Ride London 2017

My goal in 2016 (the year of my 70th birthday), was to complete four challenges and raise as much money as possible, for Macmillan Cancer Support Jersey, for which I’m Chairman. In the event, I managed only three challenges as a business trip coincided with ‘Ride London’, but I did manage to raise in excess of £37K due to amazing support from so many wonderful people. Ride London therefore remained unfinished business, but as I had rolled over my entry to 2017, it was once again in the diary for the end of July this year.

However, there was something of a hurdle put in my way, when in December 2016, on my cycle cleats, I slipped on and landed on a metal runner in my garage & broke my pelvis. The result was a 4-½ hour operation, two stainless steel plates, lots of screws and stitches and 3 months on crutches. Some months on, I can only bless a wonderful surgeon in Mr. Dunlop who has put the pieces back together again and has made me almost as good as new. It is interesting that such a repair (rather than a replacement hip) was possible because I had what the surgeon and A&E both describes as a ‘young person’s injury’ i.e. that the bones broke and didn’t merely shatter. This may well be partly down to genetics, but was also considerably helped by regular cycling.

With lots of exercise and physio through the early part of the year, Ride London began to look more and more achievable, as I got closer to the due date and so plans were made to travel from Jersey to London, along with my son in law George and four other mates, in a transit hire van very kindly loaned to us by Craig Seager of Falles Garage in Jersey.

I did Ride London in 2014 but the weather was so horrendous that the route was diverted to take out some of the hills and avoid what could have been carnage, with over 25,000 riders taking part. We therefore ended up doing only 86 miles of the 100 we anticipated. This time around therefore, our minds were very much on the weather when we got up, before 5.00 on the 30th July, not least as the rain had been hammering down most of the night and I had slept very little. However, the rain had abated as the first three of our group set off, just before 6.00. Thankfully & despite threatening skies, it remained dry for the rest of the day.

My son in law, George, had promised my wife that he would ride with me, given my operation and also a recent heart diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation, although I had been given permission to ride by my doctor and was feeling fine. I continued to feel fine and in fact we were having a wonderful ride until around the 20 mile mark when a gentleman with the word ‘Caerphilly’ emblazoned on his Jersey, tried to find a space on my left that just wasn’t there and brought me crashing down on my left hand side, the one with steel and scars and very recent memories of pain! I was beside myself with fear of further damage, not helped as the guy who caused the crash actually stopped, returned and graciously and profusely apologised, when all I wanted to do was kill him! I always carry some first aid gear, but even a couple of large gauzes were insufficient to stem the flow of blood from my elbow and left knee, but luckily, within less than a mile there was a support hub and a very welcome St John’s Ambulance tent. The Guys in the tent were absolutely wonderful and could not do enough to help; washing the wounds, bandaging and re-bandaging and giving me drinks and painkillers and about 1 1/2 hours after the accident, I was reluctantly given permission to carry on. There was one frightening thought in my head, throughout this whole time, and that was how to confess to my wife, who had nursed me through my previous accident and who would be tracking my progress. It was therefore agreed that George would send a message saying ‘we have a bit of a problem with the bike, but will be off again shortly’. This worked as a temporary get out of jail card and in fact the family spotted us on BBC News, going over the line together, some hours later, so any doubts were at least temporarily alleviated, back at home.

The rest of the ride (with a little help from the painkillers!) was actually very enjoyable and the supporters, volunteers, beautiful countryside and party atmosphere were amazing. It was also such a unique treat, to ride closed roads past so many iconic sites in the City. At 8 hours & 6 minutes, my overall finish time was hardly about to break records, but my Strava rolling time of 6 hours 16 minutes and a rolling average of 15.8mph was a little more encouraging and all in all, it made for a most memorable day and 2 weeks on, still a little bruised and battered, I’m pleased I entered and even more pleased, I completed the ride.

Brian Frith

Reflections on 2016

2016 has been a truly wonderful year although the ending could have done with a somewhat better outcome (but more of that below).

South Africa Cape Argus ride was everything I could have wished for and more, although the wonderful weather obviously played a big part (that was not always the case in many prior years). Anyone who has visited the Cape and possibly driven the coast roads or over Chapman’s Peak will know how stunning the scenery is, but to do that on a bike, on closed roads & in glorious weather is simply priceless. Judith & I also went on to have a lovely holiday in SA after the & with the rand at 22 to the £1, it was probably the best value holiday I have ever had. The restaurant we dined at on our last night probably best summed it up in their name, which is ‘Buitenverwatchting’. When I asked what it meant, I was told ‘Beyond Expectations’. If I was asked to look back on my 70 years from the perspective of, say my 10 year old self, I’d probably say the same thing. I feel very fortunate.

