The first day was always going to be a tough one. The notorious Cornish hills are unavoidable in any attempt to complete the End to End. However, this year we were blessed with glorious weather to soften the blow.
Rising at 5.30am the bleary eyed cyclists left their tents to fuel up with a full breakfast and as the sun came up an eerie mist descended across the camp. A light Easterly breeze chilled them as they awaited the start gun, but they started their voyage silhouetted in front of a stunning sunrise to the sound of cheers and applause from gathered family and friends.
Today’s route took riders past the iconic Cornish landmarks of St. Michaels Mount, Bodmin Moor and the china clay pits around the cathedral city of Truro before pushing into Devon for the basecamp at Truro. Andy’s warning of it being ‘grippy’ were proved true as all riders left with a little more respect for the Westcountry lands than when they set off this morning. Many who boats of having conquered Alpine passes of legend have come unstuck on the relentless rollercoaster that is the South West of England.
One of the riders we caught up with today was double Olympic medalist oarsman Alex Partridge who is riding the whole course this year. Having recently raced to a bronze medal for Team GB in one of the most hotly contested rowing finals of London 2012, he is in the form of his life (barring a few post-Olympic ales). However, the hills take no prisoners and having over cooked it a little on the opening half he lay stretched out in the sun proclaiming how, “One gel is definitely not enough for 76 miles”. Although with the weather we had today you can’t help wonder if it was just a chance to stretch out and relax after a long hard summer.
From 1.40 the riders began coming in; first at a trickle and then a steady flow. Once again the basecamp lay ready for them. This time it was Okehampton College and with the music playing, the bar well stocked and comfy chairs laid out it felt more festival than endurance cycle race. The waterproofs remain firmly packed away so far but it’s a long way to go yet.
Fuelled by a full hog roast and the rider briefing was bolstered by rugby legends Lewis Moody and Danny Grewcock who are riding the 110 mile stage from Okehampton to Bath tomorrow. Lewis explained his total lack of training, decision to buy a brand new bike and also to try out cleats for the first time tomorrow all conspire to some light nerves, but as with all the riders the mantra of MORE IS IN YOU runs true. Another tough day tomorrow but a bed awaits for the night a Bath University before pushing on with some easier miles into the Midlands
Day 2 – Sunday 9th September
The ride from Okehampton to Bath continues to provide a number of significant steep climbs and descents as you continue to skirt the edge of Dartmoor and then cross the Quantock hills, prior to a magnificent climb of Cheddar Gorge on the way to Bath. Being built on an extinct volcano offers no respite as we climb up to the University via Brassknocker Hill. Scenery on both day 1 and 2 will be magnificent but the climbing will be a challenge. Riding at a steady, consistent pace throughout will ensure that the views can be appreciated.