Defence Requirements Authority for Culture and Language staff complete Lands End to John O’Groats challenge.
During the last two weeks of August WO1 (SM) Al Grover RN and WO2 Rupert Dowdeswell (SPS) cycled 971 miles over 14 days in aid of Combat Stress (www) and Help 4 Homeless Veterans (www).
The idea for this renowned pilgrimage came from a discussion about looking for a challenge outside of the normal working environment and with neither WO being anything of a cyclist this seemed perfect. Training started in earnest; cycling the local area around Shrivenham to start with, followed by trips to Oxford through various back roads becoming the norm. The Ridgeway became a valuable training asset for hills especially through Ashbury to Lambourn and around Foxhill.
While researching the journey it was noted that nearly all attempts involve support vans and staying in B&Bs or hotels, it was decided that this is where it could be made a true challenge.
It was decided that for the duration of the ride both WOs would travel without any support vehicle and sleep rough under canvas. This is what drove our choice of charities to raise money for. While cycling unsupported in the quiet country lanes of the UK with a sense of being alone led to choosing Combat Stress and sleeping rough under the stars every night made Help 4 Homeless Veterans the obvious choices.
The route was important, keeping to country roads, avoiding major A roads for safety reasons was a must. Direction was also considered as fatigue towards the end might be an issue. After some investigating cycling South to North became the ideal choice. Cornwall and Devon are renowned for their dramatic landscape and steep hills so getting the most demanding areas out of the way while still having fresh legs was a must.
On 17 Aug 19, the duo was waved off from Lands End knowing that each day will bring its own challenges be it the roads, traffic, weather, mechanical ability of the bikes or physical stamina and endurance. Strapped to their bikes was everything they thought they needed for 14 days on the road, this included camping gear, bike spares and tools, minimal change of clothing and food. This all added up to an additional 25-30 Kg extra weight being carried.
Each day brought its own adventure and challenges but while being determined to complete the challenge and not let down the charities and the people who had sponsored them nothing was impossible. Morale was boosted on route with friends and family meeting up with the riders and bringing some much needed support and encouragement.
It has to be mentioned how in an hour of need the forces family pulls together and this was demonstrated magnificently on day 11 when WO1 Grover suffered a deteriorated tyre on the A82 North of Loch Lomond and miles from the nearest village let alone town. A call went out on social media for help and within minutes the submariner community in Faslane (some 30+ miles away but over an hours drive given the roads and terrain) flooded WO1 Grover with offers of help. After one phone call a submariner chef was despatched to Helensburgh to the local bike shop to purchase a new tyre and then make their way to our location. Meanwhile offers of lifts, vans and mechanical support continued to be offered up to the point where WO1 Grover was back on the road and the challenge was back on.
Day 14 was the worst day for weather, soaked to the bone both WOs cycled through the last day oblivious to the harsh environment as a yellow weather warning had been issued across North of Scotland but this wasn’t going to stop them finishing. Both WO1 Grover and WO2 Dowdeswell reached John O’Groats to round off a two week cycling challenge in aid of a good cause.
They have currently raised c£1750.00 and their donation page (www) is still open if you would like to make a donation to Combat Stress and Help 4 Homeless Veterans.
- Highest climb - 1375ft in the Yorkshire Dales
- Max speed achieved - 42 mph (Berriedale Braes in Scotland)
- Punctures - 6 (all WO1 Grover)
- Calories burned each day - c4500 Kcal per day
- Max distance in one day - 85 miles on Day 10