Yes I made it, completing 170 miles of cycling over 2 days. I had a great ride and a memorable experience.

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We made it - part one (11 Oct 2011)
Bala Bike Ride (25 Aug 2011)
Second Training ride (15 Aug 2011)
First training ride (08 Aug 2011)
Cycling 175 miles Warton to Coningsby (07 Aug 2011)

We made it - part one

We made it! 170 miles to Coningsby.

All that training paid off and on Monday teatime 18th September myself and 26 other intrepid cyclists completed the ride to RAF Coningsby Main Gate having cycled about 170 miles from Warton.

With 27 cyclists we were organised into a few teams. Starting with Team 4, captained by Cal Leonard, they were on the 3 day event starting on the Saturday when the rain was bouncing off the floor. It looked horrendous but they kept going so all credit to them, I don't think they had dryed out by Sunday. The rest of us were on the 2 day event. Team 3 was the crack RAF team captained by Gus Currie. And the remaining 15 BAE cyclists were split into two groups, based on their self-declared average speed. So Team 1, captained by Steve Worsnip, were the lythe lycra clad speed demons claiming 18mph averages, leaving me to join Team 2, captained by Tim Kilner at the slightly more sedate pace of 16mph. So my apologies to those involved but the following reporting will have a strong bias to the adventures of Team 2.

Sunday start.

After the deluge that was Saturday it was a slightly chilly but dry start to Sunday, a faint hint of morning mist hanging in the fields but not too surprising as it was 7:30 in the morning as we started gathering in the Lightning Club carpark. Bikes were slowly being lifted off racks or unpacked from the back of cars. At which point Team 2 support car, a Toyota HiLux, made itself known to the neighbourhood by the alarm going off repeatedly. Overnight kit bags and spares were slowly loaded onto the support vehicles at which point I must give a special mention to Mike Duddy, to quote from Billy Connolly Route 66, "I'm not too sure whether he is heroically insane or insanely heroic", suffice to say that on Friday with a large ruc-sac Mike cycled from Lincoln to Manchester, on Saturday he cycled from Manchester to Wrea Green just so that on Sunday Morning he could cycle down to Warton to join us in Team 2 for the ride down to Coningsby. We all assembled in front of the Lightning Club for the obligatory start line photo and then the Team 2 captain decided on a quick pep talk for his team whilst Team 1 decided to dispense with any motivational speeches and head off straight away.

Leg 1 Warton to Chorley.

With the thought of the Peak District looming at the end of the day's stage we took it easy to begin with, by the time we got to Preston New road Team 1 were already a few specks in the distance. As we rolled through the docks in Preston we started our first diversion from the route, barely 8 miles gone and we were already going off plan. However Paul commutes over this route so he took us down Strand road, straight across Fishergate and along Broadgate, at the end of which was the old cobbled bridge into lower Penwortham, various comments about Paris-Roubaix were made. We made our way up through Lostock Hall, skirted around Leyland and made our way through Buckshaw village. Finally getting over to the A6 near Chorley and just before the railway station stopped for our first break at the McDonalds. The RAF team were setting off just as we arrived and Team 1 were making preparation to get moving again.

Leg 2 Chorley to Trafford Park. 

Manchester Ship CanalAfter a swift cup of tea, for me anyway, we were back on the road heading south down the A6, a nice steady pace, nothing too eventful. Past a couple horses and a few other cyclists it was a nice run down into Manchester. As we approached Walkden we hung a right down towards Trafford Park when we hit our first problem. I was chatting with Dave about motorbikes when he felt his rear tyre slowly deflate. So the first unscheduled stop for the day. How many engineers does it take to change a tyre? Answer plenty as everyone seemed to chip in and help. It wasn't before we were on our way again, under the M60 then the M602, down Barton Street alongside the treelined canal, over the ship canal and the next scheduled stop at B&Q just before Trafford Park. There was a burger van in the car park and several recommended the bacon butties but I just needed another cup of tea. Once again the elusive RAF team had been and gone and Team 1 were setting off a few minutes after we arrived.

Leg 3 Trafford Park to Disley.

