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Bristol to Dublin blog: Day 2, 72 miles

It’s a case of hills, hills and yet more hills for our intrepid cyclists.

Carmarthen – Fishguard – Rosslare – Wexford

Steve Jobs once said that “the only way to do good work was to love what you do.”

Well, today these sentiments were never more poignant and relevant when contextualised to a cycling challenge. Let’s be totally transparent here – today was simply beautiful in terms of weather and scenery, however, while we flirted with a vision of heaven we also danced with the devil! This was a very, very hard day in the saddle and at times for some walking in their cleated cycling shoes. In true Swallows and Amazons style, the latter is most definitely more difficult than the former. A continuum of drama both front and back pack with all the cuddly stuff in the middle.

After another fine breakfast and excellent hospitality at the Stradey Park Hotel, riders semi-rigid with stiff joints and tender derriéres from yesterday left the atrium carpark at ability level intervals between 5.30am and 6am… another mind numbing early start. No sooner had they left the sanctity of the hotel grounds and the hill climbing began. It was relentless – no sooner were they up, then they were back down again only to go up again and repeat, repeat, repeat. This is legalised torture on two wheels.

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By 6.50am the sweeper car was full of casualties and was carrying five bikes with mechanical issues and there was a growing waiting list for additional capacity. Some riders simply had chronic fatigue issues having not recovered sufficiently from yesterday’s baptism of fire, whereas others who had chosen to walk up somewhat challenging inclines now discovered that in doing so the rough surface tarmac had literally shredded their shoe cleats and they could no longer clip into their pedals. The next problem was a shortage of spare cleats and so the pedal swapping end game began in an effort to accommodate riders with trainers instead.

Gurdev Mattu (Fashion UK) even offered to slip into Crocs. There was a brief glimmer of redemption as we spotted a rather large Halfords and then quickly realised that it didn’t open until 9am – and it was only 7.15am. A rather teasing analogy of water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!

With the support vans now also returning for sweeping duties, the rest of the group numbering an eager and strong 55 souls rode on to confront hill after hill after hill amidst beautiful leafy single carriage lanes in equally stunning although unkempt wild grass verges and hedgerows. This was nature at its very best… although also a smiling assassin in the waiting. There were ‘pant cuffs’ everywhere – Welsh for hidden dips – and all kept fingers crossed that we would not meet anything coming the other way and especially not the tractor driver from the day before.

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By our first feed stop at 8am we already had two rider retirements, three disabled bikes, a damaged support car from an earlier collision with a bollard and a shopping list for bicycle parts the length of one’s arm. At this break we were also courteously given free access to an open air concrete surface. This is the cycling equivalent of driving at Silverstone. One of our more seasoned riders – Martin Beck c/o Rainbow Designs – was so excited to see this vision that he mistakenly rode head first into one of the floodlight stanchions and knocked himself semi-unconscious whilst gashing his left leg. Many of us rushed to his aid to check that his carbon frame bike was okay!

Fortunately, it was and Dr Richard Emms was spared his first serious medical emergency. As Mark Twain once said: “Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret if you live.”

With safety always front of mind, speed was also of the essence as we had an inflexible noon appointment with Stena Line in Fishguard. To help guide us, Simon Foy from Classic Challenge was upgraded from van driver to pace man (former Bianchi professional) and anyone who was riding behind his rear wheel line was yet another potential candidate for the sweeper van, which had now been upgraded to a coach just in case. On and on and on came hill after hill. Most of them between 10% and 15% gradient until a cheeky 17% levelled collective ambition followed by a brutal, but final 20% gradient.

Only two riders aka. Messrs Andrew Carley (eOne) and Alastair McHarrie (Sanrio) managed this scoundrel without setting foot on terra firma. Even in the support vehicles we felt as though we were preparing for lift-off to Mars. We had weathered a wicked Welsh ‘helter skelter’ and although battle scarred and egos winded, there was none of the participative fun fair joy.

Eventually the peak of the last hill was a memory to savour as Fishguard came into full view and never a more welcome sight than the glorious white ferry waiting to take us across the Irish Sea to Rosslare. We were yet again treated as celebrities and boarded with little fuss and much aplomb. One rather jovial car deck crew member asked Warren Traeger (Jami) if we were cycling two a breast. Without thinking Warren replied: “No – we’re going to Dublin!”

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Once aboard it was like feeding time at the zoo and without exception we all headed straight to the grill bistro for a much needed lunch of fish n’ chips with mushy peas followed by the now customary treat of cake in all its varied formats. We now had four hours to chill-out and recuperate before the final 20-mile stage along the coast road to Wexford. A language known as ‘Yola’ was spoken here until it became extinct in the mid 19th century, however, there is a fair chance it will re-surface on Friday evening after our finish party at the Guinness Hop House. Wexford is also the sunniest county in Ireland and with that well-being reassurance logged, an extremely tired and yet doggedly determined 63 riders of an initial start group of 65 made it to the Maldron Hotel in Ballindinas in cross-winds and sodden rain for an absolutely essential overnight lodging.

Supper was served at 8pm with stereotypical potato and leek soup followed by chicken, mash and greens and guess what – flipping cheesecake! Today’s ‘printable’ awards for Little Miss Sunshine and Little Miss Chatterbox (mostly of the blue type lingo) went to Katie Rollings (eOne) and Zara Grindrod (Rainbow Designs). Mr Bump naturally went to Martin Beck for his velodrome drama. The fastest rider on today’s circuit was Rob Goodchild (Aardman Animation) who inherits the flashing silicon bull’s testicles to swing with pride from his saddle tomorrow.

With true tour consistency, but, a most uncustomary manner for the UK licensing industry it was off to bed at 10pm for a much needed sleep ahead of Day 3.

The hills are now done but the mountains start tomorrow!

You can support The Light Fund and our industry cyclists by clicking here to visit the JustGiving page. Alternatively, you can donate by text – simply text 70070 with BDUB32 and your donation amount – for example BDUB32 £10.

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