Unfortunately as conditions were that bad they met us after 20 or 30 miles with hot coffee and a warm car. Without the back up crew we could not have done this – true heroes!
*Support from back home! The messages and donations that were sent throughout the whole journey was incredible. A message or donation would pop up on my phone on my bike, many times just at the right time to give us that much needed lift, the inspiration to push the pedals harder or even put a smile on a weary tortured face.
*The Sponsors who provided some of the funds to make this happen. This is not a cheap challenge to put in and would have been very difficult to fund without the very generous donations from the Sponsors – New Lodge Contractors, Kerry Ingredients, Oak by Design, The Station Hotel, Birstwith & Logic Fire and Security.

We don’t know exactly what we have raised for Alzheimer’s so far but we know it is in the region of £4000!!!! It doesn’t end here! Phase one complete, phase 2 next year. Back to Gothenburg we go and set off to Monaco traveling through Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Before then we have the Great Nidd Bike Ride and the Great Nidd Bike Ball on the 23rd of September details to enter the Bike ride are on the website the Ball details will be out soon.

I just want to say a huge thank you to all involved – the cyclists who agreed to take on this mad challenge, the back up for their whole hearted support, the sponsors for putting faith in us and of course all of you for supporting and donating.

Only one thing left to say who won the numpty hat award on the last day?

After some discussion about some of Lee’s antics today the decision was unanimous of course it was……………
…………………………Sean!!! For coming up with such an outrageous idea (even I voted for myself)

Thanks for reading

Sean

P.s All the rest of the team are putting their own comments or detailing some thoughts below.

Day 13 Fagersta to Mariestad Sponsored by New Lodge Contractors

Hello again Readers

So today was the 2nd to last ride before Gothenburg tomorrow.

We waved the cyclists off early this morning. They had a big day ahead of them. Spirits were high, the sun was shining and Paul had put cream on his already sunburnt ears!!

We had a nice breakfast and packed up the truck – again!!! After a bit of googling we decided there wasn’t very much in Fagersta and headed to our next destination Mariastad, a pretty town situated on Lake Vänern.

On route we accidentally, without any James Bond stalking, bumped into the cyclists at an ice cream stop about 40 miles into the ride. They were tonking it and were making good time.

The drive was pretty steady other than a fuel stop where Auntie Kathleen set off with her fuel cap open despite telling Dan he needed to close his – this earned her the Numpty award for the day.

Once we arrived we headed down to the marina and enjoyed a nice walk and some beers over looking the Gota canal, dreaming of being millionaires and owning boats 🙂

The ride today has been 138 miles in 26 degrees, all of us are sunburnt even though everyone was completely coated in sunscreen. Despite the sunburn though the spirits are extremely high – we even got a fair bit competitive with the top speeds today. The results are as follows:-

Sean – 1st 47.6mph
David – 1st 47.6mph (he was on my tail getting drag)
Lee – 2nd 45.2mph
Paul – 3rd 43.9mph

We also cycled around an enormous lake, which we stopped off at for a beer in the final few miles. Other than this it was a fairly uneventful ride but definitely a good one!

The boys arrived earlier than expected, as always in good spirits. We are all currently sat listening to live music about to enjoy a nice meal.

Tomorrow is our final day and so the final blog. It’s been lovely that so many people have followed our challenge so eagerly. The support, comments and donations have been amazing and you cannot believe how much they have helped everyone. It seems a long time since we all set off on this adventure but this time tomorrow after a short 100 miles we will definitely be celebrating. Please make sure you look out for the final blog (well for this stage anyway!) and do keep your messages coming too.

Until next time,
Lee, Amy and Kathleen xx

 

Day 12 – Gavle – Fagersta

Sponsored by Oak by Design

The weather today has been beautiful although breezy. Back up decided to have a lazy morning and do some real holiday stuff – sight seeing (after packing up and loading the truck again obviously which is becoming an art form!).

We found a great little village called Bonan and went in search of the lighthouse there. Gary took it upon himself to speak to the locals who couldn’t speak English. If they couldn’t understand lighthouse they would obviously understand “big torch near rocks with ships” and hand gesturing the flashing light. Surprisingly the men didn’t understand and we were all collapsed in fits of laughter. Unsurprisingly this has earned him the numpty award and he suits the hat! We did eventually find the lighthouse further down the road and had a nice explore around.

