Monday, 30 September 2013

Bertrams Pair Keep Cycling

Bertrams Pair Keep Cycling Jodie and Nicola outside the office

So what DO you do when it's all over?

Not content with cycling over 200 miles from Paris to Swindon, Jodie Medd-Sygrove and Nicola Smith decided to keep peddling! They cycled into work the following day, to a second homecoming and welcome. Everyone at Bertrams is very proud of their achievement.

NB We're in the process of totting up everyone's fundraising from this year's bike ride - stand by for some exciting news!

Friday, 27 September 2013

And Then There Was Us!

[caption id="attachment_6850" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Newport Swim Britain Team with Duncan Goodhew Newport's Swim Britain Team with Duncan Goodhew. From left to right we have: Claire Hockey, Sue Shepherd, Duncan Goodhew, Kelly Bennett and Judy Read[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6852" align="alignright" width="300"]Claire gets swimming Claire gets swimming[/caption]

We have news from our Swim Britain trail blazers from Newport! Last Sunday saw the team meet at the international pool in Cardiff to see if all their hard work in training had paid off. Judy Read has more...

...There were thirteen teams in all taking part most of whom were very good swimmers and then there was us!  We made it a fun event and tried our best but came twelfth out of thirteen teams.

[caption id="attachment_6851" align="alignleft" width="320"]Sue Shepherd wearing Duncan Goodhew's Olympic gold medal This medal's mine![/caption]

Although we had been practising in the weeks leading up to the event we had only swam in a 25 metre pool and when faced with the set up in the 50 metre pool it was quite daunting.  We met some of the Olympic swimming stars and had our medals presented by Duncan Goodhew.  Sue is also pictured wearing Duncan’s Gold Medal that he won in the 1980’s Olympics.

We've raised £200 for the British Heart Foundation. We have had relatives with heart problems and they do an incredible job helping and researching into heart problems.

Well ladies, I know what you mean about 50 metre pools. You dive in, swim your hardest and that end wall doesn't look like it's coming any closer! Well done on all your achievements, both in the swimming and fundraising lines. Looking at the smiles on your faces, you got a lot out of the day. You deserve that gold medal!

Looking ahead to the weekend...

Sunday sees our second Swim Britain event with two teams from InStore/MSC - Team Jamieson and Team Pastel - heading to Bristol this time. Laura Morris replaces Vicky Wheeldon in Team Pastel and is wondering who else might turn up on the day...

... good luck to them and all the teams playing in the Futsal tournament on Sunday!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Futsal Countdown: Latest Team News

Futsal logoWith just a few days to go, there are some last-minute team changes for the Futsal tournament!

Out... goes Bertrams and Brian Munich*. Sadly both teams have had to withdraw from Sunday's fun and games.

In... comes Team JB, the latest crew from Rowan House set to take on all comers. The team comprises Mike Makinson (captain), Lloyd Purchase, Jon Bunting, Ronan Lynam, Tim Concannon, Alex Harding, and Dan Giles.

So, we now have 26 teams from 15 locations lined up to play for team pride and the top spot in the ultimate Link-Up Fortnight event!

Select the team you'd like to support by viewing the full line-up on the Futsal Team News Page.

Good luck everyone and here's to a great day!

* = a team name that will be sorely missed when reporting on the actual event ;)

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Day four Bike Ride report: The Trouble With Technology

[caption id="attachment_6827" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Paris to Swindon Homecoming group picture We made it! Posing outside Rowan House for the final group photo[/caption]

They're home! But that doesn't mean there isn't anything to tell you about our intrepid team's return to English soil and their final day's ride. Mark Charlton closes his Bike Ride Diary for this year with news of a great Smiths News homecoming...

The trouble with technology is that we come to rely on it.  So when it
goes wrong...

[caption id="attachment_6831" align="alignright" width="225"]Just the last few yards to go - arriving at Rowan House Just the last few yards to go - arriving at Rowan House[/caption]

The route from Portsmouth to Swindon is 76 miles long, and according to our mapping software it had only 1000 feet of climbing.  Not too bad as a final day’s spin to the office.

