Many of you will have thoroughly enjoyed the recent victorious British and Irish Lions tour to Australia, but the on-field action was not the only sporting activity taking place on Australia’s East Coast during June and July!
A group of former Lions stars decided to ride 1,000km from Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, the host venue for the 2nd Test, to ANZ Stadium in Sydney, to coincide with the decisive 3rd Test. This gruelling cycle ride raised funds for Walking With The Wounded and Redkite, a children’s cancer foundation which the ARU‘s official charity.
The former Lions – Mike Teague, Peter Winterbottom, Tyrone Howe and Roger Uttley OBE – were dressed in the red of the Lions and were joined by former Wallabies Simon Poidevin, Warwick Waugh and Andrew Heath for the duration of the ride; the Aussie contingent wearing the iconic Green and Gold. This international flavour, of course, led to an almost tangible competitiveness when on the bikes and a real sense of fun when relaxing in the evenings. The ex-internationals were joined by a cohort of nearly 30 fundraisers, sponsors and guests who helped to raise over £250,000 for the charitable causes.
Over the course of the week-long challenge, they spent around 40 hours in the saddle, covered 1,000km and climbed a total of 30,000 feet.
You can still make a donation by clicking here.
One of the British participants in the Ride of the Lions, Christian Gore, kept a record of this incredible journey and has sent us his Race Diary so that we can share this cyclist’s-eye view with you. It is clear to see the enjoyment which all involved derived from this taxing ride and their desire to raise funds for the nominated charities.
So, The Prologue: perhaps the longest and hardest day of my life. People had tried to warn me, but would I listen? I could go on about the beautiful scenery, the thrilling climbs, the camaraderie BUT that is nothing compred to the numbing pain and I will be honest with you, the utter boredom, the monotony of it all. I have taken gels, electrolytes, Volatrol and Neurofen cocktails, but none of it does what is says on the tin!
I should have taken that cushion with me; I got what I deserved in the end, or MY END anyway. Right now the thought of going on fills me with dread, some of the other lads are the same but male bravado means they won’t admit to it. ‘Iron’ Mike Teague seems to be more like Mickey Mouse, Peter Winterbottom who never showed any pain on the pitch is a shadow (albeit a large one) of his former self. Rog Uttley is weeping as I type this. Still, as Jim Telfer once said ‘this is our Everest boys’, this is when you have to dig deep. But I can tell you, it’s hard, so hard but I won’t give in yet, all that training and dieting wasn’t for nothing.
Tomorrow is another day and I will survive. So that’s it for now folks and there will be more to follow I promise you. Anyway, I can’t wait until the ride actually starts on Sunday, today was all about the flights and the dangers of flying cattle class but it’s over – I made it!
Sunday 30th June – Day 1 – “The Ride Begins”
Time riding 5:53:09, Distance 97.47 miles, Climb 3,179 ft
Well, after watching the Lions throw the ball around and play some exciting rugby(!) and lose on Saturday night we all decided to have an early night and get ready for the first day’s cycling. Alas, beer got in the way, so 4-5 hours of sleep (less for some) later, we all donned our figure-hugging lycra and headed for breakfast. Then fully ‘porridged up’ we set off as 27 riders, 3 support vehicles and 3 massage therapists. We stopped at a lot of lights (see London riders, you are allowed to do that!) as we left Melbourne, which slowed us up. Then the pace picked up as we hit the outback but we stuck together with different riders taking the lead. 60 miles before lunch, once minor crash, one bad case of feeling tired (neither involved Gore Senior) but Junior on the other hand is a different matter, but don’t tell Mum. My personal sense of achievement at doing my second longest ride ever was overshadowed by the sheer will-power it took to cycle past sex drive-thru McDonalds without stopping! The real test comes when I try and do it all again tomorrow (and the next day, and the next day, and the next day etc). At the end of the day we were given a debrief after the day’s ride about the importance of eating and drinking, this is something I have spent my life practising and it’s paying off at last.
Monday 1st July – Day 2 – “Slow Down Roger”
Time riding 5:45:21, Distance 98.99 miles, Climb 1,906 ft
We did 80 miles before we stopped for lunch to “break the back of it” and to make the “afternoon ride easier”. NOT. Points of note, we passed a dead kangaroo, three dead wombats, a dead wallaby, a dead squirrel and a dead snake. We had one crash today but not into any wildlife. Other things to note, don’t let Roger Uttley, the fittest 63 year old ever, lead you out after lunch on an “easy” 25 mile ride! He has no ‘off’ button. “Slow down Rog” falls on deaf ears, even with me whinging and whining like a good’un in the middle. Half of the time I was shouting for me, half the time for the riders behind me. Maybe it’s because of his terrible wind, maybe he had somewhere to be ? Anyway, we are about a third of the way there, with some hilly days to come apparently; deep joy!
