And so, the day had arrived. The Anderson Group, a company with an un-mistakeably ‘good vibe’ (and a house band to boot), accepted 150 game and, in some cases, hopeful souls onto their Chelmsford headquarters on Saturday June 13th, at a time of day which this reporter normally doesn’t associate with the phrase ‘Mount up everybody…….55 miles is going to be a breeze in this weather’.Arriving a perfectly decent 15 minutes late, the SHA team finished their pre-requisite fizz and mounted up. After Noel fell off, he mounted up again, and they set off for the outer reaches of what turned out to be the jolly nice bit of Essex, my dear old thing. Our team, Saddle Sore 1, were not carrying too much overweight until Noel turned up, and Sean Emmett (or ‘Mr Motivator’ as we liked to call him), admitted that having a pacemaker at the back of the pack was an experience he would be quite happy not to have to repeat next year. No footage is available, so we’ll have to take his word for it that Noel actually arrived last, after narrowly avoiding death whilst negotiating the mean streets of Chelmsford in the gathering twilight, with no ‘bike-nav’ from Garmin, or anybody else, available.
The support crews along the route were brilliant, providing all sorts of combinations of food and drink, and they included the redoubtable and thoroughly confused Tessa Godfrey, who this reporter is convinced was driving the route in a Range Rover with the number plate on upside down all day long. 15 punctures and at least one crash (broken collar-bone) later, it was indeed a great idea that Anderson had decided to equip the route with support vans and cars; so much so, that I felt like deliberately driving into a ditch to see what the service was like myself. Sharon decided, 35 miles out, that although everything was indeed ‘lovely’, if she could figure out how to ride two bikes at once she may get to her destination slightly quicker. Noel had clearly stayed at the cricket match on Matching Green forgetting he actually had something else to do today.Soon the villages were melting away like chocolate in an overly hot bain-marie, and we found ourselves back at headquarters with the house band (fronted by the head of Health & Safety) thumping out everything from Shakin’ All Over to tunes from the present day. On the under 12’s side of the site, kids were either throwing themselves at bouncy castles or deciding who was going to be Germany in the penalty shoot-out competition. A touching moment indeed All in all then, a staggering day, where many people, myself included, far exceeded their own levels of excellence. The total raised so far is £43,ooo, including gift-aid and so thanks from all of us at Sharon Hosegood Associates to the Anderson Group for making it all possible, and helping such a good cause, The National Autistic Society charity. So, everybody who thought 55 miles was a long way on a bike got a pleasant surprise. It is, but not when it’s organised this well. We’ll be back next year if they’ll have us.