But as anyone who’s driven the route would know, there’s something not quite right with those figures.  The miles are about what you’d expect, but surely there’s a big rise above Portsmouth – and the South Downs to cross, and then the Ridgeway?

In fact, the route has 4,500ft of hills!

But, hey, we’d come this far, so it shouldn’t be a problem – or at least that’s what our route leaders said.

And as it turned out, it wasn’t.

In typically English drizzle we made our way north, clocking up the miles, ticking off the hills – every push a little nearer to home. By lunchtime, Paris was a distant memory and everyone was keen to press on. It was great to see how the novice riders had improved – peddling together, moving slowly through the gears, taking the hills in their stride.

If you ride this way the miles soon go by. On the other hand, you could take the ‘Cayleb and Max’ approach, which is to wind up the pace so you gradually leave everyone trailing in your wake and in awe of your fitness (fantastic riding guys!) Either way, everyone was making progress.

The rest is a blur and the detail doesn’t really matter.

[caption id="attachment_6834" align="alignleft" width="300"]All together now, "Congratulations... " All together now, "Congratulations... "[/caption]

What does count, is that at 3.45pm the group rode in together, arriving at Rowan House to a warm reception, hearty cheers and a well needed curry!  After some group photos the energy levels sagged, but the sense of satisfaction kicked in. We’d ridden 230 miles, made new friends, and along the way, raised thousands for good causes.

As I was packing my bike, our ride leader Andy Cooke, said, ’There really is something special about the Smiths News rides – of all the events we organise, they have the best spirit and the most friendly people – it’s been a pleasure.’

That seems as good a note to close on as any.

PS  On behalf of all the riders I would like to thank: Andy Cooke Cycling for guiding us safely home; Claire Phillips-High for the background administration; Ludovic Lautussier for hosting us in Paris; Martin Beach and Eddie Griffin for van support; our sponsors for donating so generously; and everyone across the Company who has sent messages of support, read this blog and wished us well.  

Paris to swindon bike ride 13...And thank you Mark for giving us an insider's view of this year's bike ride. It looks like it's been the best yet!

Now, who's for curry...

Monday, 23 September 2013

Day three Bike Ride report: That Story of the Tortoise and the Hare

By the time you're reading this, our intrepid cyclists will be well on their way back to Rowan House. Before we welcome them home to Swindon, let's catch up with Mark Charlton and the rest of the team for our last taste of cycling the French way. It seems he also wants to remind us of an old fable and its salutary lesson...

Do you remember that story about the tortoise and the hare?

As the sun broke the horizon our steadier riders were on their way to Le Havre. It was 7.30 French time (6.30 UK) and Michael Williams was heard to  mention that it must be longest ever bike to work!

Following the river Seine to Rouen we made good progress, passing the cathedral after an hour or so. At which time the faster riders had finally decided to start...

The groups came together at thirty miles, but the steady group pushed on and the faster riders decided to have a longer stop - not surprising given they'd been riding at an average of 18 mph.

After a long... long ... long hill, the road gradually came back to the river, and the cool weather helped keep the riders moving. At fifty-five miles the groups came together again...

And once again the steady group kept rolling, while the fast boys, confident of their eventual success, stopped for some rest. Evidently, for some, the 'rest' involved Calvados and Pernod; rumours that Nick Gresham (Group CFO) was soon asleep on the job are entirely correct.

The hill at Tanqueray (no gin involved) was even longer... and longer... than the morning's challenge. But by now the steady group was moving smoothly:  Gillian Bonthron showing her climbing legs to win queen of the mountains.

A few miles over the plateaux and a steep descent to Le Havre approach road, and it looked as if the hares had miscalculated.  Speeds of 43 miles an hour were recorded as they fought to catch up.

Entering the town the two groups were edging closer - no stopping for punctures now.. every man (and woman) for themselves.. through the docks... past the industrial zone... into the town centre... left over the bridge to the ferry port...

And believe it or not, on that final bridge the two groups came together to ride the final yards as one.

An appropriate end to fabulous day!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Day two Bike Ride report: at 9.00am we counted them all out...