Our 70 for 70 ride on my 70th birthday was great fun and we had 21 riders out, most of whom did the whole ride and enjoyed cake & champagne at Chapelle & with a suitably sustaining lunch and with drinks to finish at the Trinity Arms.

The Macmillan Cancer Support Jersey ride, Carcassonne to Barcelona has to rank as one of the best rides I have ever done in the company of the loveliest people ever. There’s the full story and a diary if you click on the appropriate tab.

Ride London unfortunately didn’t happen, as I needed to be in Rio on business, the day after the ride date. However, all is not lost, as I have deferred my ride to 2017, so watch this space.

On the 8th December I had a training session booked at the gym for 9.00 and was going to cycle the 7 miles there. In leaving my garage (with cleats on my shoes), I stepped on the rail that guides the garage door & did a spectacular skid, falling down heavily on my left hip which promptly broke, leaving me in great pain & making my first ever 999 call. Three weeks on I’m in recovery although cannot weight bear on my LHS for at least 2 months. The good thing however is that my bones were in such good shape that the surgeon was able to repair rather than replace and although the repair is a much bigger operation & recovery time, it is less likely to become arthritic or be rejected & of course the replacement option is there in case of need. You’ll see the repair on the attached X-ray, which I think is a work of art – all stainless steel I’m told.

So, all in all, an interesting year and my personal fund raising for our beloved Macmillan Jersey stands at £36,827.50, with the joint effort from the team who went to Barcelona standing at well over £100K. I am pleased to report that the charity continues to serve Jersey with pride and year on year numbers to the Centre has grown at an impressive rate. You can see further details by clicking https://www.macmillanjersey.com.

So here we are at the end of the year and looking with optimism to 2017, which I hope is kind to you all and brings you everything that you would wish for.

Day Five: Berga to Barcelona

17th June 2016

Why on earth do street sweepers with very noisy blowers have to start work at 5.30 in the morning? It must drive people wanting a lie in or those with small kids, to distraction. The plus side, I suppose is that the alarm at 5.45 wasn’t exactly a surprise or shock. We had firm instructions to have our luggage in the lobby by 6.25, with departure at 07.30.

It can be chilly at 07.30 in the morning, even when you’re so far south & I was really cold by the time we’d done the first 5 kms or so, most of which was downhill, However, the first ascent took care of that problem and from then on it was hot/cold dependent upon which way we were heading. ‘Long undulations’ would probably best describe the roads but there was little traffic; the tarmac was good, the countryside beautiful and the birds singing. What’s not to like.

The first water stop was really quite pleasant at Sant Feliu Sassera as Judith & Michelle had sussed out a good café in the town square which was fine until they couldn’t re-locate it, so we had 30 odd cyclists winding around the cobbled back streets looking for a caffeine fix which we finally achieved (& it was good!). The locals in the café were utterly traumatized by the onslaught but we were all now well set for the next stage.

As we went towards midday, the scenery became more Mediterranean & the temperatures began to rise. The scenery was stunning, with fabulous mountain ranges, way in the distance. However, the aching legs were testament to the continuous rise in elevation, which continued up until & beyond lunch, which was a very welcome side of the road affair. Nobby’s welcome-in music & megaphone was wonderfully encouraging, as always. The man is a star – he drives the van to & from Jersey, with all our bags, supports & encourages us, every inch of the way.

Pay back came shortly after lunch in the way of a long descent although with lovely scenery giving way to the industry & heavy traffic, in & around Sabadell, which I think many in the Group found quite harrowing. Whilst I don’t particularly enjoy going through busy towns, I do find that it takes my mind of the aches & pains & somehow the miles done in those conditions don’t seem so arduous.

When we discussed the contour map at lunch time, we were encouraged that shortly after lunch, we had a fairly long descent although before the entry into Barcelona there was a rather ominous ‘bump’ on the map. Ominous indeed it was, as by 100 kms the aches & pains are setting in, the weather was hot & humid & the road to the top was quite busy. What a relief it was to get to the top, to see the magnificent sight of Barcelona down below & enjoy a water stop & re-group part way on the descent. The general plan was to go down as a group, DA David was to lead us in (which he did, on the cycle lanes, which was tortuously slow with all the traffic lights) and we were to gather for pictures at the front of the magnificent Gaudi cathedral (200 years & still not finished!!) & then onto the hotel.

