After the huge success of the inaugural ‘Big Bike Ride’ in 2013, which raised in excess of £200,000 for the PCA Benevolent Fund and the Tom Maynard Trust, version two is taking place over 380 miles linking venues across the South of England. The ride kicks off with a gala dinner at the Cornwall Cricket Centre in Truro on the evening of 8th October, with five daily stages concluding at The Kia Oval in London on 13th October. The route includes stage finishes at North Devon CC in Instow, Somerset CCC at Taunton, Hampshire CCC at the Ageas Bowl and Sussex CCC at Hove, finishing in London.
The advance party has been out and about and busy over the past week, with a couple of the group showing a commitment way beyond the call of duty by riding the 250-odd miles* of the first three stages by way of a test. Andrew Hutchings, of Cotswold Cycles (our cycling guru), was joined by Mark Lambert and Mike Bell on Tuesday 19th May riding the 90 or so miles (some refinement to the route still required but when you’re up at that level I guess that all you really need to know is that it’s “a lot” (technical term)) from Truro to Instow. (*Keeping it nice and loose, there, Mark, as per your theory of managing rider expectations….)
They were joined for the three days by the PCA’s Assistant CEO and Big Bike Ride veteran promoter, Jason Ratcliffe, who was in charge of the Abbey Glass-loaned support vehicle (aka ‘the fun bus’), accompanied by Alex Rogers, working the summer as an intern for the PCA, and the one we all know is the real working brains behind Big Bike Ride 2, Ali Prosser.
Not being up to a full day’s ride, or owning a bike, or possessing remotely close to 1% of the fitness and ability required to don the lycra (a shocking prospect in itself) I opted to rock up at the hotel in the evening and meet them in the bar, before we enjoyed an evening meal in the company of Mark and Helen Overton, key players at NDCC, at which there will be a function on the evening the riders arrive there, at a restaurant a few hundred yards away as we started plotting the October event.
On day two Ratters was persuaded into the lycra (and the image you have in your mind as you are reading these words will, I guarantee, be almost identical to the real thing) for the 60-mile trek across Exmoor and down into Taunton. Ali and Alex formed the advance party, working out the best places for morning and afternoon stops for the main route and, far more importantly, identifying the best spot for a pub lunch (The Swan in Bampton, since you ask – excellent smoked chicken baguette). To yours truly fell the significantly less appealing task of following the four riders, which meant a series of second gear climbs at a pace of around 10mph, with a never-changing view of Ratters’s backside. Not, repeat not, for the faint-hearted, that. What I learned about bobbing and weaving, parking up in lay-bys and supervising overtaking for the massed ranks of traffic behind me was rather dwarfed by the sight of old Rats’s backside a couple of dozen yards in front of me. Arriere du peloton? More like derriere, I think…
The evening saw us joined by Abbey Glass’s MD, Richard Green, who has committed to driving a support vehicle for the full ride, for more cycling chat over an Indian meal which I have to confess passed me by as I followed the thrills, spills and excitement of Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Sunderland on Sky Go as I munched away at my chicken tandoori. Sad and obsessed? Me? As opposed to talking about cleats, Gamlin, tubular tyres, ashtabula cranks and chain stays? Maybe not so sad after all…
For the final test day (for now), Andrew and Mark were joined by our own Matt Maynard, who rode the 101 miles with them from Taunton to the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. Rats was back on driving and admin duties (with that poor Blackberry of his bleeping every three seconds with yet another email) but with a bit of training the five day real thing will be just like shelling peas for a man of his talents.
Bar some minor adjustments it looks as if we have our routes for the first three days now. The final two days will be tested before the end of July. Hotels have been booked. The riders will all be training, or at least contemplating the training they have to do. It’ll all come along very soon. There are thirty-odd current or former county cricketers, at least a dozen of them internationals. There is one county chairman. For goodness’ sake there are even two county chief executives doing the five days. Now that certainly wouldn’t have happened in my day…
Big thanks to Andrew, Mark, Mike, Matt and Ratters for riding and, of course, to Ali and Alex. Less than five months to go before the main event.
You can support the individual riders by going to: http://www.thepca.co.uk/big-bike-ride2-fundraising.html
Mike Fatkin, 21st May 2015