[caption id="attachment_6802" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Setting off from Paris Setting off from Paris[/caption]

Day two saw a first full day of cycling, and riders got off to a great start at 9.00am on Saturday as they set off from sunny Paris to make their way to their destination at Louviers. Today's ride will take the team to the ferry terminal in Le Havre where they will cross to Portsmouth in readiness for Monday's final push back to Swindon HQ.

Group Communications Director Mark Charlton brings us his report from the heart of the action on day one:

At 9.00am we counted them all out...

After enjoying a welcome evening in Paris, hosted by Ludovic Lautussier and colleagues at Dawson France, our cyclists headed north west from the capital at 9.00am this morning.

There were some bleary eyes from those who'd stayed up to sample the vino and beer - nonetheless the group made a brisk pace along the river Seine to escape the traffic. Ten miles later we were in open countryside.

Riding in the quieter lanes, I had a chance to notice the variety of approaches to this year's ride - from 'racing snake' Adrian Howitt (all carbon fibre and top spec kit) to Polly Baker’s more casual 'would anyone like a jelly snake' attitude. There's a wide range of bikes and abilities as well, but two things everyone has in common are fellowship and determination.

Our route took us on small lanes through beautiful villages and even avoided most of the hills. With sunshine all day and temperatures in the twenties it’s hard to think of more perfect cycling. Quite a few were red by lunchtime - some from effort, some from sunburn, but importantly everyone was smiling.

For quite a few, today's route was the longest they'd ever ridden - a real physical and mental challenge. So it was great to see the cooperation and camaraderie, with the more experienced cyclists encouraging and coaching the others. As our route leader Andy Cook reminded everyone; this isn't a race, it's a ride that we’re starting together and want to finish together.

And so it was, at 5.00pm, with 80 miles completed, some tired legs and sore behinds, we counted in the last of our riders for today.

Here's to the same again tomorrow.

Day one Bike Ride report: what a day!

What a day the first day has been! Everyone was up bright and early ready to make their way to St Pancras for 11am. Nicola and Jodie from Bertrams were up at 4am to travel from Norwich to London – now that’s dedication for you! Polly was "amazed and slightly shocked" to discover that Cayleb had packed his travel iron. Cayleb replied, saying: "I don't do creases." Does lycra crease... or even iron?! – Ed.

The cyclists caught the Eurostar straight to Gare du Nord, Paris and arrived, greeted by a 22 degree sunny day. They then made their way to the hotel before quickly getting ready to meet with our French colleagues Ludovic and his team from Dawson France, whose office is located in the city. The team chaperoned our cyclists on a sightseeing trip around Paris, followed by a meal at traditional French restaurant Le Pré Verre. After the meal everybody headed back to the hotel via Notre Dame and the Champs-Élysées, which gave everyone the perfect opportunity for photos!

Keep your eyes peeled for our report on day two of the bike ride, when cyclists embark on their first full day of the cycling challenge! In the meantime, enjoy a couple of sneak peek photos from preparations this morning before they said farewell to Paris.

[caption id="attachment_6790" align="alignleft" width="300"]Day two preparations Day two preparations[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6791" align="alignleft" width="225"]More day two preparations More day two preparations[/caption]

Friday, 20 September 2013

Heading For Foreign Soil

[caption id="attachment_6783" align="alignleft" width="225"]The bikes - a great lineup! The bikes - a great lineup![/caption]

By the time you read this our intrepid bike riders will be heading for foreign soil! Their bikes left Rowan House yesterday, and all riders will be meeting right now at St. Pancras to say hello and have a good look around the stunning restoration of the station.

At 12.15 they will board the 12.25 Eurostar bound for Paris, which is due to arrive at the Gare du Nord - another station noted for its fine architecture - at around 3.45 this afternoon. I hope everyone remembers to reset their watches as France is an hour ahead of us!

After checking in at their hotel along with the support team who've travelled over by ferry, everyone will head off for an evening trip around the River Seine, followed by dinner at Le Pré Verre, described by the New York Times as “one of the city’s most fascinating bistros.” Here's a link to some of the chef's recipes if you'd like to cook along with the bike ride this weekend!

