As you’ve probably come to expect by now, there’s normally some sort of plan in the pipeline, and at the moment there are two.
The first is a medium distance ride over a few days not that far off (September) and it came from an idea a friend and I had while cycling through Portsmouth on another multi-day jaunt through southern England.
The Royal Navy was originally manned from three divisions, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Chatham. Each of those towns has a Naval Memorial, all built to the same design, to commemorate the dead from their divisions.
I live in Chatham, and while riding through Portsmouth we did check how much further it was to Plymouth to see if we could visit all three. At the time, it was a bit too far, so we didn’t go ahead, but I’ve got a week off coming up and I’m getting itchy feet.
It’s a simple plan. Catch the train to Plymouth and then cycle back to Chatham via Portsmouth. I’ll be self-sufficient, taking the essentials and a lightweight, low-profile, one man tent and I’ll cycle when I can and stop when I need to. At most I hope it’ll take 5 days, it might take as few as three and the total distance is just under 300 miles.
The second ride is a much longer proposition, more along the lines of The Dutch Raid ride we did in May this year to mark the 350th anniversary of the Dutch attack on Chatham Naval Base. That was 280 miles over five days with a group of six and involved booking ferries, hotels, air travel and trains, so there was a lot more to organise. Next year we’re planning a ride along the D-Day beaches and a lot of the same stuff will need to be organised. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it with a bunch of riders again and have a rest day in the middle so we can go out and visit some of the museums and monuments instead of just cycling through them. Along the way we should visit Pegasus Bridge, all five of the beaches (OMAHA, UTAH, JUNO, GOLD and SWORD), Pointe du Hoc and locations featured in Band of Brothers, Brecourt Manor and Carentan. Some riders will only take part in the French section of the journey, but some will ride to Newhaven to catch the boat to Dieppe to start the cycle through Normandy and then after sailing from Cherbourg to Portsmouth will also cycle back from there. The UK legs of the journey total 180 miles and the French 185 for a combined total of 365.
It’s quite a distance, although the stretch along Normandy will be low mileage as there’s a lot we want to see, but there are several 100+ km days before and after that for those that want to do them. In order to make it as easy as possible the wife has even just forked (cycling pun) out for her first drop handled road bike and went out for her first ride last night.
We’re aiming for May again next year, so fingers crossed that we make it through the planning stages and actually work out an economical way to deliver it.
The London to Brighton is one of those bike rides I’ve always wanted to do, but for one reason or another I’ve never actually got around to. I think it’s always been partially down to not having anyone else to do it with… but following the completion of The Dutch Raid in early May, that has changed. Although it seems like two thirds of our number are otherwise engaged, Anita and I have signed up (with a day to spare) to complete this year’s ride from Clapham Common to Madeira Drive on 18th June. It’s about the same distance and only a little hillier than the first day was on The Dutch Raid. Obviously we’ll need to do a bit of training, but we only have three weeks to go, so we won’t be able to get much done in that time. And let’s not forget that Anita currently has a fractured heel and is making her way around in a wonderful boot on crutches.
That will (hopefully) be healed in time and maybe we can get out together with a week or so to spare. If not, or worse case if she’s really unable to cycle on it even by the 18th, we might have to look at our options. The 18th is the British Heart Foundation organised ride and there is a minimum fundraising target of £200 for each participant. If we manage to raise £700 we get a free jersey! Being a bit more realistic though, we are very aware that we’ve only just finished asking for donations for our last ride, so we won’t be labouring the point too much. If you do want to donate there’s a(nother) Just Giving page that’s been set up. I think this time we’ll try and do it in a different way though – cake sales, raffles (if I can organise some prizes in time) and so on. At least then people can feel like they’ve got something back for their money. I’ll also try to pester different people, so if you did donate to the last ride, you can relax a little.
So now you know about what we did and why we did it (and if not you can find out by going to the what and the why first), I figured it would be good to write a bit about the how.
This is the third time I’ve planned a multi-day long distance (as far as I’m concerned) bike ride.
The first, in 2015 was sub 200 miles over 3 days all in England – and it was successful. The second was only last year and was 1000 miles over 8 days in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Eire and England. That one wasn’t successful, but the planning was still valid and it taught me things that came in handy for planning and completing the recent 280 mile, 5 day ride to Amsterdam.
