Phase 3 Monaco to Africa

Here we are less than a week to go until we arrive back in Monaco and set off on our trusty stead’s for the final time. The bikes have been dropped off along with all the guys equipment but the weather was that bad we though we would wait a couple of days so everything was dry when packed in Graham.
It doesn’t seem like 5 minutes since we finished the last phase in Monaco and here we go again. Time have flown by and we still have a lot to get organised before we venture of on Friday.

We had another successful Nidd Bike Ride this year and the weather was fantastic unlike the recent UCI world championships.

The fundraising has been going well, we are now over £19,000 for Alzheimer’s research UK which is amazing. I have to thank all who have donated along the way.

There are many thanks which I must acknowledge and will do in the blogs to come.

The next blog will be on Friday when we eventually set off in Graham the motor home heading to Monaco.

Sean

On the ferry – Hull to Zeebrugge

Back at Hull, back on the ferry for the third time on this adventure. The first time we headed to the Arctic, last year it was Europe, this time and for the final time we are heading to Africa!
 
The route to Monaco to the start of the ride is the ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge, then a long drive to Troyes in France followed by another long drive to somewhere else god know where in France. Then to meet the boys and Kayleigh who are flying into Nice.
 
As usual there will be a daily blog on the website and Facebook with the planned route and a download of the previous days cycle to keep everyone one updated.
 
Training has not gone well this year mainly down to everyone been so busy at work. There has also been a few injuries both Paul and myself have recently had shoulder and neck injury’s I still can’t turn my head properly so won’t know if I’ve left the other two behind (as if 😂😂)
 
This year we have brought along our puppy 🐶  Lola she is not happy having to be left in the kennel on ferry ⛴ but one night is better than a month in one at home.
 
As you know we could not complete this amazing challenge without the support of the main sponsors. Today I would like to thank Jamie’s and team from Oak by Design who have sponsored us all the way. Jamie even came out to Monaco 🇲🇨 to see us in last year. Not a bad place to go 😃 he is also coming to Africa to see us complete the final stage. So from all the riders Slim, Blocker and Tiny and all those that have been in backup THANK YOU 🙏
 
Heading out to sea 🌊 now so until the next blog.
 
Sean

Day 2 Driving Zeebrugge to Troyes

Well I never realised that with all the other pressures of this amazing ride the blog stuff would hit so soon but obviously it would as there’s only me and him aka blocker!!

So we’ve set off! Had a great “last night” with our kids and some of our fab friends from the amazingly supportive village we live in – aka Birstwith . We left with our good friends and the in-laws waving us off.

Once on board the Pride of Bruge we found the bar with the resident group singing very aptly, our ride song – “I’ll be riding shotgun” la la la you know it!! Holy Chuff – this is really happening!!  

Saturday morning dawned bright and early with numerous tannoy announcements to help us along! After collecting a very excited Lola from the ship kennels we were off!! The beach was our first stop for a good run (Lola, not us)before 230 miles through France to our first stop near Troyes.

The forecast rain hardly came and the further into France we got, the better the weather has been. The journey down has been good and Lola is very settled in the van. In fact she’s now taken to sitting at the table watching the traffic go by!! It’s an easy night tonight for us all as another 230 miles tomorrow. We’ve ordered fresh bread and croissants already so we’ll be well set up for the journey! It’s been a lovely start after a stressful week(s) resulting in good chats about why in chuffing hell are we actually doing this, but then we know why! Alzheimer’s is without doubt rubbish. Horrible for those who have it but equally horrible for those around them. The more research done to find the cure the better.

The duly earned beer is now calling along with a puppy who is ready to explore this sleepy little town we are in. Thanks for all your support along the way. You really don’t know how much it means and the further in we get the more we will all need it. Happy Saturday everyone!!

Kathleen  Xx

Day 2 driving Troyes – Entrevaux

Another day driving south, the sat nav said 231 miles when we turned it on. However when it worked out the route is was 313!! Why do Garmin sat navs show the distance as the crow flys? Is there a big market for crows buying sat navs????
Anyway we bought a freshly baked baguette 🥖 croissants 🥐 and my fav pain us chocolat, then we were on our way.
It was quite an uneventful trip down the French motorway 🛣 well that was until we had to pay the peage OVER 90 euros!!!!! That was more than the cost of the fuel we used! We have been to France a few times and it doesn’t seem to matter when we go August, June or October it’s closed! The motorways are empty, I can understand why. The restaurants and bars are either derelict or just closed. We would have eaten out if anywhere was open. The only place we can find open is MacDonalds!! Not doing that!! So it’s find a shop, the only ones open were the super markets buy some cheese, ham and of course wine then chill in the camper.

Tonight we are camping by a lake in the french alps it is stunning. Tomorrow we have 150 miles or 88 if you’re a crow 😂😂 the boys and Kayleigh are flying into Nice then getting trains to meet us. It will be an early night before we head to Monaco 🇲🇨 on Tuesday to continue our bike 🚲 to Africa.

Later
– Sean

The night before Phase 3 begins!

So it’s finally here, in the morning Slim, Blocker and Tiny along with back up Batman and Robin will head into Monaco 🇲🇨 to return to Casino Square where we left off last year.

It has been a strange build up this year. Not one of us were enthusiastic about this last stage for some reason. Whether it was because we were so busy in the lead up or that we have not had the time for much training, or is it the fact that we have to do it and it feels a chore. A chore it is not and now we are here the excitement is building, once we get on the bikes and off it will feel like we are back on it.

