Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Ride - Day 12 (20th May '06)

Crossing the finish line at John O'Groats.

Well we did it! No one ever said that it would be easy and it wasn't. Riding a bike for five or six hours a day and crossing Dartmoor, the Lake District and the hills and mountains of Scotland is real biking. It is fair to say that your arse and your saddle get to know one another pretty well by the finish!

Today, we stopped briefly for a coffee in Thurso and then pushed on to John O' Groats. On arrival we gathered in the Seaview Hotel Bar for a wee dram. When all had arrived we cycled the short stretch to the finish as a group. Champagne and photos then a quick lunch and in to the mini bus for the 114 mile drive back to Inverness. All going out for a celebration meal tonight.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Ride - Day 11 (19th May '06)

Where does my love lie, in the middle of nowhere.

Only 56 miles today but all 56 in to a headwind! Easy pace with a few silly antics on the hills. I backed off a bit as I was in danger of seeing my breakfast of haggis and black pudding again. Loch Naver was beautiful but the wind intensified and then on the 922nd mile I punctured for the first time. We arrived at Bettyhill on the North coast of Britain and have just seen the first sign for John O'Groats. Typically our hotel was at the top of a bloody great hill. Feeling a great sense of excitement and achievement as our journey is almost complete.

Only one more day to get to that desolate shore....

Mark making friends at The Crask Inn, the second most remote pub in Britain!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Ride - Day 10 (18th May '06)

Loch Dornoch viewpoint.

We have been blessed with better weather today. Although it drizzled until we parted company with Loch Ness, thereafter the sun shone. On the way we climbed the steepest hill of the whole trip at Drumnadrochit, a real ballbreaker. We had our lunch at Dingwall on the Cromarty Firth and then continued, passing both seals and oil rigs. The afternoon ride was picturesque as we headed for our final destination at Bonar Bridge.

The end feels close now but there is still 120 miles to go.

Loch Ness, no sign of the monster! (Ed: He's behind you!)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Ride - Day 9 (17th May '06)

Today was a long one. 96 miles and our arrival in the Highlands. We started with an 8 mile climb (which was nice!) and then a hurtling descent along the shores of Loch Awe and then on to Loch Linnhe. We stopped for lunch at Ballaculish and then continued on the A82 to Fort William. We saw the tip of Ben Nevis and continued on before taking a few photos at the Commando memorial at Spean Bridge. Just another tough 12 miles to go before we arrived at the Youth Hostel on Loch Lochy. No telly to watch the footie but our leaders cooked us up a Scottish treat of Haggis in Whisky sauce served with Neaps and Tatties. Could it be Porridge for breakfast per chance?

The Ride - Day 8 (16th May '06)

Better day today, rain held off and scenery was excellent. We headed from Kilmarnock to Inverary, a total distance of 77 miles and averaged 16.6mph for the day. Left Kilmarnock and followed A78 to the coast which was quite busy but soon found the roads quietened down and the weather improved. We arrived in Gourock where we took the short ferry crossing across the Firth of Clyde to Dunoon. Here we watched porpoises in the firth and someone claimed to see a seal. Once the other side we lunched at Benmore Botanical Gardens. The afternoon took us along the banks of Loch Fyne with its famous oyster beds to Inverary. The Argyll Hotel was very pleasant and the evening was concluded with a few games of pool and some selections on the jukebox.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Ride - Day 7 (15th May '06)

At the border @ Gretna, blissfully unaware that the rain isn't going to stop for the next 90 miles.

Today the rain was with us all day. After the obligatory photo stop @ the Border we made our way across the southern uplands. The terrain was rolling but once on the A76 I was mostly concerned with not being killed by a truck! Lunch was inside at a roadside cafe as it was so wet. I rode most of the 37 miles after lunch alone and when I finally arrived in Kilmarnock it was a massive relief to have finished the day.

Nigel wringing out his socks!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Ride - Day 6 (14th May '06)

Kendal - I'm not in the mood to be in the photo at this stage!

After lunch we flew, the harder it rained the faster we rode. The ride from Shap through Carlisle and onto Longtown was the fastest stretch yet. 19mph for 39 miles! Onto Bonny Scotland tomorrow.....

Editor : At 17:29 I received this text message from Steve

"4 miles to the Scottish border, anyone fancy talking over for a bit?!! Thanks for all the messages of encouragement this week. Keep them coming."

The Ride - Day 5 (13th May '06)

A mile eating day today. Scenery was not always pretty as we clawed our way out of Shropshire and on to the Cheshire plain. When we saw the signs to Liverpool and Manchester it really put our distance so far into perspective. Lunch was by the river Weaver near Northwich. We ploughed on through Warrington, Wigan and in to Preston. Typically the weather was grey and it rained on and off. Big day looming tomorrow.

