After a comfortable night in proper beds to recover from a tough first two days, the riders headed North yesterday leaving the sawtooth hills of the Westcountry behind. A mixed weather forecast didn’t dampen spirits and with light rainjackets in back pockets they set off towards the Bristol Channel with the wind at their backs. The first iconic moment of the day came with the crossing of the old Severn Bridge. At a mile wide and 47m high it took the riders high across the Severn and Wye rivers and into Monmouthshire on the border with Wales. The photo opportunities didn’t stop there either. The riders were soon swooping down for the pitstop at the foot of Chepstow castle; the oldest stone castle in the UK. Breathless sightseeing is how Threshold describes their events and Day 3 was no exception.
From Pit Stop 1 riders then pushed on with a steep climb to the edge of the Wye Valley before descending down to a hidden gem of a road running alongside the river itself. Despite the recent heavy rain having washed some silt into the road that required some care to negotiate, the views at the bottom were incredible with the river winding it’s way alongside the riders. It was a new road for this year’s event and the overall response was fantastic. Indeed, when asked to describe it in a few words Dave from the Advanced Route Team was left speechless saying simply, “Errrr…Hmmm… It was just REALLY beautiful.”*
One of the key things about Deloitte Ride Across Britain is the sense of support for one another that develops over the 9 days. From the start we set out to foster a sense of responsibility and respect not only between the riders, but also the crew. At the pit-stops it was evident this was developing well with the riders beginning to watch out for one other giving clear warnings of road conditions, showing sensible riding patterns and also respecting other drivers. With the continued growth of cycling in the UK we feel it is a key responsibility for the team to teach these skills with the experienced chaperones working with the various groups.
After the section up the verdant Wye Valley it was time to press on towards Ludlow with the hills opening up and becoming more rolling as the riders ate up the counties: Somerset, Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire, Herefordshire and Shropshire all being ticked off.
With a slightly shorter day and a nice tailwind many riders were in camp early to Ludlow racecourse. Once again the usual Deloitte RAB setup awaited with plenty of afternoon tea before a great dinner. We were also lucky enough to be joined by some extraordinary athletes who will be riding stage 4 with us. We had two British skiiers, Tim Farr (going for Paralympics at Sochi 2014) and Sean Rose (Turin Paralympics 2006), who will be with us on hand cycles. We also had multiple Olympic medalist rower/cyclist/ironman triathlete Rebecca Romero and full-time Deloitte employee and top Para triathlete Claire Cunningham. It was humbling to hear from people like this who showed what sacrifices it takes to achieve something at their level. Claire ran through her day which started with a 4.30am session then full time work until a short training session at lunch, before an afternoon of work and a final session afterwards. It put a lot in perspective for many of us and we all hope to see her stand atop the podium in Rio in 4 years time when Para Triathlon is included in the Paralympics for the first time. And if that wasn’t enough Rebecca, then ran us through some of the things she learnt from her attempt with Threshold co-founder James Cracknell to break the record for the fastest time from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Although ultimately it was unsuccessful, her recounting of the emotional journey she went on had the room silenced as they tried to digest the concept of completing DeloitteRAB in under 50 hours non-stop!
The rain came in last night as the riders slept and it looks like the weather may have turned a bit. But as the saying goes: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”
Day 4 – Ludlow to Haydock – 106 miles
On the ride from Ludlow to Haydock Park the route crosses the edge of the Stipperstones prior to entering the Shropshire and Cheshire Plains during the middle part of the day. Day 4 has the least amount of climbing of the whole Ride and after an undulating start to the day it will flatten out considerably before Knutsford. The approach to Haydock Park for the end of the stage is in slightly more suburban surroundings as the route dissects the land between Manchester and Liverpool, passing over the Manchester ship canal before another race course base camp.
*In Dave’s defence he was asked this at 5.40am this morning while loading vehicles