Adrian, a good friend and fellow cyclist, wanted to embark on a challenge to mark a significant birthday. He hit upon this:
Tommy still holds the record he set in 1939 for distance cycled in a year. 75,065 miles. A daily average of 205 miles. So if he could do it back in the thirties on a 4 geared steel bike and rudimentary clothing how hard could it be to match just one day.
We found out.
At 5am we departed from the Left Lion in Nottingham Market Square, the traditional and iconic local meeting point, with our first stop 80 miles away in Market Drayton. The overal aim was to arrive in Conway, North Wales, via Snowden in time for a welcome drink in The Albion.
Tommy had avoided hills.
Five of us were aiming for the entire route. We were joined by a couple of friends for 2 hours so we made them cycle on the front for as long as possible.
Unfortunately one of our number, Steve, succumb to a sickness bug and had to abandon near Burton but the four of us did the right thing by him and left him to make his own way home.
And really, save for a puncture, a couple of chain ships and a psycotic chicken the run to Market Drayton was uneventful.
I invented a new dish at our food stop, the rather splendid Festival Drayton Centre. Jacket potato, beans and bacon shall henceforth be known as Cowboy Jackets.
Leaving Market Drayton, the home of gingerbread as we discovered, things turned distinctly darker.
The promised rain started and persisted for several hours. Route finding became difficult as we tried to avoid the major roads as much as possible. Spirits definitely were on the slide even though we’d been joined by another couple of friends for the last 125 miles.
We dropped down to the A5 at Llangollen and thankfully the rain had subsided. The change in terrain as we entered the North Wales mountains broke the group up and soon we were ploughing our lonely furrows, or maybe it was just me.
What the A5 lacked in tranquility it made up for with a splendid road surface and the descent into Betws-y-Coed was a real highlight. I didn’t know it yet but I had forgotten to eat properly.
This hit me as we left Betws-y-Coed for Capel Curig, a steep climb out of town. I got to the top and suddenly had nothing. I was light-headed, wasn’t really sure what was happening but just kept pedalling.
This was a strange and dark time that finally ended when I spied the others at the Pinnacle Cafe. Two cans of coke, a bacon and egg bap, coffee and cake restored me somewhat but I left first, determined to get this over with.
I may have been a little grumpy at this point. We were still 60 miles from our destination and we hadn’t got over Pen-y-Pass (Snowden) yet. I needn’t have worried. The towering precipice of my imagination was a relatively small rise and we soon hurtling down the valley to Llanberis.
Bizarrely I bumped into a college mate I hadn’t seen for 17 years on the ascent.
So the worst was over, one more hill and then it was the flat run round the coast.
The ‘one more hill’ was a 20+% gradient monster that was just laughably hard. Laughably in that make it stop kind of way reserved for the bit in films when the protagonist know’s that he’s finally been broken.
The ‘flat run’ was lots of steep short inclines and then Adrian and I lost the cycle lane and were forced to use the A55 dual carriageway picking up a puncture for our trouble.
As the person responsible for the route I was perhaps the least popular person on the road by that point. The fact that I was sharing the suffering didn’t really engender much sympathy from my companions.
I also bonked again near Caernarfon.
Finally Conway came into sight around the bay and we knew we’d made it.
- 211 miles
- 13hrs of actual cycling (16hrs in total)
- 3,000 metres of climbing
- 7,000 calories
Rarely has beer tasted finer than those first few in The Albion. Made all the more special because Steve (who’d become ill) had phoned up the pub to put some money behind the bar for us.
A double century is an epic cycling challenge and one that I could only recommend before doing it or towards the end of the evening after having done it. My answer wouldn’t have been quite so positive while actuall engaged in it.