Day 7 Hilton Heathrow - Twickenham
When I woke up yesterday morning I thought it was going to be one of the worst days we were going to have all week but it actually turned out to be one of the best for many reasons.
Leaving the Hilton at Heathrow in the pouring rain and with my legs in a grim state was a really bad start but Guy, John Sleightholme and myself were looking to get into a good flow and reach Wasps, our first stop for the day. We headed out towards Windsor and Eton which was a nice way to be riding. I think we must have hit Eton College at the end of a lesson as all the guys in their bizarre uniforms were in the town as we were cycling through. That took my mind off the pain in my legs for at least a minute!
Past Eton we were on course for Wycombe Wanderers ground and finally we began to find the going slightly easier. John told me to get as close to his back wheel as I dared which would make riding for me a bit easier and Guy did the same to my bike - it actually worked. I only thought that it would make a difference in motor sports where the cars and bikes are traveling at a quick speed but it seemed we were going along at a pace which would work too. The gradual hill into Wycombe and the drop down to the ground was fantastic but I was immediately thinking of the hill back out the other side, however, I decided to just enjoy riding on the bike and not having to pedal!
John had added a real target for Guy and I and he was acting as a sort of pace maker which made things much easier for the two of us who had nothing left in the tank...... He mentioned the hill heading out of Wycombe and I was thinking to myself that it would not be as bad as the hill we climbed in the Peak District a few days before but in terms of pain, it was just as bad if not worse. It was about a mile long but by far the steepest hill I have seen all week but when you know that it is the only way to go there is not really a lot you can do about it. With my legs on fire, I tried to stay as close to John as I could, not the easiest thing I have ever tried to do, while Guy had a bad time on the hill. It drained every bit if energy from us but the really weird thing on a bike is even though your heart rate goes through the roof, your recovery rate is much better so we were back on track soon after the 5 or 6 minutes of agony.
We cycled through Rickmansworth, Amersham and ended up reaching Watford and Vicarage Road where Saracens play in good time. A couple of photos there, a sandwich and a quick chat with the team who had met us there and we were on our way again. Heading back down towards Heathrow to Harlequins.
The weather had got worse again, so we were wet through and cold but the end seemed to be getting ever closer and strangely enough from Watford onwards I was in no pain at all and probably could have cycled on further - if I had needed to. But I didn't.
My Mum and Sister were coming to cycle with us for a couple of miles into The Stoop and it was good to see them, especially as my Sister was on a really small bike - that was quite amusing. We reached the Twickenham base of Harlequins, met up with my Dad and managed to find somewhere warm for us to stay before heading over to Twickenham and the finish.
Getting back onto the bikes after a nice break in the warmth was rank as we had to go back into the cold and rain in our clothes which were soaked through. Only a mile left though so it was a case of just getting on with it.
It was really good to see Dave Walder from Wasps as we got there and I must say thanks to the idiot security guard who did his job to the letter and made us wait in the cold even though he knew we were due to arrive there. Enough said!
With photos and interviews done at pitch side we cycled around the pitch which was great. Just for Kids' representative Dan gave Guy and I a really nice gift with a CD in - it looked like we had a record that had gone platinum, that sort of thing, but it was really nice anyway.
Thanks very much to Jamie, Mike, Nikki and Neil who all came out to say well done and also for everyone's support during this week. They all came back to the Hilton and we had a few beers and a great meal together. It was great for Guy and I to get back into some kind of normality and it was great to be able to celebrate finishing with other people.
Writing this the morning after the day before I am starting to realise how far we have cycled and what we have achieved in this past week. I have really enjoyed being with everyone in the team and I shall look back on the Challenge with fantastic memories.
I just want to thank HM Plant for their massive contribution to the Charity. John, your support had been great and I hope this challenge has been something good for HM Plant to be involved in. Thanks also to the Cycle Centre in Byker, Linda at Gatorade and 'Fart' at RP Martin for getting sponsorship in from those guys in London. Thanks to Ben for all his hard work during the week, a great effort. Claire, I have never known someone work as hard and your eye for a photo opportunity is second to none. Steve, you have made this cycle possible and without you it would have been impossible to do - even if you struggled with the sat nav at times! Charlotte, even though you were not here all week, thanks for your help with everything. Barrie, thanks for your massages and I look forward to having a couple more over the next couple of days. Guy, it has been great getting to know you and a pleasure to ride the distance with you going through all the emotions we have done over the past week. Thanks for organising the Hilton contribution to the challenge, an unbelievable effort and something that would have put a real strain on everything if you had not been so supportive of the idea.
