Bucket List Ride: Land’s End to John O’Groats

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We uncover the highs and lows of the iconic Land’s End to John O’Groats ride from three different styles of rider…

With the chance to see and feel more undulating inches of our fair Isle than ever before, Land’s End to John O’Groats (or LEJOG, as it’s affectionately nicknamed), is one of those rides that most seasoned cyclists have on their biking bucket list.

There are many ways you can take on the 1,000(ish) mile feat, with the more hardy cyclists among us taking on the journey ‘unsupported’. This means it’s up to you to sort out mapping, food and sleeping arrangements, you’re on your own when it comes to mechanicals and you’ll be carting everything you need for the trip in your packed panniers.

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Alternatively, you can opt for a supported excursion like Deloitte’s Ride Across Britain (RAB), where your journey is mapped, pit stops are sorted along the way, there are support vehicles for mechanical and medical emergencies, camping is arranged and your bags are carried between base camps along the route...

Along with 870 riders, endurance rider Laura Scott, Casquette editor and social rider, Danielle Welton, and new cyclist, Yvonne Butler, took part in Deloitte’s RAB event back in September – a 9 day, 969-mile endurance adventure that ticks off 3 countries and 23 counties, while giving you climbs along the route that equal the height of Everest. Phew!

It was the confidence boost I needed at a time when I need it most
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To add to the challenge factor, this year’s ride boasted truly torrential and terrible weather (the worst in RAB history), which meant the first two days (107 and 110 miles) were an onslaught of wind, rain, mud and spray. All the better for testing that mental fortitude, right? We find out from our three cyclists below…

Laura Scott, ultra endurance cyclist

Laura started cycling five years ago after being persuaded to ride from Paris to London after a few beers down her local pub. From here, her passion for cycling has grown and grown – along with the mileage – with one of her most infamous feats being a whopper Trans America Bike race that saw her ride 2,000 miles (despite fracturing her collarbone after 60 of those).

After losing her dad to cancer in June and being off the bike for months because she wanted to be by his side in Canada, Laura decided to take part in RAB so that she could get her biking confidence back and spend a few days doing what she loves. So, just how did an endurance athlete find the challenge?

The high
I absolutely loved Scotland. Every single minute of it! The weather was finally okay (translation: it only rained a bit) and the scenery was truly breathtaking. I loved the climbs, I loved riding past the lochs and I loved the changing scenery of the highlands.

There were also some incredibly inspiring people along the way, many of who had only got into cycling after signing up for the event. Despite the challenging conditions, they all still got up every day and took on those mega miles.

For many of the people taking part in RAB, it is a chance to see just what they are capable of achieving, and cycling just under 1000 miles in nine days is no small feat!

Like Sam Weller, for example, who attended a talk I gave about endurance cycling a year ago. She had since joined the Queen of the Mountains rides as part of her training. “It’s because of you that I’m here," she exclaimed when we bumped into each other one afternoon. “You said anyone could get into endurance cycling. I’m just a mum and I’m doing it!" It was that moment that made RAB for me.

It’s that extra element of toughness that meant the highs felt really special, though

The low
The weather and my emotions - particularly when we were leaving Bath were really tough. It was torrential rain and I was finding it hard to get my head into the right place.

Because this was my first big event since losing my dad, I was really struggling with not being able to talk to him about it. That paired with the biblical rain and wind that morning meant I seriously contemplated going home.

The thing you mostly stuffed your face with
Oreos and Skittles.

The big thing you learnt
It was really valuable time away from my job and various other stresses and gave me the chance to prove to myself that I am still strong on my bike. It was the confidence boost I needed at a time when I need it most.

Your saddle sore solution
I'm super lucky and don't get saddle sores, but my advice would be to get a bike fit, good bib shorts and a decent saddle.

What next?
So much of my confidence was restored during RAB that the week I got back I signed up to take part in the Transatlantic Way - the 2,500 km race takes you from Dublin to Cork via the The Wild Atlantic Way.

Your favourite photo from the event and why…
Just so much of this photo reminds me of why I love these long events - exploring places I would never usually come across, beautiful scenery and making new friends (the photographer).

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The practical advice you would give someone thinking about signing up
Bring flip flops to avoid trench foot. Bring ear plugs to drown out the symphony of gel farts and snores. And get a really, really good raincoat.

Your LEJOG earworms
Kurt Vile!



Danielle Welton, weekend warrior and Casquette editor

Danielle started cycling (slightly) more seriously roughly two years ago after a friend challenged her to do a triathlon. From here she joined a cycling club (Dulwich Paragons) and worked up to longer weekend rides, mainly motivated by the celebratory pub dinners afterwards.

With two hectic jobs, she found it a struggle to train for LEJOG, so took up Watt bike classes and packed in as many weekend sportive events as she could.

Danielle Welton, Casquette Editor: "The most scenic wee I've ever had."

Danielle Welton, Casquette Editor: "The most scenic wee I've ever had."

The high
This event was a real roller coaster of emotions, with the weather (rather than the mileage) really testing my mental resolve to keep going.

It’s that extra element of toughness that meant the highs felt really special, though.

