After our celebration meal last night, we were given a chance of a lay-in. Breakfast at 7.30am then packed and away at 8.30am. It was due to be another warm day. Despite various aches and pains, everyone was looking forward to it but more than a little disappointed that our adventure was drawing to a close.
We set off in peloton and stayed close together for the first 5 miles. By this stage in the ride you normally know who is likely to be cycling around you as groups of cyclists of similar ability tend to gravitate towards each other.
After just 5 miles we were treated to a short stop and some healthy refreshments courtesy of Eastwell Manor. A lovely setting and ice cold drinks were gratefully received even though were were only 30 minutes into the days riding.
Mini treatments were apparently on offer but I don’t think that anyone succumbed. I think that if anyone had, that would have been their day ended in the relaxing environment of a Champneys Spa!
We were searching around for a bit of shade and ended up in the courtyard for a team photo before heading back out and onto our biggest challenge of the day – Wye Hill.
Steve had been psyching us up for this one! It’s regarded as one of the Ten best cycling climbs in Kent and after 1.7 miles of gradients up to 10% you can see why. The view from the top of the North Downs is stunning (I actually got photographic evidence this time!). I’m pleased to say that I maintained my record of cycling up all of the hills and not having to resort to walking.
To be honest, I was feeling quite pleased with myself by this point but I was soon to come crashing back down to earth (though, thankfully not literally). A couple of miles after the photo was taken I was riding with a couple of the ride captains and we were making really good progress when I suffered a puncture. Not a problem… I have these all the time and know how to swap a tube and get going again (or so I thought). The tube was duly replaced and the tyre was inspected for the culprit – there was a lot of flint washed on to the road. I got ready to go but as soon as I sat on the bike it punctured again. It transpired that the cause was in deed a razor sharp bit of flint but it had actually slashed the sidewall of the tyre and I hadn’t noticed in my haste to get moving again.
The tyre was beyond repair so the ride captains (Adrian, Richard and Steven) kept me company while we awaited the Cycle-Tec support vehicle to bring me a replacement tyre which was fitted without further incident and then the ride captains did their best to haul me along the road a little quicker than I would have otherwise gone in an attempt to recover some time to the next water stop at 20 miles. The spirit of this ride is such that everyone waited at Chartham for me even though I’d delayed them by nearly 30 minutes.
After leaving Chartham we had the most wonderful ride through picture postcard Kentish villages – most of which I’ve tried to remember so that I can visit again (but perhaps without the bike, and with a little more time to stop and enjoy them next time!)
Lunch was at 30 miles at the Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham. We grouped together on the outskirts of Faversham and cycled the last couple of miles together. There was a real buzz when we reached the Brewery. There were plenty of supporters waiting for us and the hospitality we received was second to none. Complimentary drinks (but I had to keep reminding myself that there was still 30 miles to go plus I needed to drive home) and a superb pasta lunch were gratefully received.
The sports therapists from UEL that had been supporting the bike ride across all three days, seemed to be very busy all of a sudden before we left Faversham and continued on our journey.
The final stop of the day was to be at the Naval Memorial at Chatham for an opportunity to reflect and remember those naval personnel who have no grave. There are three naval memorial, all built to the same design; one in Chatham, Plymouth and one in Portsmouth (which I visited the day before my very first Help for Heroes Ride in 2009).
Steve gave a short introduction, wreaths were laid and Garrie (my room-mate and ex Royal Engineer) read the exhortation.
A short silence was kept before Steve invited us to look at the names on the memorial (there are more than 8,500 from 1914-18 and over 10,000 from 1939-45) and remember one name on the 11th November this year.
From the memorial we rode in small groups through Chatham, Rochester and Strood before joining up again in Hoo so that we could ride to the finish at Goatham’s as one. Like last year, there were a large number of riders’ friends that welcomed us home with banners, hooters, flags and cheers. We were treated to a glass of bubbly to celebrate our achievement before we had farewell speeches from Steve Craddock on behalf of Help for Heroes, Steve Wolfe on behalf of the Kent Sports Trust, and Clive Goatham who presented us with our trophies.
I’m really excited at the prospect of doing it all again next year. If you’re interested then please drop me a line and I’ll only be too happy to put you in touch with the organisers.
Thanks for keeping an eye on my blog over the last few days. Don’t forget to check back from time to time to see what I’m up to next…
Click on the picture below to check out today’s route in more detail:
If you want to see a flyby of the route, click on the link below: