A 10-strong team from Search Laboratory took to the roads last month to complete the 118-mile Yorkshire route of the first stage of the 2014 Tour de France.
The team (from left to right), Stewart Robertson, John Readman, Alison Mann, myself, Saskia Roskam, Alan Tang, Ian Harris, Leslie Harding, Paul Shearing and Mike Walkden were cycling in aid of local childrens charity Candlelighters.
We met at the sociable time of 6.30am at the bottom of the Leeds Town Hall steps with bikes, helmets and energy gels in hand. After we posed for a quick couple of photos (and Paul got his bib shorts on) we set off on the 118 mile bike ride.
To say we had perfect weather for the day would be a lie. It was far from perfect. As we’d found out the day before it was set to rain for the entire ride, and for once the forecast wasn’t wrong. As you may be able to tell from the picture; it was a bit damp. Not to be deterred we duly set off, into the day and into the spray of the rider in front.
We weren’t alone on the ride though. We had a committed support team consisting of Ron and Rita, who set off an hour after us to pick up anyone who had fallen behind and provide us with water and yet more energy gels at predetermined stops – the first of which was roughly 30 miles in at Skipton. The route to Skipton felt long and hilly (though in comparison to the rest of the ride, it really wasn’t) and it rained most of the way, however we were in high spirits and though feared at first, the rain was actually doing a pretty good job of keeping us cool.
We reached the first stop in about 2:15hrs which was really good pace considering the weather (and the fact that I’d not done as much training as I probably should have). Having refuelled we caught up with Alison and Alan who, it turned out, had had a problem with his wheel and had to spend some time in Skipton sorting it out.
After already having made it up Chelker Reservoir (a 125m climb) the next section was a slightly tougher 30-mile ride to Bainbridge over Kidstones – a 167m climb through some idyllic Yorkshire countryside.
We reached the top, met up with the recovery van and it was declared that at 54 miles in, we were only six miles away from lunch. The mid-point was in sight! With the promise of hot food only six miles away we set off, excited about the prospect of a seat which wasn’t “made for speed” (read: incredibly hard and uncomfortable).
A series of uncompromising hills and an extra SEVEN miles later we reached Bainbridge and much to my surprise (and the surprise of the others) I was only ten minutes off the front pack – or so they said.
The food filled a hole and we set off again, and this is where my day took a slightly different turn to everyone elses. We were at the foot of the infamous Buttertubs Pass – a leg-breaking 272m climb with an average incline of 5.1%. A group of five of us set off towards the hill, and roughly 3m up my chain came off. Being clipped into my pedals and unable to get out in time I accepted my fate and waited to hit the floor. Embarrassed and with a bloody knee, I picked myself and my bike up, sorted the chain out, realised this wasn’t the first time it had happened (although the last time was before we even started the ride, so I’m definitely improving) and set about setting off again, which I did – just in the wrong direction!
Having pedalled around the same roads and the same hills and the same scenes for a while, I decided enough was enough and that calling in Ron and Rita was the only way I’d ever see civilization again (I’d still be riding the same loop now otherwise). I met them in a nearby town, dejectedly cleaned my knee and shin up and got in the van with a tired Leslie.
It’s needless to say that whilst it was tough not being on my bike after having ridden 80 miles at the point I got off (and feeling like I could have gone much further), it would have been immensely harder had I actually been on my bike. Some of the roads defy all logic and even being a passenger in a van going up them was tough work! Still we pressed on past Alison and Alan up the hill and as we drove between the two biggest hills of the route we picked up Saskia who was having trouble with her knees after a terrific 90 miles on undoubtedly the least-suited bike on the ride.
The third and final stop was at a pub in Leyburn. Having passed Alison, Alan and Stewart and picked up Leslie, Saskia and I we were surprised to hear that the lead group of Ian, John, Paul and Mike had forgone the stop at Leyburn in favour of riding through to the end in record time. Eat your heart out Wiggo.
Despite my knee (it sound’s bad, it really wasn’t, I’m just going for the sympathy angle) I got back on my bike and rode what was supposed to be a simple 28-mile downhill road into Harrogate. Supposed to be is the key phrase. I ended up riding 39 miles instead of 28 along some rather busy and hilly roads. The good news is that meant that because of the extra 11 miles I rode, I’d done the 118 miles for the ride! Plus an extra one but hey, who’s counting?
Ian and John had managed to get in at 6:30pm, whilst Paul (who had had a chain break and had to fix it) got in at 7pm, along with Mike. Stewart joined the group at 8:00pm and Alison and Alan rounded off the ten at 8:15pm.
The entire group did incredibly well and cycled anywhere from 65 to 127.3 miles, raising a fantastic £1,097.11 for Candlelighters in the process. There is still the opportunity to sponsor us for the ride, here.