Chase the Sun, 18th June 2016
The concept behind Chase the Sun is simple – start riding from the East coast when the sun comes up, and finish on the West Coast before sunset. The ride happens on the Saturday closest to the longest day of the year, and sets off from the Isle-of-Sheppey , snaking its way across the country and eventually finishing up in Burnham-on-Sea.
For logistical reasons, I couldn’t get to the start in time so I did the next best thing and joined the ride from Robin Hood gate in Richmond park. I was meeting my brother, Rich, and his friend Nick, who, being true heroes had started their ride from the start on the Isle-of-Sheppey at 4.30am.
I wait in Richmond park from around 8am, then gradually start seeing mostly men coming through the gate, with orange ribbons attached to their seatposts to signify their taking part in the ride. Some are like wiry mules, carrying rucksacks and even tents, heads down, already 45 miles into this epic 206 mile ride.
100 miles in – feeling it a bit
Rich and Nick turn up shortly after and off we go. It’s the usual stop-start for a while until we get out of London, then the countryside starts to open up and we ease into the ride. We ride out through Camberley, eventually reaching the beautiful North Wessex Downs.
By their 100th mile, the boys are starting to feel it a bit but still going strong. Luckily for us, we have an excellent support driver, Chris, who waits for us every 15 to 20 miles with a boot stocked full of food, drink, mechanical equipment and painkillers! It’s a really nice relief to not have to carry anything other than a bit of food, knowing that Chris is always nearby if we need him.
120 miles in – we’re starting to feel miraculously better
At around mile 120 we gorge ourselves on sandwiches, Pringles and snickers. A bit later, with the Vale of Horse in sight, we all start to feel a bit sick from overeating, so the pace drops a bit while we gather ourselves.
Through Devises and we’re starting to feel miraculously better. Well over half way through now, I start to break the remaining part of the ride down into mentally manageable 10 mile chunks.
Skirting South of Bath, we then enter the Mendip Hills and stunning descent through the Cheddar Gorge – the closet thing I’ve come to an alpine descent in England. Unfortunately, I get to a slippery corner and see a rider ahead who’s come off. He’s OK and up on his feet checking his bike, but while I stop to see how he is, I see another ride come flying round the corner and hitting the deck hard. Other riders come to his assistance and I spend a bit of time warning other on-coming riders to ease off a bit.
Rich and Nick catch up and we ride mostly together for the final 15 or so miles into Burnham-on-Sea. We’re treated to a heroes welcome as we approach the finish point on the sea front. We make it at 8.30pm, one hour to spare until sunset. The boys have been in the saddle for around 16 hours, and 206 miles down.
A few quick photos on the jetty, then a swift pint in a very busy Westherspoons, then Chris, the truly unsung champion of the day loads our bikes onto the car and whisks us back off to London.
Next year, the full 206 miles has to be done. Who’s up for joining?!