One of the best weeks I have ever had and I will remember it for the rest of my life - but will now go on holiday and happily do nothing for the next 4 weeks!
Day 6 Hilton Bath City - London Irish
I have never not wanted to do something as much as I didn't want to ride the leg this morning. Before the ride, I just sat in the front of the 'Venga Bus' support van and closed the door so I was just sat on my own. I eventually brought myself round to the point where I was ready to get stuck into the ride and got myself sorted with all my kit.
The hills out of Bath are almost as good as the hills going into the city and we warmed up pretty quickly on our slog out! We had set a marker out to get to Marlborough which was going to be about 33 miles. The rolling hills were mentally and physically tough and I was really starting to wonder if I was going to get to the Madejski Stadium where London Irish play their home games.
We past the White Horse in Cherhill which was a nice of the country to be going on a ride through. Arriving in Marlborough at just about 1 pm we parked up right next to the school which was one of the best looking schools I have seen I think. We looked completely out of place, 3 blokes, stinking, sweaty and stuffing our faces with all the crap we could eat! We didn't look great to say the least! It started to rain during lunch and for the second time this trip we had to get our very attractive bright yellow waterproof jackets on.
The second part of the leg was far flatter than the first part and we were really flying along. We did the next 10 miles after lunch at an average speed of about 20 miles an hour which was great but meant that I thought I was going to die! The fact that Steve managed to get another set of directions wrong fired us up even more and we were getting closer to Reading all the time at what seemed like an ever increasing speed.
We got to the stadium and via some very flat country roads which allowed us to keep up the pace of the ride. Arriving at the stadium we were greeted by Barrie, who had returned from his trip to see Boyzone - very dodgy as he is going again soon - and the rest of the team and also Sky TV. They filmed a piece which will be shown on this week's Rugby Club if any of you reading this are interested. The staff at the stadium were really helpful and they allowed us to have our massages done in the changing rooms which were the most painful rubs I have ever gone through.
John Sleightholme has joined us for the last leg and will be riding with us tomorrow which will be great - as long as he doesn't set off at the pace he did the other day on our leg through the Midlands.
If any of you are reading this and are around to come along to Twickenham for about 5.30 - 6.00 pm it would be great to see you down there so I can fall off the bike and see some friendly faces. Thanks again for all your support through the ride and the messages many of you have left, they have been great. Let's hope the final day goes as quickly as today.......
Day 4 Leicester Hilton - Worcester Warriors
I didn't think this part of the journey was going to be to hard, but mentally I think it was something I had not prepared myself for. My backside and the front of my thighs were in pieces and sitting on the saddle made me want to cry but we just had to deal with it and stop whining!
Feeling sapped of energy, it was probably a good thing that we didn't have to travel too far to Northampton. Traveling through the Northamptonshire countryside took our minds off the pain a bit. We were heading for a village called Thornby, where we were meeting a friend of mine John Sleighthome who used to play for Northampton and England. Since finishing playing he has taken up cycling on a fairly serious level and he is looking forward to doing a ride called the Etap du Tour which is around 175 kilometres in the mountains on part of the Tour de France course! Crazy man. He was really good to ride with though as he pulled us both along and we arrived at Franklins Gardens in fairly good time having been passed by the flowing locks of James May from Top Gear in his convertible classic sports car.
We arrived at Northampton in good time to be greeted by Anne and Terry Oldfield, Sean Lamont, John Brake and Courtney Lowes. A massive thank you to the Oldfields from Guy and I, as those sandwiches and drinks were a great help. Eating a decent lunch was far better than having a diet of wine gums, jelly babies, jaffa cakes and bananas!
Leaving was almost a heart break as we felt really good having arrived at Franklins Gardens. But with a sunny afternoon we set of towards Worcester with a feeling that we wanted to get there as soon as we could. One of the hardest things was cycling past puns in the late afternoon where it was warm and in the sun with people sitting outside having a cool beer. The people who were having BBQ's in their gardens made us feel even worse but to be fair if we had not been riding along that is what we would have been doing. I didn't realise how hungry I was going to get on this ride - every 2 hours I am absolutely starving!
