David Walliams’ team of celebrities are 24 hours into their Sport Relief John O’Groats to Land’s End ride which aims to raise £1 million for the charity, and with high winds, icy roads, a blizzard and temperatures well below freezing as the riders head towards Glasgow, they must be wondering just what they’ve got themselves into.
The day got off to a bad start for poor Miranda Hart, who suffered a clipless moment even before the group had moved off to ride the first hour together. It’s happened to all of us, although typically, the worst that’s likely to happen is that your tumble might have been watched by some passing schoolkids, much to their delight.
So just imagine how much worse the embarrassment must be when it’s caught by a phalanx of press photographers, with a TV film crew getting in your face to capture it on film as well. Then, add to that the fact that most of your riding companions for the next few days are professional comedians – you have to feel for her.
Travelling north to south, the celebs are of course riding against the prevailing wind, and there was another inauspicious omen at the start when a particularly strong gust blew the start sign over, but undeterred, the group headed off to begin their 1,000-mile journey.
Following the opening hour, Walliams took up the challenge by himself, with his co-riders taking shelter in the accompanying bus while awaiting their own turns in the relay, and each will have a story to tell.
In Fearne Cotton’s case, that would revolve around her riding through a snowstorm and having to stop to fix a puncture to boot, while Patrick Kielty could point towards his “mangled” bike after coming off, although he completed his stint and a subsequent one during the night that took him through Glencoe with his water bottle freezing as the thermometer hit 15 below.
Walliams, meanwhile, had to swerve to avoid a stag in the middle of the road, while during a “brutal, brutal” night, Davina McCall undertook her two-hour turn with the temperature never getting above minus ten Centigrade, so cold that it forced one of the experienced outriders to abandon after he stopped being able to feel his tongue.
If it’s any conslation to the riders, it looks like it’s going to be another lovely early spring day down south, which is where they’re headed – but that is likely to be cold comfort right now as they head along the west coast towards England.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.