"On ya bike"

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Jersey PGM's personal challenge

December 2010, an email circulates the bank looking for participants to cycle from London to Nantes in June 2011 – 350 miles in 4 days. What made me even think I should attempt it, I don’t know. But something said “go on have a go – it’s a real challenge”. The training was tough during the bitter cold months of January and February. I have done little (in fact no) exercise in the last 20 years to keep myself fit, so training was not overly easy, but I was determined not to be the one that failed the challenge. My confidence was seriously shattered in April, when I was knocked off my bike by a car! However, I was still convinced not to give up and pursued the training regime with vigour. The challenge was a four day event and a group of 50+ cyclists (some very good & many novice cyclists like me) gathered at the Stoop in Twickenham on 29th June, the home ground of the Harlequins Rugby Club. We were briefed, stocked up on liquids, energy gels, and spare inner tubes, given a cycling shirt to wear and sent on our merry way through the outskirts of London and into countryside towards Portsmouth. No further than half a mile and already a cyclist had a puncture; these over the next four days were plentiful and had to be repaired on the side of the road in a matter of minutes. Numerous punctures were sustained by single riders each day, this was demoralising but the team spirit got them through.

Day 1 was an 80 mile cycle over a good many hills not least across the Hog’s Back in Surrey and all the cyclists who set off finally assembled at the port to catch the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. Most were drained and tired, but many assemble in the bar to stock up on carbohydrates (beer) for the next day.

Day 2 started at 05.45 AM with a fresh SW breeze as we cycle from Caen to the first food station 30 miles into the French countryside. Jaffa cakes, jam tarts, chocolate rolls, peanut bars, bananas are just some of the items that are scoffed at a rate of knots to rebuild the sugar and carbohydrates. The euphoria of early morning is soon quelled when the first of a series of 3 km hills are encountered. In total 5 of these hills are cycled before the lunch stop. This is by far the hardest day; the heat was over 30º C and a gruelling 130 miles (not kilometres!) to cover. Not a completely uneventful day; one rider crashes at the bottom of a hill, loses two front teeth & suffered a broken jaw; others have been forced to retire due to knee injuries or other collisions with the tarmac! We eventually get to the hotel and after a quick shower, retire to the bar for an intake of carbs (beer) and reminisce over the day’s events.

Day 3 is pretty much the same as the previous day. Thankfully no major injuries sustained but many are suffering from the effects of the heat which was 35º C throughout most of the ride. After 85 miles we arrive at the hotel where more beer is consumed to build up the carbs for the next day – sadly many cyclists overdosed on this method of carbohydrate intake and suffer the effects the next morning!

Day 4 The heat is continuing to pick up and even in early morning as we leave on the final leg to Les Herbiers, 55 miles away the temperature is already up to 25º C. The ride is not only hot but “le derrière” is getting very sore! The highlight of the day was to see the finish of the first leg of the 2011 Tour de France – an experience, but not one that lasts particularly long, as you might expect from a sport that is better watched on TV than as a road side spectator! So, for a personal challenge what did I gain from my experience? · I realised that effort + determination = success; it is obvious to those who make an effort that the rewards can be very satisfying – this equally applies to the work we put into our Freemasonry and the rewards that can be obtained if we make that extra effort.

Team work with the other cyclists made the ride so much easier, everyone took it in turns to lead the peloton, thus making it easier for those behind; again, if we work together as a team in our various Lodges and within the Province, we will achieve better results, thus involving more brethren who otherwise may not feel included.

Friendships were formed with other likeminded people, which otherwise, I would not have had the opportunity and pleasure to meet. Freemasonry brings likeminded men together where we develop lasting friendships.
Help and support in a time of need. This rang true throughout the whole four day event; if someone sustained a problem or injury there was always a fellow rider on hand to lend a helping hand. Freemasonry is built on these principals but it was refreshing to see it still practised elsewhere! A HUGE thank you to all the brethren who sponsored me on my challenge, the other Provinces who made donations, and to everyone who offered words of support. It meant a great deal and the results speak for themselves - our eight man cycle team raised £38,000 (at time of writing) which forms part of an expected total of £100,000 to be raised by the 50+ cyclist that took part. Several people have asked me if I’d do it again next year; catch me at a week moment while filling up on carbs (beer) and I might say yes!

You can find out more about the wonderful work Right To Play does for children around the world by visiting their web site http://www.righttoplay.com/uk/. Right To Play uses sport and play to provide basic education to the children on their programmes, to raise awareness of health issues such as HIV AIDS and Malaria prevention, to promote peace and tolerance, and to give children the life skills and confidence necessary to make the most of their lives.

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