The final frontier - to coldy go!
It was a chilly start to the day with a cold wind in our faces but the prospect of the Beef Tub to warm us up about 10 miles in. A well placed food stop at the top of the hill gave us something to look forward to and we flew up the 7 mile long hill in record time, greeted and the top by our lovely and always enthusiastic support team!
After we'd had our fill we carried on the route back to West Linton which was "all downhill", a phrase we'd heard many times over the past 12 days and knew not to trust! In this case though, we were in familiar territory, as these were the very roads we used to train for this event.
The thought of soon being back in the village gave us some extra speed (along with a few extra day riders to draft!) and we were soon sitting at the top of Bogsbank Cliff ready for our final descent into the village.
The reception was INCREDIBLE! It seemed like the entire village was out to cheer us on and each and every one of us were moved by how much support they have shown. But it wasn't over yet!!
After picking up even more cyclists in West Linton, we set off in convoy to our 5th and final capital, Edinburgh - the place this crazy event started! Another incredible welcome was waiting for us at the Meadows. Nobody could be happier than we were at that moment, except maybe our backsides, safe in the knowledge we wouldn't be forcing them on a saddle again for at least a few days!
Our journey was over. Our now close knit GBC family will be family forever, and we have stories that will keep us chuckling for years to come. Even though they're not that funny! All this and we raised a shed load of cash for a fantastic cause, so a massive thank you to everyone who donated and supported us. That is all.
That'll be Scotland, then...
It was an early start for the team to catch the 7.30 ferry back to Scotland!! The patrons of the truckers lounge were a tad confused when 10 cyclists turned up clad in lycra but our freight tickets for the support vans gave us free food, and every penny saved is a penny more for the Cystinosis Foundation UK!
Everyone was pleased to be back on their home soil, but Scotland gave us a slap for leaving her for so long with a constant headwind for the entire day! Our route, in true GBC style, was not the shortest or the flattest, but took us down the back roads that showed us the best and most beautiful parts of the country. Another 1600m of climbing today takes or tally for the trip to over 15km of ascent!
The sleep deprivation was taking it's toll - not so much in the cycling but the maniacal laughter at the food stops suggested our mental faculties may have diminished somewhat!!
We arrived at our luxury lorry park accommodation at a reasonable time for a change and ordered some takeaway as the greasy spoon cafe probably didn't serve the best food to aid muscle recovery! It'll have to do for breakfast though!
One more day and our journey will be over, and one more big hill in our way - the Devil's Beef Tub.
The revenge of the hills, part two!
Day 10 was always going to be tough. Our final 100+ mile ride, but this time it was after riding over 900 miles in 9 days! Also, Mother Nature obviously got a bit fed up with us taking her for granted so she turned the wind 180° to be right in our faces and threw in a bit of rain to wash away our smiles.
And the hills...
5300 feet climbed through the beautiful Morne Mountains sapped the energy from our legs but team GBC pressed on. They are no longer hills but just mild inconveniences that make us a bit later getting to a slice of Mama Hutchison's malteser cake at the next stop! Team GBC laugh in the face of hills and then spank them on the arse on the way back down the other side!!
The 119 mile ride meant a massive 12 hour ride today and a very late arrival into Belfast, capital number 4. After the obligatory capital city photo shoot we cycled back to our Holiday Inn hotel, weary but happy that tomorrow we will arrive back in Scotland, our home, and where we will find out 5th and final capital city!
Another late night for the team but through the tiredness you can still see that spirits are high and the chat is of getting back to homes and families, despite none of us wanting the adventure to end!
Too good to last...
Day 9 and and the weather was kind to us again. A sunny day and a TAIL WIND!! A gentle wind at our back pushed us along the stunning coastal route and we made the first stop in record time!
After that, the wheels, quite literally, came off - 5 punctures in one day and chains so tired from the constant pulling that a few of them made a bid for freedom and jumped from their rings! Also, Jez Everest's now superhuman legs proved to strong for his chain this time, which he managed to twist at 90 degrees in 4 places!!! Big shout out to day rider Paul Marson, who jumped in the van and let Jez ride his bike to the next food stop. A quick fix from Mat Wood and we were ready to head off again!
A rush hour ride into Dublin added a bit of stress to the end of the day but after 9 days on the road together the team can now communicate telepathically, although shouting loudly is the preferred method...
