In the end it was just John and I that completed the whole Tour de Yorkshire #TDY500 Challenge, completing a combined 1,484km over the full Festive 500 challenge; some of these miles being completed solo over the Christmas period, but the majority being ridden over the three days of the Tour. In the three days of the #TDY500 we covered 1,127km meaning we had both met the required 500km that we needed to finish the challenge. The idea had first captured our imagination when we attended the unveiling of the route but grew in strength when we committed ourselves to the task in front of a sizeable live TV audience and now it's complete it's something we'll certainly look back on in the future and a challenging but rewarding experience. It's now just over two weeks since we completed the #TDY500 and looking back on those three days over tea and cake, it's quite easy to see just how crazy we were to ride in the weather that faced us that week. Over the course of the Festive 500, in our rides preceding the #TDY500 and throughout, we were faced with two of the worst storms this decade The first, Storm Eva that lead to devastating flooding across Yorkshire on boxing day, cutting off roads and turning rivers into lakes and then Storm Frank which closed in around us throughout stage two; the strong winds and driving rain making it almost impossible to move in places as we were thrown across the road or forced to take lengthy diversions due to deep floodwater.
Would we still have ridden had we known what the weather had in store for us? Probably - we are from Yorkshire after all!
The three day's riding has deepened my knowledge and fondness for 'God's Own County', its expansiveness and the variety of its landscape; from rolling Wolds chalk hills, to waterlogged Vale of York sump, to the bleak, tough splendour of Dales and Moors.
A highlight for me was the sections of night riding, with the heightened awareness of route-finding road space and wheel line that this brings. Also the sense of moving in close unity with fellow riders; a quietly swooping convoy of red and white LEDs.
Although in the end it was just two of us who completed the #Festive500 #TDY500 challenge, an additional nine riders completed parts of the route, thereby satisfying our aspiration to engage with a wider group and encourage a team effort.
Mission accomplished ...and now the spectacle of what promises to be an amazing Tour de Yorkshire 2016 to enjoy and a new year of cycling challenges to look forward to!
The three days were certainly some of the most challenging conditions I have ever ridden in. On a normal day I would pack my bike away and wait until the sun came out to shine. However getting outside and giving the challenge our best shot, despite everything the weather could throw at us was particularly rewarding. Not only is their the sense of self-acheivement when completing the challenge but also the gathered knowledge of riding in a group and working to the strengths and weaknesses of those you are riding with. In hindsight I was probably a bit too stern with John on the last part of our ride to make sure we got home for New Year but this neatly demonstrates how sometimes the key object in the team might change - just as it would in the race, and so added another dynamic to our ride.
It will be great to revisit some sections of the route in spring and watch the riders come past and show us how things are really done.
Our Thanks and Thoughts
Many thanks to the other riders that joined us throughout our three days; without their motivation and wind stopping capabilities the challenge would have been considerably harder. Team morale is essential in such challenging conditions. These riders were: Nick Palmer, Rob Mawer, Stuart Marshall, Jon Hicken, Adam Graves, Lee Smith, John Turner, David Robson and Richard Gate.
One special mention has to go to our friend Simon, who has had to endure our chatter throughout the planning and completion of the challenge without being able to join us due to family commitments. Simon took the time to pull together a fantastic Storify of our three days on the road, even though he was undoubtably envious of the riding. We're certainly grateful to Simon for pulling this together and hope that next year he might be able to sneak out to the shops for some milk and accidentally find himself in the middle of another whirlwind challenge.