GBBR Day Three – Yeovil to Winchester

I woke up at about 3.30 this morning freezing. I couldn’t quite work out why I was so cold, apart from the fact that I was sleeping with my head close to the door, and I tossed and turned for the next couple of hours. When I finally got alerted to the Reveille at 5 I discovered that my sleeping bag was unzipped from the bottom up, and hence my feet were like blocks of ice.

The Reveille had a different tone this morning. The obligatory trumpet call was followed by the dulcet tones of Take That (Never Forget), and then a couple of other tracks, played at about 250 decibels through a couple of mega PA bins by the army. Oh what cheery chappies they are!

In breakfast we were greeted by none other than Martin Johnson (England international rugby union manager and ex England world cup captain for those of you who don’t know him). To say he is absolutely huge is an understatement. In fact he made Richard Hill, England’s 6ft 4 back row, look small. To give you an idea, here he is next to me:

I may have been standing on tiptoes here, I don't recall!

We set out from Ivel Barbarians at about 7.30 in the end, to clear skies if very cold. There were quite a few day riders today, about 50 in total I think, including quite a few guys from the club itself. This was the view at the starting line, with Martin Johnson at the head of the starting pack (he didn’t finish there I should add). Mr England again started us all off, with his now customary cries of “oyez, oyez” etc.

Ready to leave Yeovil....

The route took us out of Somerset, and through Dorset and then Hampshire. It was stunningly beautiful, particularly the New Forest, which I love. And this was simply the best day’s cycling I have ever had, maybe ever will have.

The morning session was punctuated by a few testing pulls, but nothing close to what has been seen the previous two days. The middle section had one very long and steep climb, but was otherwise a quite nice run. The afternoon session (through the New Forest) was spectacular. We went through Ringwood and a few other places that I can’t remember. I wanted to stop every 100 metres and take photographs, but of course just couldn’t really do that. The last third or so of the ride was the best terrain of the ride so far, mainly undulating and forested land, and just beautiful – made you glad to be alive.

I ended up arriving into Winchester at about 2.30pm or so, and I booked in straight away for my now obligatory sports massage. I think these helped my legs so much overall, the benefits could definitely be felt the next day.

Finishing earlier today was nice as it gave the opportunity to chill for a while in the sunshine at Winchester rugby club, which was a great venue. The locals turned up to come and see Martin Johnson and Richard Hill who both signed a few rugby balls etc., and it was a glorious warm sunny afternoon. I met and chatted to one of the best riders of the event, Anna Baird, who it turns out had done Kilimanjaro like me. She had sadly succumbed to fairly serious altitude sickness at 4,600m and had not been able to summit, and I realised how lucky I was to have been able to do so. We also chatted about what other adventures were in contemplation, and for me the seeds of doing Everest base camp were definitely sown. I have no aspirations to climb Everest itself, and indeed am not a climber and never will be, but to trek to base camp and to say that you have seen the highest mountain on the planet, well, that has to be done, doesn’t it?

There was a nice touch in Winchester too, as with our afternoon ‘tea’, someone had made a bunch of GBBR (complete with our logo etc) cup cakes, which were delicious!

I felt like I could eat the lot....

After dinner, which was sensational, and massive, Barry Clayton gave a rather splendid speech. He was obviously very emotional, and so he deserved to be – he has put a monstrous amount of effort into this event. He thanked the huge amount of people who have helped support the event, and including the army guys there are literally hundreds. Most importantly he also told us that we riders had raised £89,000 between us so far for Help For Heroes – a fantastic effort. He also gave a very emotional tribute to Pete’s Dragons, which if you have already read my previous post you will know all about by now. I didn’t at the time, and Barry didn’t want to share their story with everyone for reasons which I now know. I don’t think I could have given that speech and not cried my eyes out. In fact I wouldn’t have been able to speak at all. I am going get Ditsey’s poem printed and framed in my house, and keep it for ever. I cannot think of a better or more wonderful lasting memory of this event than that. What amazing people they are.

So the only downside to the evening was being told that Reveille was going to be at 4am (!). We have to leave by 6am, before sunrise, to get as many as possible of us the 82 miles to London by noon. It was going to be a tall order for sure. And the power cut that was to blight us didn’t help in the least. Bed was therefore by 9.15. Tomorrow would be Twickenham, our own summit. This is what most of us came for, “to arrive at Twickenham to the applause of 70,000 fans”. It was going to be fantastic, and I was going to finish this bike ride. I now, only now for the first time, knew that I could do it.

Statistics for the day were 77 miles and 1,390 metres of ascent. Calories eaten, about 10 billion. Oh and Two pints of Guinness.

25 Days to Go!

I can hardly believe that there are just 25 days to go until I get to Lands End for the Great British Bike Ride. It seems rather surreal. I say this as someone who is filled with dread at the prospect of cycling 330 miles – I actually am very unsure as to whether I am physically capable of that at all. I have no idea what cycling more than 50 miles feels like currently, and time is rather running out.

I went out yesterday for my first cycle in almost a fortnight, and thankfully felt fine. I thought my holiday would rather have caught up with me (although I did do a few exercise bike sessions in the gym at the hotel, but it was hardly very much), but the legs apparently still work. I did 25 miles, at rather a good pace (averaging 20 mph, my best ever) and so all is back on track as such.

I got a call from Mike at the GBBR to ask if I wanted to go on their training weekend on the 13th August, but I have a big family party that weekend which I am hosting, so cannot do it. The weekend will be therefore rather a setback, as it will be no bike riding and probably a lot of vodka drinking (these things have to do be done sometimes :)). So much is happening now as far as the event is concerned, and I have a lot of organising to do. I still need quite a bit of kit, including some extra bib shorts as it is important to have a clean pair for each day, so I had better get the credit card out again. I have to sort out my transport down there too – I am hoping that I can get on the train with my bike, and then I have to work out how I get from Penzance to Lands End – I won’t be able to cycle as I will have too much kit to carry, so it could be interesting. Maybe they have big taxis down those parts….

Oh and another exciting piece of news that I picked up via Richard Hill’s twitter page ( – apparently Martin Johnson no less, will be riding day Three (Yeovil to Winchester) with us – how exciting is that?

So, with 25 days to go, that means I will be out probably only another 8 or so times in anger on the training front. The last week before the ride we have been told to take it very easy and get some rest before the event. I have only two weekends of riding therefore, and I need to make them count. Tomorrow therefore I am intending to do 80 miles, and then follow it with 60 on Sunday morning. There’ll be a few hills in there too. This will give me a taster of what is to come and how far I need to progress still. It is daunting, but very exciting too. It is interesting how you do progress with time, as the thought of 80 miles just four weeks ago would have terrified me, but now I am rather looking forward to it.

On Sunday after an early morning ride I am getting a visit from Darina and Paul, who are doing Kilimanjaro next month. They originally contacted me via this blog, and are coming to have a look at my pictures and stuff. I get to talk about Kilimanjaro all over again – yippee! Here is a link to their blog so you can see how they are getting on:

OK that’s all for now – off to work, and have just got my head together after an early morning swim in the Thames. Yes you read that right, I must be flipping nuts!