The IoW Randonnée* means a lot to me – it accounts for 3 of the 4 organised cycling events that I did with Richard (and friends) – in 2013, 2014 and 2016. Understandably 2017 was missed due to Richard’s and Hayley’s impending wedding taking priority and 2018 due to my own cardiac bypass surgery. We had intended the 2019 edition as a target goal for my own recovery and to also include younger brother Chris for the first time. It is a challenging course with only half a mile of truly flat road on the entire 65 mile course.
You will see from the write up 3 years ago that Chris and I did do the 2019 event but sadly not Rich, having passed away in June 2018. The event for his friends and family (both actual relatives and rugby brothers) has become our “Randonnée for Rich” to raise funds in his memory and promote awareness of SYCD and the work CRY do.
This year, in addition to myself and Chris, the riders were Bob and Ben Whitworth, Steve Watt, ‘Bug’ and Ian Wrightson and Loz Blackburn, making 5 former RfR riders and 3 new boys. The age range was 34-67 (me) and the abilities from “When do we start lap 2 ?” to “Oh no, not another hill?” (me again). However the whole event is about the camaraderie of cycling with friends, and like minded individuals, and enjoying each other’s company.
Chris and I, having made a weekend of it on the island with our families, met the others off the Portsmouth ferry at the Fishbourne-Wootton Bridge checkpoint.
A lovely Spring Sunday on the Isle of Wight, was probably what we all envisaged when we signed up, however, what we got was an unseasonally cool, overcast day with highs of 12oC, with a late addition of steady drizzle which got worse as the day went on.
We set off at 09:00 and headed to our first stop at Bembridge, and although not the hilliest part of the route (200m over 9 miles) I soon started to wonder if I’d imagined the nearly 900 miles of preparation rides I’d done since January, as I was finding it hard going!
As this part of the route passed close to where we were staying we’d arranged to have a wave past from our cheerleaders ;- wife Janet, daughter Lizzie, Chris’s wife, Emma and granddaughter, Emilia. Unfortunately, we had overestimated the timings and arrived sooner than expected (probably why I was finding it harder than anticipated) and missed each other by a few minutes.
After a quick pit stop at Bembridge we set off on what is the most intense climbing stage to Ventnor RFC –360m in 13 miles and by the time we were there we were ready for the cups of warming tea/coffee and rolls/cakes etc on offer.
Next the longest and most hilly stage (412m over 23miles), including the 2 mile climb to the highest point at NIton/Blackgang, the long climbs up the military road above the usually picturesque Freshwater Bay chalk cliffs and the long (and chilly) descent into Afton before turning North to reach Yarmouth for more refuelling and a slightly longer rest.
A few calculations were made and a phone call to ensure that our 2nd planned rendezvous in Cowes was not going to suffer the same fate as the first one and we were off again.
The stage to Cowes is supposedly the most benign (280m in 15 miles) but it includes a wicked twist at the end from the Royal Yacht Squadron (where we did successfully met up with our cheerleaders) to the floating bridge across the Medina, via a switchback of hills – we were informed that several other cyclists were seen staying down at sea level and avoiding but we did not flinch from the task.
Having had to wait about 45 minutes for the floating bridge we resumed feeling somewhat chilled on the short but punchy final 5 miles (and 120m) to our starting point, beginning with the climb up to Osbourne House. After 60miles and with muscles now cold this mile long climb seems like a lot further, as does the remaining 4 miles, but we got there and completed the ride in ~7.5 hours, of which slightly over 2 hours were stops, on average speed of 12.5 mph over the 65 miles (and 1500m of ascents!).
As in 2019 it was an emotional moment riding to the end and wishing Rich was still riding with me, but Chris and 6 of his good friends were and we all enjoyed the occasion, despite the weather and are ready to go again in 2023 (with 3 more already committing to join us).
We have raised over £2500 for CRY to add to a similar amount in 2019 and made a few more people aware of SYCD along the way but most of all we have collectively remembered and talked about Rich and his many qualities during the ride.
“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” – Sir Terry Pratchett
Randonnée* typically refers to a non-competitive, long-distance ride with several stops along the route – the IoW event wasn’t run in 2020 or 2021 due to Covid
Gordon Brember (Richard’s Dad)