Today, it is 3 weeks since we woke up to find snow on the ground in April. This wouldn’t necessarily have been a problem if it wasn’t the very same day a group of 14 of us were cycling from the DW Stadium to Bloomfield Road, the day before Wigan Athletic were to (unofficially) win the league against Blackpool – all in aid of raising funds for Joseph’s Goal.
This was the 3rd annual JG Bike Ride, I’d wanted to take part in previous years’ however never had a bike that I felt would carry me all the way there without falling apart – the bike, not me!
After a brief photo call with none other than Mr Sharpe himself on the edge of the DW pitch, we set off for the destination of our first stop – Buy a Bike (Charnock Richard Cycles).
(…If you’re old enough to remember it, I bet the jingle from their old TV advert is playing in your head.)
Despite it being cold and wet, we left the DW and ventured up through Beech Hill, Standish, and on to Charnock Richard.
The weather gradually improved as we arrived at Charnock Richard, less rain and snow but still no sign of the sun. Cue plenty of people nipping the loo, someone purchasing some gloves (it really was still that cold!) and then huddling like penguins in the entrance just to keep out of the wind. The conversation meandered from “are you alright? are you warm enough?” to “…have you seen Kenno’s latest video? Imagine the state of his carpet after that..!”
Rejoining the road, the peloton took in Euxton and Bamber Bridge before switching onto a lovely route away from the traffic and down an old disused train line. Dr. Beeching might have decimated the rail network in the 1960s but nowadays nearly 4500 miles of the old lines are open for cycling in a relatively flat, safe environment.
This trail took us along the side of the River Ribble all the way into Preston Marina. It was here we were met by none other than Emmerson Boyce, whose wife Lucy was doing the bike ride with us.
I never thought I’d be comparing notes with Boycey about being the only bloke in a yoga class full of women, but then again every day is a new experience!
A bacon butty and a cup of coffee later, and we were ready to set off again. We were lucky that whilst we were in the café, it had brightened up a bit and the sun had come out.
The route then took us cross country north of the A583, on what was the most pleasant part of the journey. Quiet country roads surrounded by open farmland, passing through Treales and into Kirkham for a quick refuelling stop at The Co-op in town.
This was not however before overcoming the challenge that was the “hill” at the end of Carr Lane.
Much had been made of the difficulty of this hill, mainly a bit of scaremongering from our chaperones for the day from Team Pie, a Wigan based amateur cycling club, however it was short and sharp and was of no real difficulty to anyone in the group.
On arrival at the Co-op, the ladies who worked there told us they’d had a bake sale and had some leftover biscuits we could have. We gladly scoffed these while Mrs Boyce undertook her media duties and gave an interview to WishFM.
Setting off on our final leg we were all happy until we reached the main road along the coast at Lytham, and the wind gusting in off the sea and over the dunes was strong enough to blow us sideways all over the road.
We followed the coast road to the bottom of the Golden Mile, before taking a short cut round the back of the Pleasure Beach to Bloomfield Road, mainly because we were late to meet our man at Blackpool FC who was waiting to clock off after we’d locked our bikes away safely for the night.
A team photo with the Jimmy Armfield statue prompted a suggestion that next year we could cycle from Dave to Jimmy, as the new Dave Whelan statue should be up outside the DW by then.
We were then invited into the new hotel that forms part of the ground, into the bar/restaurant for a chance to get in out of the cold and have a much needed (alcoholic) drink.
The route we took meant we cycled just over 50 miles, climbing approximately 600ft overall in around 7 hours (including stops.)
Prior to the ride I was slightly concerned that I hadn’t cycled much and didn’t want to be holding anyone back, however this was definitely not the case. The ride itself was relatively easy along a mostly quiet flat route. The weather wasn’t ideal, however it was noted that this was the worst weather they’d had across the 3 annual rides so far.
What was surprising was the camaraderie and sense of teamship amongst a group of people who had mostly never met each other before the morning of the ride. Even at times when the group was becoming stretched out, we made sure we waited for the others to catch up, and everyone was then safely together.
It would be remiss of me not to take the opportunity to thank Wayne and David from Team Pie for leading us on the ride and ensuring we all got there in one piece in the difficult weather conditions.
It was a brilliant day; fresh air and exercise, some lovely views and more importantly a lot of money and awareness raised for a brilliant and worthwhile cause.
If you’re interested in joining the ride next year, which may well be on a new route seeing as there won’t be a Blackpool away league fixture for Latics, then keep your eye out in the new year and get signed up.
If you think you’re interested, but aren’t sure then check out this video that I’ve pulled together from this year’s ride.
Tonight gives you a further chance to raise cash for this wonderful charity as Arjan de Zeeuw leads his team of Dutch Masters against Emmerson Boyce’s Latics Legends team. The star names involved are too many to mention and you’ll be in for a real treat if you can get along.
There are limited tickets still available on the gate at Ashton Town FC priced £10 seniors and £5 for U16s get down early to avoid disappointment.