Matt Given's blog - Potholes, Paramedics and Platforms
After waving off Kevin and co from Solihull on Thursday as they went in search of the Sark postbox, hearing that they had made it successfully to their first box at Hamble-Le-Rice on Friday, as well as the news that we have more post box sponsors, motivation was high for the team that were to set off towards Stotfold to tick off another 2 boxes.
That was until Kerrie sent around the email saying we were to meet at the Coventry office at 6:00am. I swear these rides are getting earlier, anyway, alarms were set (mine had a 4 in it, which is a first!), lunchboxes packed and in some cases, bikes cleaned and polished (no offers to clean everyones' though Michaela!).
4.45 soon came round and my alarm nearly went out the window, but then somehow my tiredness was overtaken by another emotion, excitement! Here we were, another GPCC cycle! Whilst eating the 'cyclists' breakfast of porridge, banana and orange juice I made a decision that would later come back to haunt me "I know, I'll cycle to the office, save me from taking my bike and car apart and I can sneak in a warm up!"
One by one the team assembled at the office, loaded up the support car and signed their lives away on the GPCC disclaimer (only after today has it become apparent why Kevin wanted these!) and at 6.30 we set off.
The first pit stop came after around 20 fairly straight forward miles with the only real talk of the team being the cold! Sharon was causing issues with the jackets, firstly 'discussing' with Ian who was in fact "Small" and who was "Medium", before persuading Ian to change only to 'have issues' with the zip! Everyone was happy to see Colette who topped us up with water, but most importantly the now infamous "Delia’s" (energy bars...thanks go to Chef Gurmiet for this batch). This is also where I made my second mistake of the day, as did all but one of the team, we all watched Sharon layering on the suncream and all looked up at the cloudy sky and laughed off the need for it! We set off once again for another 20 odd mile stint to our next stop, some tea rooms just outside Bedford, little did we know we'd never make it to the tea and cake break!
We had successfully navigated through Northampton, which by now was getting busier, and just as we were beginning to think of the nice, quiet, winding country roads, it happened... Ian and I sitting at the back of the group saw one of our fellow riders hit the tarmac a few cyclists in front of us, then it all went into slow motion as another 2 cyclists and their bikes flipped over the top, there were bikes, limbs, helmets and even shoes everywhere. We skidded to a stop (thankfully the car that had been driving behind us for a while also stopped, otherwise we may have introduced ourselves through his windscreen!), then the inner paramedic shined through as Ian, unknown stranger and I checked on everybody (who were all very quiet apart from a few expletives) and then set about clearing the road. The bikes had made friends with each other and didn’t want to let go, so the whole lot was carried off in one, but only after freeing Chloe’s leg!
Kerrie and Sharon soon turned to "Mum-mode" and the injuries were being counted up. Michaela, who appeared to be well and truly grazed/bruised, was soon laughing at what had happened and was soon asking if her phone had survived, which we took this as a good sign! Paislei was holding her shoulder but was more worried about her face (rightfully so with a wedding planned!) which had some impressive tyre marks on from Michaela’s bike. Chloe looked like she had seen a ghost and didn’t remember anything that had just happened, but was still keen to top up her tan and sit in the sun, before Kerrie hit "Full Mum-mode" telling Chloe in no uncertain terms to sit in the shade, much to the amusement of Charley (Kerrie’s daughter) who had clearly heard that tone of voice before!
It took about half an hour for Colette to get to us with the support car, during which, we figured all three bikes were a write off, broken brakes, buckled wheels, bent gears and all sorts. We took it in turns to explain to Chloe what had happened every 30 seconds or so, it didn’t take a doctor to work out she may have concussion! The "blood wagon" arrived and was loaded up with the bikes and bodies, with the sat nav programmed to Northampton A&E.
That just left the 5 of us, sat on the side of the road, a bit shook up, not as motivated as we were at the start of the day.... especially when we realised that all our food (including Sharon’s nuts) and drink was going to hospital and we were only half way!
