Day 15 – Interlaken to Andermatt . Grimselpass and Furkapass

Where to start? Today has been the single most challenging day of my entire life. However, reaching the top of both Grimselpass and Furkapass climbing a total of 2,777 metres on a continous incline at gradients varying from 7-10%, has to be the single most rewarding and momentous achievement of my entire life.

There were terrifying, hairy moments with sheer clif drops, big loud scary lorries and huge gusts of winds that shot my nerves to shreds, but having Ryan there with me reassuring me along the way, and constantly encouraging me to press on kept me going until I got to the top. We also had our wonderful support team leapfrogging us up the passes, stopping to take photos of us on the crazy hairpin bends and supplying us with ample water and energy-filled snacks.
There were moments when I questioned whether I could actually reach the top, my legs felt like they might explode and my fear kept creeping up and creating a lump in my throat. (which makes it extremely hard to breathe may I add). Ryan, Jen, Dad and Uncle Chris were all there to cheer me on , and I am so pleased that they half encouraged/ half bullied (Ryan) me to push on. Today, I learnt a whole new meaning of the term “tough love”.
Ryan was absolutely fantastic today, I really can’t stress that enough. Considering he could probably demolish both passes in half the time we did them in, he stuck by me the whole way, pacing me , reassuring me that I could do it and at one point even peeled a banana for me and instructed me how to eat it (As i was too tired and couldnt remember how to!)
After a very hilly start to the day, after we took the route on the opposite side of Lake Brienz. Our intended route was relativly flat, and our actual route turned out to be very hilly. Jen, despite her painful knee, was a trooper, and we had a great average pace which made for a prompt arival at the bottom of Grimselpass. She then became a member of the Team Pedal support team for the duration of the climbs, taking some awesome photos and shouting some much needed encouragment from the windows as they drove past us !
After climbing Grimselpass, we had a short decsent and then climbed Furkapass straight after. After that climb we had the exciting reward of having a welcome party at the top. Our Auntie Sue and cousin Ben, made the journey from Locarno (our final destination) to Furkapass to welcome us !!
After a short decsent to Andermatt (for which I had to sit in the car because my nerves were shot and i was absolutely terrified- the Furkapass roads have the most ridiculous “barriers” i have ever seen in my life)
We have now set up camp in Andermatt and are enjoying our last night of camp before our last day of the trip !

Just a little note – we have just had 2 wonderful strangers, from Wales, knock on our tent and commend us on our venture and offering a donation. The kindness of strangers knows no bounds ūüôā
All in all I would like to say a massive thankyou to Everyone for such wonderful words of support and encouragment.
A huge well Done to my fellow team pedalers, and tomorrow .. let’s go out in style.
St. Gotthards pass then onto Locarno . Ryan , Jen .. let’s do it ūüôā XX

Here’s a few pics ! :

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Day 1 – Bangor to Shrewsbury

So it’s the end of day one .
90 miles done from Bangor in North Wales to Shrewsbury in Shropshire.
We are currently sat around camp discussing tomorrow’s route and checking over the bikes .
We were very lucky with the weather today, aside from setting off in gloomy rain and strong winds this morning.
It started out a bit minging, and having not cycled in a whole week , the first hills were a little tough with the wind and rain to slow us down.
We headed down the A5 through Betws -y-coed and Pentrefoelas before reaching Whittington .
Apologies .. But hectic evening , settling into daily team pedal life has taken its toll. We’re all tented up and heading to sleep 10pm! Blogging will be more interesting , thorough and overall better in the days to come .
We’re all well. Optimistic and excited for the ride to Oxford tomorrow !
Goodnight !

Crimea Pass, Bumble bees and Pecan Pie.

I have mixed emotions towards the three elements of this blog title.

Take Bumble bees for example, I can cope with them if they bumble on past me about a meter away. They’re better than wasps, worse than flies, but I can cope. I can’t, however, cope with Bumble bees crashing into my face, about 2cm from my mouth, when I’m sailing down a long hill at 30mph. The small bug felt more like a tennis ball.

