Each of the three days we have ridden have been themed:
Day One, heading to Brands Hatch, it was appropriate that the theme would be Kent’s John Surtees. An English Grand Prix motorcycle road racer and Formula One driver, he was a four-time 500cc motorcycle World Champion – winning that title in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960 – Formula One World Champion in 1964, and remains the only person to have won World Championships on both two and four wheels.
The theme for Day Two was The Few
Sunday’s theme was to be Teamwork…
Elspeth, Duncan (more about them later) and I set of just before 8.00am and headed towards what we knew would be our first big obstacle of the day. Our route took us up to Dover Castle. One of the largest castles in England and proudly standing on top of the iconic White Cliffs, our route to the castle consisted of a 10% average gradient climb over 1km. We set out a little ahead of the main group to allow Elspeth and Duncan (and me!) a fighting chance of cresting the hill before the main peloton followed…
Despite our concern of having to manage such a challenging climb without an opportunity to warm up, we did reach the top and continued on for about another 2 miles before the first of the other riders caught up with us, by which time we were enjoying a relatively flat ride on top of the cliffs.
The rest of our journey through to the first refreshment stop took us along the edge of the coast through Deal and Sandwich and on to Cliffsend. A distance of approximately 18 miles.
From here, we cut across to Herne Bay and Whitstable, continuing our coastal tour until we headed inland for an ‘optional’ stop at The Freewheel cycling pub/café. This was a great opportunity to rest for a few minutes and have a well deserved cold drink (the weather was definitely warming up by that point) before continuing on to Faversham and Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewery, another of the ride sponsors and the location, after 46 miles, for our lunch stop! They laid on a terrific spread for us with plenty of pasta to fuel us up for the remainder of our trip and not to mention some other carbs too
Suitably refreshed(!) we headed on for our last afternoon in the saddle. At 62 miles we stopped at another of Goatham’s orchards in Gore, took on some more liquids and bananas and prepared for our final stint.
In the spirit of teamwork, the organisers of the ride wanted everyone to finish the ride together so Steve, Kev and I, offered to ride with Elspeth and Duncan to the finish in Hoo, keeping everyone together and encouraging them up the last couple of climbs of the day. Elspeth is (and I hope she doesn’t mind me saying) 62 and first got to know Steve on the Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride in 2014. She intended to ride in 2014 & 2018 to commemorate the WW1 Centenary but, much as I did after my first H4H Ride, got hooked and has ridden all of them since. It’s fair to say that she’s not the fastest rider in the peloton but she is none the less determined and great fun to be around. Duncan is another Ex-Sapper (Royal Engineer) and a good friend of Steve’s. Duncan suffered a heart attack earlier in the year but despite this, drove the support van (and cycled some days) of Steve’s John O’Groats to Lands End ride and wanted to complete the 3 day challenge.
We made good time over the last 14 miles, arriving at the foot of Windmill Hill and the final climb of the day. The rest of the group were waiting for us at the top but as we began our ascent, a couple of them cycled back down to ride with us and provide additional encouragement to Elspeth and Duncan. We arrived at the top to cheers and applause! It was a great achievement to complete the last climb in one go. At the top, we re-grouped behind the Cycle-Tec lead vehicle and all headed to the finish at Flanders Farm where we had begun our adventure on Friday morning, some 223 miles ago!
We were presented with superb medals at the finish before Steve Craddock and Steve Wolfe (CEO of the Kent Sports Trust) said a few words thanking everyone for their participation and presenting a signed Help for Heroes flag to Goatham’s for their wonderful support throughout the event. Some ‘fines’ were dispensed (not least for Steve who despite having designed and recce’d the route, managed to miss an orange arrow at Dover Castle and went the wrong way!) and awards were presented in recognition of various individuals’ contributions to the 3 days.
Finally we said our farewells before packing up our kit and heading home. I’m sure most of us will see each other again next year…
Finally, it was wonderful to see so many families and friends at the finish to welcome us home. I happened to overhear a comment at the finish which I thought summed up the weekend perfectly…
“Hello Daddy, we’re having a takeaway for tea!”
As always, thanks for all of your generous support over the last few months.
And to those new friends I met on the ride, please stay in touch!
Click on the link to view a ‘fly-by’ of today’s ride: www.relive.cc/view/1086660916