Tuesday 2nd July – Day 3 – “Hills”
Time riding 5:20:53, Distance 82.88 miles, Climb 4,931 ft
Day 3 is over, thankfully – 83 miles all before lunch, average speed of 15.5 mph, 1,505 metres of climbing which was extremely hard work. Big Rog was not allowed on the front until the big hills but he was given a hand break to keep him in check (yours truly). Not quite King of the Mountains, but feeling stronger and even dabbled with an energy gel for the last 20 miles! Sadly, another dead kangaroo and wombat on the way. We arrived in Cann River for a plate of spag bol at 14:00. No more riding today but same again tomorrow. The sun finally came out and no crashes but Tyrone Howe’s chain snapped. Saw our first sign for Sydney which was nice, but 656km was not so nice. ‘A demain’ as they say.
Wednesday 3rd July – Day 4 – “The Longest Day”
Time riding 6:52:05, Distance 100.97 miles, Climb 7,031 ft
The longest day so far: we started at 07:30 and finished at 17:00 with loads of long painful, steep hills in between! The positives were a nice lunch in Eden and no crashes today. Andrew Heath, aka the Ox, managed to mix up savlon and deep heat. Ouch! We did see wild kangaroos and wallabies for the first time. We are now in Tathra for the night which is on the coast and seems nice. We start at 07:00 tomorrow which has upset the troops and means being changed and ready for breakfast at 06:00. Over half way and maybe even getting stronger. Looks like Gatland is thinking about his next-but-one game, i.e. managing Wales with his selection for Saturday’s deciding Test Match.
Thursday 4th July – Day 5 – “Minus 1°C!!”
Time riding 6:40:09, Distance 95.65 miles, Climb 6,096 ft
End of Day 5 and we have arrived in Batemans Bay. 96 miles in 6 hours and 40 mins, averaging 14.3mph and 2,700m climbing reflecting the never ending hills. Julia Andrews would have been in her element. We started at 07:00 and the temperature hit -1°C with ice on the road and wooden bridges! The lunch stop was at 72 miles which was far too long a morning. We saw some amazing coastline at last, huge bays with rolling breakers, shame we weren’t allowed to stop and take pictures or have an ice cream. I made the front page of the local paper, well Warwick Waugh did, and I was walking past so made it on with a name check. My knees hurt most of the day, as does the under carriage and the spirit is waning as you look up to see yet another hill. We have three massage therapists with us who generally hurt me every afternoon at 17:00 but without them I doubt I’d make the next day. The end is in sight now, it’s probably only over the next hill or so.
Friday 5th July – Day 6 – “The Hills Are Alive”
Time riding 3:42:32, Distance 60.53 miles, Climb 3,153 ft
We started the day with a 06:00 breakfast then two hours on a coach to take us to Bundanoon where we started the day. You can see Roger liked to be at the front and being pregnant decided to be “safe” and wear his helmet for added “protection”. Then we had a fairly nice ride for a bit with brief mention of a hill but nothing too bad. We found a hill and it wasn’t too bad and spirits were generally high. Oh dear, we then found a 2km hill from hell with a dog leg bend where you thought it was going to end but it then went on and on and on. Not a happy peloton. A few bailed then found it even harder to start again as clipping in was hard. But we all made it to lunch, only for a rumour to go round (via the support crew) that Kent (quite an apt name if read the right way!?!) the organiser had two ways to go and decided to go the “hill” way.
This has been passed round the boys and the fines session will not go well for dear Kent. Revenge is a dish best served cold and it will be served at Randwick Rugby Club on Sunday in double helpings! My left knee is playing up now as my knee cap is tracking left but I am not one to moan (much) and I got some treatment at lunch which saw me home. Anyway, we are now in Wollongong and close to Sydney. Some of you are expecting some dramatic weight off me from this trip (and so was I) but there is no way this is going to happen. They feed us all the time here, big breakfasts and food and drink stops all the time. Constant bananas, muesli, biscuits, jelly beans, jelly snakes, sour snakes, energy gels with Gatorade on tap all day. Then big lunches and big dinners. Mark “Booster” Carr is also supplementing his day with 4-6 Cadbury Boost bars every day. There is no truth in the rumour he bought them as he thought they were an energy bar!
Other things I have missed (sorry I was too tired to include much yesterday) Mike Teague burst his front tire (can’t think why) and Warwick (6’10”, 20 stone ex-Wallaby) Waugh’s nickname is “Drobe”, prizes for anyone who knows why. Gary Allison had a tricky moment at lunch when he asked one of the boys if their bib shorts were also causing them trouble. “Not really, why?” was the reply. “Just here at the neck” says Gary. “Let me see”, said the helpful fellow rider, only to find out that Gary was wearing them back to front! Non-cyclists will need to look up ‘bib shorts’ on the internet.
Saturday 6th July – Day 7 “The Finish”
Time riding 4:11:18, Distance 61.64 miles, Climb 3,668 ft climbed
We finally made it to sunny Sydney. No more cycling for me! QBE hosted a drinks reception for us on their roof terrace over-looking the Sydney Harbour Bridge; spirits very high. We rode around the city centre and around Sydney Opera House all very surreal. Only one crash when Mike Gore face planted at the hotel reception as he rode into the kerb ! Maybe a full de-brief tomorrow…hangover permitting.
PS. Oh, and well done to the Lions!