Saturday, 22nd June 2019
On the longest day this year, Diane and I entered our first event on the tandem that we bought in October last year (2018) from JD Tandems in Gargrave near Skipton, North Yorkshire. The event was Chase the Sun’s inaugural Northern UK cycle tour (it’s not a race, nor is it a sportive, although it feels just like one), that took place, coast to coast, between Tynemouth in Northern England and Prestwick in Southern Scotland (finishing right next to Glasgow Airport) on 22nd June.
We’d managed to train diligently and consistently through what turned out to be a fairly mild winter and, by the time the event came around, we were riding strongly and more than ready to enjoy the 200 miles that we’d have to cover in the 17 hours between sunrise and sunset if we wanted to be ‘successful’. Even so, though we’d completed several centuries in training, including some very hilly ones, we still felt that a ‘double’ might be biting off more than we could comfortably chew.
Long story short: we had a blast! We rolled onto the esplanade at Prestwick at ten minutes to nine on a lovely evening, having used almost all of the seventeen hours available to us, but with plenty left in the tank and loads of time to watch the sun dipping behind the Isle of Arran, across the calm waters of the Firth of Clyde. We’d promised ourselves that we were going to treat it as a leisure ride and so enjoyed the hospitality at most of the stopping points listed by the organisers. All things considered, it was one of the most pleasantly memorable rides I’ve ever done. Some bits were a bit harder than others, and I wouldn’t be so shallow as to say that it was easy; in fact, we’ve only just learned that the ‘Determined Riders of the Day’ award went to the ‘Durham Sports Massage crew’ (that’s us, riding as a team in our DSM kit).
The route takes in the very best of the Anglo-Scottish Borders without ever being uncomfortably hilly (highly subjective, I know, but trust me, it’s not too bad). We were well and truly blessed with the weather as well: warm winds blowing from the south, mainly on our left shoulder, would undoubtedly have massaged the finishing times this year; the strong westerlies that often prevail will be an added challenge in years to come. Around lunch-time, we had sufficient cloud to threaten rain, which never materialised, and for the rest of the day the sun shone, allowing us to experience sunrise and sunset as the organisers intended.
I don’t think I saw a single person associated with the event, organiser, supporter or cyclist, who didn’t look like they were having a great time and the camaraderie was the best, including the proprietors and staff of the various cafes that opened especially for us. It was a shame (as it always is when cafes provide loads of great-looking cakes) that we only ever require drinks, but neither of us eats carbs and no establishment that we know of bakes without sugar or flour. Instead, we rely on cheese and tomatoes as a snack, and I’ll often have a bit of Diane’s very low carb, home-made, cake for something to accompany a cup of coffee. We usually wait until our evening meal to rebalance the calories. Talking of which, our B&B was only 100m from the finish – right next to the event organisers’ chosen hotel. The owners graciously allowed us to use their kitchen to prepare our dinner, during which time we found that they were keto as well! There wasn’t a single bag of sugar or flour to be found in the house!
So there you are, our first double-century on the tandem and an award as well, which, I don’t mind admitting, we’re chuffed to bits with. By the way, did I mention that the event is FREE? Well, it is; the organisers provide other – paid – services, and ask for donations. Also, riders are responsible for their own support – much like an Audax event. Will we do it again? You bet! We still haven’t made our minds up whether it’ll be the UK South or Italy, but we’ll be there!