Last Friday, myself and a band of fellow Creston employees embarked on an epic 185 mile cycling adventure from Bristol to London, as part of the inaugural Tour de Creston.
The Grand Départ was from One Glass Wharf, home of The Real Adventure and EMO, where cyclists of all abilities – from occasional commuters to competitive rouleurs – gathered to take on the challenge. We were cheered on by a crowd of supportive colleagues outside the office, a theme that ran throughout the tour, with Creston employees helping each other along the whole way.
The sun was shining as we set off and we began the tour in relaxed style on the easy-going Bristol and Bath Railway Path. After briefly getting lost trying to find the route out of Bath (thanks Pete) we did a Weller and found ourselves ‘going underground’, entering the longest cycle tunnel in Europe, a cavernous mile-long hole burrowing through the hills to the South of Bath. This was memorable not only because of the refreshing change in temperature, but also because of the dinner party music being piped through speakers.
After a quick stop at the least welcoming pub in England, the pace was cranked up a notch as we attempted to chase EMO’s formidable MD Peter Brown up the biggest climb of the day, Midford Hill, a drag up to the village of Hinton Charterhouse. We then settled down into small groups and worked our way out through the Wiltshire countryside, past the Westbury White Horse, up and over Salisbury plain and on to Stonehenge where we would stop for the night in Amesbury. It was an amazing sight to see 30 or so cyclists snaking through the hills, all wearing the same Creston team kit, whilst two Jags in full Tour de Creston livery followed us as support cars. It was as close to feeling like I’m in Team Sky as I’m likely to get.
We wound down the day in a nearby pub, where I witnessed more than a few people eat two main meals, one straight after the other, and then tuck in to dessert. Hungry work, clearly.
Day Two saw us up early and tucking into a Little Chef ‘Olympic Breakfast’ (as eaten by Jessica Ennis). We then tried to convince our already stiff and achy legs that another day in the saddle (a total of 95 miles) was a good idea. We didn’t get off to the best of starts when the route took us down a muddy track that was full of sharp flint, tearing a few tyres right open.
New tyres fitted and punctures fixed, we rolled into Hampshire and on to the office of Marketing Sciences in Winchester, where we were warmly welcomed with a cake selection that would make Mary Berry’s eyes water. Refuelled, it was time to get back on the bikes before the lactic acid built up in our legs; we still had the small matter of another 70 miles in the saddle, and things were about to get hilly.
The next stretch was a scenic meander through the South Downs National Park, and after a quick break in Petersfield, the real slog began with the amount of downhill never quite matching by the amount of uphill on offer. We eventually came out the other side to more gentle terrain, before the route played its trump card, Leith Hill – the biggest climb of the tour – 80 miles into Day Two. It’s a climb nasty enough to be featured in the legendary ‘100 Greatest Cycling Climbs’ book, and posed an interesting challenge to those with tired legs. Leith Hill done (along with the odd expletive), we enjoyed the view at the top and bolted down the other side into Dorking, and on to our final destination, Leatherhead.
It felt great to have survived Day Two, by this point we all knew that the hard work was done, and relaxed in the knowledge that Day Three would be the ‘easy one’. After a few victory pints and tasty Italian meal it was off to bed for a well-deserved rest.
Day Three started off with breakfast in the local Wetherspoons (yes we are classy), and before I could so much as digest a sausage, it was time to take on Box Hill. Famous as the venue for the 2012 London Olympic road race event, Box Hill is now the native habitat of the lesser spotted polka dot MAMIL, with legions of plump men and women whizzing up and down it. The Creston gang showed the locals how hill climbing is really done, with a dizzying display of dancing on the pedals and some rabid handlebar chewing.
Having claimed glory it was time for the home stretch, an easy run in to London via Richmond Park and along the Thames. Once past the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace we reached our final destination – Creston HQ in Soho, after a total of 185 miles. Creston put on a fantastic rooftop BBQ for us and, after a whistle stop tour of the very impressive new TMW office, we all sat back and reflected on our achievements for a minute or two.
It was an incredible effort all round, from those who just rode for an hour to those who completed the entire tour, I witnessed people of all abilities pushing themselves to the limit and smiling the whole way. It was also great to meet members of other Creston agencies and find out more about what they do. Special kudos to my fellow Real Adventurers, Amy and Enrique, who completed the full distance with me; Enrique’s effort being particularly impressive considering he rode the whole thing on a £60 bike from a supermarket! Proof that if you try, you can.
A huge thank you to the organisers of the tour who put in so much effort and made it such a professionally organised event, Justin Moody (who selflessly gave up his place cycling to drive the support van at the last minute), the team at EMO for all their hard work, and the volunteers who drove the Jaguar Sportbrakes and saved many a cyclist in their hour of need…thanks so much! A heartfelt thank you also goes to Creston and our respective companies for allowing us to take some time out from work and for keeping us well fed and watered throughout the tour.
A real adventure indeed – bring on Tour de Creston 2014!
If you can, please donate to The MS Trust, the chosen charity of the Tour de Creston and a fantastic cause: http://www.justgiving.com/TourDeCreston2013