Day 13 – Hold on Toto Kansas is this way……..

Finally mother nature gave us a break! There had been thunder in the night but we awoke to a beautiful sunrise on the outskirts of Sevilla. I suspected thunder but it could have been the grown man sleeping in the children’s bunk above me.

Spirits were high as we left the hotel possibly because of the meal last night (2 main courses each and a magnum) or possible because this was our last full day of cycling.

We finally persuaded ‘G’ man to leave the Death Star (Team sky reference) and headed on our way.

We passed through the outskirts of Seville, beautiful avenues of lavender trees (confirmation required) All full of Parakeets making a most unusual chorus.

With a light tale wind we made our way into the stunning countryside outside Seville heading for the village of Lebrija it was something of a surprise when we realised we had been cruising effortlessly at over 20mph.

We’ve seen some beautiful scenery over the past 2 weeks and the views across the plaines rivalled any we have seen.

Coffee in town was a welcome break and we sat in the shade enjoying the sights and sounds.

Leaving Lebrija we headed into Sherry county and the town of Jerez. It’s hard to describe but this felt like real Spain with cobbled streets and Sherry barrels on every corner.

The town was a real treat and many made plans to return in the future.

We left Jerez and headed for a late

lunch.

The post lunch ride should have been a gentle 20 mile ride towards Medina but when the town was spotted high on the hill above us the van was ignored and the Hill climb began.

Richard and Barry in a break away led the charge for the Hill top finish with Barry easily the victor.

And so the last long ride of the challenge came to an end with a beer in the local hostel.

Tomorrow we head to Gibraltar and a meeting with the mayor. Showers for everyone tonight!

Till tomorrow

Day 12 – When the wind Blows

Another day another Euro…😁

After getting out of town we head south towards Seville – for another planned 105 mile day.

The weather was a little cooler this morning which made for a pleasant paced ride out of town…..that was until:

4 miles out, one of the team pulled up and was shall we a little sick (must have been the fast pace after breakfast)…😁,

Then the chain broke on one of the other bikes which finished off their ride for about half the distance….

We climbed passed a stunning castle on a hill top.

We passed a backwards runner on one long climb, slightly disconcerting!

Do you know,it shows the camaraderie of the people that ride in this group…no-one gets left behind…1 stayed which allowed the remainder of the group to ride on…one other returned with the van, pick up and then play chase to catch-up the group some 12 miles down the road….

Our experiences in France and Spain for bike repairs have been tremendous…drop in and pretty much same day repair – in the UK it’s more like manyana…or…. tomorrow.. superb service received all round…

Today has also been a day of pain in the form of blisters…in places where no blister should ever be found – buts that’s a story for another day…

The wind today has been challenging to say the least. The team worked tirelessly to keep a steady progress. The reward a chicken in a ……….. pot!

Tomorrow we leave Seville for our last big riding day – I think it will be emotional…😁

Day 11 – Plaines, chains and height gains.

Malgon to Montorro

Picture the scene a hacienda in the middle of nowhere , 9 cowboys!!!!! 8 of which have bikes all parked up in the court yard learning their “Stallions” against the drinking trough. No Chaps in sight but a shed load of Lycra. The day started with an unusual twist, as breakfast wasn’t available we bought some rations last night and just after midnight Neil gets up to prep brekkie . Huge success thank you.

We left Malagon and rode at a blistering pace. Today was hopefully about good roads, high mileage , and…………. massive hills/ mountain ranges

The pace was relentless with a cross wind that was more head on. We made lunch time at 2:30 having covered 70 miles ( wow what a great achievement , to get that Mileage under our belts by lunch was great)

After lunch we thought we only had 40 miles and one more hill but hill one turned into 4😩 .

We wrapped up the day well and completed 110 miles with our causality list amounting to a broken chain and a broken spoke.

The guys have done a Stirling job, all in aid of four great causes. The end is getting closer. Keep on rolling.

Day 10 – the Rain in Spain…..

So we start the day by saying farewell to one of our navigators known as Mr White, Barry Williams senior returns to the Uk after successfully getting us down to Madrid, the team would like to say Diolch yn Fawr Mr White for your services

A true gentleman and part of the team.

We head south out of Madrid via the bus due to very bad weather again, circumnavigating the storms, eventually getting the bikes out and cracking on with the ride.

Approximately 20 miles in we meet the bus, only to find two police officers in attendance, transpires the bus has collided with an unmarked police vehicle !!!! So after the formalities of reporting it, a gesture token of one of our

pendants was handed over and we head off.

Driver change over to ease fatigue was the order of the day and the team cracked on, very quickly the weather brightens up and the bus stops short to allow the team to apply suncream, Ten miles on and it’s time for lunch in a local bar/cafe, we are told it’s Monday so places are closed but we manage lunch then the weather closed in again, with fatigue setting in, team decision to call it a day and head to the accommodation was decided.

Upon arrival it’s clear Monday is not a good day, restaurant closed, also appears Tuesday is also not a good day as restaurant is closed for breakfast!!!! The pool is closed as it’s too cold !!!! We are sweating profusely, we just don’t understand the rules.

Tomorrow we ride again with better weather forecast. Standby for the alternative day that is not planned. Life is good.

Day 9 – eat, sleep……….

And so it begins again – eat, sleep, cycle repeat…a 7 am start, empty the van, a little breakfast and at 8am we start with a 110 mile day planned ahead….and what a day…the weather was hot as was the pace……

We leave Ariza and head South towards Madrid. Today we started on the main “A” roads only to be escorted off by the local Malicia (traffic police)….as it was deemed inappropriate to cycle on – apparently some dual carriageways are not meant for bikes….so onto the side roads it was. These led into a beautiful valley with vultures perched on the cliff top watching – probably thinking early lunch, looking at us thinking which one will drop 1st…

From the previous day we had noted that some side roads were better than others and today was no different – very bumpy or not rideable in part would a polite way of describing them. Such roads can tend to cause a little damage to the bikes and needless to say that the riders experienced 2 punctures and a broken spoke all within 200 yards…followed by the loss of a tyre at the next stop. Onwards further South and making great use of google maps superb location sharing we managed to meet at most agreed waypoints…with no real hiccups.

