Last month, a team from MEC Manchester that included Dan Alderson, Dan McNicholas, Simon Price, Laura Sweeting, Anton Kirkpatrick and Ben McKay took part in a 140-mile coast-to-coast cycle ride to raise money for Elise for Life. They were joined by friends, family and a few people from Global Radio and have so far raised more than £2,800.
This total is still going up, so first of all we’d like to say a big thank you to all those who were kind enough to donate… it really helped the team get up some of those hills!
It was a difficult, eventful and ultimately rewarding time for all involved – and here, Dan Alderson takes us through the highs and the lows of the 3 days in the saddle.
Day 1 – Whitehaven to Penrith 55 miles.
Everyone was probably a little nervous during the morning of the first day as they headed up to Whitehaven for the start of the coast to coast. After introductions and everyone comparing bikes it was time to set off. After going round and round Whitehaven to find the official start line (which I will always claim added another couple of miles to the total) everyone lined up for the first group photo.
Weather for the first day was perfect, nice and sunny with a slight breeze to keep us all cool. Those on road bikes quickly went ahead of those who were on hybrid bikes, mountain bikes and the one bike which was made of lead.
The route for the first day wasn’t too bad, a nice gentle climb out of Whitehaven and soon we were out into the countryside heading for the first big climb of the trip, Whinlatter, but that also meant once we got to the top, it was time for lunch!
After a few cups of tea it was time to set off, and what goes up, must come down! The climb was over, so the descent was much more fun and a great test of how fast you can go, late breaking into the corners… or that may have just been me. With the weather being so good it was nice to take it a bit slower and enjoy the view, most at MEC live in and around the city, so to be surrounded by greenery was a nice change.
The afternoon was a bit flatter until the last 10 miles or so. By this time I’d fallen behind a bit due to a sticky rear brake (which for some reason I didn’t fix until the next morning) and my chain getting stuck between the frame and the gears for no apparent reason! But I wasn’t the only one with problems as, with only a few miles to go, Pricey had a puncture. He may have been the first of the group, but he would not be the last!
Finish line for the first day was Penrith sports centre who had agreed to keep our bikes locked up there (Thanks!) and we all headed to our first stop over, which included a “few” pints, along with pie and chips. Needless to say, the group should have slept very well that night, but sadly we were all kept awake by some horrendous noise – which turned out to be from a certain Ben McKay. If we knew he snored so loud, we probably would have left him at the sports centre with the bikes.
Day 2 – Penrith to Allenheads 35 miles
We checked the weather during the week and knew the second day was going to be rubbish, but I don’t think we expected it to be as bad as it was. Things started well, apart from a first leg up a long hill out of Penrith that – once we reached the top – led to another tough climb. Sadly, the turn off for that road was off a descent, so quite a few of the team missed it. It wasn’t too bad though, as there was a connecting road, it did however mean another hill.
Once the rain had started, it didn’t really stop, so the climb to the top of Hartside (probably the most difficult stretch of the entire 3 days) wasn’t much fun. Some managed to battle through the oncoming wind and rain, cycling all the way to the top. Most, however, walked for certain sections and some – including me – walked the majority of it. Needless to say, by the time I got to the little café at the top of Hartside, I and the rest of the team were drenched.
After a break for food and drink (and a bit of an extended sit down since it was still raining hard outside), it was time to start the second half of the days trip. This meant we first needed to descend Hartside, picking up a great deal of speed on the way down and getting quickly soaked all over again as a result. The official route involved going via Garrigil, a brake-destroying decline that saw Laura wear her brakes out on this section! Everyone was warned about the steep descent, so we were prepared – and thankfully everyone made the abrupt turning at the bottom!
I on the other hand needed cash and supplies, so I took a different route to Alston… which also looked a bit easier. Those who’ve been to Alston though, will know it’s on the side of a hill and has a cobbled road – not what I was expecting. But it did have a shop, so mission accomplished. Sadly the road afterwards was full of yet more hills with more hills after them until our second overnight stop in Allenheads.
The Allenheads Inn was a great place to stay and one I’d really recommend, they allowed us to dry our things in the boiler room (although the next morning my shoes were still soaked) and the food was pretty amazing. But the best thing, Ben got his own room so everyone had a good night’s sleep.
Day 3 – Allenheads to Tynemouth 50 miles
Final day and everyone was refreshed, we knew there were only a couple of climbs with the rest all downhill to the Tynemouth coast. The first one was pretty much straight as we began, so the support car from Global Radio parked halfway and turned up the music to spur us all on.
Once the second hill had been done it was time to turn off the road and take a muddy route across the hilltops as we dropped down into Consett. I loved this section as I was riding a mountain bike, and even though I had road tyres on, a bit of dirt action is what was needed!
What I didn’t realise until we stopped for lunch in a KFC (classy!) was just how muddy it was. As I tucked in, my mud-caked face attracted funny looks from all those around… not that I cared! We’d cycled about 110 miles by this point and had 30 to go – I couldn’t wait to finish.
That afternoon we cycled up the side of the River Tyne through Newcastle, getting held up as the Junior Great North Run was taking part so a quick push through the crowds was required. As soon as we were clear we quickly made up lost time on the flat paved ground, watching as the miles to Tynemouth lessen until they were finally in single digits.
Strangely, we passed two signs that claimed it was 5 miles to Tynemouth, which was more annoying than it was confusing as it meant we still had 5 miles to go. But then, 3 minutes later, we were done. Reaching the official C2C post where it was time for photos and celebrations!
For most of us that was it, time to go home and relax and hope to not sit on a bike saddle for quite a while but for a crazy few it was a trip back to Newcastle to take part in the Great North Run the next day.
All in all it was a great time. Well done to all who took part from MEC and from Global Radio.
And to those who donated. Thank you.