Race The Sun


Friday 7th July.

After co-ordinating plans with military precision, the Ideal Wash Cyclists finally rendezvoused at our secluded hideaway on the Isle of Wight. Cutting through the pre-race tactics (and never one to sit still for long) my dad starting cooking. While my dad got to work on the mother-of-all-spaghettis, a few of us went off to register the teams. The hall was full of weekend warriors and M.A.M.I.L.S (Middle Aged Men In Lycra). They were strutting their stuff, boasting about hill speeds, sucking on electrolytes and flexing their calf muscles. Rather than rattling our nerves, it sharpened our maverick resolve. We headed home for dinner… to prepare the bikes, pack our bags and get an early night.


Saturday 8th July.

Despite the 4am alarm call, we made it to the start looking surprisingly fresh. The team unloaded the bikes from the ‘Linen Preservation Society’ van, fitting the front wheels with speed and precision. The Wash Cyclists were starting to look like a well drilled outfit… almost. We started out at 6.06am… climbing steadily out of Newport with smiles still on our faces  and overcoming some mean hills. Next came the winding roads through small villages and miles of undulating terrain. Heading south and along the coastline, we rode up and down the cliffs and out to Freshwater Bay. Then on to the needles, where the hills started to get more serious.


We sent two teams: riders from production, chemists and directors all riding together. The first team were trained, drilled and led by Darren, our Operations Director. This team included made up of a hill climbing BMXpert, our prodigious natural cycle-star chemist and a late-draft gym enthusiast from powder production. These guys pulled out in front, changing through the gears with maximum efficiency, re-fuelling without stopping, switching front riders tactically, taking hills in their stride and finishing the first section amongst the very top teams. Their weekly team training had clearly paid off. My team (made up of my dad, Chris – our field chemist, John Hickman and me) were less about pace and more about poise, steady progress and loose fitting shorts. We were the ‘domestiques’ – in it for the long haul – holding our own through the first section… until, half way round the first leg and disaster struck…


Chris lost his left pedal but showed incredible grit, somehow managing to keep his bike going with only one for nearly three miles. Eventually we flagged down a bike mechanic, who soon had him back on the road. Having climbed the needles once on the bikes, both teams (although a significant distance apart by now) then took on the 13 mile Tennyson Trail in the punishing midday heat. The first team, despite being blighted with some gnarly blisters and minor navigational issues, made it through in good time – keeping pace with the top teams. My team was getting a little frayed at the edges but we managed to make up serious ground against the tail-enders, bounding through the hills like stubborn mountain goats.


The second cycle leg was worse. The sun was fat in the sky by now and the temperature had risen above 26 degrees. Meanwhile, the hills kept rolling, and rolling and our skin was blistering like peppers on the grill. Before long, our first team had roared home – not stopping for a moment – finishing as a tight unit. They smashed the canoe sprint with the joint fastest time, placing 16th out of 49 overall. Who knows what they could do with a bit more experience? My team rolled home in time for tea. Not last, despite having the oldest team member, almost definitely the least amount of preparation and questionable bikes. We were still smiling through the chaffing, sunburn, dehydration and poor gear management. More importantly, there was still plenty of time to fire up a BBQ back at base.


Somehow, my dad still had the energy to get the coals going. He spent the evening delivering kebabs, as we shared road stories and watched the sun set behind us! It was an absolutely brilliant weekend. Thanks to everyone who helped make it such a tremendous success, and to the teams who gave up their time. It made us extremely proud. Most importantly, it was all for a genuinely great cause, Action Medical Research.


We’d like to thank everyone in the laundry industry for their help, encouragement and generous sponsorship of the Wash Cyclists. We hope to continue fundraising, so that we can smash our target of £3600. Please help!

Click here to visit our sponsorship page.