Congratulations to all riders who took part in this year’s COINS Coast to Coast Challenge. We hear from COINS Event Assistant Chloe McFarlane:

The challenge began with a coach ride from Penrith to Workington, with everyone’s nerves running high and eager to get on our bikes and go. Arriving to a slightly dreary coast and dipping our wheels into the waves, we started our journey onwards and definitely upwards back to Penrith. We knew it would be tough but a few (including me) underestimated the struggle of day one, which was lots of climbing uphill with little respite for the legs – a definite fight between mind and body.

24 miles in and lunch was warmly welcomed as we ran into the cafe and started filling ourselves with soup and toasties, leaving it a struggle to get up and back out onto our bikes.

By this time, the rain was coming down and the temperature had dropped – not the greatest start to the second leg. As the afternoon progressed, it got wetter and colder whilst we rode over the hills. It seemed to take forever before we swerved into Penrith and sighed with relief at the familiar scenery and the sight of the B+Bs in the distance. A hot shower and hot meal was the perfect combination before snuggling down and preparing ourselves physically and mentally for the next day.

Day two was greeted with moans of sore bums, and some sore heads and a hill to warm us up for the long day ahead. A very dull morning called for everyone’s lights to be switched on and a few of us wore our luminous garlands from the tapas bar the night before…

After climbing the first few hills, we knew we were in for a tough day, and following a quick brew stop with “Uncle Bill” (our cycling support hero), we headed for the first long climb of the day – Hartside summit. After cycling 5 miles, enjoying the beautiful views, we managed to puff and pant our way up to the top, where we literally had our heads in the clouds. We enjoyed a quick cuppa and off we went again.

There were two route options before lunch; we all chose the harder of the two – ouch. We climbed for what seemed like a lifetime before coming to a steep, 20% gradient downhill. A few of us clutched onto our brakes in fear, whilst the adrenaline junkies whizzed past in seconds.

We ate lunch again before splitting into easier and harder groups for the second route option. After conquering another endless hill, the easier group flew through villages, picking up a lot of pace whilst the others pushed themselves up the tough hills but were rewarded with the beautiful scenery.

Waking up to the last day, everyone was in high spirits, maybe a bit too high as we had the first collision only 5 minutes out of the hotel!

After a few small hills to finish us off (along with a couple more punctures and someone flying over their handle bars), we sailed through to Newcastle and stopped to watch the Millennium Bridge rise. After setting off again and following countless signs stating ‘5 miles to Tynemouth’, we finally grouped back together, raced to the coast and dipped our wheels in the sea with a great sense of achievement and relief.

It was much, much tougher than I thought it was going to be, but the fun we had on the way made it all worthwhile.”