For a change, it wasn't straight to bed though - a treat was in store in Dublin, our third capital city! After a tasty dinner in Bruxelles Bar, we headed downstairs for some music from none other than Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit!!! After a busy day filling our water bottles and washing our creamy gussets, Scott managed to knock out a few songs at the open mic night, raising a load of cash in the process from entry fees and a raffle. Don't forget, you can help out too by donating via our JustGiving page.
Legend has it, in the days before time when continents were being formed, Wales and Holland had a fight. Wales won and nicked all of Holland's hills, even though she had plenty of her own already.
That certainly explains the terrain the team faced today! 55 miles and over 1700 metres of ascent! To add to the drama we were heading for the ferry to Ireland, which we couldn't miss, so a weary team were up at 5am for a 7am departure.
This was easily the hardest 55 miles any of the team had ridden, with a number of climbs over 20% followed by downhills so steep we were worried the constant braking would mean our hands would be too sore to hold a pint of Guinness at the end of the day!
The team dug deep though and even though our legs were burning as hot as the breath of the Welsh dragon, we made it into Fishguard an hour before check-in even opened! As if that wasn't enough excitement for the day, Grant Hutchison and Si Clark's white knuckle ride wasn't quite over - there was still the drive onto the ferry in the GBC van with support team member Laura Wells at the wheel!! Sorry, Laura - your driving was awesome!
A well earned rest on the ferry meant the leg batteries could recharge a bit before our first cycle in our fourth country! The knowledge that we were now on our way back North, and our way back home gave us a little extra boost, and we flew the 15 miles into Wexford to find a surprise visit from the gaffer - Alex Miller!
A fine meal in the lovely Riverbank hotel and then off to bed with a buoyant team resting before a hard slog tomorrow.
Sleep tight, team GBC...
The revenge of the hills!
After a few very flat days, the team were looking forward to "opening the taps"... well some of them were. Anne was particularly anxious, being one of the weaker links on climbing. The mood in camp in the morning was certainly subdued - this was the big one we'd be waiting for.
The day started with a relatively easy ride down to Cardiff - our second capital city!!!
We were blessed with glorious warmth and sun for the best part of the day. And people obviously knew we were coming - folk clapping from their cars, stopping us at lights and asking what we were doing. You got the distinct feeling that they don't see many cyclists rounds these parts! It become very apparent why we were such a novelty - the hills were brutal! We climbed more than 1400 meters over 81 miles. We coped with it really well, with each day that passes becoming a better functioning team, getting into "formation" quicker with less faff (our specialty) and discussion. It was a beautiful sight from the back of the group watching the three "chain gangs" drafting our way up through the valleys!
We had a minor incident with our resident faller-offer, Jez, taking a less spectacular tumble after touching Hutch's wheel with his, a danger of the chain ganging. He was very careful to make sure he fell on his good side!!
We got a bit cocky, thinking the final 17 miles would fly by and give us our earliest finish yet. It wasn't to be - the final segment was full of some of the sharpest ascents we've seen. We finally trailed into camp at a respectable half past six, very proud of ourselves!!
The interesting stat of the day - in the past 7 days we've climbed a total of over 10,000m!!! That's more than 1,000m higher than Mount Everest!!! That's the cruising altitude of a Boeing 747!!! Go us!!!
Day 6 was fast, really fast!
We took Hutch's advice from our latest YouTube video - pedal, pedal, pedal!! We cycled so fast Mat managed to wear out one of his cleats!!
The highlight of the day was a spontaneous harmony while going through a tunnel - Grant started us off and we all joined in to create a thing of beauty that was part Welsh choir and part Gregorian chant with a little bit of barbershop thrown in for good measure!
We reached our third country today and really feel far from home but we'll soon be heading back North. Our journey into Wales was across the Severn bridge and we were greeted by some friends of Jez waving a Welsh flag and, more importantly, carrying some delicious Welsh cakes!! Just the ticket for our final stretch up to the "lovely" Newport. The Severn bridge wasn't the only bridge we crossed today - we also crossed one with a road sign none of us had ever seen before - "bridge failed"!!! Not even that could halt the unstoppable machine that is team GBC!!
A good day, all in all, and a chance to rest our legs for some more hills tomorrow.
Would you Adam 'n Eve it, we just cycled to London!!!
Our plates of meat were pedalling furiously out of Harlow and we made good time into London Town.