It’s amazing how the sunshine changes everything, puts a smile on faces, gives inspiration and makes cycling enjoyable again. Today we had 81 miles to do – “a rest day!!!” A rest day it was, we had a strong wind behind us most of the way and although we didn’t set off that early -10am (everyone was very tired and struggled to get up) – we managed to finish by 4pm.

The roads were smooth, winding through the ever sparse forests. Lupins were in abundance along verges of the road with lilac bushes behind creating a river of a varying array of purples and the sweet smell attracting bees and dragon flies; one of which decided to hitch a lift on my shirt – when I realised after about 5 miles it was still on me I nearly fell off my bike in blind panic!

Once again we hit a problem – the road we were on turned into a dual carriageway which isn’t too much of a problem but they then go to single carriage with barriers on each side giving no room for cars to pass! Unfortunately in our experience they do pass and pass very close at speed. We decided then to turn off and try a track which eventually led to a very big quarry with lots of warning signs and some very funny coloured water. Toxic? Who knows, but we found a way through. Luckily it was a working quarry as I am sure we would have been escorted away.

As Back-up headed to our destination of Fagersta we realised that the cyclists would arrive before us so we messaged them that they must have a beer stop. Hard instructions for them obviously lol.

Only 2 miles from the quarry us cyclists came to a small town with a building that said BAR! 48 miles none stop good effort; we had pizza and a beer. Revitalised we ventured on.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and fast and as it was everyone arrived within 10 minutes and all seemed happy.

All are now clean and chilling in the sunshine with a beer / wine / aperol spritz at the Irish bar conveniently on site – all obviously planned so well – and discussing tan lines! It seems so long since the start of the trip and the horrible conditions we endured – that long that everyone is happily remembering tales of bad accommodation and weather with a lot of laughter. All is good and everyone is in holiday mode now for the next few hours at least until the trusted bikes reappear in the morning ready for the 131 miles tomorrow.

As we are coming towards the end of Phase one our attention is drawing to the “Great Nidd Bike Ride” and the “Great Nidd Bike Ball” on the 23rd of September. This is your chance to challenge yourself. The ride is only 50 miles (easy for me to say). We will also be looking for volunteers to marshal or make flapjack /cakes. Then on the evening it’s time to put on your glad-rags and dance the night away. We all will be! Please keep an eye on the website for details.

Enjoy your evening – we will!!

Kathleen & Sean xx

Day 10 Ornskoldsvik to Gnarp sponsored by The Station Hotel Birstwith

Hey there readers

So the weather has been absolutely spectacular for us all today, the sky stayed blue for the 110 miles! No coats just glorious sunshine. Must have known it’s Sean’s birthday – we knew he’d have the weather organised! After the cyclists set off, some of the back up team started the day with another run – this time around the marina before making the most of the sun and sitting next to the water until we became hungry and enjoyed a fantastic Italian lunch!

Unfortunately for the cyclists the only downside was the gravelly roads. Some of the back roads in Sweden aren’t covered in tarmac, they’re just muddy roads that have been flattened over time and are incredibly slick. Those roads are alright to ride on, however, today we got gravel – not just small gravel, huge stones that don’t particularly bode well with a road bike. Even the downhills were a struggle with the bikes sliding around and unfortunately Paul managed to fall from his bike again, hitting a patch of deep sand on the gravel roads causing us to come to an abrupt stop.

Back up had set off for our next destination and on-route decided to go find the cyclists as we are now able to track them! Unfortunately when we first met them we accidentally sent them the wrong way, but with a few heavy sighs from everyone, the cyclists were on the right track and Dan had the amazing idea to get the drone flying for when the cyclists passed again, but it seems he might need a few more practises as the drone made a detour for the forest which resulted in Kayleigh scrambling through the bushes to rescue it and ended in Gary rescuing her as she fell out of them. This resulted in Dan winning the numpty hat for the day!

Back-up team then continued along the route but were worried as to whether the cyclists could avoid the dreaded E4 so we arrived at a large retail park where we waited for the cyclists to arrive. This wasn’t the most exciting place but there were shops! Thankfully the cyclists found us .

