As if being overweight, 50+ years old, and first-time cyclists with less than 6 months to prepare for a 217-mile 3-day ride from Thorpe Park to Disneyland Paris wasn’t enough of a challenge, the UK weather decided to get in on the act when the Riding4Dreams team set off on Thursday 27th July 2019.
Officially the hottest day on record in the United Kingdom, with the temperature officially reaching 38.7°C (101.7°F) in the shade, this fundraising cycle ride in support of the Dreamflight charity’s annual trip to the Orlando theme parks for 192 Children with Disabilities got off to a very warm start.
With ‘feels like’ temperatures of 41°C, the 14 riders needed every one of the four 15-mile pit stops on the 73-mile journey to refill their water bottles and rehydrate. After a gruelling 5 hours of cycling that included climbing over 3,500 feet of inclines up and over the Surrey Hills and the South Downs, the team arrived in New Haven feeling jubilant but drained. After loading up all the bikes into the support vehicles, and a much needed freshen up with wet wipes the team set off for Dieppe on the cross-channel ferry, enjoying a few much-needed cold beers.
Friday was a massive contrast, starting very overcast and cool, and for good measure the first of three tyre changes due to punctures. The first 15 miles ended with the French weather throwing as much water as it could at the team, including a significant thunder storm that saw a lightning strike hit a metal roof less than 8 feet from three of the riders! Fortunately respite in the shape of the support vehicles was less than 200 foot away.
The rest of the day’s 5 hours of cycling, and 3,000 ft of climbing, continued with a mix of cloud and rain; and nine more punctures alongside two further tyre changes, with two of the bikes experiencing repeat punctures within 100 yards of the previous one! A journey of 78 miles ended with a much-needed beer and bike cleaning session, followed by rider cleaning which resulted in a lot of grit and muck in the shower trays!
The final day’s 66 miles from Beauvais to Disneyland Paris were almost uneventful, apart from another couple of punctures bringing the total for the trip to 15. With nearly 3,500 feet of climbing bringing the team’s total to over 10,000 feet, the downhill run into Disneyland Paris was much appreciated, as was the jubilant welcome from the five support crew. A quick celebration, photo session and popping of champagne corks preceded the need to load all the vehicles up, have a wet wipe and hit the road for the Eurotunnel trip back to a welcome home party in Shepperton where the team were met by family and friends giving a hearty (if somewhat off key) rendition of ‘We are the Champions’!
With the fundraising now topping £24,000, the team are very proud of their cycling achievement and the money raised. Planning for next year’s challenge has already begun and in the meantime, they are trying to get the Just Giving page over £25,000 so further donations are most welcome and appreciated.
To read about the Dreamflight Charity, the riders and to donate please go to www.riding4dreams.co.uk