All went to plan apart from a puncture for Bill & we lost Karen, but the hotel Granados was most welcoming especially as Nobby had the van parked outside & the bike packing commenced, the minute we stepped out of our cleats.

The Hotel really is great & well recommended for the lovely staff, great position & quirky design. Almost everyone headed to the roof top terrace where cava was provided & congratulations offered, all around. We then had a first in my cycling career; Paul proposed to Sylvana, our lovely BV’s cycling mates. What emotions, what joy, how good these two are for each other & what a lovely ending to the trip.

The evenings dinner was great – an intro from Pam, a thank you & talk about Macmillan Jersey from me & a wonderful sketch from Trevor, which parodied practically every person on the trip. He was very funny & provided a suitable ending to a most wonderful trip.

Statistics for the Day;
81.5 miles
13.1 mph average
1731 metres of climbing
5 hours 12 minutes in the saddle

Accumulated Statistics
258.3 miles (415 Kms)
7780 metres of climbing (25525 feet)
20 hours 45 Minutes in the saddle

Day Four: Seu d’Urgell to Berga

16th June 2016

In giving the briefing for today’s ride, the DA lead said that she would chose today’s ride over any other, single day ride she knew of, because of the challenging cols/mountain climbs, the stunning downhills, the magnificent scenery & the lack of traffic. She was 100% correct on all counts!

We were breakfasting at 7.30 and left to lovely weather by 08.30 and in the entire day saw very little traffic & in fact, very few people.

The first climb, which came shortly after we left the hotel, was long & hard & mindful that there were three others to climb, I studiously kept my pace slow & used the low gears a lot. The first water stop was about 1km from the top of Fornols, which had a magnificent vista viewpoint, & there are group photographs, from this viewpoint, which will appear at some time on a communal photo sharing site. The temperature, as expected, was significantly lower than our start point so we all donned extra clothes (I added 2 lightweight jackets & winter gloves), in preparation for the upcoming descent.

Whilst the road surfaces on the way up were pretty sub standard, to our surprise & delight, the downhill section was faultless although there was some rock fall in a couple of places. This section of the ride is virtually indescribable in that the sun was shining, there was little development, other the odd stunning hilltop villa or small settlement, virtually no traffic & the ability to see, thousands of feet below, a continuous ribbon of steep winding roads – cycling heaven!

What I did do was stop at fairly regular intervals to take photographs, share a big grin with some of the others & also try to ensure it all didn’t end too soon.

What goes up & all that!! The problem with such descents is of course that they come to an end & invariably at that time, the legs have begun to seize up and the fatigue of the last couple of days sets in. Everyone seems to feel this & the initial reaction is to see if a brake is catching or a tyre has gone flat. Add this factor to a long, long relentless climb to Tuixen at 1658 metres & it all added up to some very tired riders at lunch, where once again the cold weather kicked in & the hot soup was oh so welcome.

Downhill number two was again quite wonderful & seemed to go on forever & although such a run needs little in the way of leg power, it nevertheless seems to set the heart racing & I think everyone is aware that when you rely on two skinny tyres at 35-45 mph then it’s not sensible to lose concentration. I was certainly blessing my new bike at this stage of the ride (A Cannondale Synapse, a present for my 70th) as it has slighter wider tyres & also disc brakes, the latter such a wonderful innovation & so much better on long, steep descents.

We had a set water stop in the village of Sat Llorenç de Morunys where there was also a coffee shop. How attractive that coffee shop seemed, but clearly only to me. Everyone wanted to press on, so I reluctantly followed, as we headed out for the final third of the day & the last col. Oh those poor legs & that overworked lower gear, it just seemed to go on and on. At one point I was doing some mental arithmetic with the distances & converting miles to kilometers, when I decided that another 2 miles would see me at the top. Within minutes of this exercise I was in a tunnel & at the other end, there was a water stop & mountain peak. How very, very welcome was that & the third descent proved no less exciting than the other two.

So here we are at Berga & the very pleasant HCC Cuitat de Berga AND to the joy of some & dismay of others, England have just beaten Wales 2-1. I suspect both sides will evidence such joy/dismay in the usual way tonight, which is not the most highly recommended way to approach a final day, which I think will run to about 130 kms, although with hopefully less climbing (today being the most to date).

Statistics for the Day;
60.9 miles
10.6 mph average
2267 metres of climbing
5 hours 43 minutes in the saddle