You don't get many opportunities to tackle a ride of over 200 miles with full support. On Sunday September 6 a group of up to 300 riders will leave Manchester for the 220-mile journey to London.
The Rapha Manchester to London Challenge has just opened for entries. Riders will set off from the Manchester Velodrome at dawn on a fully supported a ride through the Peak District, Midlands and Chilterns, before crossing the finish line at London’s Olympic Velodrome.
The inaugural event raised £140,000 for Ambitious About Autism, and in 2015 the organisers hope to double that figure.
It’s a cause close to the heart of Rapha founder Simon Mottram as his oldest son, Oscar, has a severe form of autism.
Shortly before the first Manchester-London ride, Mottram told the Telegraph's Jonny Cooper: "Autism is profound and life changing, and I feel you shouldn’t just tinker around, you should really go for it. It's an ambitious ride; 220 miles is a long way. And that’s why the charity is so successful, it’s really ambitious for people with autism."
The first Manchester to London was run under clear skies and with a substantial tail wind.
Writing on the Rapha blog, course designer Emma Osenton said: "We awoke to thick mist, the Lowryesque redbrick terraces held still and quiet in a blanket fog. Nothing beats the sensation of setting off into the unknown. sunlight began to crack through the morning cloud as we made our way into the Peaks. Soon a fierce sun heated the day, golden light flooding field and fell.
"We rode past recently harvested lands, yellow corn stubs shaven by an army of machines as we rode along on ours. Spirits were high, with some riders deep in thought as the ride went on and others chatting gently, sharing fears over the hiss of freehubs followed by breathy climbs.
"Rolling England distracts the mind … before a sea of London lights play with a tired, caffeine-fuelled brain. It was as if the weather gods, whoever they may be, had blessed us with a stunning day."
Entry to the second Manchester to London costs £150. Full details are on the Rapha website.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.