Steve, Mick, Dan and Jeff embarked on a 500km cycle challenge to Wales and back

Back in the Spring time Steve, Mick, Dan and Jeff decided that they were going to dust down their old Raleigh bikes, check the stabilisers were on, don some lycra and head off on a 3 day 500km cycle ride from our Cranfield office to the Welsh Borders and back.  Below is the story of how they got on.

Day 1 – Cranfield to Malswick, Gloucestershire(196km)

Leg 1 – Cranfield to the George & Dragon Café, Quainton, Buckinghamshire (53km)

We meet at 7.30am on a glorious sunny day with light winds. Perfect cycling weather. Our bikes are ready, we have our lycra on and our faces show that our brains are wrestling with the excitement v trepidation dilemma as we think about the challenge to come. Steve and Dan are off and into the first “hill” at Ridgemont. An early taster but a mere speedhump compared with what we are about to meet. Out through Woburn Deer Park dodging the morning rush hour traffic and into Buckinghamshire. Country lanes and undulating hills take us through to a cream tea stop in Quainton. 53km covered only some 450km left to go!

Leg 2 - Quainton to The Chequers Inn, Churchill, Oxfordshire (56km)

Mick and Jeff pick up the baton. The sun was shining brightly by the time they started.  Glorious day to ride through the back lanes of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire – although dodging the traffic on the Bicester ring road was a low point of the ride.  Hitting the Chequers Inn at Churchill as we entered the Cotswolds was a highlight!

Lunch at the Chequers Inn in Churchill – Great gastro pub – Food excellent, especially their home made Scotch Egg.

Leg 3 – Churchill to The Rising Sun, Bishops Cleeve, Gloucestershire (56km but should have been 44km!)

After having stretched and had a light lunch (Dan) and eaten a Scotch Egg (Steve), Steve and Dan were back in action and off to Stow-on-the wold, Boughton-on-the-water and the Slaughters where we stop for a quick photo then continue through the delightful Cotswolds countryside. The pleasure of quiet roads (assisted by a road closure) is only enhanced by the glorious climbs, the final climb to The Rising Sun was not enough for Steve and Dan so they decided to get lost and do it twice (adding 12km to their leg), Dan in his element, Steve less so!

Leg 4 – Bishops Cleeve to Malswick Mill B&B, Gloucestershire (31km)

Spectacular views from the Rising Sun Pub down to the River Wye Valley below and the downhill ride to come. The final leg of the first day started off with a steep 25% decent out of the Cotswolds and a relatively flat and swift 31km, taking us to our destination for the day.

Overnight stay at the Malswick Mill B&B – Quiet and clean B&B off the beaten track with 1950’s décor in the Breakfast Room but super comfy beds – In bed cream crackered by 9pm after a great Dinner at the Kilcott Inn just down the road.

Day 2 – Malswick to Puckrup, nrTewkesbury, Herefordshire (177km)

Leg 1 – Malswick to Pandy, Monmouthshire, South Wales (56km)

A great breakfast at the B&B for Steve and Mick but its Saturday so breakfast is not served until 8am which for Jeff & Dan meant bad news as the first stint of the day was a cold and crisp 7.30am start to what was expected to be a long tough day of riding.  Our expectations were met, with a number of energy sapping hills and surpassed at the mercy of Orcop Hill.  Nevertheless, we made good time to handover to the next team and are now in Wales.

Leg 2 - Pandy to Poston Mill, Peterchurch, Herefordshire – via the Brecon Beacons (44km)

Fantastic weather again as we headed up into the Brecon Beacons.  We took in the views of local sheep dog trials & ploughing competitions as we headed into the hills, with a climb from 150m to 450m in this ride today. Some amazing climbs and the views were breath-taking when we reached the summits.  One particularly challenging climb was followed by a 90 degree right turn and a big descent and then a 90 degree left followed by the same climb up the same hill – that seemed cruel at the time.  We had a great view as we descended from the highest summit of the ride as Steve turned the corner on a single track to be met by a white transit van powering up the hill – miraculously Steve managed to skid his way down the side of the van without hitting it – that non-existence cyclo-cross training clearly coming in handy!

Lunch at the Poston Mill, which was attached to a Caravan Site, was light except for the Seafood chowder that Mick was brave enough to eat!