Members of Team Bianchi stop for a break in Wigan.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Ride - Day 4 (12th May '06)

4 counties today Gwent, Monmouthshire, Herefordshire and Shropshire. Passed through the Wye valley, on rolling roads and had a pleasant lunch by a river. The weather finally took a turn for the worse as we crossed in to Shropshire. A storm was approaching and we were soggy by the time we hit Shrewsbury. 90 miles at 16.4 mph not bad for an old git!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Ride - Day 3 (11th May '06)

A brief stop on the Somerset Levels

A long day of 92 miles, but weather was glorious and countryside beautiful. We left Devon and crossed in to Somerset. The Somerset levels were a relief but soon after Cheddar we had a 1.5 mile climb, fortunately lunch was at the top.

After lunch we rode across a beautiful wooded valley towards Bristol. The Avon Gorge cycle way proved challenging but we finally crossed the Avon and the Severn into Wales. We passed the pretty ruin of Tintern Abbey and arrived at our hotel to waiters with trays of chilled orange juice - nice!

Tintern Abbey our final place of rest

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Ride - Day 2 (10th May '06)

Left Liskeard and headed in to Tavistock, where we had our sheets stamped in the Post Office. Then we were sent the wrong way and had to back track!

Dartmoor is a bastard, I would have preferred to have been in the prison! Devon has proved equally hilly as Cornwall .

Having avoided t-boning any sheep on Dartmoor we finally arrived in Exeter. The last 20 miles to our overnight stop were, thankfully, a good deal less lumpy!

The picture is me taking a well earned break. Today's distance 78 miles @ 13.8mph - 5 hours 34mins in the saddle.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Ride - Day 1 (9th May '06)

We have been blessed with good weather, no rain and no headwinds but hills aplenty. Arrived at Lands End which apart from the rocks and the sea is heavily commercialised.

Got our end to end sheets stamped in the PO and headed for the obligatory photo at the famous signpost. The bloke who takes all the official pictures and owns the plot of land doesnt bother arriving until 11am even though he is supposed to be there at 10, so we bugger off, having had a picture by a post with no sign on it!!

Morning is pleasant, passing many disused tin mines and on to lunch at 42 miles. We all had a warm, cornish pasty which was most welcome. Afternoon soon started to tell. Hills, hills and after the hills more hills. They do know how to make 'em steep in Cornwall! At the mid afternoon break I collapsed in a heap on the grass, dreaming of a warm bath and hot tea. Slogged back via some more hills to Liskeard and arrived at about 5.30pm. 4hours 32 in the saddle at 16.3 mph. That's too fast and we will have slow up tomorrow as it is being billed as THE toughest day of all.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Final Preparations

With just two weeks to go Mark and I are both feeling a mixture of apprehensive and excited by the prospect of the thousand mile journey that lays ahead. I know from visiting the online forum that the other participants are feeling the same way. It is a concern that others have trained harder and longer and that nobody wants their fitness to come in to question at this stage, as it is too late to start cramming in the training sessions now..

Over the weekend of the 22nd/23rd April we have completed back to back rides of 50 and 105 miles respectively. Having got through this, our longest, planned pre-event rides it is fair to say that we both feel a great sense of relief. Also I think we can now be certain that we have built up our fitness to a level that should be adequate for the impending challenge.

The 105 mile ride took us to Lavenham in Suffolk, a rich wool merchants town with a cathedral like church. It has a good selections of lunch stops and would have been perfect if I had taken any money with me! Unfortunately Kim and the children were due to meet me there with my wallet and camera but they never made it as poor Emily was carsick about half way. Luckily the Innkeeper took pity on us and David Jardine of The Renaissance Coffee House and B & B allowed us to sample his wares and forward the money at a later date. This kind and greatly appreciated gesture probably saved our lives as we were both decidedly flaky on arrival. Thanks David!!

The return journey was not as bad as we might have thought and the sausage and bacon huffer put some strength in our legs. We managed to maintain 15.7 miles per hour average for over 100 miles which is respectable.

The next fortnight will entail less cycling and more eating, which sounds great. A 30 and 50 are planned for the May Day Bank Holiday and then get our bikes serviced and polished before the big roll out on May the 9th.

We are through the £5,000 barrier!

Thank you to everyone that has sponsored both myself and Mark so far.

Thanks to your most generous sponsorship our combined sponsorship total has now reached over £5,000.

If you haven't sponored either (or both!) of us yet, there is still time.

Just click on the "Sponsor Steve Now" or "Sponsor Mark Now" links to the right of the webpage.

Every penny counts!

Article in Sawbridgeworth Church & Town

In the April edition of the the local Church and Town magazine this article was published.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What do you do at the weekend?

Training mileages are increasing and we have now cycled 70 miles on at least two occasions. Looking forward to putting the clocks forward and the (hopeful) onset of some warmer days. I am cycling 5 days a week and training at the Gym once. Mark is seeing a Personal Trainer twice a week and will be putting his turbo trainer to good use as we near the event.

