Ryan Howsam (Chairman)
Let me start by saying that after my first training ride, it has now truly dawned on me what a monumental task cycling 692km over five days really is.
I’ve also realised how well our trio mirrors Staysure’s Travel Insurance customers. Two of us are in the 50+ bracket (more on that to come – I won’t embarrass the chaps on here) and there’s a medical condition in the mix too. Taking on this challenge really is a ‘Sure You Can!’ moment for us.
Having never ridden a road bike and not having any inclination to do so the lure of a week with Richard Branson tipped me over the edge, that and the cause (Big Change) which supports innovative projects that change the way we support young people.
I thought, while looking at my fellow #TeamStaysure riders Julian and Chris (who have done a bit more training than me but haven’t quite achieved my athletic physique as yet…), that I would find it to be piece of cake…I was very much mistaken.
So my first bike ride. Having been on the road in different countries for what seems like an eternity I finally managed to get some time before a conference in Austin to do a couple of bike rides, luckily I found a great shop in Austin, Johnny Mellows, which hired me a bike and organised some tours.
Today’s (6 September) session was supposed to be for beginners and intermediates.
I now know that you don’t have to look like a cyclist to be a good cyclist, a couple of the guys would give Chris a run for his money. These guys could really ride and definitely put me through my paces, but they’re a great group who waited for me when the going got a bit tough.
25 miles and just over 2 hours later on reasonably flat terrain I know what I’m in for.
Thursday morning – intermediate hills, hurray!
Chris Rolland (CEO)
I’m lucky enough to have been training over the past few weeks with four other guys who are also mad-keen cyclists and they’ve been putting me through my paces! All of them are in their 50s and took to the saddle after watching Bradley Wiggins and company wipe the floor with everyone at The Tour de France and the Olympics over recent years.
I’ve so far done about 40 miles every Sunday in training, but my biggest recent ride is currently 63.8 miles on the dot, as I work my way up to my first ever century ride before Italy and five days of pain!
There’s been a few serious rides including one around the Surrey Hills where we climbed the famous Box Hill (which featured throughout the London Olympics road race events) and the more brutal Coombe Lane ascent!
One of my sessions involved a huge tyre blow out and during the break I got chatting to a chap from the renowned club Fireflies CC. One of the more inspirational Fireflies riders is a former national rowing champion called Matt Richardson who cycled up the famous Mount Ventoux (a 1,600 metre ascent over 22km) on an old red Raleigh Chopper at the age of 47! You can watch a video of his herculean effort here.
Another less strenuous day involved what keen cyclists call “a cake stop” (for energy of course!) next door to the rather clever chaps at WyndyMilla bike store in Surrey. The WyndyMilla shop is a very special place that makes rare British custom bikes with the most amazing paint jobs – and the guys there have kindly just serviced my Ridley bike ready for the mammoth slog ahead of all of us.
Julian Kearney (Finance Director)
I’ve been riding for a few years now and done a number of multi-day endurance rides in different countries raising money for charity so I think I’m a little ahead of Ryan and Chris in my preparations and at least I know what to expect!
As part of my prep, this year I’ve done The Dragon Ride in Wales (all around the Brecon Beacons) and also completed the hardest ride of my life so far – an Etap (one of the mountain stages of the Tour de France!).
My most recent ride took in Chester and Wrexham as well as some of the hills of North Wales as part of the Rise Above Sportive event sponsored by Mark Cavendish which raised money for Help for Heroes and Right to Play. I covered the 80kms with a ride time of 3:12:25 and a finishing time of 3:39:57 – I may not be the quickest of the three of us but can I make it to the end? Sure I Can!
For me however, training for the Challenge has been punctuated by Richard Branson’s training accident. As I was reading about his fall, it brought back graphic memories of a cycling accident I had a few years ago that left me paralysed from the neck down for three days.
More than anything it has highlighted how crucial it is that we are focussed and all wear helmets as they could mean the difference between life and death. Of course it is impossible to stop all accidents but by riding responsibly, we can certainly minimise them.