Crimea pass, I can cope with when It’s a Welsh name said in passing conversation when Ryan’s talking me through the route I’m taking that day. Crimea is also an okay word when described in a sentence as “rather pleasant”. I eventually found out that Crimea Pass is actually a pretty substantial hill climb from Betws-y-coed towards¬†Blaenau¬†Ffestiniog.

So Saturday after work, my parents and I drove over to North Wales to see my brothers and to enable me and Ryan to get an impromptu Team Pedal training day in on the sunday. When we¬†arrived¬† Ryan had some bad news that he had pulled his back and it was causing him a considerable amount of pain . In the hope that it would be better in the morning we planned a 100 mile route ¬†out on the A5 towards Bala and back towards¬†Caernarfon¬†and home again . We talked a bit about the ride, and current training and preparation for our big ride to Switzerland as it is only 2 and a¬†half¬†weeks away now! It was also a great¬†opportunity¬†to have us all in one room discussing the finer details of day to day camping life on the trip; i.e. what kind of meals we’ll be having , what time we aim to be finished cycling for the day and how many euros we’re planning on taking the fund the trip. So all in all a good excuse for a good chin wag. We headed to bed at about midnight and set alarms for 7.45 the next ¬†morning , hoping to be out by 9am for a long ride. Sadly , Ryan’s back was no better in the morning, and was in fact a lot stiffer. After he attempted a slow climb onto the bike, he concluded that he couldn’t go out on a ride, and that I would in fact have to go out ALONE.¬†Now, whilst I do enjoy cycling alone, it’s nowhere near as enjoyable as it with Ryan and Jen. Setting off on a long ride, it’s also much more daunting when I’m attempting it alone.

I set out on a roughly 80 mile route following the A5 down to Betws-y-coed and then following A roads in a biiiig loop around Snowdon back towards home again.

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The first leg of the A5 was a little disheartening as it took me a little while to fully warm up, and I had to stop twice to adjust my cleats on my shoes. After a rocky start, I set a good pace of 15-17mph and got stuck in. I have a mini-tradition (as in I’ve now done it twice.) that I stop for a photo at Llyn Ogwen. It’s too pretty not to.

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Whilst I was out on this ride, there was also a pretty major racing event taking place around Snowdonia; The Etape Eryri – The Snowdonia Sportive. Upside to this was the roads were full of cyclists and it was a really great atmosphere, at one point I was cycling down the A5 into Betws-y-coed, whilst the race was trudging uphill in the other direction which made me obnoxiously thankful ( even though I was fully aware that , to go down a hill , means at some point you WILL have to go back up). Downsides to this, I hate to say it, were that on several occasions is seemed to me that traffic assumed that ALL cyclists were travelling in that one direction, thus missing me completely and cutting me up. One traffic flow officer was actually waving a car across in front of me , and I had to shout to make her aware of my presence. By this point the car had already pulled out halfway into the road. Anyway, busy atmosphere, busy roads, all to be expected. All in¬†valuable¬†experience I guess. It’s safe to say as well that throughout the day I got pretty tired of doing the “Cyclist-nod” to every single cyclist who passed me. It would be rude not to, of course.

 

Crimea Pass

Crimea Pass

So , as I mentioned earlier, Crimea Pass…. a very, very, very, long hill from Betws-y-coed up to Blaenau Ffestiniog. To say I wasn’t expecting it would be a gross understatement. I would say “you’d have thought Ryan would’ve warned me” but really, I know better. In a way I’m glad he didn’t, I think my lack of dread, and my sudden surge of fearful energy got me partially up the pass with some optimism and vigour. I then settled into what I like to call my “all day pace” and eventually reached the top. I had to stop and take a photo part-way up , but sadly the photo doesn’t really do the pass justice.

