Friday, 17 June 2011

Deloitte Ride Across Britain

Boasting nine daily stages, a small army of logistics people moving from point to point and over seven hundred cyclists, the Deloitte Ride Across Britain is arguably the most organised way to ride from John O' Groats to Lands End (otherwise known as a JOGLE).

I was lucky enough to get an invite from the nice folk at Halfords to ride the whole end to end, but alas my schedule is so tight at the minute, all I could afford was a daily stage.  I opted for the 114M run down from Carlisle racecourse, culminating at Haydock racecourse, a few miles from my home.
The Start Line
Weather forecast was changeable with predicted rain.  Arriving at the venue around half six, the departure point was already busy. and conditions were dry  A huge tent village had been erected just outside the racecourse entrance for the riders doing the end to end to sleep in.  As they depart, it gets broken down, loaded up and re-erected at their arrival point.

One of the selling points of this particular package is the fact that everything is organised for you.  Your accomodation, meals, feed stops and training programme is all included in the price of £1,200 per person.

Tent Village for Riders
Setting off from Carlisle, I wanted to make a point of talking to as many riders as possible about their motives for booking on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.  The key appeal was the fact that it's a turn up and ride package.  People were prepared to pay for the convenience.  Their well resourced website will tell you what you get.

So, what was my experience?

  • Everyone involved organisationally were all very friendly.  It was well drilled.  Bike security was taken really seriously, with plenty of visible security people and a tagging system to ensure that no one got into the compound or out with a bike.
  • Timing was done by a small sticker which you mounted on your helmet, must have had a small RFID chip in it.  It recorded your time out and in.   Times were uploaded to a website as soon as everyone was finished.
  • The feed stations were very well stocked.  Sandwiches, pies, bananas, chocolate, crisps, fruit, energy drink (Powerade) and water. There were three stops on the day.
Getting Stocked up before Shap
  •  Riders were of mixed ability.  Some experienced, some new.  I talked to lots of people who were riding either on their own, or as part of a group.  Hello to Ian who rode the Van Nicholas and Paul from Cisco who rides with Saddleworth Clarion, nice to chat to you both en route! Everyone had a different story.  Either they had been touched by someone close to them suffering a terminal illness and were riding in their memory, or others were just doing it for the personal challenge or for fundraising.
  • Jumping onto a group was difficult.  The groups that were riding, were generally friends and doing the whole JOGLE together, so it felt like being a gatecrasher at a dinner party at times.  I rode most of the leg on my own, other than a few passing conversations.  The Powerade cycling team were nice lads, I jumped on their group for about ten miles and they pushed a good pace. 
  • The route was well signposted.  My Garmin gave out just as I rolled over the line at Haydock, but you didn't need a Garmin for navigation.  I just used it for ride stats.
  • Mechanics from Halfords were at all the stops.  Most common problems they reported were loose bottom brackets due to the heavy rain, broken spokes and buckled wheels.  Boardman bikes were on stand-by at every stage in case you had a major mechanical, which I thought was a nice touch.
Halfords Spanners on Stand-By
  •  The Unicorn2 Race-Pace bike was a big hit.  Had loads of riders come up beside me and ask me about the paint job and what sort of bike it was.  For those that asked, the sprayer was Performance Race Art in South Wales.  Highly recommended painter if ever you fancy getting your bike re-sprayed.  Had the deep section SRAM S60's on for the event, they rolled really well and were super fast when descending (particularly with my weight on them). Continental 4000 tyres were rock solid reliable as always.
  • Weather was awful.   It was nice as we set out, but it soon deteriorated as the morning unfolded.  Going over Shap in the Lake District, there was a heavy fog.  Visibilility was about 30-40M only, so cars were just appearing from nowhere.  I found the climb up Shap pretty comfortable, to be honest, after the Fred Whitton Challenge, I've re-defined what I think a hard hill is!  After lunch, the heavens opened and it made for a very wet afternoon in the saddle.
Shap and the fog..
  • Clothing.  Went with Rapha bib shorts, overshoes, base layer, thermal vest and GS Gazetta cycling top with merino arm warmers.  Stuck my Castelli waterproof in the backpocket.  Had two pairs of gloves, short and long-fingered and my trusty Condor cap.  I wore everything on the day.  At times stripping back, when it threw it day, wrapping right up again.  Glad I wore what I did in the end as conditions were miserable at times.
  • Managed to get on the wheel of Sarah Storey for a bit.  She whizzed past me on her Dolan Hercules and I thought, let's do this.  Cranked it up a bit and rode beside her for a mile or so.  Her Shimano Di2 shifter had run out of charge, so she was stuck in a gear.  She was very cordial and as an ambassador for Deloitte, every inch the perfect host as she then accelerated off and I dropped off.  She's doing the whole JOGLE as part of her training.  Loved her gold handlebars!
  • Arriving at Haydock.  Seven and a half hours in the saddle, 114 miles and 4000 feet later, I'd got exactly the time I wanted (the race timing system counts your pit stops, my Garmin recorded ride time can be seen here).  Average 15.1mph, which for the route, weather conditions and urban traffic, I was pretty pleased with that.
  • Good luck to everyone carrying on.  My legs felt wrecked after that long day in the saddle, so am so respectful of everyone who had already put four days and around 550 miles in at this point, with the prospect of another four days to come.  Good effort all round.
  • And finally.  By chance spotted the new Boardman Air Pro in the Halfords pit at the lunch stop.  Just hidden away.  Apparently this is one of only two in the country at the minute, so I got the mechanic to bung it up on the stand for the picture.  Lovely looking bike, so will hope I get to review it.

In summary, the Deloitte Ride Across Britain is a very well organised event, aimed at the "turn up and go market".  If you want everything organised for you on an endurance cyclo sportive, then you'd be hard pressed to beat it.  My highlight of the day - getting these two Powerade water bottles which match my new bike paint job perfectly!  Little things eh.....
Nice one Powerade!

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