Tom and Tim ride Right to Play
Posted by Tom Crampton on Jul 11, 2012
My epic cycle adventure nearly didn’t even make it out of the East Midlands. The journey started at Grantham station and a heated discussion with a train guard as to whether or not I was allowed to take my bike on the train. Problem solved and less than two hours later I joined around 100 excited and apprehensive cyclists in Clapham to get on the coach and make the 8 hour trip to Maastricht.
Day one of the 2012 Right To Play Ride was spent watching the best in the world hurtle around the streets of Liege in the Tour De France prologue which was eventually won by Fabien Cancellara. After a final night of bike preparation, carb loading and discussions about the best anti-chaffing routine, we were ready to go.
Over 120 lycra-clad cyclists of all shapes and sizes on every type of bike lined up outside the hostel in Holland. Led by Omega Pharma - Quick Step Pro Andy Fenn, we snaked our way out of the town along the cycle path and headed for Belgium. The huge peleton quickly splintered into different groups as cyclists found their rhythm and I found myself with 10 others making our way along the back roads out of Maastricht. We cycled at a sedate pace with most riders conscious of what lay ahead in the next few days.
Day 1 passed with little drama and 117 miles and about 8 hours later, I rolled into Gent feeling pretty pleased with my efforts. My longest ride before this had been 85 miles so I was well into uncharted territory. Upon reaching the hotel my roommate suggested stretching would be a good idea and I am glad I took his advice.
Right To Play really looked after us with a fantastic barbeque, a Dutch band playing 80’s hits on the glockenspiel (yes, that really happened) followed by the final of Euro 2012 on a big screen. Everyone who set off in the morning made it to the end and spirits were high.
To my surprise I awoke the next morning feeling pretty fresh. A good breakfast, another stretch and I was ready for round two. Another flat route from Belgium to Calais meant some good speed was on the cards. In almost perfect cycling conditions I sat in a group of about 18 as we sped down a wide canal path for the first 20 miles to the feed stop taking turns to set the pace. The speed was really starting to pick up and I was feeling strong.
At the feed stop I bumped in to Tim Lovejoy who had now joined the ride. Tim has been training on a Wattbike for a few months in preparation for the ride and it looked like it had worked a treat. Tim had joined a slightly faster group than mine and was keen to get moving again. I joined his group and we set off for the lunch stop in Ypres. Despite saying he is not a cyclist, Tim was keeping up well in a strong group of riders and we were soon averaging 20 mph+ on the flat sections.
The ride in to Ypres is always stunning. We entered the main square in the city through the famous Menin Gate and we all stopped to absorb the amazing memorial to missing First World War soldiers. Lunch was eaten in the sunshine on the square with the incredible Cloth Hall as a backdrop.
After lunch I stayed with the fast group and we really picked the speed up on the way in to Calais. To be honest, the pace was all getting a bit much and 10 miles out both Tim and I dropped out of the main group. Tim had never cycled more than 100km before and was feeling the effects of what cyclists call a bonk! With the help of a gel and some Jelly Beans and a passing cyclist called Mike, we put together a train of three and supported each other on the final few miles to the ferry.
The final day started with pretty gloomy conditions and a bit of rain. Straight out of the hotel in Dover it was up hill on the first categorised climb of the day. As we moved up the hill we entered the mist and the group splintered very quickly. I found myself away from the faster groups so I paired with another cyclist and we made our “attack” to catch the others.
This was short lived after I experienced my first of FOUR punctures that morning. The rain had swept everything from the hills on to the narrow country roads and it was getting a little sketchy. We passed countless small groups huddled round an upside down bike changing punctures and by lunch time most people had run out of spare tubes.
The first 50 miles took nearly 5 hours! My riding partner had two punctures and a slight problem with water getting in to his very posh electronic gears so when we finally hit lunch we were both ready for some food! After the lunch stop disaster struck when the super-bike finally succumbed and I was left on my own with around 40 miles left to cover.
I launched in to the final section of the ride and was immediately greeted by some big hills. A category 4 climb was followed shortly by a category 3 which started at 14% and got steeper! Without a riding partner to hide behind I put the hammer down and went for it. By the time I reached the edge of London I had passed lots of small groups but was determined to finish before 5pm and under 8 hours.
Mission accomplished I joined my fellow riders for a barbeque in the grounds of Greenwich University and couple of well-earned beers.
The ride was amazing. Loads of people doing there first ever long ride as well as veterans of previous Right To Play rides. The organisation was brilliant and I have to say a big thank you to the mechanics from the event team, Face, who kept my bike on the road.
The Wattbike training helped me massively, especially up the hills. I remembered the advice from Eddie and sat and spun the legs as much as possible which made a huge difference. I will be getting back on the bike ASAP and starting to train for the next big ride in September, The Alpine Challenge! I have already got cracking with the Apline Challange specific training guide which you can download for free.