Group dynamics are fascinating. Throw in a challenge and some necessary equipment and it all becomes very involved indeed. I must confess that my initial impressions on meeting my fellow cyclists in a Station car park on this brisk September morning were focussed mainly around two things. ‘How fit do they look?’ (I.e. “Will they go further than me?”) And ‘What sort of bike have they got?’ (I.e.“Will they go faster than me?”)
On both points I’m afraid my conclusions were not very encouraging. I was, perhaps, the only person on a hybrid bike with big bulky panniers and the amount of racing jerseys, rippling thighs and experienced looking kit didn’t bode at all well for my ability to stay with the pack.
Don’t get me wrong, I was determined to complete the route. My big concern was being able to keep up – so that I could minimise as much as possible the current odds on me getting completely and hopelessly lost.
Followers of my training blogs will realise that this has become a most prescient problem whenever I go out on my bike.
And now, with a distance of 148 miles or so, across unknown territory, my hope of reaching the same end point as everyone else was appearing awfully dim.
However, against a soundscape of passing trains the Christian Aid organisers reminded us of why we were there and the difference our sponsorship money would make to so many lives. I steeled myself to endurance. Then the ride organisers announced that there would be two teams – a ‘fast team’ and a slower paced team. But what was this? Some mistake surely! My name is on the wrong list! Surely you haven’t put me in the fast team? Oh boy.
The first days ride was in pretty good weather and the miles slipped pretty pleasantly by. Fairly regular stops for coffee, water and food (or the occasional mechanical malfunction) meant we all arrived at the camp site in pretty good shape.
But along the way there was the gradual merging of minds as the group got to know each other. It only takes a few ‘incidents’ really – the odd puncture, a word of encouragement uphill, a shared encounter with angry motorists – and very soon the team began to feel like just that. A team.
And in the end, a very successful team. It seems we had covered nearly 180 miles by the end of the second day, depending on who’s bike computer you trust. But it was well over the 148 we had trained for. Never mind. The main memory I shall take away from the whole experience was not searing pain, painful forgetfulness or geographical calumnies. Instead my main memories will be of the wonderful people who I met. The wonderful people and the humbling team-spirit that they helped to evoke.
(As it happened I did manage to get lost, but only in the very final stages of the ride. By then my legs had pretty much ceased to provide anything but the simplest form of forward motion and I had lost track of the pack as we wound our way across the headlands around Corfe castle and across to Weymouth.
I made my way to what, in my wet and semi-frozen state, I remembered as being the rendezvous point – the Clock Tower. Nobody there. Nothing. Not even a wet, fluttering banner. Instead a lovely elderly lady, braced against the weather, asked me if I was part of the Christian Aid team? ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘Do you know where the others are?’ No, she did not. She was waiting for her son to finish. At that moment he appeared and together we set off to find the team.
They were about a minutes walk away along the sea-front, safely ensconced inside a pub, awaiting the last stragglers (i.e. us!) The meeting point was actually the statue of King George, when I checked. It’s a little further along the beach, but hey, an error of about 300yds over 179 miles is pretty amazing for yours truly!)
So thanks to everyone who has read and encouraged me along the way. Further photo’s and even a video of the event can be found at the links below.
Here’s to the next!
Watch the official video! (I think I’m in there somewhere!)