My biggest high was on the final day from Kyle of Sutherland to John O’Groats (104 miles). Despite having days of cycling in my legs, I felt really strong and clocked up my fastest average mileage of the whole trip.

I had finally worked out how and what to eat (mainly Tunnocks teacakes) and this was helping me fire along.

And the landscape was sensational - bubbling rivers, serene lochs, vividly purple heather and then the sea. Epic!

The low
On the Penrith to Hamilton segment I had a mechanical early on which meant I was the last to leave pit stop 2. I really don’t mind riding on my own, but the headwind was truly evil, reducing me to a 10mph top speed, despite me slogging my guts out.

For about 20 lonely, gruesome miles I kept methodically pounding away while seemingly getting nowhere. It was soul destroying and the closest I got to crying.

Then, in the distance, I spotted a couple I had ridden with a few days before (Cary and Kevin). They were also struggling against the wind but singing to keep their spirits up. They invited me into their pack and between the three of us we took it in turns to take the onslaught of the wind until the finish line. Thanks to the teamwork, camaraderie and singing, this turned a terrible low into one of my highlights. Thanks guys.

The thing you mostly stuffed your face with
What didn’t I stuff my face with? Top of the list were peanut butter sandwiches, quinoa Perkier bars and Tunnocks teacakes (mmmmmm).

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The big thing you learnt
When you take on a challenge like this and it’s even harder than you imagined it would be, you learn a lot about yourself, and the things you learn spill over into the rest of your life.

I always knew I was a pretty tenacious character, but this ride has proved to me that I really can do anything I put my mind to and I will always do it with a sense of humour.

Your saddle sore solution
To be honest, I’m another one of the lucky ones and don’t really suffer. I was mindful that nine days of 100-mile-plus rides could change all that, so I focused on prevention, which meant buying ASSOS bib shorts (pricey, but that chamois is worth every penny) and going for a Condor bike fit. I can’t pinpoint the exact magic ingredient, but I know that my downstairs parts felt absolutely fine (it was my shoulders that hurt).

This trip has given me the greatest sense of personal achievement in my life so far

What next?
I thought I’d want a break from cycling, but RAB Deloitte has made me more and more keen to cycle as much as I can.

This weekend I’m rounding up a few friends to ride to Hastings (75 miles), I’m organising a cycling hen do to Southend for next month and next year I’m planning to cycle around Burma.

Your favourite photo from the event and why…It has to be the photo of me crossing that finish line. It was such an amazing feeling and my smile says it all.

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The practical advice you would give someone thinking about signing up
Train as much as you physically can and make sure you get in as much hill training as you can. For me, having sportives booked in across the summer helped me build up my miles. I also devised an evil hill climbing training loop near my house that meant Icovered 3,000 feet in two hours. Before LEJOG I hated doing that session, but now I rather enjoy it

When it comes to packing clever, you absolutely need a head torch. I bought a UNIQLO jacket for the evenings, which was amazing for warmth, it packs down teeny tiny and can also work as a pillow.

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Your LEJOG earworms
Really random collection – Taylor Swift, Look What You Made Me Do; Coldplay, The Scientist (Nobody Said It Was Easy); Whitney Houston, One Moment In Time.


Yvonne Butler, cycling newbie

Yvonne entered the Deloitte Ballot in December 2016 and was shocked to learn that she had a place. At the time, she enjoyed spinning classes, but she didn’t have a road bike. She bought one in February this year, giving herself just seven months to train.

To get her LEJOG-ready she joined a cycling club and followed the RAB Deloitte training plan, but the demands of a busy job and family and social commitments meant it was a struggle to get as many miles under her belt as she would have liked.

The highs
As well as crossing the finishing line on the final day, I got an amazing buzz every single evening when I crossed the line for that day. I just couldn’t believe that I had done it.

The other brilliant highs were the sense of humour everyone had (especially when the rain, mud and cold were in abundance). Being part of that was really special.

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Cycling down Shap in Cumbria was pure exhilaration and wonderful scenery.

The other great revelation was when I turned off my Garmin for last few days. I felt so relaxed as a result and had better times – even though had a mechanical on both days!

The Lows
Cycling out of Bath in torrential rain was pretty terrifying and that was only day 2.

The thing you mostly stuffed your face with
Salted peanuts! I could not get enough of them.

The big thing you learnt
Just learning how strong and fit I was both physically and mentally surprised me, especially in those conditions.  

Your saddle sore solution
Chamois cream, sudocream in the tent after, air exposure, sleep, repeat x 9. It worked as I had very little saddle sore.

What next?
Definitely a week's cycling in sunnier climbs, and who knows, maybe another LEJOG.

Your favourite photo from the event and why…
This trip has given me the greatest sense of personal achievement in my life so far and this picture perfectly captures that.

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The practical advice you would give someone thinking about signing up
Train hard because you really do need to and remember that camping is not the challenge, the cycling is. So if you have to bail into a hotel, do it.

Your LEJOG earworms
Queen, I Want To Ride My Bicycle; Europe, The Final Countdown; Talking Heads, We're On The Road To Nowhere.


Book your place on Deloitte Ride Across Britain

 
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