Getting to Worcester was brilliant - 99 miles completed and the second longest journey of the week. Once at the hotel we sat outside looking over the golf course at the Hilton Puckrup Hall having a celebratory pint that we were now over half way there. That combined with a massive ordering of food in front of Britain's Got Talent was a great way to finish the day and look forward to the next.
Day 5 Hilton Puckrup Hall - Bath RFC
Steve took over the role of masseuse this morning which was to his delight! My legs were in bits and the stairs were a real struggle but we set off in good time and got to Gloucester (13 miles away) in a little over 40 minutes - we had a good burst of energy and were flying along. The gates were shut at Kingsholm so we had a quick photo and then headed off towards Bristol.
This section really killed me. My 'gooch' was really hurting and my mind was telling me so many negative things that I thought we were never going to get there. It was good to ride past a group of 5 or 6 people who cheered us on from the side of the road. Thanks very much to you guys if you read this, it gave me a a good energy burst for about half an hour which I was in real need of! About 2 and a quarter hours later we started to come into Bristol and headed down to a closed Memorial Ground where we met up with Michael Stephenson, a former Newcastle Falcon who now plays for Bath. He had borrowed a bike from one of the Bath lads and looked as if he was ready to have a nice little ride into the city of Bath.
Again ridiculous hills and Stevo seemed to think that Steve our driver had made sure that we were being made to do harder riding but on a shorter route! I think I would have prefered to have gone a bit further and have a flatter ride but we didn't so there was nothing I could do. We seemed to be getting good support from the rugby fraternity in the region and had a few waves and a shut across from the other side of the road of "come on Tom, keep going" which was fantastic. Thanks!
We made it to Bath about 4pm and caught the end of the England Barbarians game in the hotel reception.
Day 3 Manchester Airport Hilton - Leicester Tigers
The worst day so far I think! I woke up and I was in bits, even after the massage with Barry I was not feeling too much better. My bum was really stiff and my legs felt like lead but all I could think of was the 85 miles ahead of us. Guy was feeling the same too and we decided it was because we had built ourselves up for the first two days and had not really thought about the third!
We set off and went through the fantastic areas of Wilmslow and Prestbury where we saw some of the most fantastic houses ever - I started saying to myself that if I didn't get to the end of the ride I would not end up living in one of them; some dream!
Leaving these monsters behind we went towards the Peak District again but this time just skirted the outside of it. We still reached above 400 metres at a couple of points though but the climbs did not seem too bad after yesterdays trek. We flew through the first 40 odd miles and had a break in the luxurious surroundings of a shopping centre car park. Steve only allowed us 25 minutes and I had to put back on all of my sweaty clothing which I actually hated doing - after cooling down on the ride there is nothing worse than putting wet stuff back on. The break also gave me some time to out on some more cream; I am starting to really suffer in that department and as the day went on I was getting more and more uncomfortable.
Heading down to Derby was a nice ride but as soon as we hit the A6 to take is to Leicester life became slightly scary again - Guy was nearly hit in Wilmslow but ended up being about 6 inches from being wiped out. The A6 seemed to be the fastest road I have ever been on and having to cycle past Donington Park again after being there only last week broke me!
We ended up in Leicester eventually after going through Loughborough and were greeted by the rest of the team and had some photos on the pitch. I tried my best to do some damage to the pitch - anything to help us next year!!
Barry is back in Newcastle tonight as he has to go to a Boyzone concert as he is taking his wife to see them in London....... Oh yes Bazza! You know you want to be rubbing bums instead.
Tomorrow we are off to Northampton where I think we are being greeted by John Sleightholme and Sean Lamont which will be fantastic. Thanks again for your support everyone and if you drive past us please slow down!!!!
Day 2 Hilton Leeds - Sale RFC
After a rub with big bad Bazza, the masseur at the Falcons we had a press call at the hotel and then set off through Leeds on the way to Manchester. The temperature was in the 20's and we were in good spirits if at little sore from yesterday.