So where did we begin? With the route.
This is easy if you have something in mind. We rode to Amsterdam because that’s where the physical evidence of the raid on Chatham in 1667 by the Dutch is held. Everything else slotted in around that.
The daily distances determined the stopping points and the types of days we thought we’d have affected the flow of the week. The first day was medium distance and hilly, second and third days were a little longer, but much flatter, the fourth day was long distance and flat. We’d hopefully be in our stride by this point and able to manage it. The fifth and final day was deliberately a bit shorter than the rest so we could take it in and enjoy it.
Wherever it is you’re planning to go and why you’re going there is the start. Work out how much you want to do in a day. Is it a race? Do you want to have time to look around and meet people or is the destination more important than the journey? So you know all that, well then you also know roughly where you’ll be overnighting on the route.
It will also tell you some of the stuff you’ll need to plan. Passport, EHIC, currency, vaccinations… You can’t sort those out unless you know you need them.
This sort of thing is a lot easier (for most people) if they aren’t doing it by themselves. Some people are self-motivating, work better when they’re alone and can keep up a pace without the need for company, external motivation or simply someone there to chat to. And while I salute those people, I also know that I’m not one of them and I don’t think most people are.
Having other people around means you can chat, eat, laugh, rest, moan and cope with whatever difficulties the road might throw at you together. I don’t like riding in a large group – but the 6 people we had as a group this time wasn’t a large, strung out, difficult to manage peloton. It was a tight, close knit group and they worked well as a team.
If you have a team, make sure you have some team rules.
They don’t have to be restrictive or complicated. Ours mainly revolved around the following:
Make sure you are ready
Make sure your bike is ready
Wear a helmet
Take an agreed kit list (lights, first aid, tools and repairs etc)
It meant everyone was on a level playing field and that we could all be confident that everyone was prepared.
Once the team was set, the next thing that needed to be decided was how we were going to spend our evenings. I am quite literally a happy camper. But the overwhelming group decision was that hotels were the preferred method of overnight accommodation. Each has its advantages. Camping is typically cheaper, but undoubtedly heavier. Campsites aren’t as conveniently located as hotels in built up areas either (although we cycled past a lot of well signposted sites along the way). Hotels also tend to have nicer showers… and WIFI. Breakfasts… The list goes on.
Once that was set, booking.com became my new best friend. The route told me where we would want to stop so I simply searched for B&Bs, hotels and hostels that fitted the bill on the dates in question. You can research different venues really well on the site, secure a booking, contact the owners/managers and, if necessary, cancel with reasonable notice. You’ll know costs in advance and can then work out your budget.
Travel? Well that’s easy – we cycled. But there was more to it than that.
Think about it.
You’ve cycled to Amsterdam.
How are you getting home?
With your bikes. And all of the stuff you carried there. And six people.
We investigated buses (not cheap and up to 12 hours of journeying). We investigated trains (prohibitively expensive – I mean PROHIBITIVELY EXPENSIVE). We even investigated air travel (which turned out the be the quickest, cheapest and easiest option – no, seriously).
It did require a bit more planning though. For starters, it was only cheap if you didn’t take any hold luggage, so no bikes, no “all of the stuff you carried there”, only hand luggage. You also have to get from the hotel to the airport – with no bike. So that meant a taxi transfer (which we were able to book in advance). Then what do you do with the bikes?! Well fortunately we have a large car and a very cooperative family, so we arranged for my mum and sister in law to pick up our car, drive to Amsterdam, pick up the bikes and then drive them home. We paid for the Dover-Calais / Calais-Dover ferries in advance, we filled the tank (although I suspect there was at least one refill that we haven’t been told about) and packed our non-cycling clothes in bags to be brought to us. Then we had to arrange train travel from Stansted Airport to south London where we could be picked up relatively easily. Again, that was pre-booked so we didn’t have to worry too much while we were in the middle of things.
All of this pre-booking does cost though. And trying to manage payments from 6 different people for their share of a 7 day holiday with ferries, air travel, 6 nights in 5 hotels, airport transfers and rail travel could have been a complete f**king nightmare.
