After 4 days of exceptional weather it was always going to start raining at some point. Around midnight on Day 5 it began. The tents were hammered by rain throughout the night making sleeping harder and when the sun limped into the sky it illuminated a very soggy group of riders huddled under cover in Haydock.
However, as usual the chain gang assembled at the start in a variety of waterproof jackets, overshoes and other neon paraphernalia although flippers and goggles might have been more suitable with the amount of rain falling. The start of the day was one of only a few sections of Deloitte Ride Across Britain where we need to go through more built up areas and once Wigan and Preston were out of the way we headed into the Lakes. However, the day was a little different with James Cracknell and Sarah Storey joining in. Despite the weather, Sarah spent the day riding through the field chatting to people while those daring enough looked to hop onto her back wheel for a few miles/metres and experience what it is like riding with a multiple Paralympic gold medalist. It was great to have both James and Sarah there as people who have been involved with the ride from the beginning. The fact that they picked a miserable weather day to ride and kept smiling throughout showed the respect they have for all those who are doing the whole lot.
The challenge of the day was always going to be the climb at Shap. This is one of the most famous climbs in England, and was being used by the Tour of Britain at the same time as us. As the climb approached the sodden riders gritted their teeth and started the steady 9 mile climb. For the earlier riders this climb was shrouded in cloud and rain and they wasted no time at the top before descending the 25 miles to the basecamp at Hutton in the Forest near Penrith. However, for those in the middle of the pack they were treated to a fly past from some of Britain’s top cyclists with Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish both taking part in this year’s Tour. After they had flown through the riders continued to crest the pass with those towards the back end of the field enjoying clearing skies and incredible vistas of the Lake District on all sides.
Everyone welcomed the basecamp coming into view with the stunning stately home overlooking the tents with the hills of the Lake District sunlit in the distance. After a very long cold and wet day people wanted to get warm, dry and fed before resting the legs. Luckily the rain stopped around 4pm and although the ground remained wet the water was now under foot rather than falling from above. As the crew wrestled with the impact of the extreme rainfall the riders showed a great spirit as they helped one another lifting rucksacks, improvised waterproof overshoes with plastic bags and patiently waiting in the shower queue as riders languished in the relief of a proper hot wash. The evening entertainment was provided by a mix of James Bond on DVD in the chill out bar and some choice anecdotes from James Cracknell, Alex Partridge and British Paralympic Association Chairman Tim Reddish. Some of the anecdotes would not be ideal for retelling in a blog that children might read, but it provided welcome respite and perspective for what the riders were going though as they passed the 500 mile and halfway markers.
Day 6 – Hutton-in-the-Forest to Hamilton– 104 miles
Riding from Hutton-in-the-Forest to Hamilton riders will pass through Carlisle and then into Scotland for the first time. On the route they’ll pass Gretna Green, Lockerbie and the Annan Dale, providing fantastic views of the Lowther Hills. It is upon the approach to Glasgow and the Clyde Valley that we will will stop for the night at Hamilton racecourse, on the southern edge of Glasgow in preparation for a big day on the road for Day 7.