We had been stopped for a while and as such decided to miss our planned stop and just head straight to Bedford and our first post box. It was weird missing almost half of the team but we knew the show had to go on! Ian and I were the only lads in the team, and had rubbed in the fact that if we got "caught short" anywhere all we would have to do was find a bush somewhere and all would be fine. It turns out the girls in the team weren’t bothered either, and after analysing a number of hedges, found a suitable spot (I told you I'd tell everyone!).
We soon made it to Bedford and eventually found the postbox after navigating the high street that was closed for some sort of festival, live music, stalls and some dodgy fancy dress all over the place. Thanks Bedford but you really didn’t need to go to all that trouble.
We were met at the box by Sarah G and photos were taken, then in the distance we saw the big yellow 'M'. After a very quick team meeting we decided we had deserved a treat. "5 Big Macs and chocolate milkshakes please?" The milkshake machine was broken, this really wasn’t our day (but we were trying not to complain... at least we weren’t sat in A&E!) We had a phone call from the hospital updating us on injuries. One case of concussion, one torn shoulder and fractured elbow, and one cut and bruised. They sounded in high spirits and had decided they would meet us at the last post box. This was great news! In all the excitement I had hurt my back and everyone was far too quick to suggest somebody needs to stand on it while I lie down, I'm not sure what I had done to upset them all but 2 minutes later I was on a wall with Charley stood on me, after a crack back into place, we hopped back on our bikes and set off for the last leg, 16 miles to Victoria Pendleton’s box in Stotfold.
After a quick wrong turn and the backup Sat nav coming up trumps, we were directed to go through a field. This would have been fine for Charley on her hybrid bike, but the rest of us road bike riders weren’t so keen, we didn't fancy anymore trips to A&E. Ian, piped up and suggested we go through Ireland, I thought the heat had got to him and he had finally lost it, but thankfully he meant the village. We took a detour following Ian’s inbuilt sat nav and after a mile or so Kerrie happily shouted that we had re-discovered our route and were on track!
This is when our earlier decision to ignore Sharon’s suncream suggestion was really taking effect. The sun was strong, and we were all getting very hot, the girls kept complaining about a "man-tan" but Ian and I didn’t ask!
Then there was a sign, "Stotfold cycle path - 4 miles". Brilliant! The happy feeling lasted for at least 8 seconds until the sat nav suggested a U-turn, surely not! After reviewing the 'old school' paper maps, we saw our route was conveniently crossing a train track! Maybe it's a quiet train track that never gets used we thought, until the Virgin London to Midland flew past at 300mph! Only one choice, through the train station we go. We got some funny looks walking along platform 1, and even funnier looks when people realised we'd have to carry our bikes up the stairs, over the bridge, and back down, much to the annoyance of Charley who didn’t understand why they don’t have a lift like they do in Coventry Station.
After our upper body workout (which we hadn’t trained for) we knew we were close, and the last 2 miles were a breeze. We turned a corner in the middle of a housing estate and we could see a small crowd of people waving, everyone had made it, just about in one piece. The champagne was cracked open and the doctors' orders of no alcohol rightfully ignored, they deserved it!
The Stotfold ride was complete, maybe only 5 out of 8 of us got there by bike, but I felt we, the riders had it easiest! We loaded up the bike racks and the cars and headed home, before the heavens opened. Thunder, lightning and flooding everywhere, this is when Paislei realised her bag was in the back of an open top pickup truck, and Kerrie, Charley and I realised we had cycled to the office this morning! Well done brain...great choice!
We made use of the hot drink facilities back in the office and carried on wondering how and why the day had been so eventful. It was only when we were stood in the rain getting soaked, unloading bikes that we realised just how sunburnt we all were, man-tans all round (except for Sharon)!
So it didn’t turn out to be your average GPCC ride but there we go.
Huge thanks must go to all of the support drivers, I know we do this after every ride, but today we simply would have been stuck on the side of the road in Northampton for the whole day. Colette was with us from 6 in the morning till about 8 at night, and kept all injured parties going throughout the day, even from A&E! Thanks to Sarah G for meeting us at box number 1 so at least we had a small audience! Thanks to you both and also Dave and Robert for bringing us home.
Hopefully injuries and bikes will be mended very soon and we'll all be back where we belong...on the road !
Matt (one of the survivors)