A charity ride goal.
It’s surely the goal of every semi-serious cyclist to complete a 100-mile bike ride? The century is one of those magical things to tick off your list. Like falling off your clipless pedals for the first time, (why are they called clipless?). Or doing iconic climbs. Maybe even your first ever cake n’ coffee stop. What could be better than the chance to do a century ride AND raise money for charity? The Nello is charity ride run by “FORCE” cancer charity, and 2017 saw the 20th version of this now iconic cycle event. 1500 cyclists, raising somewhere in the region of £75,000.
A great start.
Cue 8am at Topsham rugby club just outside Exeter, the magnificent sight of 1500 bikers and bikes awaiting the off. Considering the size of our little village cycle club, we actually had a very good turnout. I counted 11 members taking part – an unprecedented amount! For my part I had the company of Steve the Postie and Mr Nice, Dan. “The beard brothers” as I have affectionately called us! We managed to get away early-ish in the 3rd batch of 100, and we hit the roads of Exeter. The first couple of miles are busy main city roads, so it was good that at 8.15 there weren’t too many cars about. Leaving Exeter, we headed out to the countryside. On the way to the first feed station we set a pretty reasonable pace – arriving after 22 miles at an average 17.5mph.
After the first feed station.
Banana’ed and watered we set off for the next stage – heading up onto Exmoor. Through picturesque tree-lined roads, we wound our way to Dulverton, the gateway to Exmoor. There’s a steady 2.5 mile climb which spread the three of us out. Steve waited at the top, I followed and Dan puffed up behind us. Whilst waiting for Dan I had the pleasurable task of undressing from my bib shorts to answer a call of nature. Not great in the rain & wind with sweat-soaked clothing. Hey, ho, it’s a tough life. There then followed about an hour and a half of torture. Lots of up tiddly-up-up, and down diddly-down-down. In 30mph winds and nasty wet rain. We crossed back from Somerset into Devon and reached the second food stop in good time.
The second savage climb.
On a normally picturesque climb up from Simonsbath, I passed a lady who was trying so hard she appeared to be trying to lick her front wheel. Hunched over her bars at around two miles an hour, I feared for her safety. Whilst we were stood at the third food stop eating cake/flapjack/malt loaf etc, she turned up. She didn’t look very happy, and as she got off her bike she could hardly walk! I’m ashamed to say that we found this most amusing. Bet she got around faster than me!
Dragging Mr Nice away from the food station proved to be a tricky undertaking. By his own admission he is a buffet-aholic. Grazing like a strawberry blonde cow in a field of sausage rolls and miniature pasties. I swear he gained about 6 pounds on the way round! He probably stuffed some food in his pockets to take home as well!
Rolling roads and annoying tandems.
At this point I was feeling a bit low. I understand the importance of fuelling my body for these endurance rides, but no matter how fastidious I am, I always have a near-bonk moment. The run from South Molton down to Crediton, is a pleasant, rolling road, which in nice weather is enjoyable. In the wind, legs dying, arse aching and mentally lying in the bath at home, it was miserable. It was me as lead-out man for the eager trio. Going along quite nicely on a downhill run when we were overtaken. By a TANDEM!!!!! Steve the Postie was fuming. Kept shaking his head saying, “We’ll never live this down.” I felt sort of responsible, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t catch them up!! Fortunately, my two wing-men kept me going and we arrived safely at the final feed stop. Once again Dan ate almost everything, and with crumbs littering his ginger beard, we set off for the run home.
Running on home.
The last few miles were uneventful, save for running a couple of red lights, while we tried to stay together. (It was amber officer, I swear!!). Rolling back into Topsham, we found we’d done precisely 97.5 miles!! NO WAY! Now I am very complimentary of these events, but surely, we need to find another couple of miles so that people can hit the magic 100 mark. Imagine the jubilation at finishing a marathon feat after six and a half hours to find that you came up two measly miles short!! Cue the three of us, (followed by quite a few others), cycling off round the back roads to try and make up the distance. Job done, 100.2 miles. Dan’s first ever century ride, and I think he enjoyed it in a “punish your body” kind of way. All the other cycle club members finished the event safely, some going really fast, some battling illnesses or ailments, some doing it totally solo.
It’s a victory – over yourself!
I was led to thinking that this sort of event for overweight, alcohol-consuming middle-aged guys, (& gals), like me, are a triumph of mind over body. There are plenty of points at which I think, “F**k this, I’ve had enough.” But we don’t give up, because although we may not enjoy it, the sense of achievement and well-being at the end is immeasurable. Oh, and you get a nice medal! Steve the Postie treated us to a nice cold pint Thatcher’s which I thoroughly earned. And I salute all my fellow MAMILs for completing a charity ride cycling marathon. We’re a funny bunch but we love it!