Leg 3 – Poston Mill to The Crown Inn, Woolhope, Herefordshire (30km)

Weather is still great as Jeff and Dan hit the road, potholes are becoming more bothersome to some of the team members but we have a relatively easy ride for 28km (despite a slight detour as Dan is awful with directions!). The last 2km we are presented with 2km of 10% uphill to the handover location, again Dan in his element, Jeff powering through in impressive fashion.

Another great Pub with views over to the Malvern Hills.

Leg 4 – Woolhope to Puckrup, Herefordshire via The Malvern’s (47km)
Refreshed and scared by the hills we can see, Steve and Mick set off with a misleading downhill 2km followed by (here we go) sharp ups and downs as we ride through the Worcestershire countryside passing acres of apple trees, we are in Cider country. Sun shining as we hit the Malvern’s. Thought the first ride was tough but the long ride up the side of the Malvern’s to Upper Wyche was a real leg burner. Kilometre after kilometre uphill and getting steeper as we go until with a huge feeling of elation we hit the top and see the view down to the Malvern towns below and across the valley of the River Severn. At last an exhilarating and (relatively) safe downhill on tarmac roads with the first 15km at c55km/hr and the rest fast and flat across the valley floor. I hear a scream from Mick as he goes over a pothole at 35km/hr – Should have put 2 pairs of cycle shorts on! We arrive at the Hotel in good time. A truly challenging but wonderful day on the bike.

Overnight at the Marriott Puckrup Hotel. Usual big hotel stuff, a couple of weddings going on, a double bed in Mick & Steve’s room (!), pool rammed but Dinner good and yet again in bed by 9pm.

Day 3 – Puckrup, nrTewkesbury to Cranfield, Bedfordshire (158km)

Leg 1 – Puckrup to The Bantam Tea Rooms, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire (41km)

Mick up and down all night. Has the Seafood Chowder made a return? Fortunately not, just Mick’s small bladder. Steve & Jeff’s turn to miss out on breakfast and away again at 7.30am but weather has turned – Overcast, a bit warmer but the wind has picked up. First 28km are flat and fast through the Cotswolds again and into Broadway. Long and steady climb up Fish Hill and up to Broadway Tower. Fantastic views again and a short photo opportunity before lovely downhill to Chipping Campden and a belated breakfast.                                                                                   

Leg 2 – Chipping Campden to The Pickled Plough, Adderbury, Oxfordshire (38km)

By now the trend is clear as Mick got to have the second ride of every day and hence managed a full, though not quite leisurely, breakfast before starting!  Happy days.  Sitting on the bike for the first time today (after using the pavements of Chipping Campden as a changing room whilst mixing with the American tourists) was not a pleasant experience and the low point of the day!  It took at least 20 minutes to get some feeling into our legs after the hills of day 2. 

Now we were back into the Cotswolds and enjoying picturesque scenery along quiet roads riding through sleepy villages.  The best bits were Mick using his weight to overtake young Dan shooting down some long sweeping descents.  The worst bits were Mick feeling like he was barely moving as Dan flew past him going up the hill on the other side!   Disappointingly we finally hit some rain as we headed towards Adderbury and then had to navigate a lake caused by a burst water pipe to make sure we were properly wet as we arrived at our pit stop.

Arrived too early for lunch at the Pickled Ploughman but another decent pub.

Leg 3 – Adderbury to The ARTea Rooms, Pottersbury, Northamptonshire (44km)

A quick pit stop and Mick and Dan were back on the road again, the weather deteriorating but Mick and Dan motivated by the fact the end was in sight! Riding past Stowe House was delightful as were the single-track lanes with rolling countryside either side. Dan’s navigation skills letting the team down again towards the end adding another 5km to the ride was not particularly helpful nor welcomed at that point. No matter, Mick and Dan are done and pass over to Steve and Jeff for the glory!

Leg 4 – Pottersbury to Cranfield, Bedfordshire (35km)

The home stretch!  Fighting against a headwind and winning the race against the impending rain, we emptied what was left in our legs and sped through to the finish line.
Fantastic. 531km completed – Cranfield to Wales and Back – Done!!

The Challenge in numbers!