So Dave, Paul and Kayleigh flew into Nice today then caught the train up to Entrevaux where we met them off the train. We thought as Entrevaux was a reasonable size town with 7 Restaurants getting a meal would be no problem. But hey no France 🇫🇷 is still closed and all restaurants and bars were closed. So a mile walk to camp and started for food. Good energy filling pasta was in the menu beautifuly cooked by Kathleen aka Batman.

After tea Kayleigh gave me a package delivered from Claire from Alzheimer’s Research UK. The packaged contained some cycling T-shirt’s with all our names printed on and a few other bits and bobs to help us on our way. It also contained a fantastic card with some very kind and motivational words and signed by all the ARUK team. I have attached photos of the card for you all to read. I have to say the words brought back many memories and reminded us the as if we had forgot the reason we are doing this madcap adventure.

So we will be doing a live feed at approx 12:00noon 11:00am UK time from casino square Monaco.

– Sean

Phase 3 Day 1. Monaco – Entrevaux

Today’s ride is sponsored by The Station Hotel, Birstwith.

And just like that Phase 3 begins!

We all managed to get into Monaco, Lola included (after I carried her up a flight of stairs in the train station! 😂) And the cyclists weren’t told off for cycling outside the casino this time luckily!

After a few photos, the cyclists set off from Monaco at 12pm (11am UK time) as seen on the Facebook live video, arriving in Entrevaux 63.9 miles/4 hours 3 minutes later. Just a gentle ride today… if it wasn’t uphill all the way! It went better than expected for all and no injuries, let’s hope it stays this way!

The journey back to the campsite for the back-up was slow – lots of hills, narrow roads and bridges – for those who have travelled with Kathleen before will know how much she hates bridges!

Thankfully, we didn’t need passports today as Paul had left his safely in his tent! Not the first thing Paul’s left behind so far on this trip, it all started when he brought his shaver charging cable but not the shaver itself! 😂

Tomorrow we head into Provence, roughly 90 miles for the cyclists. Let’s hope it goes as well as today!

Thank you everyone for the support and donations so far, we really appreciate it! 15 days to go!

– Kayleigh x

Blog – Phase 3 Day 2

Today’s ride is sponsored by Logic Fire and Security.

Entrevaux – Sannes

So after a relatively early night by our standards, we set off at about 9am heading for Sannes. The weather was pretty dull and the cold breeze was sharp so we all layered up in the hope of a bit of sun later on.

We started with a 14 mile climb which after a bit of a warm up was actually quite pleasant, and managed to knock 45 miles off before we stopped for food and drink. It seems at this time of year though that France is actually shut, with no bars or restaurants open so a bag of bread and meats was on the menu, followed by cake.

After lunch we set off again for another 25/30 miles before a quick coffee stop in a bar that was actually open. After that was the last stretch home which albeit hilly, was very pleasant. In the end we managed to average 16mph, while climbing 6,000ft which is higher than Ben Nevis, so we’re all quite happy with that.

We got back to the campsite that we couldn’t get in until 5 so we all had a coffee (beer), and played with our mascot Lola until we could get in and Kayleigh made a cracking dinner. So a fairly straightforward day for us guys, early (ish) nights all round in preparation for our first 100+ miler tomorrow.

– Paul

Blog – Phase 3 Day 3

Today’s ride is sponsored by Oak by Design

Sannes – Vic-la-Gardiole

The start of the day went well, sun over the lake peering though the trees.
Breakfast eaten and we were ready for the off… maybe not – we have a puncture or two! All rallied around to get things sorted to set off just a little late but all in goodwill.

The ride was going well, nice quiet roads passing vine yards, apple orchards and olive groves. It was a little windy but we all put the effort in even with some niggles.
A coffee at 25 miles was well deserved. France is open
today, but not for sandwiches 😏

40 miles in at 12.15pm and France is open for food in Maussane-les-alpilles, a nice little village. Pizza is on the menu which is good timing as Paul needs food, water and more than likely a nanna nap. Blocker and I will have a beer instead.
55 miles in and time to get heads down, arses up and get some miles done.  Travelling at 20 – 28 mph we all meant business! 73 miles in and after being into the wind all day with temperatures up to 25 degrees it was now time for a refreshing beer, only so we can cool down a little!

Then on to a canal path so a nice surface for 5 miles then off though towns again. Sean was in a road rage incident while traffic was nearly at a standstill because of an open draw bridge. We had no idea what the guy who hit Sean was shouting but I guess he had no idea what the three of us were saying either!

We then got to 98 miles all thinking we had just 10 miles left, we have cracked this so let’s crack on ! Missing out on a beer another canal path should be easy but no no no! We had 7.5 miles of gravel and mud but luckily it was dry.
Not so bad on a specialized roubaix but not on a specialized tarmac so Paul suffered more than us.
Last 2 miles took us into camp greeted by Kathleen and Kayleigh – a nice site for sore eyes and legs!!

– Dave

Blog – Phase 3 Day 4

Today’s ride is sponsored by New Lodge Contractors

Vic-la-gardiole to Sante Marie la mer

Today was the day we were getting into our stride, another 100 miler but a flat one along the coast. Nice and straight forward day… so we thought!!!

We started the ride along a cycle way with the sea on one side and nature reserve on the other. Hundreds of flamingos were fishing which got David very excited as his nick name at the start was pink flamingo due to his bright pink leggings at the beginning of phase one.

