After months of training and planning, to wake up to monsoon weather conditions did not provide the team with the start to the ride it was hoping for, fortunately by the time our kit arrived the rain had not just relented but the sun was shining! After a photo call with AFC Bournemouth chairman and Dorset Cancer Care Patron Jeff Mostyn it was time to start riding and we set off from the Vitality Stadium in high spirits, the nine riders and 2 support crew were on their way!
Stage one Bournemouth to Chepstow 92 miles
This was the only stage I had done any reconnaissance on, and with 7 of the riders being from Bournemouth we were riding on familiar roads, the team cycled out of Bournemouth and headed to Wimborne, after a brief first stop on top of Compton Abbas we descended down the infamous zig zag hill and into Shaftesbury before heading north out of Dorset and into Wiltshire and then Somerset.
The team struggled in hot conditions and a strong head wind, it was clear we would miss our target time for our lunch stop, but the team never left any man behind and we hit the disused railway track which took us through Bath and Bristol giving us some shade and a flat 20k to reenergise!
As we headed out of Bristol and crossed the M4 motorway the 2nd Severn bridge came into view and despite it being still 20k away it acted as a beacon of hope with the knowledge that Chepstow was was on the other side, the end was in sight!
We crossed the bridge into Wales and then got lost for the first time that day before quickly finding the right route and the hotel!
Stage 2 Chepstow to Telford 96 miles
We woke up to Perfect conditions for the 2nd leg of the ride, after a quick breakfast we went the wrong way out of the hotel before heading the right way back into England and climbing away from Chepstow, with this being the longest day in the saddle the team settled into a steady pace as the route undulated through stunning countryside often curtailing valleys and rivers taking us to Ross on Wye and Coffee which became a solace for the guys throughout the trip!
What happened next was not planned but let's just say it then became a battle of wills as the group fragmented for various reasons, all ending in myself dropping back to support our lantern rouge Michael Trotter and his carer for the afternoon Paul Blacow.
It came as a surprise that when we reached the hotel in Telford that after 10 hours in the saddle and the time being after 7pm we had in fact arrived ahead of the faster group! As the 3 of us checked in and started on our 2nd pints the remaining six riders arrived, tired but glad to have finished after adding an extra 5 miles and several wrong turns to their ride!
Stage 3 Telford to Manchester 71 miles
With a flatter route into Manchester and it being the last day the team set off with purpose and a positive mentality, as it was a Saturday and again perfect conditions there were lots of other cyclists out enjoying the beautiful Herefordshire countryside.
We quickly ticked off the miles before stopping briefly in Knutsford before cycling through the stunning Tatton Park before dropping into Manchester, Old Trafford the Theatre of dreams came into view, the pace stepped up and the race down Matt Busby Way to finish the ride was an incredible feeling, we'd done it!
The great thing was the fact every rider completed every mile, some even doing extra! After a tour of Old Trafford and a photo shoot pitchside we left a dummy bomb in the toilet before heading out for a celebration meal!
As disappointing as it was that the game was called off it did not take away what we achieved the camaraderie and dynamic of the group meant it was a trip we will all remember whilst raising £4000 for charity was a great effort! Look out for our film which should be out by mid July!
The Handlebarmy Saddledrunk team!
The team was
- Michael Trotter
- Carl Cavanagh
- David Jones
- Paul Blacow
- Daniel Archer
- Andrew Sargent
- Richard Powell
- David Harris Snr
- David Harris Jnr
- Tom Green
- Andy Wilkin