Picos Original Riders

Picos Original Riders
Highlights of 2010

Last of the Picos Riders - to Rome Alone!

Our first two charity rides were a huge success - raising over £20,000 for the South East Cancer Help Centre.

The Centre does a fantastic job of supporting patients and carers at the most difficult times of their lives. They make a real difference and you could help them in their work by contributing to our fundraising. Donations can be made via JustGiving.comhttps://www.justgiving.com/Tom-Vaz/ or directly into the Centre. For more details of the Centre and their work see their website at http://www.sechc.org.uk/

After 3 years of rest it seemed time to dust off the old muscles, bones and sinews and do one more spectacular ride in aid of this fabulous charity.

This time I will travel alone for 25 days, mainly following the ancient pilgrimage route to Rome, the Via Francigene, covering a distance of around 1,400 miles.

The route travels through Newhaven - Dieppe - Paris before I eventually reach the Via Francigene in Eastern France. From then on it is pretty simple apart from having to cross the Alps without an elephant!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

There are no hills in Spain!

Or so we protested as we climbed our first ridiculous gradient for 5km this morning. This was followed by another one and another one. The whole exercise took twice as long as planned and so we are a little behind schedule today.
So far we have cycled 330km from home and are nearly fit now! Three of us had an enormous lunch for 11 euros. Three courses, each the size of a normal lunch. In the end even Christopher had to pass on the dessert.
At the end of our ride we encountered a couple of German girls who thought it was ok to ride on the motorway because there was a red circle with a picture of a bicycle inside. READ THE HIGHWAY CODE was my first thought but we relented and showed them the error of their ways.
Tonight we are going back to basics. The hostel is full and offered us 3 li-los. Being generous I have agreed to sleep on the concrete floor. One toilet between 50 men. What a life.
Free entertainnent at the moment. We have been watching a group of youngsters attempt to fix a punctured mountain bike tyre. One broken tyre lever, three ruined tubes and 6 wasted man hours later they have given up. I suggest they pray to Saint Iago or whoever is the patron saint for cycling.

A very hilly shortcut thanks to Des
Downhill to Gijon

Either pointing out where we are or looking for another shortcut

Roughing it

We woke up to torrential rain in Llanes - at least Des woke us up to tell us it was raining and we could stay in bed a little longer. After waiting a while we headed off in a steady downpour which only lasted 3 hours. At Ribadasella we stopped for tea and liked it so much that we stayed for a picnic lunch.
As the rain stopped the hills came out and we faced a series of 10km climbs but the descents were amazing. Even more of a shock was the short cut recommended by a local (who may have mentioned it but we did not understand it). It was a mountain biking route!
This is our first night in a proper pilgrim hostel. Very friendly people on similar journeys. Nice day shame my legs hurt.
Reluctant to leave Llanes
No its not Durdle Door!
Lunch at Ribadasella

There is a limit to what is cyclable

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Cantabria into Asturias

Last night Christopher's bed collapsed leaving me wide awake and laughing while he rolled around on the floor.
Then followed a quiet day of cycling.
First a trip to the beach at Comillas for an ice-cream. Then a visit to the cemetry with the greatest view and onwards over the hills to San Vincente for a quiet lunch where we were convinced that the waitress had undercharged us and tried to argue with her!
We carried on around the headland to Pechon with its long climb and great sweeping descent.
As we have travelled we have encountered the same English family who are touring on assorted bikes with trailers for their luggage. At Uquera we met them and one of the bikes required a replacement part for the gear mechanism so we could recommend the bike shop in Llanes from past experience. We did see them at the end of the day looking satisfied and with the bike repaired.
Des only tried to kill us once today but was prevented from doing so when Christopher proved that the road he was heading onto was a motorway! Such fun...
So today we went from the beach to the mountains, through farms, forest and back to the sea again all in the space of 47 miles.
Fantastic place!

Uphill is no strain when you are young
Des goes to the edge for his photography

An eccentric English family on holiday

The cemetery in Comillas. Chris bows before a potential plot that Des is eyeing up

How to get Chris' attention
Ricky points the way

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

On Dry Land

Onboard our luxury cruise ferry Ricky had a rub down from a young lady on the ship and was feeling much better. Well, he was smiling at least. The rest of us were more boring and watched as dolphins frolicked alongside.
As we docked in Santander the sun shone on us righteous pilgrims. However a short while later we were feeling at home as a damp drizzle started. We caught the train out of Santander to Puente San Miguel where we rode uphill to Santillana del Mar. A popular, historic town but the Tourist Information Centre sent us in the wrong direction to our Posada. Still Des prevailed and got us there - via another hill or two of course.
The end of our comfort was marked by a nice, spanish, evening meal of egg and chips.

Arriving in Santander with some trepidation

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

And we are off

Chris and I set off at 5am for Horsham while Des and Ricky were still cozy and tucked up in bed. We had a 40km ride while they had a 50 minute train journey. Unfortunately their reward for being lazy was that Ricky hurt his back carrying his bike on board.
A satisfactory breakfast was followed by a short ride to Pulborough where Ricky claimed that he was too injured to carry on before heading off for a direct train to Portsmouth.
We reached the South Downs after 80kms and boy it was hard work. Des had a short cut which added a few miles and made us climb TWO unnecessary hills. Being on pilgrimage we could not express our gratitude but nevertheless we felt it!
Happily we were all reunited before boarding.
Lets hope tomorrow goes more to plan than today.

Facing the south downs

Ricky's leg injury worsens!
All aboard, a queue of cyclists!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Final preparations

We did our last minute collection of sponsors from church today. Due to our generous parish we raised £703 in cash with a further £565 pledged. I did not think that we would reach our £4000 target but with gift aid we will now reach over £5000 and there are still donations coming in.
Thank you so much for your fantastic response and we will try very hard to live up to your expectations.
Just our final packing tomorrow before the off. Oh I can feel those butterflies of excitment already.