The journey to FCUM
Last summer a plot was hatched for Chorley Supporters Trust and Twincess to join forces in a bike ride to a Chorley match during the 2015/16 season. Despite the insistence of some that the designated game be Lowestoft Town away it was decided to wait until the fixtures were released before a final decision were made. The fixture computer proved favourable. FC United of Manchester away was drawn for 26th March 2016; the end of the week in which World Downs Syndrome Day falls (21st March). Whilst the destination may not have been the farthest flung fixture to cycle to the relatively short and flat route would make the ride accessible to all who wanted to join in.
Nine riders eventually joined Team Trust/ Twincess:
Matt Parry, treatment Mark Rees, Steve Barker, Ryan Modlin, Alex Howarth (Beaks), Elliott Smith, Andy Daniels, Chris Harty and James Lee. As a further bonus and adding some serious commitment to the cause Ian Hamer elected to run the 26 miles from Chorley to FC United!
The weather forecast was lousy for Saturday morning. I checked the predictions for Chorley, Bolton, Radcliffe and Moston and each area we were to pass through was set for strong winds and heavy rain. If anybody was lacking motivation for the ride, this wasn’t going to help.
On the day itself Ian set off on his marathon at 8am with his wife, Penny offering support from the comfort of her car. The cyclists met at Victory Park with the aim of a 10:30am departure and planning on taking around two and a half hours to complete the ride. I’d already received a text message from Penny informing me Ian was making good progress and was clear of Bolton. As we met it was indeed windy and cold, but the rain hadn’t yet arrived. The first potential disaster of day arose as I was setting my bike up. I attached the front wheel, checked the spokes, air pressure etc and all was fine. I slotted the rear wheel into position , generic online pharmacy http://www.healthcarewell.com/online-pharmacy/ , aligned and lubricated the chain, checked the tyre pressure and then went to secure the wheel with the spindle that holds it in place… and that’s where disaster struck. The spindle wasn’t there. Not in the bags I’d carried my wheels in, not in the car, not in my pockets, not in my tool bag. Nowhere to be seen. My wife, Vicky launched an immediate sortie to Halfords whereupon hearing the tale of impending doom to such a worthy cause the staff found a spindle, checked it was a good fit and sent her on her way with no charge for their part in the rescue mission. Every credit to Halfords.
The Support Vehicle was in very capable hands.
A fine array of eight road cycles was lined up awaiting riders, plus what can only be described (with all due respect) as a tank of mountain bike that was to be piloted by Trust member Steve Barker. Now, even if you’re not familiar with the vagaries of bicycle design you only need to consider the names “Road Bike” and “Mountain Bike” to realise that Steve’s steed was not intended for the purpose he had in mind. The tyres were three time the width of the road bikes and it must have weighed way more than double the heaviest of racing bikes. It is therefore to his absolute credit that he not only joined in but completed the journey having had to put considerably more effort in than otherwise might have been required.
So with my bike now roadworthy, we had some pre grand depart team pictures with Abigail & Isobel before setting off from Victory Park. The peloton managed to reach the unimpressive distance of the top of Ashby Street before the first rider succumbed to the perils of having feet clipped into pedals. As we waited to turn onto Pilling Lane, Beaks failed to detach his feet from his pedals before his balance got the better of him and he ended up sprawled on the floor with his bike still attached to his feet. As in all cases of acute embarrassment, blame was firmly apportioned elsewhere. In this instance it was seemingly, and inexplicably Matt’s fault. Perhaps we weren’t going to be breaking any time trial records.
As we pulled onto the A6, Bolton Road, the much anticipated rain came although mercifully not with the force that had been predicted. By the time we had our first pause to let all riders catch up after 7.5 miles the rain had subsided and thankfully wasn’t to return. The route I had plotted and was following on my (very reliable when followed) Garmin GPS then took us off the A6 down to Lostock train station where we picked up the National Cylce Network for a couple of miles. Contrary to the fears of some riders, who thought they recognised the scene from a murderous horror film, this was a legitimate route that gave us some respite from the busy main roads before unceremoniously dumping us into the relative chaos of Bolton Town Centre. As a team bedecked in resplendent pink, riding as a tight unit we must have looked far more impressive than the raggle taggle bunch of hapless amateurs we actually were. We were negotiating the multi-lane highways and traffic lights quite competently until I called a right turn too early (my GPS is very reliable when followed) and we all dived out of the right filter lane back onto the main carriageway, much to the annoyance of most of the motorists. The exception being one Sam Ashton who passed us in his car on his way to the game and honked his horn in encouragement rather than the frustration and ire expressed by others.Once through Bolton Town centre we picked up the cycle network again and headed through Leverhulme Park that was to get us to the outskirts of Radcliffe. At the exit to the park the path forked in two with my GPS (very reliable when followed) advising the left fork should be followed. However, by this time natural selection had impacted the peloton and a new leader had opted to take the right fork. Having told me several times we had veered off course my GPS (very reliable when followed) decided it was wasting its time and energy and put itself to sleep. A fair old climb ensued that would lead us to Whitefield. The leaders had paused at the top to allow a catch up. Being in a middle pack (of one) I reached the leaders and took the opportunity to give my nether regions some much needed relief by getting off my bike and leaning it against a pillar box. Sadly the cries of “Arghh! Your bike” came too late and it slid down the side of the pillar box to the floor. In the process it adorned my gleaming white bike with bright pillar box red go faster stripes. I genuinely could’ve cried.
