Rival ride is a wonderful experience I will never forget

Friday, 5th April 2019 @ 16:00

Harlequins supporter Michael Jardine has signed up for the 2019 edition when we head to the Ricoh on May 17/18 - and he is urging you to join him!

I was honoured if rather surprised when asked to write a few words describing last year’s Rival Ride. I mean, what was not to like? Why wouldn’t everyone sign up for such an experience? If I, as a somewhat overweight and degenerate grandfather, can not only survive but thrive then there is hope for all.

It is hard to pick out highlights as it was a thrill from start to finish. OK, so there was the odd gentle 15% “undulation” and an unplanned cross-country detour compliments presumably of a route-setter with sadistic tendencies and many of us had never cycled 100 miles in a day and the best downhill bit on Day 1 had speed restrictions because of the potholes and I was a bit saddle-sore afterwards… Oh and there was the moment when I felt urged to provide the medic with something to do by neglecting to unclip at a roundabout and adding to the scars on the knee. Well he was in danger of getting bored – one for the team.

So why was it such a thrill? In short and in no particular order: people, beautiful countryside, good organisation, a terrific cause and of course the sense of achievement – and the Jolly Hog breakfast.

All involved were magnificent – from mechanics to medics to event organisers to Foundation & hotel staff. Pride of place goes to fellow riders though. Ability ranged from alpha to omega and despite a proliferation of alpha riders, any egos that might have existed were firmly locked away for the duration. As an omega rider, it was refreshing to find myself among some of the Quins legends. Super-human on the field but mere mortals in the saddle; Lycra can be a great leveller. From start to finish the sense of camaraderie was at the forefront and really helped when the undulations were at their steepest.

The route was a joy – long but not too steep on day 1; opportunity for the alphas to show off their climbing prowess on day 2. For the most part, the route followed the Thames Valley. The journey out of Twickenham was sympathetic and it wasn’t long before we were pedalling though the leafy glades of Ascot & Sunningdale. Lunch at Twyford Cricket Club was a big incentive and proved to be well worth the effort. More sugar and calories courtesy of the Uffington WI – wonderful homemade cakes that set us up well for the final leg to the source of the Thames in Lechlade and then down to the hotel in Cotswold Water Park where all riders got an enthusiastic welcome which, if I may say, was thoroughly deserved after 100+ miles.

Good dinner in great company with plenty of refreshments on offer was followed by an inevitable deep sleep. After doing requisite damage to the breakfast buffet it was off to Gloucester in the knowledge that the Cotswolds were in the way. Stunning picture postcard scenery tempered by the sharp inclines. Well worth the pain for the breath-taking views, fresh air and general feel-good. My personal highlight was Birdlip Hill - 2km of steep downhill on a recently resurfaced road: euphoria! The final stretch was through the outskirts of Gloucester to the university campus for tea and medals. Showers, more food, photos and refreshments before we walked down to Kingsholm to watch the mighty Quins.

Sadly for us Gloucester Rugby had one of their better days and prevailed on the pitch – good to see the team have their revenge there this season. Then it was back to the University, load the bikes onto a lorry, aboard a coach and back to the Stoop.  So much crammed into 36 hours - a couple of days and several new friends that I will never forget. The whole thing was excellently planned and the rider support was superb. It was, in short, great fun and brilliant to be supporting the wonderful work that the Foundation does as well!

To sign up to repeat the exercise [sic] before the Wasps match was an absolute no-brainer and the Jolly Hog baps in the Honours Bar cannot arrive soon enough. 

Register your interest for the 2019 Rival Ride on 17-18th May here.

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