Late on Friday 7 May myself and a colleague from work, Kathryn and her boyfriend Gavin, made our way down from Weybridge in Surrey to Seaton in Devon.
Now Seaton is a small seaside town on the South West coastline of Devon England. It has also been described as the gateway to the 95-mile Jurassic Coast of the Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Coastline.
However, the reason for our drive down to Seaton was so that we could do a recce of the first two stages of The Great Tour. Not on our own of course, but with a group from our office that have put together this challenging event.
So what is The Great Tour? Well, in short, it’s a circumnavigation of the outer edge of the UK coastline by bicycle.
The Great Tour itself will take place on 3 July when a group of cyclists drawn from the world of sport, celebrity, charity, politics, science and the arts will gather in Seaton to embark on one of Britain’s last great sporting challenges. Keeping the sea to their right for 64 days, the riders will never lose the sight, smell or sound of the sea during their epic 6600km pedal for charity.
The ride will be hosted by well known athletes who will be joined by a wide variety of guests and charity riders to create a colourful and inspirational sporting celebration of the British coastline.
The 2010 event will be the inaugural Great Tour, which will become an annual charity bike ride. This is most probably the most important thing to remember about the event. Its purpose is to help raise money for a charity of your choice. You take on an incredible challenge while helping to raise money for a good cause.
So this ride we embarked upon took in the first two stages of The Great Tour. Stage 1 saw us riding from Seaton to Swanage. Expected total ride distance is 128km with 2483m of ascent.
Stage two took us from Swanage to Ryde with an expected total ride distance of 114km and 1236m of ascent.
On Saturday 8 May after a great fry up breakfast at our guest house, we made our way to the Seaton sea front to await the rest of our team that were going to join us on this ride. Also joining us on the ride was Alistair Cope, a Devon local who would guide us on our way. Alistair is also one of the main guides on The Great Tour itself and is himself raising money for The Prostate Cancer Charity while taking on this 64 day challenge.
Now the weather wasn’t great. It was not too cold, but it was damp and there was intermittent drizzle about. Not something I was looking forward to.
Here are some pictures, taken by Gavin(or Kathryn) of our ride over the two days:
Now we didn’t quite make the full stage. After all the stops and starts, we managed only to get to Weymouth, just over half the distance we were expecting to do for that day. But that was the whole purpose of the recce – to find out what challenges could stand in our way when the main event takes place.
It’s at this point where I have to say that The Great Tour is not the ideal challenge to take on with a road bike. The best bike for this challenge is a hybrid. With a relaxed frame geometry and slick MTB tyres makes it easier to ride over the varying terrain than what a road bike could handle. I did manage it on my road bike, but my tyres did take a huge hammering.
But more importantly, the hybrid offers you the aditional gears you would need to climb over some of the steep sections of this ride. I have to be honest and say that I did run out of gears and some of the road surfaces were so wet that I wasn’t able to stand going up the climbs. This really did test the strength in my legs and arms. However, the road bike was great for some of the descents as we reached up to 80km/h without pedalling. Not for the feint-hearted!
Oh, before I forget, stage 1 is the hardest stage of the entire Great Tour.
Stage 2: Swanage to Ryde
After a good night’s rest, we all made our way into Swanage for our early morning start of 8:00am. Not before getting in a good breakfast though.
Lymington. Well, that’s as far as I got to on day two of the ride with another 60+ km’s in the bag. It was at this point that I joined Kathryn and Gavin as they made their way back home to Surrey. From Lymington the rest of the group made their way onto the Isle of Wight to complete the rest of their journey for stage two.
From speaking to guys afterwards, I understand that it was quite hilly too once on the Isle of Wight. So I’m glad I didn’t go the whole way as my legs were competely knackered by the time I made it home that afternoon.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself over the two days we were out there. The riding was great, the scenery spectacular and the company was excellent.
In summary, The Great Tour offers 64 days of riding, 6600 km’s, 87,500m of ascent and 500 hours in the saddle. So if you feel like taking up a new challenge and want to see the beautiful coastline that the UK offers, then why not sign up for The Great Tour.
*All photographs thanks to Gavin Morton