The pace was fast to start with averaging over 20mph until we hit towns which soon brought the speed down. The first town was Sete, a walled city with narrow busy streets, probably the busiest pace we had seen in France. Then we headed inland slightly, stopped for a coffee at a town called Agde. All was good 25 miles in, smooth roads and a fast pace, we’re going to have this done by 3pm.

Spoke too soon! As we left the café we were onto a rough track for about 5 miles along a canal. Eventually, we found a road so decided to deviate from the planned route which took us inland a bit further than we planned, but the road was smooth and we could work our way round.

At 12 we were ready for some food we came into a village called Lespignan with a few bars. Unfortunately, they only served drinks so a beer it was and on to the next town. Again the next town was closed – nothing new there!!! We eventually got back to the sea. Sainte-Pierre-la-Mer where we found a restaurant and got a great lunch, plat de jour starter salade de burgur main cheeseburger et frites and some sort of dessert, all washed down with a beer.

Only 45 miles to go so we decided on an easy pace considering how much we had eaten. 500 yards in and I decided to get some drafting behind a van. Soon the easy pace turned into a fast 28mph pace working as a team changing the lead out to take the wind. There was very little traffic so flying round the roundabouts at full pace, then one particular roundabout BANG man down!!! For some reason, the French decided it was a good idea to drop a ton of loose gravel on a roundabout and I went down hard and slid across the road. We wear helmets for a reason and looking at the state of mine now, I am glad I had one on or I might not be writing this blog now.

So 40 miles to go, the pictures only tell half the story – gravel rash down the full left hand side, badly bruised hand and some very expensive cycling shorts ruined! But the bike is ok, just one dint on the gear changer so all ok. After a short spell very dazed and having to lay down at the side of the road there was no choice but to get on and get back on the bike 🚴‍♀️

A bit steadier pace now just got to get to camp. After 5 miles we turned onto another rough track. This one we were expecting, it was 8 miles on a rough track with the sea on one side and a huge lake on the other. Our alternative was an extra 30mile riding on roads. The going was tough, especially with the damaged hand but we got through with no punctures or mechanicals. Road all the way to camp now. The boys worked together relentlessly taking it in turn to take the wind dragging me along. It’s times like this when the team pulls together and works as a unit when a man is down. Thanks guys.

So finally back at camp. A bit bloody but straight into the shower to wash out all the gravel I had collected, feeling a bit sore and ache, but ok 👌 Let’s see how I feel in the morning.

The girls have once again prepared a wonderful dinner for us and it’s Friday night so party 🎉 time 😂 Well the boys might.

Tomorrow is only 72 miles but 5000 feet of climbing over the Pyrenees. The best thing is that we will be out of France 🇫🇷 and into Spain 🇪🇸. No disrespect to the French, but everywhere is closed and empty, do any of them work? Those we have met have on the majority been very rude with some downright aggressive. There has been the more minority who have been pleasant, but it has been few and far between. We do have to drive up the west coast of France on the return journey, maybe we will have more luck there?  

So for a bit of rest and healing in preparation for tomorrow’s ride.
– Sean

Blog – Phase 3 Day 5

Today’s blog is sponsored by The Station Hotel, Birstwith

Sante Marie la Mer – Costa Brava

We leave France behind today. After plying Sean with pain killers and cream after his injuries yesterday, the boys got set off in good spirits and we had a quick clear up to get on our way and leave the mosquitoes behind.

Wow, it was windy! The Motorhome was feeling it so heaven help the boys cycling in it. And hilly!! What should have been an easy 70 miles turned into the worst day yet for the boys as they had to navigate 12 hills!!

The ride started steady for 15 miles with the Pyranees ahead. Better than their pair of knees! (Dave’s bad joke – sorry!) A few other bikers were out but non the boys could tag on to so hard work for all.

At 25 miles they thought there was wine tasting so it didn’t take long to get Sean to stop! Unfortunately no wine to be had.
12 midday took the cyclists over the border into Spain so only right they dropped down the mountain into a village for beer and Spanish tapas.

The afternoon was much the same –  climb hill in wind come down, repeat with the final 12th hill being a 4 mile climb! A tough day!! Pleasantly, Spain is open and the camp site offers a pool, bar and restaurant with music tonight apparently and we girls are very pleased of that. Finally a night off cooking! Dave’s hoping that there might be bingo too – watch this space 😂
– Kathleen xx

Blog – Phase 3 Day 6

Today’s ride is sponsored by Logic Fire and Security

Costa Brava – Lloret De Mar

We were all feeling a bit rough this morning as our ‘it’s Saturday night so let’s have a few’ outlook got us all pretty leathered last night. Our 8am alarms all got snoozed and we all got up at about 9/9.30, feeling a little (very) fragile.

We set off at 10 and all felt a little bit achey for the first few miles as usual. I personally had a hard time getting my knee warmed up so I was at the back while I tried to warm it up. The first 5 miles were nice roads but soon turned to rough gravel which made for a very tough 6 miles. Eventually we got ourself back on tarmac and found a nice little town for our first coffee break.

We decided to take a detour and take a chance on a route we found that might need us to carry our bikes through a bit of water but cut about 8 miles off the whole route so we decided to take the chance. We set off again on a bike track that was occupied by a load of Spanish pensioners playing boules which had us all laughing, so after we navigated that we headed on a sand track to the beach. When we got to the beach we realised the bit of water that we had to try get through was actually a LOT of water and was too deep, but Sean being the leader he is walked out and found a route that worked with our bikes on our shoulders, albeit very wet.

