It’s (almost) all over: arriving in Locarno

I am writing this post from a balcony high above Lago Maggiore, sipping fresh coffee and watching the sun come up on another clear, blue day. There’s no cycling to do today (sad face), but it is nice to have a quiet, relaxing morning after the past 16 days.

Yesterday we set off from Gotthard campsite in Andermatt after spending the evening with Sue and Ben my aunt and cousin respectively. Everyone else had a long, cold night with not much sleep as this was our coldest camp of the trip. I definitely felt lucky (and a little smug) about my Alpkit Pipedeam 400 down sleeping bag with a silk liner which has served perfectly for everything from the hottest summer night in France to an (apparently) cold night in Andermatt.

The long & winding road...again

The long & winding road…again

We have been very lucky with campsites over the past couple of weeks so we were due a duff one, so a word of warning: Gotthard Camping Andermatt is a small patch of grass with the facilities over the main road inside the cable car station. The campsite is a bit of an afterthought, but the facilities were at least clean. I would guess that it’s the only campsite in Andermatt because the lady running the place was pretty rude as well! Fortunately we only stay in campsites to sleep, so it was all soon forgotten as we got on the road. I think the mental and physical anguish from the previous day had worn everyone down because the start wasn’t the most efficient we’ve had. There’s something about setting off for the last day where you almost feel like it’s over so there’s no rush.

Happy to be half-way up

Happy to be half-way up

The climb for Gotthard starts a mile or so from the edge of Andermatt so I had a lighter breakfast (only 4 Weetabix!) and we just carried bananas and water. After yesterday’s ascents of Grimsel and Furka, Gotthard promised to be more straightforward, albeit with a cobbled section. Jen’s knee had improved and she was feeling positive about the last climb, so we all pushed on together. The photos show something of Jen’s determination, and I think her knee was somewhat more painful than she let on.

Struggling up the cobbles

Struggling up the cobbles

IMG_3833

Cobble fun

IMG_3800

Enjoying the climb a bit too much

Near the top of the Gotthard pass we were joined by Ben, who climbed the last couple of hundred metres with us. I think he had a better time than us on the cobbles as he’s got a full-suspension mountain bike!

Relief!  At the top.

Relief! At the top.

How high?

How high?

A hug of relief

A hug of relief

Always eat bananas up mountains

Always eat bananas up mountains

 

The Gotthard pass marked the end of the substantial climbs of the trip, but there was still over 50 miles to go to Locarno so we decided to stay on the main road as it wasn’t too busy. The cobbled path was fine for an ascent, but is a bit too jarring to descent at speed on a road bike. The only down-side to this decision was the 1.6km tunnel early on in the descent. It started as a gallery with an open side, but there is an extended section which is completely enclosed and it quickly became too dark for my sunglasses. Trying to hurtle through as quickly as possible so you aren’t constantly being overtaken is fine, but with nothing protecting my eyes I was soon streaming. I didn’t see a way to avoid the tunnel but use the main road for the descent, but the remaining long straights and picturesque hairpins made our choice a good one. The road surface was generally excellent and allowed a safe build up of speed. I can’t tell Mum, but the GPS clocked over 50mph down one straight, which I think was the same time I was overtaken by a very shiny black Ferrari. It was a shame the GoPro’s battery died after the time-lapse recording of our ascent, because that descent was fun!

Hairpin speeding

Hairpin speeding

Entering the darkness

Entering the darkness

Coming down cautiously

Coming down cautiously

Bending into the hairpin

Bending into the hairpin

Exiting the tunnel

Exiting the tunnel

As we descended towards Airolo we started pausing with the support team more frequently, taking longer breaks, and generally just winding down. Glancing at the GPS showed we weren’t making as good progress as we needed so unfortunately we had to part company with Ben for a short while to get back up to road-bike speeds. Just before we did I swapped bikes with Ben thinking “this will be easy, I’ve been cycling for the past two weeks”, but keeping up with Jen, Meg and Ben on roadies with 1.75″ knobbly tyres and road shoes with cleats on big flat pedals was arduous work and I felt pretty tired when we swapped back – good effort for keeping up with us Ben! Give me drop handlebars any day for long rides.

Lunch break

Lunch break

Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!

The Team

Almost there…maybe

Megan

Megan

Ryan

Ryan

Riding towards Bellinzona the heat started to feel oppressive. There was a thick cover of cloud and it looked a lot like we were going to get wet before the end. The humidity was right up there and we were more accustomed to a nice dry heat. At one point Jen started feeling dizzy so we had to pause just to make sure noone passed out. That would not have been a good end to the trip!

We were supposed to meet Ben and Sue in Bellinzona so Ben could ride the last section with us but we experienced the first technological failure of the trip: Megan’s phone died and ours were in the support vehicle. In the end we pushed on to Locarno but started feeling a little worried we were going to finish alone.

The stretch between Bellinzona and Locarno had a little sting in the tail and there were plenty of short sharp inclines before we arrived by Lago Maggiore. As soon as we hit the lake it started setting in that we’d made it.