Crimea Pas up to Bleaneu Ffestiniog

Crimea Pass up to Blaenau Ffestiniog

I wish I could remember all the finer details of my ride, as it really was an incredible route, and although after reaching the top of crimea,I sent Ryan a text simply saying :

“” ¬† “PLEASANT” were your words!. “”

..I actually really enjoyed the whole ride.

A view of Blaenau Ffestiniog

A view of Blaenau Ffestiniog

After reaching Blaenau I stopped for an essential bagel and banana as my energy was dwindling. Had to take a picture though of the WORLDS SMALLEST BANANA : (please note, I have quite small hands as it is.)

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I then went on to follow A roads into Porthmadog, Tremadog and finally Dolbenmaen before joining the national cycle route that took me to¬†Caernarfon. I had to play some music on my phone for a little while when I was on the cycle path. I found that silence ALL day ¬†just meant that I kept on either repeating or sometimes singing Welsh town names round and round in my head. “Blaenau Ffestiniog” was a popular tune of the day.

When I reached¬†Caernarfon (and the finish line of the race that was taking place that day) a couple of people clapped as I cycled past, thinking I was taking part in the big race around Snowdonia. I smiled sheepishly and thanked them, even though I hadn’t done even half the amount of hills that the racers had done. As I was cycling through I actually managed to spot the family out on their walk. My¬†initial¬†thought process was “awesome, cycling done, I’ve got a lift back”….then I realised the¬†likelihood¬†of that being kosher. After a quick hello, a chocolate orange ice cream and a quick dose of the awesome¬†atmosphere¬†of the aftermath of the race at the finish line I was back on my bike for the final 11 miles of my route. The sky was cloudy, it was attempting the rain and the green fly population was¬†rapidly¬†increasing.

I finished the day with two hills up from Tregarth towards Racub. Put every last ounce of energy into it, and ended the day pleased with what I’d done. My story¬†concludes¬†to this wonderful , wonderful ending. After cycling the 75 ish miles, it was ALL worth it because when I got home I had the promise of Luke’s speciality CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE ¬†waiting for me. YUM. Now that I can¬†definitely¬†cope with!!!

The days ride was awesome,¬†North Wales really is stunning, and I think that every time I visit it. ¬†Sunday’s ride was a huge¬†achievement¬†for me as it was the longest distance I’ve done alone without:

A) Getting lost    B) Falling off my bike    C) Ending up in the wrong city

So, overall, a good day, and great prep for the trip.

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I have Wednesday off work , so I’m planning a ride for that . Then this Saturday I’m running my 10K race for life with my friend, Lauren. Riding sunday will be interesting after the run, but it uses different muscles, so I’ll probably prefer cycling to walking anyway ! Then it’ll be the weeks rest before the Switzerland trip. It’s all coming around SO FAST!

xxx

 

Cobble Crisis!

At the weekend I managed to get out for a ride on both days. On Saturday I set out at about 1pm with the aim to go to Huddersfield and back. Using the national cycle routes, I made my way down towards Mirfield and then onto Huddersfield. The weather was lovely but one downside has to be the sheer amount of greenflies in the air. Cycling on green, thick wooded routes means clouds and clouds of them….so high speeds are difficult when it is¬†imperative¬†that you keep your mouth closed! I dread to think how many I ate / squished / inhaled.

Despite the creepy crawlies I maintained a good average speed of about 12 and completed the 25 mile roundtrip in 2 and a half hours, stopping for a little snack here and there.

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On Sunday I did a longer ride, setting off at about 12pm I headed out towards Haworth. I have fond memories of a primary school residential to Haworth, and thought it would be a nice destination for lunch. The round trip would be 40 miles, to Haworth and back.

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The route was fantastic. I cycled through a couple of lovely parks with cycle paths in great condition, some grim A-roads in horrific condition and some extremely fast main roads with maniac drivers trying to cosy up to me.