Guy lent me his extra padded shorts and my backside was feeling at great deal more comfortable than yesterday. We cycled through Dewsbury and Huddersfield and towards the Woodhead Pass. We had heard a lot about this road and were slightly concerned it could finish us both off.
I have never been through this part of the country before and the Peak District is certainly a great place to go cycling..........if you enjoy cycling up ridiculously steep and long hills. The worst was by far and away the mile climb we had which took us up to about 550 metres above sea level, about 450 metres above where we started. This climb in only a mile was a physical killer and a real mental test as yesterday I would definately have got off for a breather but I managed to get to the top thanks to a lad who had been in an exam this morning and was out letting off some steam. He cycled up next to me, not out of breath at all which I could not believe, and then helped me to the top of the hill. If you are reading this mate, thanks very much for all your help - it was so pleasing for me to complete that hill and I was very close to getting off and having a rest if it had not been for you. Guy got up to the top and down the other side managed an unbelievabel 50 miles an hour. Steve our support driver was driving the van at 48 mph and Guy was gaining on him for a while - crazy lunatic. I was going at a much more leisurely pace looking at the sheep and wondering f my front wheel was going to fall off!
We got to Sale RFC and were greeted by Steve Hanley (thanks mate!) and the rest of the team. Another fantastic day which Guy and I are both really pleased to have completed in good time. We now look forward to cycling to Leicester tomorrow (85 miles). The worst and most scary thing is that Bazza is leaving us for a couple of days tomorrow and we are going to have to try to get some other form of recovery in - apart from the ice baths!
Day 1 Newcastle Falcons - Leeds Carnegie
Even though today is going to be very tough and it is raining outside, I am just so glad that yesterday is over with. There were so many last minute things that needed to be done and really annoying jobs that I had forgotten to do before the journey started.
Anyway, the preparation and all the rubbish that has gone with that is over and now I can focus on getting through the task ahead. I am really looking forward to the ride and I still don't think I know what lies ahead for myself and Guy. All I know is that Newcastle to Leeds os the furthest distance and once that is over, mentally, I will feel a great deal better.
All of the team are now in the North East and I know for certain that my wife Kate and I are both packed and ready. I think she is slightly concerned about us going down the A19 but it is the shortest route so our only real option. I think one of the main problems, certainly for the van behind Guy and I, is boredom. We are going to be going so slowly for them!!
We leave at 11 am and I will be back on tonight to update you on how things have gone today - if we get there!!
Firstly to everyone who was up at Kingston Park when we left, thanks very much for your support - it really did help boost our confidence knowing the support we had from people in Newcastle.
We headed down through Newcastle, along past Gateshead stadium and down to the A19. The weather wasn't great, it was fairly warm when we were riding but the rain was holding off - thank god! It was weird getting used to the bike; my practice on it was probably not as much as it should have been! Riding down to Middlesbrough I nearly got wiped out by a Nissan Micra as the 3 lanes turned into 5. It seemed we were not going fast enough for the traffic and the car ended up shooting up on our inside nearly clipping me!!
51 miles later we got to Thirsk where we turned off and headed towards Ripon and Harrogate where some particularly nasty hills and episodes of cramp decided to occur! Cramp in both sides of one leg was something I have not experienced before and don't really want to experience again.
I completely underestimated how difficult cycling through Yorkshire would be and as soon as we had reached some of the towns nearing Leeds I assumed we would have done all of the inclines - very wrong! Nearing Leeds the mother of all hills appeared and 'King of the Hills' Guy Hilton rode off into the distance as he seemed to be in the 'zone'! I actually thought my lungs had burst and someone had set my legs on fire; sheer agony..... However, reaching Leeds was great and as we neared the stadium at Headingley and I recognised the area the lads dressed as women who flashed their chests cheered us up and the feeling of elation as we rode around the corner to the ground was fantastic. The rain had fallen for about 4 hours, we were both soaked through and in need of a good feed and a shower. After the ice bath that is! Tomorrow is a lot shorter in terms of mileage but the hills are going to be a killer.
This is going to be so hard........
Last weekend I cycled 46 miles up into Northumberland and it was a lovely sunny day so the 3 ours I spent doing the ride did not seem too bad. However, today was a great deal cooler and the 40 miles I cycled around the airport and back through Gosforth (3 times!) was much tougher. I had my padded shorts on today and they helped a bit but I am still getting slightly saddle sore. Fortunately, at our end of season awards night I was given a pot of Vaseline by a kind supporter which will come in handy I think!