[caption id="attachment_6780" align="alignleft" width="300"]The Eurostar terminal at St Pancras Station The Eurostar terminal at St Pancras Station[/caption]

The restaurant is right by the Sorbonne and the famous Latin Quarter, so there'll be plenty of opportunity to see some of the famous sights of Paris. Claire Phillips-High has gone along for the day, so I hope she manages to get some good pictures of today's events!

Tomorrow, sees the first of Mark Charlton's Bike Ride Diaries, who I'm sure will have plenty of Traveller's Tales and gossip to relate :)

Good luck everyone and here's to an exciting trip home!

...And They're Off!

Donation website collage

BIKE POSTER LOGONow the team are on their way to France today, it's time to fill in the gaps re some of the people taking part, particularly the all important donation pages of the charities they're supporting.

First up we have Nottingham's Adrian Howitt, who took part in From A to B and joined the From S to N team on the Nottingham to Hull leg last year. His nominated charity is
Wish Upon a Star.

Then there's Rowan House's Gillian Bonthron who is a Smith News bike challenge first timer. Her nominated charity is The Oxford hospital neo-natal unit and the breastfeeding support clinic.

Next we have Stuart McGeoch whose nominated charity is Help for Heroes.
Stuart, how’s the preparation going? "Fine – I’m a keen cyclist. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone on this year’s challenge. On the fundraising front I have also got 2 sponsor forms on the go at the moment; 1 here in Milton Keynes and 1 in my old depot in Newmarket. I also have 2 dates set for collections at 2 local supermarkets and I’m hoping to hear from my children’s schools re them doing a none uniform day for me."

Cayleb Needham is our first bike ride challenge third timer who hails from Newport. This year he's supporting Cancer ResearchHow’s the preparation going Cayleb? "Pretty good. Things got off to an early start back in March with a 28 mile sponsored cycle ride to Caldicot and then back to Newport."

Peter Lindsay is a first timer from Peterborough who is supporting Magpas, "to honour my good friend Joe Linskey who tragically passed away on January 27th 2013. Joe was a close friend of mine and will sadly be missed by all who knew him." Peter has a passion for cycling which he's looking forward to sharing with the rest of the team.

Our second Rowan House newbie is Polly Baker who is fundraising for a charity new to Community Link-UpHope Support Services. She says: "I met Amy through a mutual friend and over a couple of glasses of Prosecco Amy told me all about how her mum had founded Hope Support Services and I knew instantly that this was going to be my good cause."

Our last third timer, fellow Rowan House rider and no stranger to this blog is Mark Charlton. His nominated charity is the National Autistic Society. Watch out for his daily bike ride diary which starts tomorrow! He's joined by first-timer Max Livingstone-Learmonth who's riding in support of 2 charities, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research.

Last but not least, there's Michael Williams, another Rowan House rookie, who sent in this super paragraph for his bike rider profile: "The preparation's not as bad as I feared, I’m getting out several times a week and have started to ride on consecutive days over the past couple of weekends (nothing like the distances we’ll cover on each of the three days though!). I found some serious hills to climb and have even got up a few of them. Can’t wait to get started and I’m really looking to that early morning start in Paris; croissant stuffed in my jersey pocket, copy of L’Equipe stuffed down my front for warmth, heading down the banks of the Seine… It’s the 200+ miles after that have me worried!" Michael's nominated charities are Macmillan Cancer Support and Rockinghorse.

Don't see the name of the team member you'd like to support? That's because we've already blogged their details!

You can find all the information you need about all 16 riders on our Team News and Sponsorship Page :)

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Bon Voyage!

BIKE POSTER LOGOTomorrow our intrepid team of Smiths News cyclists head to St Pancras for their Eurostar trip under the Channel and a taste of 'le cyclisme' the French way!

To help the team on their way and wish them a 'bon voyage', here's a quick English-French dictionary of words and phrases guaranteed to ensure their trip's a success...

  • Can you bring us four beers? - Apportez-nous quatre bières, s'il vous plaît?

  • Bicycle - Vélo ou bicyclette (the choice is yours!)

  • Keep up! - Allez, allez!

  • I'm lost, where is... (insert destination of your choice) - Je suis perdu, où est... (insérer la destination de votre choix)

  • Lunch - Baguette

  • Main group - Peloton

  • Ow! - Aïe!