The first leg of the ride was out towards Thornton, near Bradford and it is without a doubt the prettiest place I have ever cycled through in West Yorkshire.

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Rolling green hills and endless fields with horses in, the roads were great to cycle on and navigate through. At one point the beauty of the place was however too much, as I had to walk my bike through Thornton’s very own “secret garden”.

(The small blue patch is the path opening!)

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At one point I had to stop at take a photo of the hill I was about to climb. When I reached the top, the descent actually had a (albeit small) hairpin bend. Although it took me by surprise, I did manage to stay on my bike and keep to my side of the road.

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About 5 minutes away from Haworth I reached a T-junction onto the A629 and turned left, thinking “yes, turn left here and I’ll be in Haworth in no longer than 5 minutes”. 15 minutes, a 34 mph descent and two towns later I thought “I should really stop and check the map,because I should really be in Haworth by now”. ¬†Turns out I should’ve turned Right, not left, and I was now in fact in Halifax not Haworth. Change of plan.

After checking the map and finding a route back home again, I finally ate some food. Having missed my Haworth target, I was seriously peckish and needed some energy. The next few roads were horrible in and around Halifax. Cobbled, narrow, steep roads that were difficult to navigate and impossible to cycle down.

I had a wonderful welcome to one¬†particular¬†cobbled hill. Upon turning into the street another cyclist was exiting as I was entering. I said a friendly “Alright there” and smiled optimistically, to which he just replied: “you won’t be at the top of that”. I soon saw what he ¬†was referring to, the mammoth cobbled hill ahead of me. The hill¬†was so mean, my legs actually came to a stop and I only just unclipped in time. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one to admit defeat; I had to take a cheeky snap of the cyclist further on infront of me walking his bike up the hill too.

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So a few steep climbs later I emerged on another a-road that would take me back home. Sundays route actually proved to be the most physically challenging route I have ever done by myself. The uphill climbs were really hard going and maintaining a good speed downhill helped build up my confidence. A pretty good training weekend overall.

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Kerry came over for the weekend too, so being out for rides meant I didn’t get to spend that much time with her. However, I came home from work on Monday evening to find her and dad in the driveway painting the bike trailer for the trip!!

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Impressed doesn’t even cover it. They’d stenciled on the logos of our charities and the name and website for Team Pedal. So when I got home we got the paint out and set out on finishing the trailer that evening! The finished result is pretty exciting, and the trip feels very very real now, and soon. ¬†3 and a half weeks to go !

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Me and Dad are responsible for the Calais – Basel section of the expedition so that evening we got cracking on mapping routes through France, and the overall route is coming along nicely !

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I was planning on going to Wales this Sunday, driving down Saturday night after work, to fit in a last 100 mile ride before our trip. However, It turns out I have to work Sunday and there’s no way of covering it … so I’m pretty¬†disappointed. ¬†This also means that I only have one day off this week, so Thursday will have to be VERY productive.

24 days !!!!!!

‘Til next time.

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Megan xx

Beware children and puppies.

Additional training weekend in Wales 25/05/13

I had last weekend off work so I quickly made plans with Ryan for me to drive over to Wales after work on the Friday and spend the weekend and bank holiday with him, fitting in some long distance rides.

We were unbelievably lucky and were graced with lovely weather both Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday . Day 1:
On Saturday morning the sky was clear and bright blue and the sun was shining , so we smothered ourselves in P20 and set off with Ryan’s friends, Dave and Steph, to do an 80 mile round trip to Pwllheli and back to Rachub.

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I was a little nervous about the ride , as the longest I’d done was the 74 miles to Chester . Also, having recently failed my attempt at the 80 mile trip Leeds – Nottingham, I really needed a successful day of cycling.