Half a mile later we got back onto track and got cycling again and back to the main road to try catch up on some miles as we’d had quite a slow morning with tracks and the sea in our way. We got ourselves onto a dual carriageway for a while which was a bit ropey but it helped us get our heads down for a bit and stopped for some lunch in Palamos, a nice little beach town.

After lunch we headed down the beach front which was lovely and we all took in a bit of scenery. I decided to start taking pictures and a few videos and completely missed the fact that we were heading for a set of stairs, which I only spotted last minute so ended up heading down that head first and coming off in what I imagine was hilarious to watch, although it didn’t tickle. A few bumps but nothing major to me or the bike so we all had a laugh and kept going, knowing that we still had a good 40 miles left and the time was cracking on faster than we expected. We knew we had a good few climbs left and the roads we had to go up were amazing. Sea views on the left and long sweeping roads in front of us, climbing what were 6-11% hills, so not too tough and we could enjoy the scenery.

We descended down into Tossa de Mar for a beer, knowing we only had 8 miles left to go after. Another lot of ascending and descending over fantastic roads saw us into Lloret de Mar where we had a quick shower and got ready for dinner. Another pleasant ride ahead of us tomorrow into and through Barcelona, which were all looking forward to. We’re all having a beer (one) tonight and I’m trying to forget about the bumps that I’ve found tonight from this afternoon. All in all a tough day but nice to have out the way.

-Paul

Blog – Phase 3 Day 7

Today’s ride is sponsored by Oak by Design

Lloret de Mar – Vilanova

Everyone was up and off early this morning, back to the usual routine after yesterday’s late start.

84 miles to cycle today, the ride went well with no one falling off, they did manage to end up in the middle of the riots in Barcelona though, joining in by shouting ‘Yorkshire’ as they went through!

The riots meant that the motorways were closed to vehicles and instead replaced with people rioting on foot.

Being in Barcelona where Paul lived during part of his uni course, they stopped for lunch at his favourite burger place, putting a smile back on Paul’s face after his little stair incident yesterday!

Turning the focus away from the cyclists, us girls actually managed to do some sightseeing for the first time today! Going to Mount Tibidabo and having a little walk around and stopping for lunch next to the Sagrat Cor Church topped by the sculpture of the sacred heart of Jesus before we drove the rest of the way to camp to set up.

Now we’re all back at tonight’s stop it has started raining! Luckily it was only lightly raining for the boys in the last hour of cycling.

Tonight we’re in the middle of nowhere so mum has cooked tonight’s tea – spag Bol, my favourite😍

7 days done, 9 days to go!

– Kayleigh

Blog – Phase 3 Day 8

Today’s ride is sponsored by New Lodge Contractors

Vilanova – L’Ampolla

Today was supposed to be an easy flat day with not too many miles in preparation for the big 100+ mile days coming up.

Well, we don’t help ourselves! Last night, we went to the camp bar as it was open, as you do! Several beers, a couple of bottles of wine and whisky later and everyone was a bit drunk to say the least, “but we have an easy day tomorrow” Paul said. “Let’s have another beer then” David called out! It didn’t end up pretty with David falling off his camp bed and nearly capsizing his tent!

So everyone was late up, some (Kathleen) didn’t manage to get up at all!!! Anyway, I had changed my worn cleats for new ones the night before as my old ones were warn down to the screws. 10am and we were ready to set off…

Problem 1: For some reason my new cleats just didn’t seem to lock into the pedals, in closer inspection they just weren’t the right fit. We then decided to change the pedals to ones that they would fit. That will sort the job, one pedal off but the second pedal would not budge, then David got involved to help as he could see I was starting to lose my cool a little. No joy, we could not get the pedal off! Ok not a problem put the old cleats back on! They were looking even more ropier than when I took them off but we had little choice. All done now and ready for the off at last… NO!

Problem 2: Just as I was about to cycle off, I checked the pressure and the front tyre was slightly low so I pumped it up only to find out it had a puncture. I have been running tubeless tyres for the last 2 stages and for those that are not familiar with how tubeless tyres work, they have what is called a sealant in the tyre which is a very small amount of liquid in the tyre and when you get a puncture while riding the sealant comes through the hole and seals as it reacts with the air. What this means is that usually you don’t need to stop riding and puncture is mended. However, on this occasion the hole seemed to be big and would not seal. As time was getting on I decided to use my spare wheel with an old tyre on.

We were eventually off and running but heads were down. The route took us along a very long promenade which was a steady, not very fast start but it was a pleasant ride. After about 5 miles, the promenade finished and we were onto the roads, time to get our heads down and put some miles in. As soon as we were in the road I heard a strange noise from my wheels, “what’s wrong now” I thought. I stopped to have a look and I had a puncture on the replaced front wheel… not just a puncture but the tyre had split! That’s it, the teddies were about to be thrown out of the pram! David had seen me from about 50 yards ahead and could see things were going to go very bad if he didn’t calm me down as all I wanted to do at that stage was ring back up and get picked up! Thankfully, we were right outside a small bike shop so in I went wheel in hand to their workshop and the owner was there waiting for a job. So new tyre, new inner tube, they also did cleats for my shoes and I got a new pair of cycling sunglasses, so all sorted and we were ready to get on.

Just as we were about to get going Paul noticed his tyre had gone down! Strange getting two punctures near a bike shop? Back in the shop and all sorted. We were on our way.

We cycled hard for the next 25 miles not stopping for our usual morning coffee, but Paul was getting ‘hangry’… we needed food! In the end we found a burger king that would suffice. Quick food and off again.

