Monday, 21 June 2010

London to Brighton

Yesterday I took part in the British Heart Fountain's annual sponsored bike ride from London to Brighton which is 54 miles in total. I really wasn't as prepared as I could have been, though it didn't really prove a problem and I was one of the leaders of our group for the whole journey. So getting up at 4.30 was the first massive hurdle, and somehow I had forgotten to pack a load of stuff the night before. After actually getting in the car, we had to turn back twice to get things that we had forgotten, so not the best of starts, but at least we got somewhere.
We arrived in the suburbs of London and we could already see many people with bikes and numbers on their t-shirts ready for the race. Finally we were ready to go and suddenly we were cycling. One minute we were in the heart of London and in the next flash we were deep into the countryside with miles of green fields surrounding us, the sun shining and a light summer breeze tickling our arms.
It seems that my lack of training didn't mean a thing. I swear that at every single ascent there were crowds of people making it too busy to actually ride properly. The problem with have narrow country roads and 27,000 riders on them is that they really aren't big enough. If one person gets off, everyone behind them needs to get off and thus a bottle-necked jam forms. At one point we were stopped for around 40 minutes. The story is quite tragic. On the biggest climb which is around 864ft a man collapsed and had to be resuscitated and taken to hospital, and so the hill was blocked off and cyclists were told to stop throughout the whole course to decrease jams. I just feel really sad because when I came home I watched the news and it was said that he had died in hospital from a heart attack. I suppose we don't know his situation, but the fact that it happened on a charity bike ride, namely for the British Heart Foundation makes the whole circumstance a lot more tragic.
Despite the sadness of that one story the rest of the ride was great. There were other obstacles that I rode over, like receiving a puncture, also setting me back around 50 minutes and various other minor crashes happening right by us, but it all plays a part to making the day what it was.
Around 3 times during the day I saw these banners a husband had put up for his wife who was cycling and who he was getting a divorce with. Though evidently from these banners he did not want a divorce and had secretly put them up the night before to grab her attention in the hope of winning her over.

One read: 'Zoe, I accept I've made mistakes. Please, forgive me!'

Another said: 'Zoe, the bond that we both share could be deeper and stronger than ever. Give us that chance and allow our bond of love to blossom again.'

The third sign read: 'Unite us and our family so we may love, laugh and grow together. Why take advantage of us, let's take advantage of life. I love you Zoe! I always have and always will x.'

Another banner right at the end said: 'Come on Chicken - WAH! Flap those wings and shake that tail feather.

'You can do it! I'm roostering for you! Wing!'

Seriously. How embarrassing all around me there were people on their bikes laughing at these banners (they were hilarious) questioning what he had done, making up strange stories about this guy. Apparently, from an article I read about it, when his wife crossed the line she wasn't impressed and said they 'had to talk'. Oh dear.

Another moment I loved was first time riders asking their experienced London to Brighton friends whether 'this was the hill?' at every ascent. To which they almost always replied: 'No, trust me, you will know when THE Hill comes.' And rest assured I did know when it came. Though I cycled up the top half of it, just so I felt a sense of accomplishment when I reached the top and bought an ice cream.

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