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The day went smoothly , we stopped every 15 or 20 miles to eat some bagels and bananas and I found that my energy levels and stamina were greatly improved compared to the last long ride I’d done. So I’m doing something right.
The only drama of the day was when we were riding along the cycle path in Caernarfon and a small child careered into my path. I jolted to the left to get out of his way but he rode straight into me . Good job kids’ heads are ”spongy” as Ryan describes them, because his face literally bounced off of my handlebars . I was really worried about him and couldn’t stop apologising , but there was no blood and he wasn’t hurt badly , thank god.
I’m now incredibly cautious and nervous when cycling near small children, as they’re incredibly unpredictable and veery.

We finished the days ride with 2 strava hills , leading up from Tregarth back to Rachub, so ended the day with a sprint back to Ryan’s house.
When we got back , we did some quick bike maintenance in the sun and sorted them for the following day.

80 miles done and dusted.

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Sunday. Day 2:

So Sunday, I woke up feeling ravenous, which Ryan said was a bad sign as it meant I hadn’t eaten enough the previous day to sustain enough energy , whilst recovering from the previous days’ ride. So, note to self… Eat more.
There were no aches or pains so I was keen to get out on the bike again.

We decided on a route along the coast that followed mainly cycle path from Bethesda to Prestatyn. 40 ish miles there and back , equalling another day of 80 miles.

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It was apparent from quite early on that I was lacking energy, and was constantly hungry. So when we reached the 20 mile mark , to have a quick ‘half-bagel stop’ I actually had to eat a whole bagel, some flapjack and a banana to feel relatively full!

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Once I’d eaten, I felt much better and we pressed on in the sun with the plan of cycling the 40 ish miles to Prestatyn and then turning around and cycling back again.

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As the route was mainly on the sea front, and the weather was glorious, it was extremely busy and I spent the best part of my day weaving in and out of children and dodging baby chihuahuas. At one point I came too close to beheading a puppy , it was very scary! I weaved past it shouting ‘little dog, little dog , little dog’… Not really knowing why, but hoping to get someone’s attention , but no , the 20cm long dog came bounding closer to me, but I missed him by a whisker, so no blood there either.

So apparently I’m a danger to society, a threat to children and puppies. Great.

We finished the day cycling back the way we came , climbing 240 metres from sea level to get back home.

Dramas and hunger aside , the second day of cycling went really well.
We finished Sunday on another 80 miles, totalling the weekend at 160 miles. I’m really pleased with the success and really enjoyed both routes.

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Today’s Route!

Today's Route!

I drove to North Wales last night after a long week at work, to spend the weekend cycling with Ryan. Now for a great weekend ahead with 2 days of long distance routes and some good up-hill climbs around Snowdonia.

Today we’re doing a route that is roughly 40 miles each way to Abersoch and back, roughly 80 miles in total.

Nearly 5 weeks to go until the Switzerland trip!

77 miles to Nottingham – An iPhone battery life of 6 hours = 54 Miles to Kiveston Bridge train station and a very lost and disappointed Megan

Yesterday was my first ever solo long ride. The plan was to cycle the 78 miles from Dewsbury to Nottingham city centre via Barnsley, Rotherham, Chesterfield and a few more towns along the way. After setting off at 7.30am I was in high spirits, feeling really optimistic about the route ahead despite the persistent rain and grey sky. Image

 

I’d mapped my route using Google maps and had¬†deliberately¬†tried to stay on cycle routes ¬†for the majority of the ride, with the logic that I’d build up more speed when there was no road traffic involved. Oh, how wrong I could be. The Trans¬†Pennine¬†Trail that ran down the side of Barnsley, The Dearne Valley, was far better suited to mountain biking. The majority of the trail followed the disused Barnsley canal, and the trail can’t have been more than a metre wide, and in some areas it was flanked by barbed wire on one side and a wooden fence on the other. This made my average speed drop drastically. After being so desperate to stick to cycle routes whilst planning my route, I was shocked when I wanted to join back onto the A roads again.¬†