The next 30 miles were on fast straight roads, the problem was they weren’t fast for us due to a weather warning of severe winds with gusts up to 70kph. The wind was either directly into our face, or a crosswind. Neither good for cycling and the one thing I really hate is strong headwinds. I was getting left behind a lot today, motivation and energy were lacking.

We found a cafe with about 10 miles to go, this meant it was time for the first beer of the day! Things picked up and we were all a lot more optimistic. Off we went again, there was a decent side road we could follow and as it has happened so many times before, the road just stopped and turned into a track. The track then turned into a riverbed and we had to carry the bikes. Then the riverbed came to a black tunnel with no idea where we were going. The only way I can describe it, is that it looked like a large dry sewer tunnel. We had no option but to venture into the blackness of the tunnel and see how long it was and where we would end up. It was a bit unnerving as we had just passed a dead snake in the road so god only knows what was down this tunnel? The tunnel was about 200 metres long and came out at a rocky mountain bike track which was just rideable in sections. We once again ended by the sea in a small cove with no obvious way out. Not swimming again? There was no way out this time. We were stuck and it was back tracking probably about 10 miles to find another route? Hidden in the rockets and bushes was some stone steps, a way out? We had to carry the bikes but we were back on our way. What a find – no roads, no people, just a hidden, hardly touched cove. After carrying and pushing the bikes for another half mile we saw a car, “roads” I shouted! We must have been a sight to the guys fishing off the rocks. Three road bikers carrying their bikes over rocks and through under growth in the middle of nowhere. The road out was a very steep climb of about 1 in 3 in sections, but it was tarmac and we didn’t care… although our legs did!

There rest of the journey was fairly routine but an interesting 69 miles today.

Ready for my bed now, the days are getting tougher with tired legs. Last rest day tomorrow only 79 miles to do.

– Sean

 

Blog – Phase 3 Day 9

Today’s ride is sponsored by The Station hotel, Birstwith

L’Ampolla – Benicasim

Today was a good start to the day. Everyone was up bright and early and feeling fine. The boys got off without any issues which is a great bonus. We girls got the chores out of the way getting packed up and 2 loads of washing done before having a go at being tourists again and heading for a walk along the sea front of L’Ampolla. It’s a beautiful place and one we all said we would love to return to. Unfortunately, despite the camp being busy, there was a great shortage of open coffee houses this morning so we headed back to begin our 71 mile drive to Castellon.

The boys had a great ride this morning – no wind and beautiful scenery on good roads getting 40 miles done relatively easily (ha!!) before lunch.  After lunch they cycled through Sierra de irta which was a stunning coastal path through the National Park. Unfortunately, it was a rough ride for the boys on their road bikes resulting in Paul “throwing his teddies out”. One rough track too many! The remainder of the ride was up and down with a steep climb to test the legs at 75 miles.

The boys arrived back to camp to find we’d had a productive day and the van was all clean again with shopping done and clean clothes for all. As we were getting ready for tea the weather was still lovely and hot. The boys decided to venture into the pool. I think Paul was in for 3.5 minutes and the boys not much longer. I’m sure Dave’s chin was starting to chatter! The days are lovely and hot but it is October so not hot enough to warm the pools!

It’s a very sedate evening tonight. The boys have a really tough day tomorrow – 118 miles with 11,000 feet of climbing. It’s set to be hot again too. The plan is for an early night so they can get away by 8am at the latest taking supplies with them as it’s going to be a long day for them all. Hopefully, it will be a good day with no problems and they can arrive at camp with the day ticked off.
Whatever your day consists of tomorrow please take a moment to think of them. Tomorrow is one of those days where they will need to really dig deep and the reason the boys are doing this ride will be more in their thoughts than ever. It’s one of those days that your comments and good wishes will be seriously needed so if you can, let them know you’re thinking of them. It will mean more than you realise!

– Kathleen xx

 

Blog – Phase 3 Day 10

Today’s ride is sponsored by Logic Fire and Security

Benicasim – Villargordo del Cabriel

Today was always going to be one of the make or break days, we had 118 miles and over 10,000 feet of climbing!

So it was early to bed the evening before to get up at 7:00am in pitch blackness. By 8:15 we were all ready and it was just getting light. Our aim was to do 40 miles before we stopped. The first 15 miles were a steady easy climb on great cycle paths away from the main road. Then came the first major climb 6 miles climbing 2300 feet. Climb done and a nice down hill to follow. Then we were straight into the next climb 10 miles and 2800 feet, the scenery was stunning orange 🍊groves on the lower slopes then olive trees as we climbed, eventually the fresh smell of the pine trees. It was getting hot 🥵 very hot. On the climbs we generally get separated – slim flys up the hills with tiny following not too far behind. Me Blocker well I bring up the rear pacing myself. Paul ran out of water up one of the hills to a point of nearly passing out. We were eventually 67 miles in and 6000 meters of climbing before we made our first stop. We were all very thirsty so a few bottles of water, a coke each and Dave and I had a cheeky beer 🍺

Off we went straight into another 6 miles climb of 2500 feet. We were heading into cowboy country with the arid landscqpes straight out of a spaghetti western movie. Followed by a few other climbs.

While we were battling the hills and the heat the girls Batman and Robin drove to the camp site we had booked only to find it all boarded up and closed. Kathleen called and seemingly the booking from Hotels.com had not been passed on – not the first time this outfit has let me down!! He did suggest another site 10 miles down the road so she called me to explain. The girls made their way to the camp which was by a nice lake.

