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Way of the Roses Blog!

“170 miles in three days? Sure, no problem – I love a challenge and it’ll be fun! Of course it wasn’t until a couple of weeks before that it suddenly dawned on me…”

On Sunday 3rd July, a group of 6 of us began the 170 mile Way of the Roses coast to coast route, travelling from Morecambe on the west coast to Bridlington on the east. The ride was dedicated to my late friend Rod, who was not only a close friend but also a huge fan of my music who sadly passed away recently due to sudden heart failure. 6 years previous, Rod over-came throat cancer, so we raised money in his memory for Cancer Research UK.

The Way of the Roses route is a cross country trail comprising the Lune Valley, Forest of Bowland, Yorkshire Dales, Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Vale of York and the Yorkshire Wolds. Part of the National Cycle Network, it consists of traffic-free paths, on-road cycle lanes, country lanes and quieter roads.

Checking the route a couple of weeks beforehand, it revealed the first day and a half was very hilly and it didn’t flatten out until it neared the final destination of the second day! I’d never done anything like this, certainly not on this scale anyway! I raced off-road when I was younger and have always cycled every now and then but this really was on another level! Here’s how it went….

Day 1

At 9.30am we all clambered into the bus at the meeting point in Nottingham and headed off to Morecambe. After only 5 hours sleep due to playing a gig in Kendal the night before, I was pretty tired but with the adrenaline kicking in I didn’t sleep on the bus and instead, thinking of my stomach kept a look out for a decent place to have lunch!

We arrived in Morecambe at about 2pm and went off to find the sign that signified the start point. The obligatory photos followed before we all jumped on our bikes ready for the off to our first destination: Grassington. The weather couldn’t have been better and it was a good few miles before the fist incline so we all had a chance to warm up steadily. After that first hill, the rest of the day saw many more long, steep hills and quite a few mad stretches downhill too. Every time we came to a downhill section I knew that we’d have to climb up again and some of the hills were absolute killers! The route basically took us right across the Pennines which meant some severe gradients both up and down with some lasting for several miles: definitely a challenge, both mentally and physically. The spirit between the group was great though; everyone going at their own pace and comparing notes on the best way to get to the top without burning out! Every now and then we stopped for a break, normally at a pub for a pint and a bite to eat! It always took me a while to warm back into it after stopping and I found that the longer you ride the easier it gets, you get into a rhythm and you’re off.

It was about 9pm by the time we got into Grassington and we arrived to find all the local restaurants had closed. That is, all but a curry house more than happy to welcome us in! Probably not the best after a hard day cycling with two more days to come but what can you do? Haha… Of course, you can’t have a curry without a few beers can you? Since they didn’t sell alcohol on the premises, Ben went down to the local Spa and came back with a whole crate! When we’d finally had as much food and drink as we could take, we headed off to the hotel and got some much needed rest before the second day.

Day 2

After a cracking cooked breakfast at the B&B and copious amounts of coffee, I felt pretty fresh and ready for another day despite the curry and beer the night before! A quick check of all the bikes and a liberal amount of sun cream and we all set off again! The weather was amazing and really helped get us in the mood for it. This time we had a much earlier start than the first day so we could get to our destination, York, in good time. The day started well up in the hills and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. By the 30th mile, the route flattened out and we had a steady ride into York, stopping a few times along the route to sample the local beer and take in the views of the little villages. When we got to York, we had a quick shower, changed and went off to find somewhere to eat. Fortunately, this time everywhere was still open so we had a good choice of restaurants and finally settled on a nice Italian place tucked away in a backstreet. We then found a pub playing some live music (you just can’t beat it can you?!) and sat in the beer garden with yet more booze! I must have worked hard during the day because on the way back to the hotel I made a sneaky stop at a chip shop for a quick top up!

Day 3

Following a good night sleep I woke the next morning and attempted to walk downstairs to breakfast… It was at this point my legs suddenly felt like they were on fire!! Oh dear… I did wonder how I was going to manage another day on the bike but strangely enough I felt fine once we set off again. It was probably a good thing the last day was mainly flat as by this point everyone was tired. Another few pubs were taken in (surprised?!) and the pace remained steady, that is, until the last few miles!!! There had been talk of who could get their wheel in the sea first but I’d forgotten about that until now…

One by one everyone sped up and the last mile down to the beach ended in a mad dash for who could get there first! Adrenaline taking over, it came down to Ben, Keith and I racing to the finish line head-to-head. I nearly fell off as I got onto the beach because my feet were still clipped to the pedals but I managed to get a foot out to catch my fall! I jumped off my bike and hoisted it over my shoulder, running to the sea ahead of Ben and Keith. Dipping my wheel into the water first I felt exuberant, not to mention smug! With just over 190 miles totalled on the speedo and covered in sand, we all went over to the sign that signified the end of the route and had our pictures taken – what a journey! To end the day, after a shower and a change, we all headed off for some fish and chips (well, it was Bridlington after all!) just as the first drops of rain fell. Brilliant timing!

So… Would I do it again? Definitely! In fact, on the way back we were already talking about where and when to do the next one! A fantastic experience was had by all and there’s nothing better than the sense of achievement you feel at the end. I want to say a huge thank you to all of those who sponsored the ride and donated to the Cancer Research ‘In Memory’ page – so far we’ve raised over £600 and it keeps growing. I’d also like to thank Cherryl and Dave who drove us all to the start line and took our luggage to each hotel, found the best places to eat and drove us all home and finally, thanks to Mark Richards, a fan of mine I met at a gig in Birmingham who joined us on the first day for extra support!

If you want to have a look at some pictures of the event, go to my Flickr page!

Cheers all!


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