Tour de Friends Ride 14 – Tales of the South to North finale

by Joanna Hammond

Tour de Friends Ride 14 – Tales of the South to North finale

So here we are on the final day of the Tour de Friends Challenge. In the region of 50 miles or 80km from the furthest south of our region in Ashton Keynes, to the furthest north in Mickleton. The weather forecast has looked a bit like rain, so car packed up last night with dry clothes, blankets, spare shoes etc. It’s 6am, very dark and the rain is hammering down outside our door. My husband Noel is coming along all day today as my support crew to meet me in the car with supplies at various points along the route. Energy breakfast of porridge and toast and we set off towards the starting point. As we are travelling the weather gets worse and standing water and flooding starts appearing on the road. Really not sure if we are going to be able to safely do this.

Flooding in South Cerney

We decide to keep going and arrive in Ashton Keynes just before 8am – scheduled start time. Raining too hard so we decide to give it half an hour and see. By 8.45am rain is stopping so I decide it’s now or never – we’ll give it half an hour of cycling and then see if the conditions to cycle are safe. So we’re off! And it seems we’re going to be lucky – half an hour in and the rain has stopped and there is no wind and it’s mild – perfect cycling conditions. However, the roads are very wet and there is a great deal of standing water so I’ve got to take it easy and not go too fast – a little bit of a problem when you’ve got 80km to go! Make my way through Cerney Wick and South Cerney (avoiding a flood or two on the road) and head up to Cirencester (quick meet with support crew husband for biscuits and tea – just what was needed!) and then onto the White Way towards Andoversford. Have to cycle through one flooded section here as there was no way around so shoes now a bit wet!

Husband Noel with soup and sandwiches

Stopped halfway along to chat to Nicky Price on the BBC Glos radio show to tell her all about the challenge – then on my way again. (You can listen to the interview here: Arrived in Andoversford (meet Noel again for hot soup and bread) and we quickly push on. Sevenhampton and Brockhampton (very big hills!) and then on towards Guiting Power. I’m meeting Kat Brown at Guiting to join me for the last section of the route. Kat is a friend but is also now a Silver medallist in the cycling time trial from the recent Invictus Games in Germany – she is amazing! Problem though – when I get there Kat and Noel are puzzling over the front wheel of Kat’s bike which won’t seem to go back on after it’s been transported in the car. Technical problems Kat's bike 3 I wait a while (more soup, cookies and drink!) but we decide I’m going to have to keep going and they will see if they can catch me up. There is a horrible hill out of Guiting Power and I am definitely having an energy dip – I think about all the amazing clients I have met along the way from the charity and this keeps me going! After a few more miles Kat and Noel catch me up in the car with Kat’s bike. The brake is pretty much stuck fast on Kat’s bike but she is determined to give it a go anyway and we cycle to Bourton on the Hill and then down and down to Blockley. As we start to head upwards out of Blockley, we realise Kat just can’t go any further with her brake stuck – I don’t know how she got this far but the company was just the boost I needed – thanks Kat! She jumps back in the car with Noel and joins my entourage! Out to Broad Campen now (more awful hills and feeling a bit tired now) then Chipping Campden and just about three miles to go to the end point in Mickleton from here. Noel gives me a bag of Jelly Tots for a final sugar boost that I tuck into the pocket of my cycling top and this seems to be the mini boost I need. Get onto the road to Mickleton and it seems it is two miles downhill all the way – what a fantastic way to finish. Into the village and as I round the corner to see The Butchers Arms pub, there is a crowd of volunteers, clients, staff and Trustees waiting with balloons, banners, flowers and a massive cake (thank you team and thank you to Elaine our volunteer for the cake). Drink and cake all around and the challenge is done!

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What an incredible time I have had undertaking this challenge. The absolute joy of it has been the fantastic people I have met – so many clients to tell me their stories, so many inspiring volunteers, the great work the staff team are doing, calling in at lunch clubs and activities like walking football and our new friendship café and garden and meeting other inspiring organisations like the North Cotswold Foodbank and Chipping Campden Home Nursing. It helps us all remember why we are doing this – to help and support older and vulnerable people in our Cotswolds community so no-one is lonely or isolated. If you could give a few pounds towards helping us continue our work, it would be very much appreciated. If we can get help you or someone you know, please do get in touch and if you might have an hour or two to spare each week – more volunteers are needed!

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Visit www.justgiving/campaign/tourdefriends Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this challenge possible – I really appreciate it.

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