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A Fox on a bike

Caroline Fox C24 bike ride.JPG

It was not ideal. Approaching midnight on the eve of the big bike ride and I’m a fully paid up member of the Wide Awake Club. Ah well, sleep is over rated. The soothing sound of thunder and pouring rain eventually did the job, and I drifted off for 6 hours.

London had experienced a torrential downpour in the night and TFL was in meltdown. Phil, Support Driver #2, was travelling from Worcester. Luck was with us, his train got through. Roads though were in chaos, as the Support Boys experienced through the afternoon.

By 10.30am three bikes, three of everything I could possibly need (or so we thought), one peddler & two Support Drivers were in the van and heading to Crayford.

Start point of the 24 hour bike ride was the Matthew Clark depot in Crayford. There to wave me off was Mark Gilbert, one of the people who inspired me to do this ride and fundraise.

12pm Thursday 23rd June - Matthew Clark Crayford to Meantime Brewery, Greenwich

I set off at 11.56am to be precise and rode a route I knew well from training. Much steadier pace than normal but arrived at Meantime ahead of schedule. Greeted by the guys from Marketing, we had a couple of pictures and I was on the road again. The mind and body had just about coped with visiting a brewery and not having a taste!

The Support Team were stuck. In fact I would not see them until Brixton, more than 2 hours into the ride. London was gridlocked.

1.15pm - Meantime Brewery to Brixton via Westminster

Took a detour to capture Westminster on arguably the most important political day in our lifetime. I then headed south to my local pub where there was a small, cheering crowd and my Support Boys with coffee and sandwiches in hand. I trotted off to vote, had some pasta, hugged some friends and jumped back on the bike. The sun was shining and life on the bike was good.

2.45pm - Brixton to Sipsmith Distillery, Chiswick

Now. I live in Brixton. I’ve lived in west London too. I’ve cycled South London a lot. But I still managed a figure of eight in Wandsworth. Thirty minutes wasted, but I had arrived at Sipsmith Distillery to a warm welcome from the team. James and a herd of Gin Connoisseurs came pouring out of the back of the beautiful distillery and photos were taken. With a heavy heart I declined a Gin and Tonic and headed out into the rain towards Matthew Clark's Park Royal depot.

4pm - Sipsmith Distillery to Matthew Clark Park Royal

A short, quick peddle to Park Royal, still no sign of the support team so headed in for coffee and a chat with Team MC. The Boys arrived, but they had an issue. A puncture. If they were going to get one, this was the best place! Ryder had provided our van for free and based just a mile away. So after refilling my food & water stash, eating some pasta and changing to a waterproof jacket we headed our separate ways.

5.30pm - Matthew Clark Park Royal to Henley on Thames

I wanted to cycle over 200 miles and visit my sponsors in London. This meant a lot of time taken with little mileage at the start of the challenge but now meant I could get out into the countryside and do an unorthodox route to HQ.

Most of my training was done in Richmond Park. Lap after lap, trying to keep up with professional looking blokes on very expensive bikes. It was great and I loved trying to race them, even if they came out on top three out of four times. This time was different. No racing. Under strict instructions from #1 not to go out too fast. So I leisurely peddled round the park and did the thing that frustrated the hell out of me when training. Stopped and took a picture of the deer.

Onward past Hampton Court, through Kingston and weaved my way through tiny villages and into Windsor. Quick stop at a friendly rowing club and a call into the Support Boys to know I was on track for Henley. Beautiful cycling. After a sudden downpour, the evening cleared & would stay good all night.

As day turned to night I stopped at Henley to meet The Boys and to a cheer from a random group of pub goers who figured we were on a challenge!

Food and a change into night vision clothing whilst the Boys planned how they were going to leap frog me and keep in closer contact during the night. To be honest I didn’t listen. I knew they’d be in the right place and all I had to do was peddle. I got told off for not listening. I plugged in my music for the first time and set off for a night cycle disco.

10.30pm - Henley on Thames to Abingdon

I had a nightmare the week before the cycle. That I was chased by flesh eating zombies in the night. My main fear however, was being jumped by wildlife. Neither happened and the night leg was my favourite part of the adventure!

I saw the Boys a couple of times, parked up in case I needed anything. A few water and food stops, couple of minutes off the bike to stretch the limbs but otherwise nothing too big. I was making great time and #1 pulled me up as they caught me doing 21mph pushing a steady climb. I was not to blow myself up.

Around 12.30am

The night was going brilliantly. I changed gear. Nothing happened, but not unusual. Clicked again and pop. Gear lever went saggy. I didn’t panic as the van had two spare bikes and enough kit to build another. Just didn’t want to change off my lovely bike which I’ve cycled the country on.

The Boys had found a lay-by beside a row of houses and #1 set to work on my bike. The Great British public showed their support again. This time a couple, fresh from a night out, asked if we needed anything: coffee.. toilet.. gear cabling! Turns out Friendly Man was a cyclist but sadly did not have the right cable. But he continued to help #1 for forty-five minutes as one of the back up bikes was stripped of a gear cable. Yes. The one thing which was missing was the spare we needed.

An hour lost but worse stuff happens. By around 2 o'clock I was back peddling, gears working beautifully and putting my foot down to make up time.

5am - Abingdon to Bristol

It must have been approaching 4.30am when I had a scheduled food break at Abingdon. The Boys had found the only place open at such an hour: MacDonalds. Here I made a mistake. A what-was-going-through-my-brain-but-I-had-been-cycling-for-over-16-hours type of decision. I had a Quarter Pounder. I don’t think Sir Braders fuels himself on Maccy Ds. For good reason. Clearly.

I set off with the sun rising and feeling good. As morning broke, I felt increasingly sick & sleepy. The Quarter Pounder was not going to take me down. I resorted to drastic action. I needed adrenalin. I embarked on a half mile nerve wracking non-handed, flapping like a bird sprint down a country lane. That perked me up. So repeat. Managed to get to scheduled stop two hours later. Have refreshments, legs stretch and back to fighting fitness. Quarter Pounder beaten.

Country lanes in lovely weather for the next couple of hours. Through Royal Wooten Bassett and now the final stretch to Bristol. Whilst the weather was sunny, there was enough head-on breeze to make the peddling more of an effort. By this point the Boys were always 5 miles away. Great to see them, and as daft as it sounds, every time they over took me I felt really proud of what we were trying to achieve. Without them I could not have completed the challenge. Without my Shirt Sponsors, I could not have had them along. Much love and cheers to Matthew Clark, Boutique Beers, Ryder, Bottega, Meantime, Sipsmith and Nederburg Wines!

The final stretch into Bristol welcomed me with a torrential down pour! After 24 hours cycling I reached possibly the steepest climb of the journey. I crawl up to Clifton, walk the Clifton Suspension Bridge, have a French dude take my picture and then off I speed down hill…. Whoop whoop!

An hour after Clifton Suspension Bridge I peddled into Matthew Clark Whitchurch; I had got lost again along the way. The greeting had me in tears. The only tears of the whole challenge as loads of Matthew Clark colleagues were outside and hanging out of windows cheering! I was speechless but fortunately Webby gave me a beer which I glugged without thought of the Boys who were looking very thirsty. After a few tales and hugs we headed to our hotel for beer, food and sleep. C24 done!

Solo peddling for 211.3 miles over 25 hours & 1 minute. No sleep, just grit & determination to raise money for JDRF and Macmillan.

If you would like to support Caroline's fund raising effort you can do so by clicking here.

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