Through it all the cyclists thought that the weird and wonderful trails aside, the last 30 or so miles of the ride were some of the best views of the trip. Staring out over the valley/river into the (sort of, but not actually setting sun) at a sea of trees was easily in my (Lee’s) top 3 so far, and it was a welcome change to the endless tarmac.

Overall it was a difficult ride and all of us are feeling a little bit rough but all the sweets the back up team supplied helped tremendously.

We are now making our way into Sundsvall to have dinner and celebrate Sean’s birthday with the cyclists still dressed in their cycling gear! Another eventful day.

Happy Birthday Sean!

Until next time,

Kayleigh and Lee

Day 9 Umeå to Örnsköldsvik sponsored by Kerry’s

The cell doors were opened at 7:30 am and the weary inmates emerged, both cyclists and backup crew alike. The bars and cafes of Umea had been like emeralds amongst the treasures of this very metropolitan city.
So onto day 9, a further 70 mile winding ride to the coastal town of Örnsköldsvik in relatively mild weather conditions.

With no breakfast facilities at the accommodation, the cyclists quickly mobilised and got under way, heading for the first grub spot en route.
Some of the backup crew decided to try and maintain their fitness for momentum and went for a run along the river side.
After, what’s becoming the traditional coffee at Espresso House, they hit the road.
Battling through road works and entertaining arguments with the SatNav we arrived at our destination.

The cyclists had an eventful ride too with Paul having another fall! To be fair, the ride today was far suited to mountain bikes so with the wind it made for interesting times. No injuries though thankfully.

Örnsköldsvik is quite a picturesque harbour town, with a good selection of shops, restaurants and cafes. Our accommodation for this evening couldn’t be more perfect, a bunkhouse situated right on the front of a marina, very clean with good facilities and 5 minute walk into town.
Once settled in, the backup crew headed into the centre to pick up the usual provisions (deep heat, Ibuprofen and ear buds for Paul).
Then on to meet the riders for a quick beer before showers and food. They all showed up with smiles and in high spirits after an amazing lunch of sausages-very large sausages. (The back up team enjoyed ham and cheese baguettes in the ICA supermarket car park- and they think they have it hard lol).

All in all definitely a better day. It’s hard to think the ride is well over half way and this time next week it will be done. The consensus at the moment is that it is definitely a cycle challenge – challenge being the operative word most definitely.

The forecast for tomorrow is good and as its Sean’s birthday tomorrow too, a few beers are on the cards. Roll on another 100 miles.

Gary and David

Day 8 Skelleftea to Umea sponsored by New Lodge Contractors

Previously on Arctic to Africa……

Moral was at an all time low, the weather was atrocious, roads were too dangerous but the team were battling on and now the story continues….

Up early again for breakfast at another Scandic Hotel (Sweden’s answer to a Best Western). The cereal, cheese, ham and toast were very good as usual.

It wasn’t raining!!! Yey! The cyclists set of with renewed vigour and hope in their hearts. Muscles were aching and joints were hurting. It wasn’t long before the pain was getting serious for some of the team. We all rallied together, the team was working again! Those who felt better took the wind and pulled the others along.

The backup team packed up the kit and loaded the van and then they hit the gym! 15 minutes on the treadmill, 15 minutes “floor session”, and 15 minutes in the pool and we were about ready to go. Last night we found a great café, which served proper coffee out of a proper machine, so we headed there for a large cappuccino before setting off in the truck. Heaven!

The cyclists moral picked up considerably at the half way point when we came across a cafe – all you can eat for £8; Swedish meatballs, potato wedges and salad, juice and coffee also included. We also managed a beer, result a happy team. As we finished lunch a coach load of Germans came in. I have to say they weren’t the youngest group, in fact if any were a day under 90 I would be surprised. It was a bit disconcerting that some of the ladies took a shine to Dave in his Lycra! After lunch we continued then the heavens opened and we got soaked again! Luckily this was a short shower and then the sun came out. It was glorious, this is what we had been waiting for. Cycling was a pleasure for once and the views were stunning, still trees but trees in the sun!