  • Phew! - Ouf!

  • Puncture - Crevaison

  • Puncture repair kit - Trousse anti-crevaison

  • Ready, Steady, Go! - Prêts! Feu! Partez!

  • Who do you think I am, Bradley Wiggins? Qui pensez-vous que je suis, Bradley Wiggins?

Have a great time everyone and here's to you meeting all your fundraising goals!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

It's Game, Set and Match for Link-Up Fortnight!

[caption id="attachment_6757" align="alignright" width="212"]Slough tennis tournament Link Up Poster-18.09.13-page-001 Slough's Link-Up poster :)[/caption]

We have news of our first Link-Up Fortnight event! Today sees many of the staff at Slough dust off their competitive streak for a tennis tournament with a difference! Shefali Patel has more...

"We at Slough House have organised a Knock out Tennis Tournament on the Wii console on Wednesday 18th September 2013 for our Community Link-Up event.

The tournament will run all day and will be held in the staff canteen.

We will have 48 staff members who will be entering the tournament. Clive Element the group manager and his partner will be opening the tournament with the first match.

A selection of cakes will be available. Each winner will receive £25 in “Love To Shop” gift vouchers."

Sounds great Shefali and I hope all goes well today! You and everyone at Slough are to be congratulated on coming up with a new idea and sport never before reported on via Community Link-Up. 48 participants linking-up for one event is impressive and I'm sure the presence of cakes will lure in still more ;)

Don't forget everyone,  we want to hear all your news from Link-up Fortnight, whether it's just 2 of you meeting for the first time, or something which involves everyone at your location or more. We may not have cakes on offer, but there ARE prizes to be won!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Steve Rides a Ton

Steve Benson Manchester-20130901-00046Stockport's Steve Benson has been in touch to report on how his Manchester 100 bike ride went earlier this month. He's also kindly provided photographic evidence of what must have been quite a poignant day for him.

"Picture attached from September 1st's Manchester 100k. I did this with Mike Makinson.

In total, so far, I have raised almost £900.00 for Cancer Research at The Christie Cancer Unit in Manchester who looked after my Mam.  Will have a final figure in the next few days.

Thanks so much for all your support."

I hear Mike reported a bit of a stiff knee the day after the ride and was limping around the office! Here's hoping that niggle and any after effects Steve didn't tell us about have now abated. A little bird also tells me both are hoping to continue to train together, so it's good to hear of something positive happening as a result of this sad time.

Over 2,000 riders took part in this event, which was held on a warm and sunny day, perfect for cycling. Next year's event will again be held in early September, with the actual date awaiting confirmation. In the meantime, you can sign-up for The Christie's reminder service if you're interested in taking part next year.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Paris to Swindon Bike Ride: A Sneak Preview

Paris to Swindon overview map

Following last week's interview with Andy Cook, we now have more details about the route from Paris to Swindon!

Note the above map is for illustration purposes only. Andy has also emailed a more detailed itinerary, which we'll be using to provide a closer view for each day of the bike ride. Sadly, there are too many details to squeeze onto today's Google Map!

Pre bike ride - getting to Paris:

Everyone heads for Paris on Friday from various locations, with the final leg of the journey being made via Eurostar. All the cyclists will rendezvous later in the day and on French soil! And then on Saturday 21st September, the bike ride itself starts... 

...Andy has added the following enticing pre-ride snippets to whet your appetites:

"Mark [Charlton - Ed] suggested that we might consider building the bikes on the Friday afternoon/evening and ride the short distance from the hotel towards the Arc de Triumph or maybe the Trocedero where we can look out over the Eiffel Tower for an iconic photo. This will very much depend on the timing of group's arrival into Paris and onto the hotel.

It is anticipated that the roads on the Saturday morning will be significantly quieter (although Monday evening in the rush hour was absolutely no problem driving around the Arc de Triumph and along the Champs Elysees)."

And now onto the bike ride itself...

