I have always wanted to complete the London to Brighton bike ride. Ever since I lived in South London and watched the ride pass my house. I decided this year was going to be THE one. Losing both a colleague and a close friend to cancer inspired me. I decided to turn those losses into an opportunity to be positive and make a difference.

I mentioned the bike charity ride to my team on our weekly manager’s call and that we should raise money for the Macmillan cancer charity. The room was split. From those who thought they would never be able to cycle that far to those believing it would be a great idea. A few of them said yes! Without actually believing we would be able to complete the 55-mile race!

I started to organise the team and get them onboard. I quickly realised that I wasn’t getting very far, and this was best left to the team themselves. So, I asked one of the more diligent members of the team to help with the organisation- thank you Bernard Moray. And before I knew it, we were registered. We received training plans and welcome packs and charity fund raising ideas. It was now real! There was no backing out and my training plan needed to be implemented.

We set up our Strava and WhatsApp cycling group, so that we could track each other’s training progress. We shared jokes and we boasted of long rides we had completed, which all added to the feeling of belonging to the best team ever! I was beginning to enjoy this experience. I looked forward to seeing what my colleagues had achieved on their bike and watched the charity donations mount up.

Race day

We met at the start of the race in Clapham. I was now feeling very nervous. Had I trained hard enough? Had I packed the right food? Had I remembered my helmet? Should I go to the toilet again?!

Stage 1

We set off on the 55-mile race at 9:30am with a fun and well-meaning crowd of cyclists. We headed off south towards Balham and Tooting dodging the busy morning traffic. After a very stop-start first hour we had only cycled 5 miles. Whilst sat at yet another red traffic light, we worked out, at this rate, it was going to take us eleven hours! The cycling seemed very easy and lulled us all into a false sense of security.

Then we started to leave London behind. The roads opened up and the hills started, and the ascents got longer and steeper. My breathing got more laboured and my pedals turned slower. This was going to be harder than I thought.

Stage 2

This was the part of the race that tested our endurance. And if this wasn’t bad enough, I lost concentration for a split second along a busy A road. I slipped on slippery mud and the next thing I knew I had crashed. I was on my back with my bike on top of me and hoping I hadn’t scratched my bike!! I took a moment to compose myself and repair my bike but was luckily helped by other cyclists to make sure I was Ok. Fortunately, only minor scratches on me and my bike.

Somehow the team got split up. I was on my own cycling, and I couldn’t understand where everyone had gone. But a while later all became clear. Some of the BM team had taken a wrong turning in the wrong direction and had a 5 mile detour to get back to the M25!

Stage 3

The hill from hell – Ditchling Beacon!

I will be frank. This part of the race broke me mentally and physically. I realised that my training hadn’t been good enough. I had to walk up the very steep hill watching fitter and better prepared cyclists pass me looking elegant and composed. I was sweaty and bewildered wondering whether I was going to see breakfast again!!

I eventually reached the top. My colleagues were finishing an ice cream, looking very proud that they had managed to cycle up the hill. My response is not repeatable.

A quick fill up with water and we were off again on the home straight to Brighton. We could see the Brighton coastline stretching ahead of us in the glorious mid-afternoon sunshine. It spurred us all on and the embarrassingly slow walking speed I had endured previously was now replaced with an eye-watering 35mph towards Brighton.

Stage 4

The home stretch along Brighton seafront was uplifting. The crowds cheering and my wife and son shouting encouragement to me for the last 100 metres got me over the line. 4 hours 36 minutes was the official time which was way off the 3 hours 30 minutes we had set ourselves before we started. But I didn’t care, I felt elated that we had all finished and were still smiling.

I would recommend this for anyone who wants to push themselves and have a fantastic time too.

Bring on next year! We have already started talking about raising money for a different charity. Our next challenge involves completing a 25 mile bike ride, followed by a hike up a Welsh mountain and then kayak 2 miles to the finish!

I have completed lots of personal challenges to raise money for charity. From Marathons and Tough Mudders to Wolf Runs, but this was by far the most rewarding . Competing with my colleagues made it fun. I have promised myself that I will take part in a team event every year. It has brought us all closer together and raised over £3,500 for a very worthy cause.

Riding from London to Brighton was a magical adventure I will never forget with great friends (David Broad, Tony Frost, Veronica Oliveira, Bernard Moray, Neil Edlin and Juan Perez Garcia), in fantastic scenery and we raised vital funds for a fantastic charity. If we have inspired you, join us next year!

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