We made our way to a town called Requena which was 102 miles in so we could work out our route to the new camp. The time was 6 pm and our new route was an extra 8 miles! So we had 24 miles left to go!! We decided to have a bite to eat there and some liquid refreshment – a beer or two!

So last leg 24 miles it was starting to get dark. Before long it was pitch black and although we had lights they are not the best for seeing where you are going.

Eventually we got to camp after 125 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing. Quick shower and off to bed 100+ miles tomorrow.

– Sean

Blog – Phase 3 Day 11

Today’s ride is sponsored by Oak by Design

Villargordo del Cabriel – Peñascosa 

Bastardos! That’s where we ended the ride today! And that about sums our day up.

Today was going to be a tough 100 miles after yesterday but we had to recalculate the route due to last nights original camp being closed. To start, we had to climb 3 miles out of the canyon which bit the tired legs. Once out the revised google bike route took us onto a track. We were weary but what was our option??? We ventured into the wilderness hoping it would be a short track to a road. Oh no 😱 that was not the case! We went deeper and deeper into the wilderness. We checked our google maps and no road could be found so on we went. Then the route through the forest became that bad we had to carry and walk with our bikes. Things were just going from bad to worse. At about 10 miles in the route we were supposed to be following was impassable even for walking so we had no alternative but to follow the track which was taking us back towards the camp we had left. On the route we came across a docile snake 🐍 in the middle of the track. The problem with going off road on road bikes is that we are on high pressure skinny tyres, totally not suitable for any type of gravel, never mind rough tracks as my accident a week ago shows. When going up the steep hills you have to stay sat in your seat as if you stand up the back tyre spins. Going down hill you just take yourown life in your hands and hope the front wheel doesn’t go or you are down.

Eventually 25 miles in we found a road – “yay” well those weren’t quite the words! 4 hours to do 25 miles! Another 80 to go and it was already 1:30pm. We were not going to make camp unless it was mostly down hill with the wind behind us.

We came to a small town and decided that we would need to stop for food. So it was 2:30 pm and we still had 75 miles to go. 50 hard miles (with tired legs), stop then 25 miles to finish. We reckoned about 9:00pm in pitch blackness , If things went our way.

The wind, the bloody wind! 45 degree crosswinds  meaning we were lucky to get over 12 miles an hour even with slipstreaming. This was time to work as a team and take turns at the front. Slipstreaming with a cross wind is an art in it’s self. You have to judge where the wind is coming from and the speed you are going then get at an angle of about 45 degrees from the front rider as close as possible to find the sweet spot while the rider behind does the same. This means the front rider has to get in the right part of the road for you to do this and takes a lot of discipline and concentration from all riders. Trying to do this, work out the route and actually cycle at the same time for 10 hours a day. Who says men can’t multi-task 😃

So on we peddled, the roads were long, straight and very open. We were at an altitude of about 2000 feet into the wind. As we looked ahead we couldn’t even see the end of the road it was that long and straight. The legs were pumping hard, every muscle and bone ached. Both Paul and I were taking painkillers on a regular basis. My wounds from the accident a week ago were opening up again, things were not good. Morale was now at an all time low – that we were not going to make it to camp tonight was obvious. It would have been after 10pm at the best and all of us had completely run out of energy. We decided to stop 50 miles to go have a drink and work out what we were going to do. The problem was if we got picked up and dropped off at the same place it would make the next 2 days nearly impossible as it would make day 12 about 150 miles long with 10,000 feet of climbing followed by day 13 which would be 105 miles and 13,000 feet of climbing.  To top it off Kathleen rang to say that our campsite was closed and she couldn’t get in touch with anyone there. She’d found an alternative but this meant another detour. She’d rung and they were open which was a bonus. Ok let’s go! Hang on, another phone call – the owner had rocked up to let us in. Reverse plan!

After looking at all the options and the detour we’d had to take, we were further West than anticipated. This provided an opportunity as we could book a cheap hotel for day 12 which meant we didn’t have to go into the high mountains as we could skirt round them. All we had to do was cycle another 30 miles today and get to a town called El Ballestero, get picked up and get dropped off there in the morning. What it actually means is that tomorrow we have an 85 mile day and the following day will be about 70 miles so in the end all is good. Just the 30 miles over the top into the wind to do. Easier said than done. For the first time ever cycling I got cramp in my right leg and both Paul and David’s knees were getting bad. It was a test of physical and mental determination and with only 5 days to go for the first time doubt actually came into my head. Just staying upright on the bike was difficult, it was about getting to the set destination without collapsing from exhaustion or falling asleep on the bike. Hill after hill the last 10 miles felt like 100 miles.

We made it a small town with one bar full of locals and us three fell in through the door, battered and bruised dressed in cycling gear dusty from the off road and looking exhausted. The place went quiet, everyone turned and looked. It was like a scene from a western, strangers in town. Three Amigos walk into a bar, “tres Cerveza” Paul said to the barman in a desperate state. “Grande” Dave added. “Si” replies the barman. Everyone in the room continued with their conversation obviously in Spanish and probably about us. Three beers 🍺 appeared and at last a smile was on our faces.

Then the backup senoritas came through the bar doors and for an instant the room went quiet again until they all realised they were for us.

Kathleen informed the boys that they had a cabin for the night. Paul was ecstatic as he has not had a decent nights sleep for all the trip in the tent.

The backup crew took us back to camp where as they always do feed us with delicious food which was burgers 🍔so all was good in the end.