Could have been.
A few years ago I had a Pay As You Go credit card. I loaded money on to it so that I had some protection when ordering online, or so that I could save up some money easily when I needed to – mainly because my credit rating was abysmal. Then the company that provided it stopped offering the service. But, on the off chance, I thought I’d have a look and see if anyone else did. Fortunately the search threw up a name I hadn’t heard of before – Pockit.
It’s a Mastercard, but also has an account number and sort code attached so you can transfer money onto it via a bank transfer (even your wages could be paid onto it). It turned up very quickly after a simple online application and was precisely no trouble at all in Europe. Everyone taking part loaded £300 onto it over the months before the ride, that money was then used to pay for the main ride costs. So we got all of that list above… The accommodation, the flights, the transfers, the ferries, the 7 day experience in 4 countries for 6 people for £300 each.
There’s a smartphone app that means you can track payments in and out, find the details quickly if you need to (even the PIN is available on the app) and show others the statements. We even added a little extra individually if we were buying things for the trip on eBay. It was a godsend and made the whole process a lot easier.
So that’s the how.
It was, realistically, an inexpensive and amazing experience.
As some of you might know, I’ve been a little busy over the last week or so.
Last Sunday my wife, Anita and I were joined at home by four friends, Neil, Sarah, Toni and Lauren. We ate – a lot. And then we slept. The following morning we left the house with everything we’d need for the next 5 days. A bike, spares, kit, clothes and ‘stuff’.
Here we all are at the start line. Don’t we look fresh faced and enthusiastic?
So… the first day was Chatham to Dover. We headed via the familiar route out of Medway, up Bluebell Hill (the highest point on the whole journey) and onto the North Downs Way. We dropped into Ashford (sneaky McDonalds) and then headed to Aldington, Hythe and Folkestone before starting the long, slow, steep climb up to Capel le Ferne (the second highest point on the whole journey) past the Battle of Britain Memorial and finishing up for the evening within sight of Dover Castle. It had been a long day and a real struggle for one of the group, but we knew it would get easier from that point on.
The second day started really early. We had to be at Dover ferry terminal at 06:30, so the alarms went off at 05:00 and we were all outside and ready to set off by 05:30. The ride into Dover was a long stretch of quiet, downhill road and then it all got a bit weird. Checking in on a roll on roll off ferry in a car is easy enough. And the one time I have done it on a bike (Cairnryan to Larne) I was put on a bus and driven onboard. This time though, we were directed to Lane 153, on our bikes, in the middle of articulated lorries, cars, vans and even a few motorbikes for good measure and simply waited to be told to board.
Once we were on and the bikes were locked up on the car deck we headed up for breakfast and then just enjoyed the ride. The clocks went forward an hour, we checked our phones were working (mine was a bit of a problem, but a quick call to EE later it was all ok), reunited with our bikes and waited – for every single other vehicle to get off the ferry… It took a while, but it was worth it because we were then riding on much quieter roads around Calais and getting used to being on the wrong side of the road.
Northern France was every bit as flat as we’d hoped it would be. There wasn’t much of a headwind but it was incredibly hot. Sunburn ensued. We cycled past old Second World War bunkers, little villages and cornfields, stopped at Gravelines and looked at the construction of the Jean Bart (linked to the Medway Queen Preservation Society) and then carried on towards Dunkirk where we somehow managed to find another tall ship (we didn’t do it deliberately I promise). After Dunkirk it was a straight shot to Middelkerke in Belgium. Or it would have been, except one of our group was struggling a bit so we split into two groups of three people, the lead group heading off in front about 25km out from the hotel. Anita, Lauren and I peddled at a slightly slower pace and made it to the beach front hotel only about 10-15 minutes behind Neil, Toni and Sarah.
Unfortunately due to the time we arrived, most of the local shops and restaurants were closed, but we managed to find a Chinese that was still open and chowed down before bed. Breakfast the following morning was a much easier proposition – and the view wasn’t bad either.
We even managed to cobble ourselves together some lunch for the day ahead.