Here's Andy's description of the route after his recent recce [cyclists please note, Andy is also providing the detailed GPX files for anyone needing these for their route planners - Ed]:

Day 1: Paris to Louviers

"The first day's ride comes in at around 77 miles of predominantly flat roads with a few gentle undulations as we deviate from the River Seine before following the river L'Eure into Louviers.

I am delighted to say that the route from Paris out into the countryside is as straightforward and attractive as a city route can be by following the banks of the River Seine for some time towards Versailles prior to taking a North Westerly direction into open countryside and quintessentially sleepy French villages (with possibly a stop at Beynes for coffee/lunch?) on the way to Louviers."

Day 2: Louviers to Le Havre

"Day 2  is around 73 miles as we start with crossing the Seine and pass through the slightly industrial Rouen alongside the River Seine before a climb up to Canteleu prior to a great descent back down to the River Seine once more at St-Martin-de-Boscherville. We continue alongside the river to Duclair, an attractive coffee stop on the quayside watching the boats.

Remaining alongside the river we pass through Le Trait on our way to the picturesque town of Caudebec-en-Caux. Then we remain on the flatter flood plain through Villequier & Norville on our way to the outskirts of Lillebonne - passing the oil refinery...!! We then get great views of the famous Tancarville bridge where we stop for our second stop of the day prior to an Alpine like climb through the woods away from the river. We then pass through La Cerlangue and St-Vigor-d'Ymonville ready for the run in to Le Havre via Harfleur and the impressive blue sports stadium in Le Havre."

Day 3: Portsmouth to Swindon

Andy had still to recce this part of the route when I saw him, though he thinks it'll be similar to last year's Southampton to Swindon route of From S to N, going via Andover and up over the Wiltshire Downs (see Ian Tallamy's bike ride diary from last year - Day 1: Southampton to Marlborough and then part of Day 2 to Swindon). He's also anticipating the final run into Rowan House will be the trickiest part of the ride traffic-wise...

I hope to bring you further details of this latter part of the route as and when they arrive, plus lots more news to come! Stay tuned for further posts in our build up to our first continental bike ride!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Cycling Update

BIKE POSTER LOGOToday we have news from one of our Paris to Swindon cyclists, plus some further information about the ride gleaned from the recent interview with Andy Cook!

Firstly, Ian Webb from The Consortium has news of about his training and the background to why he's chosen the 2 charities he's supporting.

Ian, tell us how training's been going

I've ridden to work 3 times (47 mile round trip) and did a 63 mile sportive ride on Sunday (slowly). Don’t think I will be chasing Matt down at the front of the peloton but I should get around !

Which charity are you supporting on your ride?

I have a target of £1,000 for CLIC Sargent. CLIC (Cancer and Leukaemia in Children) is a well known,  extremely worthy cause and also has a long association with Frenchay hospital, my 'local'. It is a great charity.

I also have a target of £1,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Again another worthy cause fighting a condition that has affected some good people in my life.

Reposer vos roues at Malvern Spring Show 2013Thanks for the update Ian! Now, you've mentioned on your Just Giving pages that your clunky ancient knees are in charge of getting you back to Swindon from Paris! So I hope you and the other cyclists find the following information from Andy Cook helpful...

Andy, there's quite a few new cyclists from Smiths News joining the team this year. Do you have any information especially for them?

As in previous years we'll be riding in two groups. The ride is all about pacing yourselves and the group working together as a unit. Remember, it's not a race and you'll need to look out for each other. That way, everyone will have an enjoyable ride.

Is it just you acting in the support role?

No, Eddie Griffin will drive the support van and be the team's mechanic. He's also a very experienced cyclist and he'll be a familiar face to some of this year's repeat cyclists. I'll also be appointing a rider 'captain' with overall responsibility for each group.

And if anyone is concerned about riding in Paris, it's relatively safe compared to say, London or Bath.

And for the repeat cyclists, how will this year be different?

Well, firstly France has the same population as Britain, but with 3 times the size of country. They'll find the roads are much quieter and the drivers there have a greater tolerance of cyclists. The route isn't too hilly and we'll be riding through some gorgeous, typically French villages. Imagine shuttered windows and pots of bright red geraniums.

French culture is much more geared to cycling, so there shouldn't be any problems at our hotels regarding bike storage, for example.