Lunch was beckoning so once again back in the saddle. This was where the support crew of Ben and Karen was invaluable, as we threaded through Stretford, Chorlton Cum Hardy, Didsbury, Cheadle and on towards Hazelgrove they were there at the junctions giving us directions. This made cycling so much easier as there was no stop and starting looking at maps. This led us to Hazelgrove and the first real climb of the day, up Buxton road to Disley, stopping at the White Horse for lunch,  a very friendly hostelry serving a nice selection of Robinson ales. Needless to say Team 1 were already ensconced in the pub, tucking into soup and sandwiches, all except two. They had ordered lasagne and were still waiting for it to be served and it was about this time that we realised that Team 1 were suffering a few small niggling difficulties. Never one to let an opportunity go to waste a little gentle ribbing ensued, comments about asking the bar staff to go slow on the lasagne etc. Unfortunately one Team 1 member had the rear sprockets on his bike lose it's bearings so the support team were running around trying to find the necessary spares to fix the bike. Meanwhile Team 2 were close to finishing their lunch when two lasagne's appeared, piping hot to further delay Team 1. All this enabled Team 2 to start on the challenge for the day, conquering the Peak District.

Leg 4 Disley to Baslow.

It wasn't too bad a start out of Disley, climbing gently past Newtown along the A6 dropping onto the the dual carriageway past Chinley, a little tedious to be honest but we started to get the first good views of the Peak District looming large. Just after the dual carriage way ended there was the first little kick uphill to give us a taster for what was to follow. Just before Dove Holes we veered off left towards Chesterfield, this was the start of the long climb up to Sparrow Pit. A steady gentle climb up the valley to begin with and it felt like we were finally getting into the Peak District, smaller roads and limestone walls. I was meandering along near the back of the group as I was a little unsure what to expect. However as we got nearer to Sparrowpit the road just kept slowly getting steeper and steeper, culminating in a rather vicious sharp right turn just in front of the pub. As we neared the top it needed a deep dig into the reserves to get to the top, but it was so worth it. The sun was finally breaking through the clouds and it was glorious cycling across the top of the peak district. The run down past Tideswell was rudely interupted by the traffic lights on red at the bottom of the hill. Chatsworth House and Baslow beckoned but there was another climb in the way to be tackled.  

Leg 5 Baslow to Chesterfield.

 We stopped briefly at Baslow but the weather was clear and we felt good so we decided to push on to Chesterfield. This left the final climb of the day, it started fairly quickly out of Baslow and the first bit was a good test of the legs and certainly a few started to wilt a bit. I still felt ok so just kept my head down and pounded out a steady cadence. I got up the first bit and it eased up a bit, what I hadn't realised was that it kept climbing for 3 or 4 miles. The only problem was that I had set off at such a pace that only Mike was left on my wheel, however I wasn't going to back off now so tried to keep the pace going however Mike took the lead for a while so I just did my best to hang onto his wheel. It wasn't particularly steep but just a long continuous climb, I still felt comfortable so with a couple of miles to the summit and curious to know what I could do I upped the pace a little passed Mike and the two of us plugged away at a fairly respectable pace to the summit.  After 70 plus miles of cycling to find that I still had the legs to conquer that climb was very rewarding. After waiting a few minutes for the rest of the group to summit the climb we then had the most glorious blast down into Chesterfield. Slipstreaming a Honda Civic saw a top speed of 43mph and over a mile I averaged 36.5mph. The weather was now looking threatening, dark clouds approaching quickly but it was satisfying to see the hotel before the rain came. As we approached the hotel we were applauded in by several riders from team 4 which was a nice welcome. Full course details for the day are shown here. 

Evening Wrap up

Team 1 rolled in about 30 or 40 minutes after us, dogged by mechanical problems and punctures it had left them trailing us after the lunch break. So a little more ribbing was in order but all in good fun. That was it for the days riding but I can't finish the day's report without mentioning Cal's navigational skills. The evening meal was booked in a little Italian Restaurant somewhere in Chesterfield. All the teams started congregating in the hotel foyer around 7pm. The weather was clear so just over 30 riders and support crew walked into the centre of Chesterfield, following Cal who "knew" where we were going. It was up into the centre of Chesterfield, through the market square, past the city hall offices and into the residential area. It was then up a short climb when people started wondering where we were going. More questions were raised as we seemed to be going back past the rear of the City offices. We finally turned down another side street and "found" the Italian restaurant, 50 yards from the market square we'd walked through about 10 minutes ago! So a few comments were passed about the circuitous route to the restaurant but all said and done it was worth it. The food and service was excellent, the menu was deliberately limited so that it could be laid on as a buffet with a couple of options. This meant that there was enough for everyone, and many of us went back for seconds, after 6hrs in the saddle we'd worked up a healthy appetite, and being the finely honed athletes that we were, a few beers finished a thoroughly enjoyable day.