But then it was back to business and we got the bikes ready and made for Breskens where we’d catch the ferry to Vlissingen, birthplace of Michiel de Ruyter.
There was much more of a headwind, so we decided to track inland a bit rather than go up the coast. That worked for a while, but at Ostend Lauren found it a bit too tough so we popped her on a train to Bruges where she’d transfer and carry on to Knokke (about half way for the day). She could either wait there for us, or start making her way to Breskens and meet us there when we arrived. We kept in touch throughout the day but carried on cycling through Belgium and into The Netherlands. We passed through Zeebrugge where we had to wait for a rather large ship to pass by before the road could be lowered back down and allow us to continue our journey but we made it in reasonably good time.
When we got to Breskens (and Lauren, who had succesfully got there before us) Google Maps had it’s one slight muck up of the five days and directed us to the wrong place – fortunately it was only out by about 500 metres and the Vlissingen ferry was well signposted.
The ferry ride was cheap and quick (it’s not a car ferry, just foot passengers and bikes) and we walked to the hotel less than two kilometres away. It was slightly strange… An old patrol station, the staircases were incredibly steep, the rooms were a little… Odd. But it was good enough to sleep in for one night. Anita wasn’t feeling very well, so she stayed at the hotel while the rest of us went out to find food. The food we found was cooked by a former Lieutenant Colonel in Iraq and Afghansitan with 2 Para (and yes, there were photos to prove it). Then it was back to the (odd) hotel for a bit of sleep.
Breakfast was easy, served in the hotel and we scavenged ourselves a lunch for the second time. Anita and Lauren headed to the train station to catch a ride to Rotterdam and the rest of us headed up the North Sea Coast for the longest ride of the week. We were set to break the 100km mark before reaching Rotterdam.
It was a strange day. We had really built ourselves up for a tough one. It was 106km – that’s quite a long way to do on mountain bikes loaded down with kit into a northerly headwind in strong sunlight. We were all starting to suffer from varying degrees of sun and/or wind burn. Regular applications of sunblock were being applied but Toni in particular was developing an interesting pattern of straps on her upper back and Neil had a very red right calf (the sun spent most of its time behind us on our right). It turned out that it was actually a day made up of quiet towpaths, inland cycle paths, flat bridges across the coastal lowlands, another disappearing road due to a boat and an average speed of well above 10 mph. It was a real shame we hadn’t all managed to be together on that day, but it was for the best as we were then all fit enough to do the last day.
Rotterdam is an amazing city. It would have been good to have enjoyed it a bit more, but the hotel was very nice and we all got ready for the final day rested, relaxed and raring to go.
The last day was less than 50 miles, the shortest of the week. It was the only day to have a tailwind – not a high tailwind to be honest, but a tailwind nonetheless. And we were all together. Lauren really pulled her finger out and kept up the speed. Anita was feeling better after her rest day day and it was another nice route – even if we did start off in the rain in the city centre. The last 5 miles or so were through parkland and were amazing fun.
Before we knew it we were at the Rijksmuseum posing for finish line selfies.
It was all over.
Between us, even with the odd train ride, we’d racked up over 1500 miles in 5 days, cycled in 4 countries and not had a single accident. Not so much as a punctured tire.
We found our accommodation, met my mum and loaded the bikes into the car and then went out for dinner and a celebratory drink.
Saturday was our one day to sightsee and we went to the Rijksmuseum to catch the exhibits concerned with the Dutch Raid on Chatham in 1667. Paintings, objects and the large stern carving from the captured flagship The Royal Charles.
We had a €5 lunch in a nice little restaurant and then went back to the hotel. I felt really bad in the afternoon – I think it was heatstroke. I slept most of the afternoon and through the night without a problem. The night was short though…
We were all up at 04:45 and in a minibus on our way to the airport at 05:30. The flight was supposed to be 40 minutes long but ended up landing at Stansted at the same time it took off (the clocks went back an hour on the flight). Train travel from Stansted to Greenwich took a couple of hours, leaving us enough time to have lunch together before being picked up at the Royal Observatory.
And now it’s really over. Back home. Back to work tomorrow.
The last job for me to do was to reassemble and clean all of the bikes, and I’ve just finished that.