The photos are taken near Danbury in Essex and the pub The Cricketers Arms in Danbury was our lunch stop (reccommended). On Sunday 2nd April we will marshalling the Sunflower Run, this is a 10k run/5k walk which is open to all. The event is organised by and to raise funds for the St. Clare Hospice. The run starts at 10.30 an the walk at 10.45.

Fundraising target raised to £2500

Due to the fantastic support I have received so far I have already met my original sponsorship target of £2000, so I have added another £500 to the target.

Keep it coming!

A few thank you's...

Time for a thank you to the the local Sawbridgeworth community and businesses for their help so far.

  • Dennis Butchers, made a pledge of £50 plus they have been canvassing their customers on my behalf.
  • Aspire Health and Fitness have given me 10 free sessions at Leventhorpe Pool and Gym to assist with my training.
  • The Tuck Shop who have made a donation.
  • Pledges from Wright & Co, Clark Franks, Wiggies and the Kitchen Gallery who have kindly displayed my poster.
  • Reedings and Fawbert & Barnard Schools for distributing letters to all parents

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hold The Front Page!

On February 16th I was featured in the local paper "The Observer". It read as follows...

"A man from Sawbridgeworth is training for an epic cycle ride from Land's End to John O'Groats to raise money for a cancer hospice.

Self-employed grain broker Steven Butler, 39, is hoping to cover the 1,000 mile distance is just 12 days in May and is hoping for thousands of pounds in sponsorship for the St Clare Hospice in Hastingwood.

He is undertaking the demanding feat with friend Mark Cox, 28, a chef at a residential care home who lives in Church Langley, Harlow.

Mr Butler said he was riding in memory of his friend Phil Evans, who was cared for at the hospice whilst dying of bowel cancer and spoke highly of his treatment.

The duo plan to cycle up the western side of Britain, across some of the country's most difficult terrain. Mr Butler, who lives in Parkway with wife, Kim, and children, Jack, nine, and Emily, six, said he was already training hard.

Formerly a keen runner, he has completed the London Marathon four times, but said he was forced to switch to cycling after a knee operation. He was approaching the mammoth bike ride with the same mindset, he said.

Anyone wishing to support the pair can visit for more information or call Julie North at St Clare Hospice on 01279 773753."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Training Regime

We are not attempting to challenge Lance Armstrong's Tour De France record. Whilst we are taking the training seriously we are unfortunately not enjoying the post ride massages and eating gargantuan bowls of pasta for breakfast! Neither are we about to become teetotallers.

At present, our longest rides are between 50 and 60 miles but these will increase to 100 miles as we near the event. I am cycling on three further days and attending the gym once each week and also fitting in one six mile run with the dog on a Saturday. I allow myself Monday as a day of complete rest in order to appease the wife and rest the muscles.

I have a turbo trainer set up in my conservatory, whilst pedalling away my children and dog watch from the other side of the glass. It is obvious from their expressions that they think I am a complete nutter (He is - Ed.)

The Riders

The riders are myself, Steve Butler and Mark Cox. We will form part of a bigger group who at present number about 15 riders.

I have completed a number of challenges for charity in the past. I have run five marathons, including four in London and have cycled from London to Paris.

Mark has previously been involved in a cycle challenge that took him across Brazil.

The Event Organisers

Discover Adventure specialises in designing and operating fundraising challenges for charity groups, as well as challenging trips for school and corporate groups. We run treks, cycle rides, horse treks and multi-activity trips all over the world, and have been doing so since 1994. In the past twelve years we have built up an excellent reputation among those who come on our trips, and the charities and other organisations we work with closely, for our friendly, flexible approach, value for money and professionalism.

The Route

Day 01 : Lands End - Golant (65 miles)
Day 02 : Golant - Cullompton (90 miles)
Day 03 : Cullompton - St Briavels (88 miles)
Day 04 : St Briavels - Shrewsbury (85 miles)
Day 05 : Shrewsbury - Preston (80 miles)
Day 06 : Preston - Gretna Green (105 miles)
Day 07 : Gretna Green - Dalry (98 miles)
Day 08 : Dalry - Inverary (65 miles)
Day 09 : Inverary - Loch Lochy (95 miles)
Day 10 : Loch Lochy - Culrain (80 miles)
Day 11 : Culrain - Tongue (45 miles)
Day 12 : Tongue - John O'Groats (60 miles)

Total : 956 miles

The work of St Clare Hospice

St Clare Hospice provides 24 hour care for patients suffering from terminal and life threatening illness. It is staffed by professionals and volunteers and funded by voluntary contributions. It services East Herts and West Essex.

The hospice provides a sanctuary for patients, where friends and relatives can visit their loved ones in a peaceful environment away from the hustle and bustle of a general hospital.

If you would like to find out more about the vital role that the hospice provides please follow this link.