Last weekend I joined with over 700 other women and completed an 80km cycle around Cheshire for Macmillan Cancer support. Starting from the beautiful location of Tatton Park, it was a Women-only event, and it was a great atmosphere as soon as we entered the gates to the park. Hundreds of women were walking their bikes into the arena, excited families at their sides.
I was taking part with two friends, Jane and Joy. We were fairly relaxed and taking in the atmosphere, stopping to take photographs, queuing for the toilet and then suddenly we realised our ‘challenge’ group were all lined up at the start point, ready to go!
We rushed to the back of the group and took our place. Then in small groups we set off, heading through the magnificent grounds of Tatton park. We chatted and laughed with complete strangers in our small group whilst admiring the landscape, the sun starting to squeeze through the clouds, a beautiful lone deer stood at the side of the track, watching as we cycled past.
We left Tatton park and headed into the Cheshire countryside. It was very picturesque; autumn leaves were scattered across the roads, rows of red brick farmhouses to the sides surrounded by fields, and most importantly there were flat roads! An inviting change from the North Wales hills!
We followed our colour coded arrows until Joy stopped suddenly in the middle of the road. Jane and I behind, both clipped in to our bikes, panicked and swerved to avoid collision! Joy was pointing to red arrows heading back into the park. ‘We can’t be going back into the park already’, we thought (we had only been cycling about 20 minutes!), then a group of cyclists came around the corner and pointed out that was the way back in once we’d completed the circular route! Laughing, we carried on and chatted to various cyclists as we passed each other on the journey, until we eventually reached the ‘treat’ station. The treat station was packed with cyclists stocking up on water, bananas and jelly babies, and as we still had supplies stowed in our back pockets and our legs felt strong we decided to carry on. Jane decided last minute she wanted some water, and so being hurried by an excited Joy, poor Jane had to rush through the crowds to grab some water and a handful of jelly babies before we headed off again!
We carried on along the route, which took us on a second loop and eventually we arrived at the same ‘treat’ station. This time it wasn’t so busy and we stopped for some much needed water, bananas and caramel shortcakes. I was starting to feel tired by then and felt we must be at least half way through. We asked one of the assistants how far we had cycled and she told us we’d completed 65km! I was so surprised and also pleased – we only had 15km to go and we’d only been cycling for just over two and a half hours. Joy, with renewed vigour, ushered us back to our bikes as Jane and I struggled to chew the last of our caramel shortbreads and fill up our water bottles, whilst trying to pedal and clip in at the same time!
The last 15km went quickly and we turned back into the gates of Tatton park and through the finish line to welcome cheers. We completed the challenge in 3 hours and 21 minutes. The sun was shining as we crossed the finish line and received our medals along with a goody bag. It was great to do a Women-only event, mainly I think, because there seem to be less ego’s present, and whilst yes there definitely is competitiveness, it seems less obvious somehow, and more supportive and friendly. It was great to see so many women of various shapes and sizes, levels of fitness and various types of bikes, everybody having fun along the way.
After the event we had our pictures taken and cheered women through the finish line before we headed to one of the fields to sit in the sun and enjoy some prosecco!
Altogether a great experience with fantastic friends, a great atmosphere and a well organised event.