I have written in the past about the life that my 15 year old son has introduced me too but this took another turn this week when we offered to take part in a bike ride to raise money for Marie Curie Nurses and to raise the profile of ITV Local Heroes who encourage more people to volunteer with their local sports clubs, and is supported by Join In. The Join In volunteers who assisted us on the day were fantastic, welcoming with words and deeds of encouragement.
We joined a team of celebs and others (me being one of the others, he being a celeb!) to ride the Tour de ITV, a 99km ride from the cobbled streets of Weatherfield, to the rural tranquility of Emmerdale. Both of these areas have seen their fair share of disasters, crime, love and even several murders! if that wasn’t risky enough we were to start riding on cobbled streets. If you have ever seen the Paris-Roubaix you will know the risks of riding on cobbles, This video of George Hincapie http://.youtube.com/watch?v=UZg1vrvGbdE&sns=em clearly demonstrates clearly the risks!
So we assembled outside of the The Rovers Return, ironically to depart! There were people all over the place and it was a good job I had booked the day as leave as I managed to appear live on Good Morning Britain even though I was stood at the very back!
We were a gang of mixed ability and experienced cyclists, mainly concerned with the 4 mile climb after dinner and the 12% climb a mile from the finish, and much of the early discussion about experience were focused on these challenges. It became clear that as a bit of a semi lapsed cyclist I was one of the most experienced.
We were supported by ride leaders and mechanics from Go Volo and what a team they are if they are. We rode as a group of 24 in our own peliton, the Go Velo team ensured we were maintained and safe on the roads. They managed us through junctions and motivated up the hill. Offering tips, reminding us to change gear and just jollying us along. Although on the 4 mile climb, supporting us faster riders up the hill only to go back down and help the slower riders did make me feel a bit inadequate as I wobbled and wheezed across the car park at the top absolutely knackred! The ride was broken into short 10 mile stages and at each stop we were greeted by hordes of supporters who waved, whooped and welcomed us like true heroes, these stops did more to refuel than the jelly beans, flapjacks and bananas that were handed out at each stop. The stops were a chance for us to see how local people can be heroes to other by giving up time to help run clubs and activities and raise money for great causes. we were riding to support the official partner of the Grand Depart Marie Curie and this meant that we all wore the famous maillot jaune!
We stopped first at Hopwood Hall College where we met the Rochdale Deaf Rhinos football team at one of their training sessions. Good luck for this weekends tournament.
The next stage was a bit of an oxymoron, as we rode to the Summit Inn in Littleborough this pub is not at the top of the hill! Here we were met by a great crowd the celebs. Again at the stop the Join in and Go Velo team were on hand with goodies and isotonic drinks and words of encouragement.
As we rode to each stop we had been riding in pairs and moving around this meant that we all spent time with each other and made this a bit more social than it might have been had we just rode together. I had hardly seen my lad who was keeping everyone entertained with jokes and moaning. Colson was not the only person not to have ridden in training for the event. I had ridden with Alun who had only got on his bike that day and Laura who had been riding a week. It is then you realise just h complex riding a modern road bike is. seam daft to say that as anyone can ride a bike, but to ride a bike for 70 miles in one go is no mean feat. To make this more complicated by riding in a large group through rush hours in Manchester and Bradford the work of the ride leaders was by no means easy.
We rode into Hebden Bridge where we were met by crowds of people the clapping and cheering was again more inspiring that can be measured. People were so polite allowing us to feed and water before having photos and autographs. What a lovely town Hebden Bridge is. Colson and I were also met by my mum, dad and wife this gave us an even great lift.
The stage after lunch was the lung burster only short riding from Bridgegate to The Robin Hood Inn only a few miles but the last four of these are up hill. As we left Hebden Bridge we suffered he only puncture of the day, now as we were just about to start the climb I am not saying this was planned but… but having a Jag with spare bikes on the roof-rack like all the pro teams meant that deliberately riding over the nail was a feeble attempt to get out of the stage, not 30 seconds after pulling forlornly over to the side of the road was a replacement wheel in the bike and they were off again, nice try but…
This part of the ride is on the actual tour route and the road were noticeably better than those as we left Manchester and wound through Rochdale to Todmorden. As we started the climb I was sat on the back of the group, and as everyone slowed I realised that I would not be able to make the climb at their speed so I shifted a couple of gears stood on the pedals like the meilleur grimpeur and went.. about 30 seconds later my lung were on fire and i was back in the saddle but I had broken away and could now see the lead group 40 meters in front of me, as i settled down to a nice comfortable cadence with a gear to spear i looked up and tried to catch the leaders, after a few minutes I heard a voice beside me and me “are ri’t lad your doing great” as Barry 62, cycles past me like I am standing still looking at the view!
I never managed to catch the front group but forgetting my meeting with Barry who had disappeared into the distance and the Go Volo riders who were heading back down to help the rest up, at the top of the climb i did check and found that the two riders who beat me to the top were ten and fifteen years younger, moral victory to me!!
On the next stage I was asked to ride with a camera on my helmet, no problems I said hoping that the best footage wasn’t going to be me earning £250 on You’ve Been Framed falling off. I hope that the looking down at the shadow arty footage is not spoilt by my wheezing and panting. I tried to get some shots of the art work that was in many of the fields and the number of yellow bikes and flags that were all around the course. The scenery on a great weather day over the moor towards Haworth is stunning and I would have loved to have stood and looked at it for ages. But there was little time for this as we continued on towards our next stop Harden Primary School. We sped down off the moor and in the built up area to be greeted by the loudest cheers of the day, the noise was epic and we new were were near the end of the stage loge before we saw the banners and the cheers could be heard up the hill and round the corner! What a welcome 200 children all high on the excitement of meeting people off of the telly! This was a gobsmacking part of the day, the kids didn’t care who you were we were all treated like heroes, they had made lemonade for us and baked cakes and all we had to do was to sign a few autographs, although I am not sure who they will tell their parent who they met. “Oh this one is from that old red head who writes rubbish on his blog”, “Mum, mum Craig of Corrie’s dad gave me his autograph”. Before we set off one of the boys from the school performed the rap he had written for the tour, brilliant who need energy drinks after a stop like that, vey well done everyone at Harden Primary School.
The penultimate stop of the day was in Baildon at the Recreation Centre where we all had to have a photo on the bouncy castle! We had cycled almost 60 miles and they wanted to have us bounce around once down it was really hard getting back up. After a final banana and more jelly babies we were read for the final stage to Emmerdale and the Woolpack Inn. with the sting in the tail of the 12% climb it didn’t help that the Emmerdale cast kept going on about the hill that the had to change down a gear when driving up. This was a sting I had been telling myself that after the 4 mile this would be nothing as it hardly showed on the ride profile. Boy was I wrong with 95km in your legs this was a task, but one that we all managed the Go Volo riders were reminding us about gear choice and how difficult it is to start riding on a hill if we do have to stop. Again we stretched out as we all found our own pace. At the top we regrouped and ended as we had started all together in a group. We rode down into the Emmerdale set to the bunting and flags that were adorning the Woolpack Inn and a pint of weak warm bitter! We had ridden all that way and ITV had not arranged any Champagne or cold beer!