The backup team arrived in Umea amongst plenty of roadworks only to discover we were staying in a converted prison. A few cellmate & soap jokes followed, then we followed our tour guide Gary to a very funky bar in the centre of this student city. We are currently sat in this bar outside in the sunshine (it got here eventually!), except our table is next to a building site so we’re patiently waiting for the diggers to shut up!

After a nice downhill section to finish the day off, the cyclists met up with the backup team who didn’t disappoint and had beers ready. A good day all round.

Dan & Sean

Day 7 Lulea to Skellefteå

Sponsored by Oak by Design

So we thought we were all pretty down previously but today was an all time low for everyone. Despite the team having had a catch up the previous night with our Jonathon in Australia, morale was beneath rock bottom for both back up and cyclists. If it could go wrong this morning it certainly did. The weather didn’t help as it started to rain as the cyclists were setting off to drive back to their starting destination. Thankfully the weather cleared for them and when they eventually set off it was dry.

Back up had a bit of a chill once they had left taking advantage of the pool again. (When we say pool we are stretching the imagination but we were happy). We had a late set off and then began our adventure to find where the cyclists had left the truck James Bond style using various apps to find the location – can you tell we are grasping for excitement!!

Everyone met for lunch and spirits did seem a little better. The amazing pizza helped!! Knees were sore and muscles were aching. Food was eaten and the team were ready for the off and then, yes you’ve guessed it- the heavens opened!! Torrential rain, wind into the faces and wet slippy dangerous roads. If the weather was good, the views would have been amazing but heads were down and it just wasn’t fun. Conditions were bad for both teams. The cyclists tried to persevere but the weather and the fact that all roads lead them to the treacherous E4 which simply couldn’t be travelled on by cyclists meant that they had to radio in to the back up team to rescue them. We had just arrived in Skellefteå but did a quick drop of bags and turned around to head back for them. We found them relatively easily and the dance they did as the truck pulled up showed just how pleased they were. They were soaked to the skin and freezing cold. Heat was whacked up and music turned on loud to warm them through and get spirits up.

After warm showers back at the hotel and a beer with a debrief, it was great to hear the chatter of the team. Spirits might have been low but the resolve was high and all were agreed that “tomorrow is another day”. Another day without rain would just be the icing on the cake!! Our luck has got to change.

Love and thanks for your support as ever.

Kathleen xx

Day 6 Sponsored by Logic Fire and Security

An early start this morning, ready for a lengthy 130 mile day. It was a slow start with some serious aches and pains. The first 30 miles crossed the Arctic Circle and followed the Tornionjoki river, which also acts as the border between Finland and Sweden.

It felt like a very long 30 miles until our bodies had warmed up. After crossing the border our always faithful back up team were there ready with coffee and cookies!!! This is where I jumped in with the back up team and left the amazing boys to climb up from the river into the treeful Swedish countryside. Their determination is unbelievable, despite being in so much pain (mainly with their knees).

The backup team’s next job was to find a suitable stop for lunch. After 30 miles of nothing we found a fab little cafe. The owner made us feel very welcome. He provided us with coffee and food, showed us photos of a brown bear he had crossed paths with (last month), asked us to sign the guestbook, and even offered to post his food to Africa for when we arrive there!!! We waited here until the boys arrived. After 50 miles their poor bodies were now starting to get going and a beer to wash down lunch was warmly welcomed.

After dinner we made our way to Lulea. We were all excited about arriving in somewhere with a bit of civilisation. The hotel even had a pool, which was obviously our first port of call on arrival!! After a quick swim and sauna we resumed backup duties and headed to the town centre to find somewhere for dinner.

It’s still bank holiday here and the vast majority of pubs and restaurants are closed due to, as the locals say, “the midsummer piss up”. After a phone call from the cyclists to say they have had to change their route I headed off in the truck to pick them up.

The route had initially taken them onto a very busy single carriage way (constrained by Armco barriers) so they decided life was worth living after all and headed inland onto quieter roads. With already doing 121 miles, and with 53 miles still to go, the decision was to finish and be dropped off back at the same point in the morning.

Food and beer is on the agenda tonight. The back up team found an English pub called the Bishops Arms (hand pulled ales and everything), and that is where we currently are…..about to order and chill.

Amy 🙂

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