Published: 26 September 2019
Have you ever thought about undertaking a gruelling off-road bike ride with a bunch of your colleagues on a Saturday? It might sound mad, but that’s exactly what we did as a group of us jumped on our bikes to attempt the London to Brighton challenge, all in aid of British Heart Foundation.
As we shared training regimes over a carb-loading Nandos the evening before the race, it dawned on me just what we were about to undertake. 60 miles of off-road forest, trail, valley and hills (lots and lots of hills!) with a few drops and ridges thrown in for good measure.
On the morning of the race, we congregated at Kempton Racecourse ready to start and were suddenly very grateful for our striking Sagittarius branded jerseys, which stood out in the sea of 2000 riders. As we set off in convoy the nerves quickly dissipated and we found our groove, settling in for the first section of the race which took us along the Thames, overlooking early morning rowers pacing along the still water and the rising sun.
Our first real challenge came at two hours, as we tackled a gnarly hill with an uneven surface and winding path. Luckily the legs were fresh, and we all dug in, grinding to the top before hurtling down a trail on the other side! I’m pretty sure I heard Nick Towers and Ian squeal “weeeeeeeeeeeee” like kids at one point!
As the hours flew by we kept spirits high with jelly babies and outbursts of “the hills are aliveeee, with the sound of music”!
At halfway, the promise of a Farm shop serving fresh sausage rolls and coffees came just in time to relieve our tired legs. By that point, we had accumulated a few nasty scrapes and swollen knees, so we used the time to strap up as we ate. Claire’s smile and a hamper of goodies were such a welcome treat as she came to greet us and feed us like animals at the zoo! Naturally, we also fit in time for a photoshoot carefully choreographed by Claire!
Post lunch the struggle was real, as fatigue set in and no amount of gels could boost heavy legs! We kept pedalling as the beautiful countryside rolled by and Hannah made new friends - on average one every three miles. By now we were infamous on the trail and would frequently be passed by cyclists cheering “wheyyy Sagittarians” as our lime green jerseys stood out.
We were greeted by Claire once again at our last stop before the end. James fondly recounts, “it was just so nice to spend some quality time with the whole team, especially those in other offices which we most often communicate with over conference call or gifs on slack”.
I’d love to tell you that was the end, but we still had to tackle the beast that is Ditchling Beacon. Not only does its reputation precede it but its physical presence looms in the distance; a horrible shadow that you cycle towards for a good five miles before hitting the base.
So let me share the pain with you: imagine your legs in mud and someone with a rope dragging you backwards. You feel like an elephant on a tightrope trying to balance on an impossibly narrow path. Each rotation feels like a mini victory, as the 20% incline makes progress so slow. You turn a corner, hoping to see the peak and are instead faced with another section...I could go on, but you get the picture! Fast forward 20 minutes and you’ll find Nick Steele waiting nonchalantly for you at the top, having arrived 20 minutes before (I’m spreading a rumour of him having an electric bike, shhh don’t tell!) and enjoying the view.
And what a view!! Brighton spread out before us, with the sea glistening in the distance. Only rolling hills and cows interrupted the view. As we all stood appreciating the view, gushing about the pain and how happy we were to have conquered “the hill at the end” I finally understood why we had taken part.
The team spirit was incredible, and we couldn’t have done it without each and every man and woman in our pack! Yes, there are lows and some points when you when want to chuck your bike in the river, but the feeling of achievement is so worth it.
The only thing better than seeing that finish line was the taste of the beer waiting for us when we passed it!
As a team, we raised £680 (and counting!) for the British Heart Foundation!!
If you’d like to donate you can via our Just Giving page.