Last week Rapha hosted the Manchester to London Challenge, an event that saw 136 riders complete a 220-mile trip over the Peaks, through the Midlands and into London in just one day, raising funds for Ambitious about Autism. Here Emma Osenton, the route’s designer, and Simon Mottram, Rapha CEO, share their thoughts on completing the ride, followed by a video of the day’s action.
Emma Osenton, route designer:
The English obsession with the weather couldn’t have been stronger than in the days leading up to the Manchester to London Challenge, endless messages of ‘What are you wearing?’ bouncing between competitors and staff. With good reason mind, as September can throw anything from icy blasts and freezing rain to blazing sunshine and golden light. We awoke to thick mist, the Lowryesque redbrick terraces held still and quiet in a blanket fog. Nothing beats the sensation of setting off into the unknown. sunlight began to crack through the morning cloud as we made our way into the Peaks. Soon a fierce sun heated the day, golden light flooding field and fell.
We rode past recently harvested lands, yellow corn stubs shaven by an army of machines as we rode along on ours. Spirits were high, with some riders deep in thought as the ride went on and others chatting gently, sharing fears over the hiss of freehubs followed by breathy climbs.
Blazing sun drenched crumbling mansions stocked high with food. I kept it brief; the pain is the same if you ride fast or slow, one is just shorter. I knew my hands and back would stiffen, little flutters of muscle will all remind me where they are, not long enough to stop me. Rolling England distracts the mind — it’s a nation of farmers, large and small. Eggs by the dozen and watercress by the bunch flicker past my eyes, before a sea of London lights play with a tired, caffeine-fuelled brain. It was as if the weather gods, whoever they may be, had blessed us with a stunning day. See you next year for round two. The North did win, right?
Simon Mottram, Rapha CEO:
220 miles is a long way. That we could all ride from misty Manchester, over the peaks and right through the heart of England in a single day was hard to imagine and wonderful to experience.
Around 9pm one of my friends got chatting to a bloke on a mountain bike at some traffic lights in Tottenham:
“Good ride?” he said.
“Amazing” my friend responded “but quite far”.
“How far have you been then?”
“From Manchester. We left this morning.”
“F*** off! I’m from Manchester and that’s impossible!”
My friend showed him his Garmin and realisation dawned for both of them. This had been a big day.
220 miles is a long way in a day even if you are a trained endurance athlete. But very few of the Manchester to London riders yesterday had ever ridden anything like that distance. That almost all of them made it showed incredible courage and determination. But more than that I think it showed a wonderful ambition, totally in keeping with the ride’s cause: Ambitious about Autism. 220 miles may be a long way to ride in a day, but it was totally worth it.