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A huge thank you to Ordnance Survey staff who raised over £2,000 for us on their epic ‘Chasing the Sun’ 140 mile cycle ride to Bude, Cornwall on the longest day of the year. With every pound raised being matched by OS up to £2,000, the cyclists’ heroic efforts have provided a much appreciated cash boost to our crucial mental health services.

Richard Crump’s Chasing the Sun blog

When I arrived at Sandbanks on Monday morning at 4:30 and saw a group of cyclists huddled under the porch of a café to escape the wind and rain, I wondered for a second whether this had been a big mistake. The skies were heavy with rain, the wind was gusting over 20mph from the South West and the forecast promised at least 6 hours of heavy rain and headwinds.

The idea had seemed simple enough and eminently achievable 9 months ago when it was first discussed over a post-ride beer with colleagues. Take the longest day of the year, watch sunrise from the beach in Bournemouth, get on our bikes and ride 140 miles to a beach on the north coast of Cornwall, in time to catch a beautiful sunset into the Atlantic ocean. Along the way we’d experience some of the steepest hills and best scenery England has to offer as we traversed Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. At the finish, we’d pitch a tent in a field and then somehow get back home the next day.

Twenty-three of my colleagues liked the idea enough to sign up to ride or provide support. Nine months of planning quickly passed by and come Monday morning, there was a support van packed with backpacks, tents, 120 litres of water, 60 Mars Bars, 50 bananas and countless flapjacks and Haribo. An MPV awaited too to rescue any injured or tired riders. The route had been crafted, checked, double checked and lovingly printed into pocket map books. GPX files had been loaded into at least 10 different devices across the team and we were all ready to go. What could possibly go wrong?  Well, for a start it was raining. A lot.

Much to my surprise, everywhere I looked I saw stiff upper lips. In fact, everyone looked happy to be part of this big adventure. So, with resolve renewed, a group photo was taken at 4:54 and we set off into the rain.

We planned four stops along the route at about 30 mile intervals. The first stretch to Poundbury saw the worst of the conditions. The rain was relentless.  All attempts to stay dry were quickly abandoned as everyone resigned themselves to getting very wet. At Poundbury we found brief respite in the Waitrose café. Eighteen very wet, thirsty and hungry cyclists in lycra and hi-vis made quite a sight and also quite a mess. However, the staff were totally fantastic and even gave out free coffee.

From about 10am, the rain started to slowly ease off. By now we were well and truly in the hills of the Dorset / Devon border and the pace slowed. The rhythm for the remainder of the ride more or less followed suit – climb a hill, descend a hill, climb a hill – with the occasional pit stop and puncture along the way. At 6:30 pm, the fastest group arrived at Widemouth Bay, with the remaining two groups arriving by 8pm. Our finish line was a hotel overlooking the beach and Atlantic and a well-earned pint. Despite this being the furthest distance most riders had ever attempted, not a single person had withdrawn. The determination to finish was total.  At 9:35pm, the weary but elated cyclists assembled on the beach for our sunset photo. It wasn’t quite the dramatic sunset we had hoped for, but I think by then no-one really cared!

I would like to thank all of the people at OS who helped me to organise this event or provided support and assistance. It was a real team effort to get everyone briefed, prepared and organised for the off. A special thank you to the four support crew of Claire Pook, Alan Rolfe, John Hope and James Wardroper. They all willingly volunteered to get up at 4am, drive the support vehicles for 16 hours, organise all of the rest stops, pitched the tents at the end and generally provided encouragement and support to all the riders throughout the day. You were amazing!

Finally a massive thank you to everyone who has contributed to our fundraising. We have exceeded our goal of raising £2,000 for Solent Mind which is a massive achievement.

I’ve been asked already whether we plan to do this event or something similar next year. Well, the sunset wasn’t quite perfect, so yes there is a great reason to go again. Only this time we’ll have to go further west in search of the sun!

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