In the end the most challenging day of all of the Arctic to Africa trip. It can’t get any worse can it? 5 days to go – we CAN do this!

– Sean

 

Blog – Phase 3 Day 12

Today’s Ride is sponsored by New Lodge Contractors

Peñascosa – Torreperogil

Day 12 is here. The homeward straight!! Oh please let it be so after the last few awful days.
The boys had slept in their cabin last night so trotted down to our camper
this morning to get organised. We all got packed up and left together so that I could drive back to the pick up point from yesterday. They travelled the same route as we drove today to try to push on. They were into a heavy headwind all day. Dave led pretty much all day to take the wind to help Sean and Paul who were both struggling. It was a pretty mundane route with long endless roads ahead, a little like Norway in that respect. Olive trees were everywhere-long uniform rows scattering every hillside. The last 10 miles were uphill and it seemed to go on forever.

Tonight we stay in a little hotel (that has a bath for Paul!!) with a typical little Spanish landlady in a pinny who speaks no English whatsoever but speaks Spanish very fast! All is good.

Today has been a poignant day for myself and the team on what is the third anniversary of Dads death. The last few days have been really tough and today has made me reminisce and think about why on earth we are doing this.

My memories of Dad are of a strong, caring, enormous gentle giant. He loved everyone and was always happy and such fun. He was a proper gentleman and wouldn’t have swearing if a lady was present. He adored all his family and as new grand children came along, it just brought out more of the big kid in him. To see him change as Alzheimer’s took its hold was horrible. For us, our Step mum Christine took the brunt of things. It was only when she went away for a few days and then myself, my sister and brother looked after him, that we really realised how much he’d changed. The gentle giant was sometimes a stubborn, foul mouthed man who didn’t recognise us or an angry upset child who just cried. He didn’t know where he was at times and it was so upsetting for us all. Things became worse and he had to go into a home for the good of everyone. That was an eye opener in itself to see that Dad wasn’t alone in this. So many others were in similar states and that was just one care home! As he declined I think the hardest and nicest times were when just a little of our Dad came back – when he’d be sat with tears pouring down his face and then he’d look up at you and a big beam would cross his face as he said “Hello Darling” and then slip away again. To not know exactly how much Dad knew or thought at the end was devastating.
It’s a horrid disease and it has to be stopped. It’s horrid for the person with it but it’s horrid for the family to go through. We lost our Dad to Alzheimer’s long before the day he actually died. This is why every mile these boys push themselves makes me so, so proud. They are doing this to raise vital money to aid prevention of this horrible, horrible disease. As shattering as it is for all of them and us back up too in our small way, it’s a means to an end. I know what my Dad would say! “Bloody well done lads! Let’s celebrate with a Guinness.” We can’t do that tonight as Guinness doesn’t seem to have made its way to inland Spain but we’ll raise a beer instead (for now Dad I promise) and say cheers to Eric, my Dad, and to these boys for pushing every chuffing day to get to the end which they will very soon. Roll on Wednesday!!

– Kathleen xx

Day 13 – Phase 3 Day 13 “Milestone”

Today’s ride is sponsored by The Station Hotel, Birstwith

Terreperrogil – Fuensanta

After the emotional day that was yesterday we had the odd glass of local wine 🍷 – I say the odd glass, it ended up more than a few bottles between us and a late night!! After all today was only a 60 mile day so we could set off late.

So we had a lay in and no bad heads so the wine must have been good. It was a cold start as we were still at about 2000ft in altitude and guess what, the wind was still there and still on our face. We had a decent descent to start with but boy was it cold. We soon put in 30 miles before stopping for a bit of food then again put in some good miles. The terrain was very up and down with long climbs and long fast descents. Five miles to go and we would be at the hotel – sorted, or so we thought! The road was narrow and all we could see in front of us was mountains 🏔 big cloud topped mountains. The road quickly turned into a steep climb  – very steep, hitting over 30% most of the way. The climb went on and on. It got that steep in places that Dave’s chain started to slip due to wear of the trip forcing him to get off on the steepest parts. My legs were burning and the front wheel came off the ground at times. We climbed about 1500 feet in about 2 miles! Eventually we got to the top and the view was out of this world. I don’t think the photos can do it justice. The altitude at this point was about 3600 feet and cold but sunny. Then we had the descent into Martos where we were staying. This was also very steep with a lot of hairpin bends but the surface was good and Dave flew down. Since my fall over a week ago I have struggled getting my confidence back especially on the tight corners so I came down gingerly getting my confidence back. The day finished with 6000 feet of climbing but only 60 miles, so an easy day really!

We only have 3 days to go until we finally make it to Africa and I want to put some words down over the next few blogs about those who have been involved in this amazing adventure.

Rewind the clock back over two years to the very start in Nordkapp. Six set off at midnight on midsummers day. Six you might ask? Dave, Lee, Paul, myself and Amy, who had just found out she was pregnant with who is now the beautiful Eva. Obviously as Amy was pregnant she was not going to do the complete trip and to be honest she scared the hell out of me when she was riding. Amy did about 15 miles on most days in the mornings which was amazing considering the temperatures and terrain.

Lee did the first leg and considering he had only just bought a bike and his training was based around Selby where he lived which is very flat did absolutely amazing and always rode with a smile on his face no matter how hard things got. Lee, if you are reading this, what you did in that first phase was outstanding I am very pleased and proud that you came along, I hope you remember it for a long time. Unfortunately, Lee could not commit to the rest of the trip but he was a big part of our journey and we will raise a glass to him at the end.

