The complete silence of dawn on a Sunday was the moment to consider what we were about to embark upon. More than six months of training, planning, more training, eating and even more training all come down to this.
Finally the day of the Big Off had arrived (let’s call it the Grand Depart – somehow it sounds more fitting in Tour de France French). The RUH hadn’t seen a Sunday morning quite like it – before. 27 cyclists, and as many again of supporters, families and friends, all up earlier than the sparrows to get a head start on the 100-mile route that awaits many of us.
Seven of the riders were aiming to make it all the way to the northeastern top of Scotland. Nine more were cycling 100 miles today all the way to Clun in Shropshire. And four more adults and seven children were going to pedal along the Bristol and Bath railway path with us as far as their legs would carry them, which turned out to be to Bitton.
Mark Brearey, head teacher of Kingswood Prep School and the inspiration that led to KPS1000, gave his version of the Henry V’s St Crispin’s Day speech, announcing that we reached the £10,000 fund-raising target just as we set off for John o’Groats.
Then Mark donned his helmet and led the cycling throng out onto the roads to embark on 26 personal journeys on the most beautiful form of transport ever invented.
Onwards rode the 27, becoming 16 as we left the safety of the cycle path to skirt Bristol and over the Severn Bridge. Onwards rode the 16, fuelled by fried egg sandwiches in Tintern, forgoing Monmouth’s finest pork pies to push on northwards, making Hereford for lunch.
You’ll get the drift of the day when I tell you that it was good to leave the busy streets of Hereford for the quieter lanes to the North. We clocked up 70, then 80, then 90 miles – each of us thinking quietly that this was proving alright.
Then one last hill lay between us and Clun, the end of Day One for some and the end of the ride for nine valiant cyclists who had sweated every mile with us from Bath. But what a last hill – bigger, steeper and hungrier than all the others put together that day.
Then a celebratory meal in the White Horse in Clun, followed by a late drive back to Bath for some and a night in the Youth Hostel for those heading on northwards the next day. The end of an adventure for some; the end of a chapter for others. In either case an utterly unforgettable day.
Day 3: Bath to Clun: 100 miles; 4503 vertical ft of ascent