Navigation wise, there were quite a few hiccups. I found it a lot easier on the roads, when I could remember street names and would recognise buildings and landmarks I’d seen on Google street view. However, my biggest mistake was the realisation that¬†although¬†I may be on the right road, granted, those roads go in 2 directions, and I may well be taking the wrong one. I learnt this on Rotherham road. Turns out I was cycling 2 miles in the wrong direction before I stopped and realised . Heading North instead of South it was a nice little 4 mile detour, I fancied the scenic route.¬†

Considering that the previous time I’d been out, with Ryan, I’d still found roundabouts a little daunting and cars entering made me quite on edge…this journey was quite positive. I found that my confidence on the roads was building and I felt very sure of myself when signalling and making sure I was safe. I just kept Ryan’s very good advice in my head the entire time : “Act like a car”. This worked on junctions and at traffic lights, and by keeping a more dominant position amongst the traffic I didn’t feel bullied into the curb. There were, however, a few morons overtaking me at high speed on blind corners on country lanes, but you know morons will be morons.¬†

The first “drama” of the day came in the form of a loose bottle on my first fast downhill descent. I hit 30mph and all of a sudden heard a loud crack. My first thought was that the back wheel had fallen off…but then I was still rolling on down so assumption number 2 was confirmed when I looked down and saw that I was one water bottle down. I pulled over and wandered back up the hill to find my new SIS water bottle laying empty on the side of the road.

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I still had 70 odd miles to do with about 100ml of water to guzzle. Only a small dilema obviously, as I would see many shops along the way, but it made me laugh all the same as ryan had told me a similar story that happened to him a while back. 

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The main drama of the day , which ultimately made me have to cut my route very short, was the draining of my iPhone battery. Mum had persuaded me to leave Google latitude on , so that she could track my progress throughout the day and not have kittens when I didn’t text to update her. This,¬†unfortunately¬†rinsed my battery, even though I turned it off after a couple of hours , realising that was the cause, it was already too late. I couldn’t navigate without the use of my google map app and felt really unsafe riding through woods and secluded roads without the use of phone in an emergency, so I started to worry about what to do .¬†

I was on the trans¬†Pennine¬†trail through Rother Valley national park when my phone died, and although feeling quite¬†uncomfortable¬† I knew i’d find someone to ask for directions to a shop or cafe or something .

I came across the Rother Valley Activity centre, and after speaking to some very helpful people I ended up at the centre’s cafe asking for help. The Lovely staff in the office offered to charge my phone for a short while before they closed, which was a huge relief! So in true Jen style I got myself a cup of tea and some biscuits whilst I waited, and the sun began to shine..so It was a huge shame I wasn’t on my bike to enjoy it.Image

Rocking up in a high vis vest covered in mud I¬†received¬†a lot of interested questions asking where I’d come from , what my route was, questions about my road bike. One guy asked if I’d been doing bunny hops in swamps….I certainly looked as though I had been.¬†

Half an hour later my phone had 30% battery, enough to ring mum and whinge about my situation and ask what I should do. I really wanted to press on and reach Nottingham but time had gotten away from me and it was getting later and later, and my phone battery was never going to last, especially as the remainder of the route was going to be even more challenging and complex navigation wise.

This is the remainder of my route that I couldn’t do:

 

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So as disappointed and gutted as I was, I decided the wise thing to do was to cycle to a train station and get to Notts by train. 

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Cycling 54 miles in total, It’s the furthest I’ve gone alone and had to navigate by myself. I found navigating very challenging but at the same time I felt like I was getting the hang of navigating roads as the day progressed. Overall, I’m happy with how it went even though there were ups and downs , but I’m making the most of it and there’s¬†definitelylessons to be learnt.¬†

One thing to note aswell, my stamina and “all day pace” as Ryan calls it were on top form, although I do need to learn when to eat and regain energy as I did flag a couple of times. Concentrating on navigating and reaching the next towns distracted me, so lesson to learn.¬†

Til next weekend and a long ride in Wales with Ryan!

7 weeks to go until the big trip ¬†ūüôā