I’d like to thank everyone who donated – you’ve helped us raise nearly a thousand pounds for our chosen charities. I’d like to thank my mum, Julie and sister in law, Carrie for driving to Amsterdam to pick up the bikes and drive them back to Kent. I’d like to thank my dad, David and Neil’s wife, Jo for picking everyone up from Greenwich.
More than anything though I’d like to thank the riders. Trips like this are special and so are the people that you choose to do them with. Thank you for the experience.
It’s 01:30 on D-Day minus 5, I can’t sleep so I’m thinking about the ride.
It’s pretty much all I think about at the moment… I’m practically at the point where everything is done though.
I checked the finances and as long as we’re sensible it’s come in on budget. All the bookings are still on. The kit has been checked and re-checked and it’s amazing what you can fit on a bike when you really squeeze it all in…
Puncture Repair Kit
First Aid Kit
Spare Batteries for Walkie Talkies
Packet of tissues (snot and bikes go hand in hand)
And it will hold my phone as well – but I’m planning on using it a bit in the next five days…
BIG Blue (Underseat) Bag
1 x Shorts
4 x T-Shirts
4 x Trainer Socks
4 x Cycling Shorts / Bibs
2 x Boxer Shorts
1 x Socks
1 x Base Leggings
Then there’s the Helmet and Camelbak.
This photo was taken a while ago, but this is pretty much the same set up – although the small bag in front of the seat post is no longer needed. The bottle cage has been removed as it was in the way and has been replaced with the camelbak.
Tomorrow (or later today) I’ll check the weather forecast and see whether anything needs to change. I might book the taxi to the airport or the train tickets from Stansted.
Three of us made it out at lunch time today for a 33 mile ride around Kent.
It was a bit more of a struggle to get out the front door. It was cold and raining (hence the full on Middle Aged Man In Lycra look) and so far we’ve been spoilt with good weather. I deliberately made it a bit harder for myself by taking a heavier, taller full suspension bike. It does have front and rear lock out, but it added an extra layer of difficulty to the proceedings. It is a fun thing to ride though…
We did get to try out the walkie talkies we’ll be taking on the ride in two weeks and they worked great (even though there were lots of other people on the same channels).
We started by retracing the A229, North Downs Way, Pilgrim’s Way route to Thurnham. It was the first time the two girls had tried it, so at least they know what they’re letting themselves in for now.
Once at Thurnham we took a right turn and dropped into Bearstead and then took another right towards Maidstone. From there we headed along the River Medway path until Aylesford. Then it was a simple case of retracing our route through Larkfield, Leybourne, Snodland, Wouldham, Borstal, Rochester and back home.
It was a decent ride. We all made it in one piece, the average speed was up and the amount of rest stops were reduced.
We largely repeated the ride from last week to Ashford along the North Downs Way/Pilgrim’s Way. So you can always read the last post for more details about that.
I didn’t take so many photos this time.
It wasn’t as action-packed as last time – no mishaps and the bikes (and us) kept working fine.
I’m tired. Like last time.
On the plus side, well, pretty much all of the above really. Even the train ride back to Chatham from Ashford went without a hitch. We travelled from Ashford International to Ebbsfleet International and then changed trains to Chatham.
All in all it was a great day – and the first time the wife broke through the 30 mile mark (just a gnat’s whisker away from 50km).
Ok, everything didn’t really go wrong, but a lot of things did. And it all started so well.
When I say it started well, what I mean is it took about half a mile before the first low speed, slightly ridiculous topple off of a bike followed by red-faced embarrassment and under-the-breath swearing.
Anita, Lauren and I planned to set off at about 9am and ride the 29 miles to Ashford. Depending on the time when we got there we’d either cycle back, catch the train back or carry on and head to Dover (only another 20 miles) before catching the train back.
We made it to the top of Bluebell Hill in record time (and there were some actual bluebells on it this time – Spring has most definitely sprung) and then cut to the left and went onto the North Downs Way / Pilgrims Way through Detling, Thurnham (unfortunately the place we got married, The Black Horse, wasn’t open when we got there so rather than grab a drink we simply carried on), Hollingbourne, Lenham, Charing and Kennington before ending up at Ashford.