Also for the first phase was the back up. We had two vehicles – mad Maureen and turbo Terri. Kathleen and Kayleigh were in Mad Maureen (I will mention them in another blog) and Dan, Gary and when not riding, Amy were in Turbo Terri. Without Dan and Gary we could not have done this trip. Their support and driving was fantastic. In the Arctic tundra the back up teams would drive ahead of us about 30 miles in the morning, boil a kettle and make coffees for us all along with a warm car to sit in. Remember some days it was snowing with temperatures as low as minus 2. Their dedication and hard work made the first phase possible and we cannot thank them enough. Well done guys for being part of the Arctic to Africa Team. I also want to mention Amy at this point. As I indicated earlier, Amy had just become pregnant and therefore could not do all of the ride. “Phew” she thought 😃 but really I am sure there were a lot of mixed emotions. However, Amy has been a big part of us doing this challenge. I am sure most of you who read this know Amy has this bubbly infectious attitude – always positive and always happy. I am also sure that on drunken nights when we are all in the station pub and someone comes up with a daft idea ie ME, Amy encourages and develops the idea. She also gets fully behind the idea and supports in many ways.

These are just a few of the people who have been involved and I will write about others in the upcoming blogs.

You will notice that the heading for today’s blog was “Milestone” – why?

I can now announce that we have raised over £20,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK which is a great achievement and I thank everyone who has donated so far.

– Sean

Blog – Phase 3 Day 14

Today’s ride is sponsored by Logic Fire and Security.

Fuensanta – Ardales

The Last 100 miler

It was a relatively early night last night as the fatigue is starting to set in. We needed to be off by 9:00am at the latest as we had 102 miles to cover. It was cold, very cold, well it was for Spain 🇪🇸 anyway. It was about 6 degrees but we were nearly 3000 feet in altitude. All were well wrapped up and we needed to be as the first couple of miles were downhill so we also had the windchill factor. Of course, we had seen colder in the Arctic!

One thing you look out for when doing long distance cycling is a tractor to get behind and take the wind. For the first time in 4500 miles of cycling, one came along in our direction! The problem is, you need it on a flat road and I got it going up hill so could only benefit for about 500 meters before the climb was too difficult, but both tiny and slim who were ahead of me got it at the top and were able to follow it down the hill – the trouble with that is it is then too slow and you don’t really get the benefit but hey ho.

Today’s ride was one of the best of the last phase. It was 102 miles, 6600 feet of climbing but guess what – NO WIND!!!!! What a difference it makes! We ditched the Garmin cycle routes and followed google driving but with no motorways or tolls which means decent roads. Overall, our average speed was about 15 miles an hour, this was 3 miles an hour faster than most of the rest of the trip. Today everyone enjoyed the ride and we came into a beautiful spot by a lake where once again the fantastic backup crew had set up and were making tea for the last time.

The riders!

Paul, or Tiny as he is known to the team, is a friend of my son, Jonathon. I have known Paul for many years and he first took up interest in the cycling when we did the Birstwith to Rome trip about 7 years ago. When he heard of the Arctic to Africa trip he jumped at it and I knew from the Rome trip that he could do it and would do it. Paul is not always the best prepared and takes some looking after, usually by Kathleen. He tends to drop things where he stands and then wonders why he loses things. He gets hangry when he needs food and has a bit of a temper, usually taking it out on his bike by dropping it as soon as he gets to camp for everyone to trip over😂. I think today’s ride demonstrated what he is like. As it was cold this morning he put on plenty of layers, after lunch we all took them off and put them in our shirt pockets, however, despite Dave’s advice not to, he wrapped his jacket around his seat. “It will get caught in your wheel if you do” Dave said. “It will be ok” Paul’s reply. After lunch we were in a fast down hill Dave in front then Paul with me following. All of a sudden smoke was coming from Paul’s bike, the back wheel was all over the place but he managed to keep it under control until the bike stopped, then he fell off!! As I check if he was ok, his jacket had got caught in the wheel and locked the wheel causing all the smoke. Lesson learned???

But hey, that’s Paul and we all love him, he has an amazing sense of humour and fully gets involved and does what he says he is going to do. There was no doubt that Paul was going to complete this challenge and I am sure the experiences and places he has seen will stay in his mind for a very long time. It’s my time to say thank you Paul for coming along on this adventure you have been amazing, I am very proud of what you have achieved and I hope you are, as you should be – it’s been amazing.

Dave, or slim as he is known. My pal Dave, I have been best of buddies with Dave for over 25 years, we met at crimple golf club but both our dads were good friends for many years previous. I can say when Dave and I get together it usually ends up a bit of a mess and we have many stories to reflect back on. Dave first got me into cycling but mainly mountain biking. It was HIM who suggested we do the coast to coast many years ago which we did with my uncle Andy and Jonny, it was an amazing trip which kicked everything off.

Dave passion is cycling, he lives for it and is also a natural, he is a machine at going uphills due to his light frame and high cadence (spinning the pedals). Dave is also the mechanic if something goes wrong, but more than anything Dave’s support and encouragement when I am down is exceptional, just at the right time he knows when to intervene and either calm things down or raise spirits with his cheeky grin or a big hug. I could not have completed this trip without a lot of people and Dave is most certainly one of them. I know we are going to have many nights reminiscing this journey over a beer or bottle of wine in the future and I look forward to those times. Best mates are made over time and through experiences, we have been through many experiences tough, difficult and good. Love ya to bits mate.

– Sean