Steve Harcourt's blog -Trials, Tribulations and Success
Day 1 – Up at 5am bags packed, quick breakfast and off to Coventry office to meet Kerrie.
On arrival I met the parents, Alan and Terrie + Charley (Kerrie’s Daughter) –support team for the trip, it was then I realised that this was going to be an interesting weekend. I decided to leave my Prime Jacket with the support as the early rain that morning had abated. Pam also arrived with a box full of freshly made samosas, Pam in fact was probably up cooking before the riders emerged from their beds that morning.
Off we went to the Wrexham Gold Post Box. Any nerves were banished as we rode through the quiet streets of Coventry. That was until the heavens opened as we rode up the Radford Road.
Jackets on at Corley thanks to an unscheduled stop by the support vehicle, Kerrie hopefully stated it had stopped raining, only for me to point out it may be down to the golf brolly her Mum was holding over her. As the reality dawned on her we looked at each other and could sense we were both having second thoughts with the torrential rain pouring down.
However “heads down and let’s crack on”, were the words that came out of our mouths.
Feet out through the puddles, was a new stance inspired by my daughter on our recent holiday bike ride. And it worked our feet were no longer getting wet as we ploughed on down many a flooded country lane.
We met the support team looking absolutely drenched at Shenstone Tesco. To be informed, no toilets and support have already enjoyed a MacDonald’s Breakfast! I didn’t realise the trays at MacDonald’s were part of the take-away cost. Every day’s a school day, eh Alan!
Still smiling we leave for Church Eaton, the next meeting point. A village pub which did not open until the afternoon, still no toilet. Hang on, the support team had already stepped up and asked a lady walking her dog if we could use the toilet in her house, to which she obliged. The kindness of the human spirit was music to my ears. Looking like a drowned rat and with various bits of farm yard muck attached to numerous parts of my body I toddled off to meet an ‘old’ lady at Number 3! I later discover she is very sensitive about her age, me and my big mouth.
Back on the bikes feeling damp and off to Whitchurch, leaving the support with a task to complete over the weekend to relieve their boredom (what goes on tour, stays on tour). My jacket was again handed to the support to dry off, as the weather was now starting to clear up.
Now we were getting angry with technology, as we tried to stay in the pink! (A Garmin joke). At the point where we were stopping to look at maps my knee was starting to give me some jip, I was now angrier with my knee than the sat-nav.
As the team waited for our arrival at the next stop, they decided with the sun now out they could dry my jacket on the bike rack on the back of the car, what a brilliant idea… Support team stepping up again! Until it dawns on them that they forgot to take the jacket off the bike rack before driving off down the road! One jacket less, we hope for continued sun and that the team could find the jacket in the surrounding lanes. Daughter strop averted we press on.
Next stop Wrexham…they start early on a Friday in Wales, around 3pm by the sound of it. As we go off track in one of the more run down areas of Wrexham, a group of lads with ‘Tenants Super’ in hand started heckling us. We must have stood out wearing gold and lycra! I asked them the way to the town centre and told them we had just ridden from Coventry for charity. You could see their jaws dropping at this point. Then to be fair they were more than helpful with directions, and got us back in the Pink!
We made it, Tom Jones post box, sorry Tom James, (Men’s fours rowing). ‘It’s not unusual’ for Kerrie’s dad to make a mistake!
Claire my wife finally joined us at the hotel in Wrexham after getting stuck in V festival traffic, taking 5.5 hours to do the journey that normally would take 2. I did tell her it would have been quicker on a bike, that didn’t go down well.
‘Sammy D’ at the Lemon Tree then made all the aches and pains of the day subside, as we were royally entertained by the ‘Louis Spence’ of Wrexham. It’s the only time I have been in a restaurant and hit on by the waiter, although he really had his eye on Alan, he was after a ‘big daddy’! It all got a bit crude when the puddings came out, poor Kerrie was getting worried about what Charley was hearing. Charley however was laughing her head off and got a fabulous hot chocolate as way of an apology from Sammy.
Day 2 – Three more riders join the team, Charley and Richard and Ian from NC Creative.
