James Gendall had sourced the most fantastic Ford Transit, and with Adrian being only an hour and twenty minutes late for the departure (we all would have settled for that), the journey to the paradise formerly known as Sellafield was smooth and uneventful.
If Royston Vasey had a hotel it would be the Bailey Ground, Seascale, but being but 30 yards from the starting point for the Coast to Coast Cycle for Stuart Hooper and Sarcoma UK, it provided the perfect overnight stop for the Ramblers 6.
A trip out to the Bailey Ground’s sister hostelry, the Lion and Lamb in Gosforth, provided ample opportunity for carb loading, and all were grateful for the manageress’s helpful warning that the pole on the dance floor was not secure and should be avoided.
A peaceful night’s sleep and the 4.25am buffet set us up for the daunting challenge ahead. Adrian’s new Kuota Khan bike gave him a ridiculous advantage (more of which later), and his pride in its elegant lines was all too obvious to see. Baggers, on the other hand, had remained faithful to his £80 Dawes Galaxy, whose weight rivalled the Transit even before the small workshop was loaded up into his panniers.
The stylish Sarcoma UK shirts having been handed out and Ryan’s daunting briefing completed, it was time to set off. Peter Killen (no cycling between his paper round and training beginning in late February), Nigel Power (cycling bore) and Aid’s mate Niall (frighteningly lithe and experienced in long high cycling) made up the early numbers.
Ten miles in and the signs for the Hardnott Pass came into view, breathing fear into all. There was still moistness on the ground and mist in the mountains, which combined to bamboozle Power whose back wheel went west on the cattle grid at the very bottom of the climb. With only left elbow and ego bruised, the ascent began. Whilst the Kuota took Rogers to the top without him ever leaving the saddle, the more modest participants dismounted occasionally, if only the better to take in the views. The scary experience of the front wheel regularly lifting from the tarmac was just one reason why this climb is notorious. But the hardest climb in Britain done, and the Wrynose Pass looking slightly more modest by comparison in the distance, spirits were lifted.
They were yet further lifted at the first food stop in Sedbergh by the sight of the Mornington family there to offer support. They had planned to meet us later on but en route they had spotted Aid’s arse on the horizon (without the use of binoculars) and followed him in.
It was not long then to the Wheatsheaf at Leyburn, the half way point, with 10 of the 19 climbs completed. Jordan provided sun tan lotion, refreshment (only one fool drinking beer) and genuine encouragement, the latter feeling slightly uncomfortable compared to the scorching criticism and acerbic wit that he normally lays on. But the Morningtons’ efforts in coming out to support were a genuine highlight.
A tough climb straight out of Leyburn led to a fantastic stretch of gently undulating cycling in glorious Yorkshire sunshine, hampered only by the wind reversing as if to keep Yorkshire for the Yorkies and everyone else out.
At 113 miles, the Cod Beck Reservoir stop was perfectly placed to allow for the last Nurofen fix of the day. Whilst Niall and Aid were long out of sight, Gendo was about to enter the fray, cycling the last portion of the ride with Stu’s Dad and his partner. The first sign for Whitby came at the same time as the first and only puncture of the day, the fixing of which annoyingly coincided with fifteen other Sarcoma riders racing by.
But ten miles later the North Sea finally came gloriously into view. The promise of the last 6 miles being all downhill was false but not that false, and a loop or two around Royal Crescent at the finishing line brought up the golden 150.
The early finishers had caught Stu looking well in the Royal Hotel.
The stragglers missed him but send their very best.
Miles’ tip to go to the Abbey fitted perfectly with our lodgings at the Whitby YHA, which was only 150 steps down to the aptly named Indian Moments.
A really really tough day. For all, 150 miles and 11,558 feet climbed. Time in the saddle varied from 11 hours 46 minutes down to a mere 10 hours 10 minutes for the cheat with a new bike. Further than any stage on the Tour de France and as much climbing as nearly all. But a great day too, which wouldn’t have been possible without Aid’s hard line training regime and certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the brilliant organisation of Stu’s friend Ryan Downs at Severfield and the fantastic support staff along the route. Thanks to them, thanks to all.
But let’s not forget why we did it; the total is still rising, if you haven’t yet done so, please take a trip to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/c2c4stu