Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Cycle4Nik – A Life Changing Weekend

The statistics below can be used to describe our cycle4Nik experience from North to South Wales over St David’s Day 2014 weekend:
  • 14 hours cycled
  • 3 days 
  • 182 miles
  • 2.6 miles climbed 
  • 12,070 calories burnt 
  • 15 full cyclists 
  • 26 individual stage cyclists 
  • £12,000 raised.

Pictures also tell their own story. 

However, I hope my few words will also add a different dimension to the ones above.

It was an epic weekend full of amazing memories, stunning scenery, challenging climbs and loads of laughs.

It had taken 4 months to plan and was Gareth Cole's idea, who works at the Seren Group. He suggested cycling from North to South Wales to raise funds for a former member of staff who has a rare form of cancer... and it snowballed from there. A frantic couple of months then ensued which saw budgets sorted, route agreed, accommodation and transport booked, a race night organised to generate more funds and lots of marketing and promoting of the ride. The support from the sector was immense. Lots of people were up for the ride and HAs also wanted to support us through sponsoring or helping out with refreshments en route. We couldn’t have done this without their support.

So we had a team, we had a route (which proved one of the most hardest things to sort) – and now we had to train. 30 December saw our first group ride and we experienced gales, driving rain and a massive ascent up Lyngynidor mountain to finish us off. I can remember the look on everyone’s faces as we all clambered back into our cars. They were not happy faces.

And so it continued. Week after week, regular weekend training rides. We were all busy. We all had full time jobs, families, other priorities, but there was not one member of the team that did not take part in any group ride – such was the commitment of the team. I can recall out of 10 weeks of training that there were only two sunny days. We cycled in snow, ice, driving rain, 40 mph winds against us and hailstones – but it did make us stronger. I know that the North Wales team also made it out on a number of training rides.

We were really sorry to lose Tony Clark from Monmouthshire Housing who broke his hip ball joint on an icy training ride, and also Sean Davey (UES Energy) had to pull out in the final week due to a serious health scare (he is now thankfully OK).

After many miles of training, we were ready to set off and we left Newport with the knowledge that severe yellow weather warnings were in place for North Wales – our day 1 start. If ever we needed the weather gods to be kind to us, it was now.

We all awoke on Day 1 to find the amazing sight of no snow and glorious sun. Yes – our prayers had been answered. Final checks to our bikes and a few words of thanks and final route plans took place, and then we were off. I remember looking at Gareth as we started with 31 riders and thinking - yes, this was really happening – we both smiled knowing that after all the months of planning, we were about to start our amazing journey. It was great to ride off with the North Wales team and others from Mid Wales HA and CT Clwyd. The day was full of stunning views, one steep climb and lots of smiles. We all finished the ride with just one puncture and celebrated in the Royal Ship Inn with a pint (or two).

Day 2 saw the only day rider from Mid Wales HA join us for what was going to be one of the most challenging rides we had all faced. Our breakfast had barely had a chance to go down when we were climbing half a mile into the start of the ride. That was tough. We then faced the longest climb up a snow topped mountain. That was lung busting. And to finish us off, another three hours of big climbs and few descents on a cycle route back to Llandrindod Wells. When hardened cyclists remarked that they found that day one of the most difficult rides they had cycled, it made the aches and pains a little easier. It also made the Stella go down easier too!

Day 3 saw driving rain and harsh winds welcoming us for our last day, along with three full day riders. They were horrible conditions but it was fitting that we had trained all winter – why shouldn’t we finish off the ride in rain and gales? This was our longest day and we faced Lyngynidor mountain again before our lunch stop. We all found it hard, but again completed it and knew that it was literally downhill all the way to Newport. We were joined for the final 26 miles by a further 10 cyclists and it was an amazing feeling to see the long peloton of cyclists all focused on getting to Newport. These last 26 miles should have been the most straightforward route of the three days, but somehow we lost a few cyclists and someone also came off – maybe it was just the adrenalin and knowing that the finish was in sight. I have to mention Richard Thomas from Cardiff Care & Repair  – he got lost and I took a call from him saying “I lost you all but managed to find Bannatynes. I’m hiding behind a tree – I’ll come out when I see you coming!”. That was a funny moment.

And so we ended our journey at Bannatynes Newport at 4.30pm on 2 March where we were noisily and proudly greeted by friends and family. The sense of achievement at what we had actually achieved was so overwhelming. We had cycled from North to South Wales for Nik and raised £12,000. Her dad (Terry) was there to meet us and he moved us all to tears with his words about his daughter and what we had done for her. Truly unforgettable.

Reflecting on the journey, team members have written messages for Nik. Here are two of my favorites which encapsulate how we all feel:

Nik, without realising, you’ve changed our lives and made us better people. Thank you so much.

It was an honour to be able to ride for you from North to South Wales. Having not met you but hearing the kind words people have said about you and the impact you have had upon their lives made this challenge special. It was a pleasure to be part of the experience.

So what is the legacy of the ride? Well, over £12,000 was raised and will be handed to the Hope for Nik fund this month. This money will be used to help support Nik and her family. North Wales HA are setting up their own bike club. Mid Wales HA are also looking to do regular rides, and the South Wales team are planning more rides and social events. The Cycle4Nik journey didn’t stop on 2 March... it has simply continued.

On behalf of the Cycle4nik team, thank you everyone for your support, good wishes and generosity.

Phillipa Knowles
Director of Central Services
Community Housing Cymru Group

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