Another unfortunate mishap today for one of the team - Jez Everest's now Herculean legs proved too strong for his gold medal as he was setting off and he took an apple crumble onto his lucky charm (see if you can work that one out...)! The team jumped to action - the first aiders seeing to his cuts and bruises and everyone else filming!! The good news is he made it to Buckingham Palace with a little help from a Boris Bike!!
By the time we reached the palace we were Hank Marvin but we were met by a load of friends and family who brought us a veritable feast!
After a slightly longer than usual stop we applied some chamois cream to our cobbler's awls and khyber passes, then set off towards Reading.
Our first capital city ticked off the list and spirits still high. Tomorrow we head for Wales!
Another relatively flat day, although we still managed to climb just under 3000 ft. In fact, over the first four days we've climbed about 19000ft, which is round about the height of Mount Kilimanjaro!
Today's route was a mixture of rolling meadows, some amazing picturesque country villages and then the flip side - a stint on the A1198 at rush hour!! The traffic was fast and furious but team GBC worked together like a well oiled machine (or should that be well soiled...) and we all made it through unscathed. Well, physically unscathed anyway!!
Today marked we passed the 'third of the way round' mark at the Wood Green Animal Shelter as pointed out by our new friend Damian Scott. We've all enjoyed his regular Facebook messages with interesting facts about places on the route!
A small diversion at the end of the day and we ended up in Harlow, greeted by the support crew and the lovely Viktoria from the Holiday Inn, who had been tracking our progress on the route page!
On to London tomorrow a man down as team member David Russell could unfortunately only do the first four days. It's been fun, David - we'll see you in Moffat!
A 117 mile rest day!!
For many of the team this was their second longest cycle ever, just after day one! The team was happy with a slightly flatter journey today, although the route was interesting in other ways. On some of the tracks we'd have been a bit more at home on mountain bikes!! Let's just say the bike cleaning session at the end of the day lasted a bit longer than usual!
The girls in the support team were awesome as usual - the highlight today being the hula inspired food stop, with the girls wearing Hawaiian lei and cocktail umbrellas in our drinks!
Our only female rider, Anne, also put in a good performance, demonstrating her skills after she picked up a puncture. All the boys were impressed when she pulled the nail out her tyre with her teeth!
All in all, a good day, helped by some cracking weather and the now regular singing on the home stretch. In GBC terms the "home stretch" is the last 10 miles!
A brilliant day today, but a brutal one.
The good news? Everyone rolled into Harrogate with a smile on their face. The weather was stunning and we cycled through some of the finest scenery England has to offer. But, the hills. My god, the hills. We learned today that our training ground of the Scottish Borders does not cater for the up-down-up-down of the North of England. Apparently it's all about the geology (copyright Dr J Everest).
As a result, we had a few aches and pains by the end of the ride, which were worked on by the spectacular physios that the support team had organised. Gav's neck being snapped back into place was the undoubted highlight of the day for the lucky folk present.
Special mention to our fantastic support team who surpassed themselves again by coming to David's aid when he "had a mechanical" and in just being generally awesome. Although, anyone handing out Macaroni Pies at 3.30 this afternoon was getting a hug, frankly!
The Great Big Cycle threw a lot at us today, and the team dealt with it.
A really good send off from all our families and great weather made our departure from Edinburgh a memorable one!
Our first rest stop was at the top of the Granites and it was in the sun which was the first time we had done that route without rain or snow!
On the way down everything was going too well... A random lamb decided that Steven McHaffie was too scary and ran out in front of Kerr Clapperton who decided to go over the top of it! Fortunately he left just enough space on the near side for Andy Hall to squeeze through otherwise it might have really hurt! The good news is that Kerr was fine, the lamb returned to eating grass and the good people of Alpine Bikes sold us a new helmet with a good discount.
The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful apart from Gavin Jefcoate and Stevie teaming up to knock Neil Hutchison off and Mat attempting to jump up a kerb, sinking into the wet grass and then performing a near perfect somersault dismount! It would have been perfect had he landed on his feet...
The last stage from Elsdon to Ponteland was interesting. Jez Everest had told us that it was mainly down hill. He forgot the category 4 climb up the Gibbot, used for the British Hill Climb Championships!!
After that we just had to survive the rain, hail and lightning storm (no, I'm not joking...) to get to our Holiday Inn hotel.
To sum up 10 category 4 climbs, 120 miles, 3 crashes, 2 vomits but a good day had by all. Bring on tomorrow!