We have finally arrived

We have finally arrived

Sue, Rico and Ben have been amazing and brought down Swiss flags and Union Jack bunting for us to cross the finish with. We must have looked pretty bizarre standing by the Locarno ferry terminal with cameras everywhere snapping away. There was time for a quick ice cream before I headed up the hill with Ben and jumped in the pool, with no intention of getting out before dinner.

Hello Locarno

Hello Locarno

So, what next? We’ve got a few hours before we have to set off on the long drive home, which will take Dad and Chris to Oxford, Bangor, Leeds and the Isle of Wight. There are too many photos and videos to even think about today, so it’ll have to be the pool. What a shame.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a huge thanks to everyone who’s helped us get here. Your donations have helped us raise over £2700 so far for the MS Trust and the Roy Castle Foundation, and the support we’ve received has really blown us away. Most nights we’ve been able to at least read the comments on the blog and Twitter, even if we weren’t able to reply to them, and knowing we had the support of everyone back home has done wonders for our morale and motivation.

 

The only way to sign off this post is with the biggest thanks of all to Dad and Chris. They’ve given up two weeks of “holiday” to set up and dismantle the team tent, feed us, clean up around us, provide us with timely suncream, food and water, provide emergency support when Jen’s knee has been at its worst, and everything else. Every day they were up before us and were working well after we’d arrived back in camp and got sorted out. Without their hard work and continued good humour there’s no way this trip could have succeeded, and running support is often a thankless task (we know we can be pretty demanding!).

Our amazing support team

Our amazing support team

 

The last "Lunge Photo of the Day" moment

The last “Lunge Photo of the Day” moment

Winner of Best Tan Lines Ever is....

Winner of Best Tan Lines Ever is….

 

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10 thoughts on “It’s (almost) all over: arriving in Locarno

  1. Mum reads this too, you know….

    Ryan, I have to say when you first mentioned this idea a couple of years ago, I though, yeah, whatever, that won’t happen. Silly me, I should have known you better! You’ve been amazing supporting Megan and Jen and they couldn’t have done it without you.

    Megan, no longer the non-outdoorsy fashionista in the family! What you have done is incredible, I still can’t believe it and am so glad you got there with time for a dip in the pool before you set off home.

    Jen, so glad you managed the vast majority of the ride, you deserve a medal for pushing on through the pain. Relax now and let you knee recover.

    Well done guys!!

    • Well done Ryan Megan and Jen you have all done so well glad you all made it and hope your Knee recovers now for you Jen enjoy your dip in the pool now all of you.

  2. Mum reads this too, you know….

    Ryan, I have to say when you first mentioned this idea a couple of years ago, I though, yeah, whatever, that won’t happen. Silly me, I should have known you better! You’ve been amazing supporting Megan and Jen and they couldn’t have done it without you.

    Megan, no longer the non-outdoorsy fashionista in the family! What you have done is incredible, I still can’t believe it and am so glad you got there with time for a dip in the pool before you set off home.

    Jen, so glad you managed the vast majority of the ride, you deserve a medal for pushing on through the pain. Relax now and let your knee recover.

    Well done guys!!

  3. I had so much to say about the unbelievable dedication, spirit and teamwork you guys have shown over the last few weeks and months… About how massively proud I am of what you’ve all achieved… But then Ryan’s spectacular tan lines blew all that out of the water and rendered me speechless. WOW.

  4. AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING!!!!!!!! This is a story that you’ll be telling your grand kids. Of course, they’ll ask, “if you wanted to visit Aunt Sue, why didnt you fly??” !!!

    Great achievement guys – kudos to everyone (including the support team). Just wish I could have been in Switzerland too.

    Next trip – cycle to North Carolina USA!!!!!!!!!!!

    BYW: I have loved keeping up with all of your comments/blogs & pics!

  5. Congratulations to you all, you are amazing. We have enjoyed reading the blog and seeing how you were getting on, the photos are really good and talk about tan lines OMG !!!!!. Great job Richard and Chris too. you will be talking about it forever. Le Tour de France next !!!!!!! x

  6. ‘Congratulations’ hardly seems to cover it! Great job by all involved – I’ll miss the daily updates. Looking forward to the book though… and I wonder who’ll play Megan in the movie version?

  7. As one half of the support team I have seen what an amazing effort has been shown by all, great team work supporting each other through some challenging times. I have been so proud to have been part of it, it has reduced me to tears on many occasion, thanks for your support in pulling me through each time xx

  8. So, now the recovery starts. Well done Team Pedal. I’m proud to have been part (a little part) of it. Chris. ps I’m glad Richard woke me in the pool otherwise I would have got a suntan (or worse)!

  9. Many thanks to our anonymous donation givers who we met en-route. An anonymous couple near Tumbridge Wells who had just come out of a wedding £5, the owner of Blacklands camp site (see blog) £5, an anonymous genltleman who approached the car at a set of red traffic lights £20, and an anonymous couple from Wales who came to the camp in Andermatte to find us having seen us drive through the village 10 Swiss Francs. I took these donations in cash and am now going to pass it on to the donations website Thanks everyone, Chris.

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