I have such warm memories of taking part in the London to Brighton Cycle last year! For anyone thinking about joining Team Amnesty in 2012, I thought I'd share my experience of the event...
I cycle to work every day but I hadn't ever done a distance ride like this before, so I was a little apprehensive at first. I signed up with my boyfriend and a good friend, both of whom are cycling enthusiasts with super-swish bikes, a full quota of lycra and thighs of steel! I knew I'd have my work cut out to keep up with them on my cart-horse of a bike! At least the £100 fundraising target seemed achievable so I took the lead on that and set up a Just Giving page for the three of us and set our target at £300 to cover the lot. Our friends and family loved that we were doing something challenging but a bit different for Amnesty and we quickly smashed our target with a very respectable £471!
I knew there were some fairly challenging hills along the route, especially the mighty Ditchling Beacon which has to be tackled in order to make it over the Downs to get to Brighton. It's pretty flat where I live so I added to my daily ride with a few spin classes in preparation. Not quite as good as the real thing but it all helped! I also invested in some lycra cycle leggings (with gel padding!) which will never win any prizes for fashion or flattery but proved to be a very valuable comfort investment after 5 hours in the saddle!
On the day, we got up eye-rubbingly early to get ourselves to the start point. It was really exciting at the start though and once we'd signed in, picked up our numbers, maps and topped up on water and cereal bars we were raring to go! I was really struck by the variety of riders there were setting off with us. I really thought I'd be the only nervous novice but there were people of all ages and abilities - plenty of racers pushing for their personal best but also a lot of every-day riders like me in it for the challenge of getting there and enjoying the view along the way!
The route was so pretty and I was actually enjoying the hills for the most part. They were a real thrill to ride down (although not so forgiving on the way up!) and the views made it all worthwhile. After passing through some really lovely villages we eventually made it to the half-way point and saw the signs for lunch! Not only did the lunch spot come at the perfect time, it was also delicious and plentiful! In fact I did wonder, after filling myself up with a big lunch AND dessert, whether we'd be able to get back on my bike! But make it back we did for the final stretch of our journey...
The second half was when we really got into the swing of things and had set a decent pace. As Brighton drew closer we started to catch sight of our final hurdle: Ditchling Beacon! The Beacon approached like a looming ominous shadow and I was convinced I'd never make it up as my thighs were already not best pleased with me! The route up the Beacon weaves back and forth and we all took it at our own pace (I admittedly had to get off my bike and push a few times!). It took some time but we all made it with some sweat and tears! It was so incredible that riders who'd made it to the top before us had all stopped to cheer us on! When we reached the top, we stopped and did the same for the people behind us.
The atmosphere throughout the whole route was really encouraging for me. Right from the beginning, the lycra-lovers and pootlers alike, were all so friendly and supportive to their fellow riders. The team spirit was so good, I'd have felt encouraged enough to make it to the end if I'd done the ride on my own.
Once we'd tackled the Beacon it was just a few more miles into Brighton and this is when we really started to feel elated and the aches began to ease. We started to cruise downhill through Hove towards the seafront and took in lung-fulls of refreshing sea air! It was such a great feeling to see the sea! We were greeted by crowds of cheering well-wishers and it felt amazing!
At the finish point we checked our times and we'd made it in about 6 hours - 5 hours in the saddle with a leisurely hour for lunch (it was too good to pass up!) We all felt a great swell of pride and did some rather ungainly muscle stretches on the beach! Despite some minor aches I felt surprisingly refreshed and even got back on my bike to join some friends in Brighton for dinner!
I'm really excited that Team Amnesty will have a team of 100 riders this September! It's going to be such and awesome team and the atmosphere will be amazing! I'll be at the event to support the team and I'll also be on-hand to give anyone tips / advice / moral support prior to the event too!
If you love cycling and you want to do something amazing for Amnesty why not set yourself the challenge of riding from London to Brighton on Sunday 16 September 2012. The summer is the perfect time to train and, with a bit of preparation, you'll no doubt smash the £100 fundraising target in no time. Book online and get your friends together to join you.
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