The Deloitte Ride Across Britain is a 9 day, 1,000 mile (1,610 km) cycling epic. Traversing the length of Britain—from John o’Groats, the most northerly settlement in Scotland, to Land’s End, the farthest southwest tip of Cornwall—cyclists average 115 miles (185 km) a day through a grueling but scenic route that passes by the banks of Loch Ness and Lake Windermere, up and over Long Mynd in Shropshire, England—an area known for its rugged, hilly countryside—and across the untamed Bodmin Moor in northeastern Cornwall.
The event raises money for ParalympicsGB, a charity that supports British athletes through each Paralympic Games. Over the next four years, Deloitte Ride Across Britain’s goal is to raise ₤1 million ($1.558 million Cdn) for this charity. They may surpass their goal. In their inaugural event this June, 600 cyclists raised over ₤315,000 ($490,644 Cdn).
What does it take to do a ride of this distance? To find out, we talked to solo rider Tanya Crook about how she trained for the event, and what her greatest challenges and rewards were during her ride across Britain.
What made you decide to do the 1,000 mile Deloitte Ride Across Britain?
I am the Chief Operating Officer at ParalympicsGB. When we were made the official charity for the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, I immediately wanted to do it. Every year I pick a new challenge, something I haven’t done before and this seemed a perfect opportunity to take up a personal challenge, raise money for our organization and spread the word about what we do and what our athletes achieve.
What’s the longest tour you’ve done by bike before this?
I hadn’t, the longest before I started my training was biking to a friend’s house 60 miles away.
How long have you been a cyclist? Before this ride, how would you have rated yourself as a cyclist?
I’m 31 and I wouldn’t have called myself a cyclist. I had a bike because I have done a few triathlons, so I have been cycling properly for about 8 years but only short distances as part of the triathlon discipline.
Did you have to learn how to fix your bike to do the Deloitte Ride Across Britain?
I did, but I have to admit it was very last minute. I had all the tools but fortunately I didn’t have to use them! I asked a friend to show me how to change a tire. Other maintenance things you just pick up as you train.
Could you have imagined 3 years ago that you’d do a ride this long?
Probably not, I’m always up for trying a new challenge, but this wasn’t on my list.
What’s involved in training for the Deloitte Ride Across Britain?
I started in October (so 8 months before), however I got injured and then started properly again in December. Then I was in Canada for 3 weeks for the Vancouver Winter Games, so again I had a lull in training. When I was training properly I cycled every weekend and tried to get a ride in during the week as well. I also did gym workouts during the week and just tried to get as fit as possible before the ride.
Did you spend a lot of time fundraising for the ParalympicsGB? How many pounds did you raise by riding?
Because I work for ParalympicsGB I have lots of contacts within the business that sponsored me. My friends were also very generous and I managed to raise over £2,000 ($3,100 Cnd). In one final training and fundraising push I ‘biked a days’ work in the office—set up my bike on a turbo in the reception, and cycled for 8 hours whilst attempting to work!
What was your biggest challenge while training to do the Deloitte Ride Across Britain solo? Did you have training buddies?
A few friends did it but it was a bit difficult to always train together. My boyfriend bought a bike and trained with me at weekends so we could spend time together. That was a great support. Although it built confidence, I found training on my own, boring.
Did you make new friends?
I met some amazing people, all of whom had a different story behind their personal challenge. Some incredibly humbling experiences along the way, and people who really embodied the essence of the ride. There were serious riders and complete novices but everyone supported everyone else no matter what their ability. That made for a tremendous spirit in the camps.
What was your hardest day on the ride?
I think day 3 was the hardest. I was pretty stiff from the 120 miles the day before. We started by climbing Glen Coe after just a couple of miles. The rest of the day was quite a undulating ride but then at 100miles we hit the hills again—narrow country lanes and lots of pot holes—it was exhausting avoiding them for 20 miles. That evening I arrived at base camp quite late and drained. It seemed easier after that.
What was the best moment/day on the ride?
Predictably, crossing the finish line, tears of joy that I had achieved what I had set out to do, when along the way I doubted myself occasionally.
What’s next for you?
Well the ride took a lot out of me physically so a bit of rest, a holiday and then I will think about what’s next, maybe the New York marathon in 2011. For now I need to concentrate on my day job and organizing ParalympicsGB for London 2012.
Will you do the Deloitte Ride Across Britain next year?
I won’t do it again next year, I have crossed the ride off my list! However, I will be there supporting all the riders who take it on next year, giving them tips, wishing them luck and thanking them for raising money for ParalympicsGB.