A much needed wee and flapjack break was taken at Radcliffe Police station. Despite a seemingly pointless diversion and being way behind our very flexible schedule the team were in good spirits. Spirits were further enhanced by the announcement that we were back on the pre-planned route and that there was only around eight miles to go. Steve took the opportunity to get ahead of the pack on his machine and set off while others were still relieving themselves. As the rest of us set off from Radcliffe Police station having taken advantage of their facilities we had our second pedal problem. This time it was Chris who had failed in the act of multi tasking balancing, pedalling and clipping in all at the same time. Both he and his bike fell to the floor in a heap much to the mirth of others. Some of whom ruthlessly reached for their camera phones to record the humiliation for posterity.A couple of miles on, and the pre-planned route was to take us into Heaton Park. This small scenic diversion off the main road was intended to cut a big corner off the journey and save some time and energy for the final few miles at the other side of the park. Right on cue my GPS (very reliable when followed) beeped furiously and displayed a left turn. We all careered off the main road into the sanctuary of the park. Again the leaders set off, while me and Mark wondered how we hadn’t managed to catch Steve up. Assuming he hadn’t found a previously unseen turn of speed we slowed down and had a look around. Looking back at the entrance to the park we could see a speck of pink pedaling furiously towards us. Unsure how that was even possible we waited for Steve before ambling off again. At this point my GPS (you know the rest) indicated we should take the right path (much as I’m taking the self-righteous path in writing this). Unfortunately, the train of pink up ahead had taken a different path so we set off in pursuit of them. As we neared the leading pack Mark commented to me “we’ve already passed this bit. We’ve just gone round in a big circle”. We caught up the leaders and we made our way out of Heaton Park, not on the other side of the park as intended, but actually further back up the road that we’d started on. We’d actually cycled two loops of about two miles and gone backwards in the process!
You’d think the lesson of Heaton Park would’ve been enough to quell anybody’s insatiable desire to create their own route to Moston and yet one more unnecessary, but thankfully shorter diversion was embarked upon before we all agreed that the only way we would ever reach our destination would be to follow the pre-planned route.
We turned right onto Victoria Avenue. We were nearing our destination now with around 25 miles under our belt, but Victoria Avenue presented a long climb. Without warning both my vastus lateralis muscles started cramping and bouncing around under my lycra like two giant jumping beans. I let out a shameless yelp as everyone else passed me by with words of encouragement. I could now see the finish point on my GPS (have I mentioned my GPS?) which appeared deceptively close. I caught up with some of the others at the end of the seemingly interminable climb and apparently missed the comedy of another Chris Harty pedal failure resulting in his second fall of the day. The wait for the others seemed unduly long and it was a surprise to see Steve being the next rider appear over the brow of the hill. Such a delay could really only mean one thing and Steve confirmed this: One of the team had suffered a puncture. How’s your luck? Just over a mile to go and a puncture. With all the sacrifice and martyrdom of a wounded soldier on the battle field he encouraged the team to go on without him. But this band of brothers, bonded by the unbreakable ties of rain, flap jacks and micky taking were not about to leave one of their own stranded by the roadside. The team that starts together finishes together.
We would wait!
Besides which, my muscles were still twitching and my lungs burning.
The team now back together as one we cycled together, slowly down Lightbowne Road and turned into Broadhurst Park to generous applause from both sets of fans. We’d made it!
A very, very steady three hours, 29 miles and a rather pitiful average speed of 7.9mph was the final statistics. Even discounting stoppages our total moving speed was nothing to crow about at 10.8mph.
Ian had also made it to Broadhurst Park some fifty minutes ahead of us having completed his first ever marathon distance run in a very credible five hours.
There are several people we’d like to thank following our ride/ run yesterday. First of all to Penny Hamer, Vicky Modlin and Simon Denham (e-build) for providing vehicular support for the event. To FC United of Manchester for their support and hospitality upon arrival. They gave us somewhere to keep our bikes and kit during the match and access to a changing room and showers to use so we could freshen up and watch the game in relative comfort. They also gave us a report on their website and Twitter feed which no doubt had an impact on the reception we received from their fans and on the donations received.
Speaking of donations we must thank all those that have and continue to donate. Downs Syndrome awareness and charity plus Chorley Supporters Trust will both benefit from your generous giving.
Thank you to the team of nine riders and one runner for taking part and giving us an event to promote.
And finally, thank you to the beautiful Abigail & Isobel for their continued inspiration.