I am going to go out Monday and Tuesday this week to try and get some more endurance into my legs but it is certainly dawning on me now that I have undertaken a massive challenge that is going to be very hard to complete but is also going to hurt a lot. I will probably take Wednesday off as I am going to travel to London and meet the guys from RP Martin who have kindly sponsored me for the ride. Thursday and Friday I will jump back in the saddle I would have thought and get some more under the belt but I don't think I do any more miles than I have already as I am tired as it is from the rugby season we have just finished.
I will keep a regular blog from the ride as a diary here so if you are interested in hearing how we are getting on then keep checking the 'Blog' section.
The route for the cycle challenge I am taking on has now been decided and we have managed to get the miles down slightly to 540! The route is below and if you have the opportunity to come out and support at any of the clubs across the country that would be fantastic.
Depart Newcastle Falcons 10.30 am 28th May - Arrive Leeds Carnegie 8pm
Depart Leeds 10 am 29th May - Arrive Sale Sharks (Stockport FC) 2.30 pm
Depart Sale 10 am 30th May - Arrive Leicester Tigers 5.15 pm
Depart Leicester 10 am 31st May - Arrive Northampton Saints 12.45 pm - Depart Northampton 1.30 pm - Arrive Worcester Warriors 7.00 pm
Depart Worcester 10 am 1st June - Arrive Gloucester RFC 11.00 am - Depart Gloucester 11.45 am - Arrive Bristol RFC (Bristol Rovers FC) 2.00 pm - Depart Bristol 2.45 pm - Arrive Bath RFC 5.00 pm
Depart Bath 10.30 am 2nd June - Arrive London Irish RFC (Reading FC) 4.30 pm
Depart London Irish 10 am 3rd June - Arrive London Wasps RFC (Wycombe Wanderers FC) 12.15 pm - Depart London Wasps 1.00 pm - Arrive Saracens RFC (Watford FC) 2.45 pm - Depart Saracens 3.30 pm - Arrive Harlequins RFC 5.30 pm - Arrive Twickenham 6.00 pm
It would be a real boost to have support at the different grounds as we go around the country so if you are about and can perhaps 'nip' out of work for an extended lunch break then that would be fantastic. I completely understand that it is going to be very difficult for everyone to come and say 'hi' but please do if you can.
I will be posting daily reports on this blog section throughout the ride so please log in and check in the evenings to find out how much pain we are in!
Organisation for the ride moves on........
The preparation for the bike ride in May is moving forward and I am really looking forward to setting off now. The 28th May has been confirmed as the date we will be leaving on and as far as we can we are now trying to work out exactly when we will be arriving at the different venues.
We are hoping to secure sponsorship from HM Plant, a company run by John Jones. HM Plant are the leading company in new excavator sales and are based in Hebburn, Newcastle. John and the ride team are in talks about how we can secure the sponsorship deal which will take me a long way down the road of reaching my £40,000 goal for Just for Kids.
Hilton have pledge their support for the ride. They have come on board as a secondary sponsor. Not only have they kindly donated all of the accommodation for the ride, but they have also donated a rider! Guy Hilton, GM of the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead, has said he will ride the full journey to keep me company. He has done a good deal of cycling and I am hoping to use some of his experience to help me through the gruelling hills of the Pennines! He is already training and has taken his bike out this weekend for a few rides - slightly worrying as I am not going to be do any training properly for 10 days or so.
RP Martin, a broking firm in London, have also pledged a good sum of money which we are very grateful for. I have visited the broking offices and the lads in there are great guys who have shown their generosity by sponsoring us for the ride. I am going to go down to see them in London after the rugby season finishes to say thanks properly.
If you are on Facebook then please go on to The Tom May Bike Challenge Group where we are building support daily. It has been fantastic to get the levels of support we have done and we hope this continues. I just need to try to get all of the supporters in the group to sponsor me, whatever the sum, as this will all add up and take me further toward the target.
All information relating to the ride will be added to this blog in the build up and during the ride so keep checking the site to see how we are getting on.
Thanks for your support.