Day five - 80km: Miyun to Huanghuacheng Great Wall
By Colin Mellor
They say travelling broadens your horizons and I was excited at the prospect of visiting one of the oldest cultures in the world. I have to say it has not disappointed. We have enjoyed the warmth of the Chinese people, seen magnificent examples of old and new - from hydro-electric dams to 20,000 kilometres of a large garden wall - and I have to say the roads have been the best surprise, with our backsides appreciating the quality!
Just to take you back to day four, where we enjoyed our best meal: a beautiful buffet barbecue, with lamb kebabs going like hot cakes and Colin, our tour leader, demolishing at least a dozen veggie kebabs. Then we moved outside to find our own private bonfire.
Day five started with our best breakfast too. The clamour for the fried eggs and bacon would have impressed the most hardy January sales professional. A perfect start to the day for 22 hardy cyclists, as the weather outside wasn't looking welcoming, with light rain and a brisk breeze awaiting the team.
Tom Jackson and Ashley Brown, took us through a very interesting warm up. Ash was barking commands as the much calmer Tom was taking us through our warm up, much to the amusement of the hotel staff and the stopping traffic, who were admiring our slick performance.
The team was by now starting to show the strains of our previous four days on the road, with the aches and pains growing by the minute. To add to this, Penny Wemyss, Tim Peedle, Lesley McMillan, Brian Downton and David Ridley and Andy 'now very Chilli' Carlisle all had colds as well. If we added the sore bottoms to this list it would be easier to count the fit left standing! However, we all jumped on our bikes for the days cycling ahead.
And they're off
We set off at a brisk pace; the group covering ground quickly despite the poor conditions. The rain had really started to set in and the second leg of the day seemed to go on forever. We arrived at lunch wet and bedraggled. We had to sit in black bin liners to protect the chairs from the water and, after another lovely lunch, no one was eager to set off again in the rain.
But we got on the bikes anyway. The afternoon started off with what our guides had described as a 10k flat, 5k hill and 15k downhill. This has thrown up a very interesting observation that the word 'hill' when translated by our guides has become 'undulating road'. What makes this worse is that none of our guides are cycling with us, preferring to travel in the support cars!
The final decent of the day had many complaining of the bitter cold (where as I thought it fantastic weather!) and it was not without incident. Mo Rasool had a 'blow-out' on his tyre, which sounded more like a shot gun going off. Just to explain the reason behind this - Mo looked out of his window this morning and decided a wise move would be to empty the entire clothing content of his suitcase and wear it all to stay warm. I am worried about tomorrow as they are predicting snow. So, if you hear Mo asking for scissors, I think he might be trying to cut arm and leg holes in his suitcase, as the final barrier to the inclement weather!
We were nearing our final destination weary and ready to get out of our wet clothes. Our tour guides were excited about our final challenge: a hill descent followed by a picturesque ride along a river-bed. Unfortunately, David Ridley and Karen Peedle stepped into the river - further wetting their already sodden feet (if they could in fact get any wetter!).
A final word reflecting not just on today but the fact we have now passed our 400km target (we're already at 430km = 267miles). Not only this but we have shared a shortage of food, sleep and - for many of us - depleting energy reserves. But despite this, the spirit and commaradery amongst the group has been amazing.
If there was ever an advert that shows the true value of a team working together and supporting each other, it has been in evidence this week. It demonstrates what the Openwork Foundation and what being part of the Openwork family is all about.
Well done to one and all!