Up the Welsh Hills to the first box of the day in Coedpoeth, Tom Jones second box, “why, why, why Delilah” does it have to be at the top of a hill? Bit of a shock to the system.
While taking a few publicity shots, we all hear a ‘Phhhht’ sound and look round to see my rear tyre as flat as a pancake. Lewis Hamilton will not be asking me to join his pit crew as 30 mins later the rear tube replaced.
Off to Flint – Two hills and a pimple later, we get to the Gold Post Box of Jade Jones (Taekwondo).
We complete two laps of Flint in the rain as the Garmin goes rogue. We have more issues with the route on the way to the next stop at the Wirral Country Park. I finally see the daughter strop that was averted the day before, when the support team are not by their cars! How dare they walk off for a coffee and wait by the cycle track!?!
The next stretch is a lovely coastal path ride to Liverpool, through the sand and rain.
A farewell to Richard and Ian as they depart for home after completing their stint, then the remaining three amigos ferry across the Mersey. And yes they actually play the song as you arrive in Liverpool.
At the ferry port to Isle of Man, we are now without the motor cars as we go by cycle and foot on to the ferry. Time for a well earned drink, oh and some sustenance, then forty winks as all riders start to seize up. The 70 nautical miles are some of the easiest we travelled over the weekend, although still hard on the legs when you wobble about on deck, unfortunately I had forgotten to pack my sea legs!
As we leave the Ferry in Douglas, Charley notices she has a flat front tyre. Support team have already gone to the hotel in a taxi, and support cars with their repair kits are in Liverpool. After assessing the tyre and the time being 10.30pm we had to commit the ultimate sin and push the bikes to the hotel in the dark.
We decided in the morning we would ride back to the ferry port, to make sure we cycled the entire route. If the long walk in the dark wasn’t enough, just as I was looking forward to a late night bath to ease all aches and pains my wife went to turn the bathroom lights on and tripped the fuse. The room was plunged into darkness; I fumbled for the phone and called the very resourceful receptionist, who changed the fuse and the bulb that did the damage, just so I could use the bathroom at what was now around 11.30pm. Bed !!!!
Day 3 - Up early again and another full English, the staple of any Gold post box rider! Kerrie and her dad had by this time got the tyre on Charley’s bike fixed with the help of the hotel maintenance man and a short trip to the local garage to inflate the tyre.
Finally the fourth post box was in our sights, one last very steep hill to go. As my legs felt like they were about to fall off I could not hide my delight as I saw the support team. Unfortunately they had stopped to stroke some horses in a field by the roadside, and as I rode up to them they pointed further up the hill. At this point my heart sank, I looked back to Kerrie and Charley and told them to keep going as we did not have far to go (a little white lie as I had no idea how much further it was). As we struggled up the hill to a roundabout, I heard Kerrie shout straight on, which is not what you want to hear as we were still climbing. All of a sudden I had spotted it, arms waving like a lunatic and with an out of breath whoop, I indicated to Kerrie and Charley we had made it. All of a sudden everyone forgot about the hill, and rode purposefully to the gleaming golden post box of Peter Kennaugh, (Team Pursuit Cyclist).
We had a little hug as we knew that it was mission accomplished, smiles all round and a few strange looks from the locals. As the support team arrived I realised what a massive achievement this was to cycle 160 miles, with the logistics involved and mother nature getting in our way. Also the assistance given at every stop by the support team to get us all to this point was immense.
One last cycle back down that hill to the promenade led to an impromptu paddle in the sea, that as you may tell from the pictures of the weekend soon turned into a full on, “sod it let’s go for a swim!”
I will end the tale of the ride there, as from that point we just chilled and enjoyed the rest of the weekend without wearing any lycra. I felt human again!
Big thanks to the Kerrie, for her marvellous organisational skills and her cheerful company throughout the whole weekend. I think we just about kept each other sane. Charley, Richard and Ian for their camaraderie from day 2 as fellow cyclists. And the fantastic support of Alan, Terrie, and Claire. We must do it again sometime!!!!!