As the alarm clicked on at 5.35am, I realised it was a few degrees colder than it had been in recent days. Not sure if that was the fear of getting up early on a Sunday, or the actual UK weather, but once outside I headed to the station I realised that yes, it was a bit nippy. My thoughts went straight to the Deloitte RAB riders coming to the first training ride in Surrey. Would they have enough warm clothes? Would they have long fingered gloves? I guess they’ll just have to cycle hard up the hills in preparation for Land’s End to John O’Groats!
Mack, Dave and I were really looking forward to the day as it was a chance to meet so many riders who we had only had a chance to talk to on the phone, or via email. This kind of event really brings Deloitte RAB to life, and putting faces to names makes our job much more enjoyable. On arrival at the Holiday Inn Epsom Racecourse the sun was rising, and a wonderful mist covered the beautiful countryside. There was a squad of lycra and bikes ready and waiting in the car park – it was going to be a special day.
To kick off the day riders were welcomed by ‘Matron’ Mack. As a founder of Deloitte Ride Across Britain, and Director of Threshold Sports, the event really is Mack’s baby. Having led the event from a VW California in 2010/2011 (his words!) he has followed up on some key feedback from this year’s ride – “Mack, you’ll never know what it is really like until you complete the journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats.” “Mack, this is just incredible, you must do end to end next year.” So, decision made; Mack will be joining the class of 2012 on the start line in Land’s End on September 8th 2012. Mack’s key message was that ‘it is a ride, not a race’. Although we know there will be riders who’ll be keen to pedal off into the horizon on days when they’re feeling good, we’ll keep a key emphasis on group riding – it’s safer, more efficient and above all, more sociable!
Following Mack, we were all lucky enough to hear from Danny Crates, Paralympian and flag bearer in Beijing. Danny completed Deloitte Ride Across Britain in June 2011, and absolutely loved it. He was an inspiration to all on the ride, with his sheer determination to get to the end each day and complete the 960 mile challenge. Danny had his Boardman bike specifically adapted by British Cycling in February so had a crash course in training with only a few months to go, but powered down the country motivating all in his path. Danny addressed the group (with a certain level of jealously) with tales of his experience and some key advice, “good bib shorts are the most important thing you’ll buy – you’ll realise that soon enough” and “don’t bring a bag that is rammed full – trying to find something at the bottom of your bag at 6am will not be enjoyable and you’ll waste energy” – some key tips for those embarking on their new journey. Along the route Danny was also able to chat to riders further about his experience, and more about the works of ParalympicsGB who do so much for Paralympic athletes ahead of the London Games next year.
The conclusion of the morning’s session was wise words from Technical Ride Director, Andy Cook. Andy is the man behind the training plans and the route for next year’s ride, so is the man in the know about preparation. Andy briefed about the ‘ins and outs’ of group riding, and approach to training before stressing the importance of bike maintenance, kit and again, good shorts – yes, you will be told this many times!
The day’s ride was scheduled for 46 miles through the Surrey Hills with a cheeky stop at the Box Hill café after 38 miles…. A good distance for the first trip out as a RABble. Once 45 riders donned in full lycra (and some with borrowed cycling shoes, well done Mack), and fuelled with Powerade, had been sorted into ability groups by Andy they were ready to set off, each with 2 chaperones.
Chaperones are experienced cyclists whose role it is to teach the riders about rider etiquette and group riding skills, along with motivation and other key gems of wisdom they can impart from their years of cycling. They are key to the success of the ride, and riders will get to know them well next September as they’ll certainly keep them going! Also on route we had two MediBikes, Jason and John, who were fresh from the Rickshaw Challenge with Matt Baker for Children In Need. Having zoomed out of the BBC studio hours before our ride, they were raring to go (and I think secretly excited about going more than 5mph!). With Jason and John out on the route, we were all in safe hands should there be any emergency. Also, we had ‘Superman Dez’ from Halfords on call ready to deal with any mechanical issues, which again was great for riders to get their bikes checked out before, during and after the ride.
Out on the route, riders had an awesome time. Battling some semi ‘grippy’ (Andy’s key term for maybe a little bit hilly!) hills and gorgeous countryside, the atmosphere was great. Everyone was enjoying meeting new people, asking questions and allaying any fears about what was to come. Dave was out on the route being paparazzi, and I was based at the hotel with an OS Map in case there was any emergency, but I soon resumed position up at the Box Hill café ready for the riders to come in for a well-earned calorie stop. The front runners (or should I say ‘Puncture Club’ – amassing three on route) soon arrived, and quickly devoured into sausage rolls and hot cups of tea, and another sausage roll, and another one… We managed to sell the café out of these, so I’ll certainly be logging that for next year’s pit stops! Hungry work this cycling. It wasn’t long before all riders had completed the first 38 miles all in great spirits – the effort was impressive. New friends had been made and people were really taking advantage of the expertise around them.
46 miles done. Back at the hotel it was fair to say that some riders were knackered but enjoying the ‘glow’ of the ride, and were excited about what was next (aside from the curry when they got home)! We hoped that the training ride really did show that we are 100% behind you with your training, and that the main event will be really sociable and an incredibly fun experience. If you respect the challenge and are conscientious about your training, you’ll be putting more in the ‘fun bank’ and next September will be far more enjoyable. Be sure to join Map My Tracks and add an interactive element to your training – you never know, you might get to the top of the leader board.
It was so great to meet you all, and hope you found the day worthwhile. One rider said “it was great to meet so many RABers from the beginner to the very experienced. I think I picked up more useful advice in one ride than I have since I started riding” so we must be doing something to help!
A big thank you to Andy and his team of chaperones, Danny Crates, Jason and John on the MediBikes, Dez from Halfords, Jason at Coca-Cola for providing the Powerade, and Holiday Inn Express Epsom Racecourse for allowing us to take over their space.
Many people are already enquiring about the next one, so we’ll consult our diaries and be back to you as soon as we can, so you can book them in before your social calendars get too booked up. In the meantime, please make sure that you are logged into the Rider Hub, our secure online portal for Deloitte RAB riders only, where you are able to meet other riders, ask any questions about your preparations and also access private information such as the training plans.
That’s it from me, it was great to meet you and I’ll leave you with a little poem coined by Hugh Webb about his experience:
50 miles today was the Intermediates to bear
Can I help? No. Was the answer out there
When Any Cook punctured, if you watched closely you saw
He fixed it without tyre levers – just with his paw.
On return to the Bike Club – can’t wait till then
One of my mates punctures, in helping them when
I’ll try this incredible trick without hullabaloo
Just fingers and thumbs, and receive the credo!