Riding South the roads just got better with rolling hills, huge climbs and superb fast descents which the team seemed to enjoy for some strange reason 😁..

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Tomorrow we continue heading South on our journey to Gibraltar. As we get near to the end of our challenge we are all thinking of the amount of money raised through sponsorship by all the very generous donations made by family, friends and various businesses – so many thanks to everyone…

We also acknowledge the support received from our families and friends in our preparation and training and the things which they give up to help us do these things – so again thank you to one and all…

Catch you tomorrow….

Day 8 – …..Days like these

“Nobody told me there be days like these” John Lennon

We stayed at a hotel with the most stunning view of the Navarro plain last night. I didn’t quite put the two and two together until this morning when after the fourth round of hourly church bells it was actually time to get up to a much worse sound.

“Is that rain heavy?”

“It isn’t light” was the typically British understated reply.

Still not to be deterred we donned our wet weather cycling kit and headed off. Watching one of the team members literally slide down an alleyway resulted in us getting off the bikes and gingerly making our way to the main road on foot. Safety is a paramount concern that would end up repeating throughout the day.

The weather started to deteriorate as we settled into our familiar riding group and soon the rain cloud ahead was being lit up quite literally by lightening with the ominous thunder following. Having looked into this before we knew we had to get off the road as the storm moved ever closer. Whilst everyone in the group had no issue with the rain lightening on a bike is not a good combination.

We were lucky enough to find a stop where we could take shelter and had to replan. The storms were forecast for the next two hours so we took the decision to get back into the van and go down the route to escape them rather than risk us getting colder and suffering from that which is so easy to do if you plan on being outside for the bulk of the day.

Having cleared the storms and had an early lunch we then got back on the bikes to continue to Ariza.

We did at this point realise that we would actually climb to a higher elevation than yesterday on this ride reaching over 1100 meters above sea level. We also realised we were heading into a very significant headwind making even the downhill section require pedalling.

After a bit of confusion with the route we also ended up on a massive detour into the headwind and back on ourselves to find two small villages that had been deserted. This is where our third safety issue would come to fore as our route took us out of the town and onto a road that is marked as a main road but turned out to be a badly broken gravel path so bumpy one of the team was walking and one actually lost a tooth.

In fact it was so bad that with three miles still go down this path we called for the van to back us up they weren’t happy to make the trip either. Plan Z was to walk back in the direction we had come and meet the van near the deserted village we had ridden through.

Given where we were, the time of day ( having started almost nine hours before) and the fatigue of the team after 8 hard days we made the decision to call it a day and head to the hotel although we had not reached the point we were hoping to.

Sometimes, it is more mentally tiring than physically tiring to complete an event like this as being so tired every minor setback can take on epic proportions. However, it is always what happens next that defines the team and as a group the resilience and determination this group has shown already is amazing. We will start again tomorrow morning having learned from today and hoping to recover some extra miles.

Day 7 – The Pyrenees

So the alarm went off at 05:48 nothing unusual in that other than normally I would be awake waiting for it. Today however it was like being next to a starting pistol.

The IBIS budget breakfasts have been a huge hit with the team and we suspect the price will be going up across Europe very shortly.

Team meeting was held in the usual way and bikes prepared for the day ahead.

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We were soon underway along the beautiful river out of Bayonne. We passed alongside field after field before we eventually spotted the start of the Pyrenees ahead of us.

Having been so lucky with the weather thus far it was with some reluctance we put on wet weather gear as we began the pre-climb climb!

With architecture starting to change we headed along the valley to our last van stop before the climb.

We happened upon a SPAR where we stocked up on bananas and chocolate.

Refuelled we started the pre-climb with Barry J at the front leading his children like Captain Von Trapp.

At this point I would like to point out that Barry has been exceptional on this trip, his leadership on the road impeccable despite the behaviour of some of the group, sorry all of the group! Barry has been assisted by Chris G a former Ion Man athlete who’s experience and bike skills have assisted the Group tremendously. It’s been good cop good cop all week!

We approached the end of the pre-climb climb and above us the vultures were circling, literally!

We knocked the door of a local restaurant who looked shocked and surprised to see us not least as I ordered 8 bedrooms instead of 8 coffees!

Double espresso loaded we headed for the climb and boy did we.

The climb reaches 32% at the start something none of us had ever experienced before or want to again. We passed the Vultures on the way up who by know expected rich pickings.

(Special thanks to Helen O who suggested Yaz and ‘the only way is up’ for the climb which I hummed merrily all the way.)

After what seemed like an eternity we arrived at our lunch stop a bizarre restaurant at the top of the first climb.

Lunch consumed we headed for the final climb and the border. Sadly no welcome committee and only a small sign!

The decent was stunning but not as quick as expected years of logging lorries had damaged the roads making them a Little treacherous. (Would not have happened on the French side)

We cycled into Pamplona the pick up point for the day most satisfied with our efforts.

Sadly the conversion to Spanish hasn’t been easy we presented ourselves at the reception of our hotel only to be told we were in the wrong town! Ah well tomorrow should be a little easier!

Casualties today Neil 2 falls, Richard 1 fall, 2 flat tyres 1 broken spoke and a buckled wheel.

Nearly 700 miles into the ride, we have been touched by the messages of support it does make a huge difference.