Pilgrims Way is occasionally tarmaced, more often not, very up and down and sometimes quite rutted. Unfortunately about ten miles from Ashford, and with no real reason, the front wheel on Anita’s less than two week old bike (and yes, I did check the spoke tension and that the wheel was true when assembling it) turned from a normal round wheel into something a little less useful. Unless front wheels that wibble wobble from side to side are your kind of thing…
Here, take a look for yourself.
Fortunately it’s fitted with disc brakes, so that still worked fine, but we did have to take it very, very carefully for the last ten miles into Ashford. I’m not sure if it got any worse or not, but once there, rather than risk it we decided to jump on the train home after first checking a local bike store to see if they had a suitable replacement in stock. If they had, that would have meant something went right, so guess what..?
So… A short walk to Ashford International Station, tickets purchased, we got on a train to Ramsgate with the intention of changing there and heading back to the Medway Towns. What we hadn’t realised (and the guy behind the desk in Ashford who quite happily sold three tickets to people who clearly had bikes with them didn’t think to mention) was that there was engineering works from Rainham and a replacement bus service. A replacement bus service that wouldn’t accommodate bikes… What we also didn’t consider was that the train would be FULL of people coming back from a day out at the coast. It got so full that I got off the train in Birchington-on-Sea and decided to cycle back home. 40 miles away.
Not too long after hopping off (and leaving Anita and Lauren on the train as their bikes were in the bike area next to the loo, so weren’t in the way) I got a message from Anita saying she’d pick me up in Herne Bay. That was only 6 miles down the coast, so I said I’d meet her at the large seafront car park in Whitstable, about 15 miles away. So I plugged along the North Kent Coast on beach paths, old railway tracks, quiet roads and promenades. Anita and Lauren got to Rainham, Anita ordered a cab home, picked up the car, went back to Rainham to get Lauren and the bikes, took them home and then came back out to get me. More than three hours after I got off the train and two hours after I’d reached Whitstable. We’ve now been home for a grand total of two hours and have to go back out to pick up the keys for Anita’s work so she can open it up at 6am tomorrow morning…
I have been on easier ride days, but it was fun, it was more than half of the first day’s route in May and I think I ended up doing about 45 miles in the end, which is my longest ride since July last year.
I didn’t manage to track the bit from Birchington to Whitstable (because of a flat battery on the mobile – Anita had my portable battery and lead on the train), but here’s the map of the main ride and some photos.
Well we’ve got 35 days to go and I’ve been at a bit of a loose end lately. I’ve not been able to ride the bike for a while, so I thought I’d pack stuff and check that a) I have everything and b) it all fits.
The way it was all going to fit was already discussed in this post from earlier in the year, but exactly what I was taking and where it was all going to go has, until now at least, been a bit of a mystery.
Here’s all of the bags loaded on.
And here’s what’s going in them.
All of that is… (by bag)
Now excuse me for a moment if it now looks like some kind of odd Mondrian painting, it makes sense to me…
Bag Under Top Tube – D-Lock, Cable Ties, Bungee
Bag in front of Seat Post – First Aid Kit
Handlebar Bag – Waterproof Jacket, Puncture Repair Kit, Tools, Chain Link, Pen Knife and Pump (There’s also a jersey that will sit on top of these when I’m not wearing it).
Bag Behind Stem – Portable Battery, European Mains Adapter, Scarf, Arm Warmers
Underseat Bag – For Ride – 4 x TShirt, 4 x Cycling Shorts/Bib, 4 x Trainer Socks, 1 x Base Layer Leggings. For Evening – 1 x Normal Socks, 2 x Boxer Shorts, 1 x Shorts, 1 x Thermal Top (we are staying at hotels so this is really just overnight, post shower stuff).
There’s still a few things to add to this, things like:
Documentation – Passport, EHIC, Itinerary, Booking Refs etc.
Leads (mobile phone and portable battery).
Keys – for D-Lock and home (because I’m pretty sure we’ll just want to get in and collapse).
Money! Well, a little cash and a single pre-loaded credit card.
I haven’t ever competed in a triathlon and I probably never will.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m comfortable enough on two wheels but I’m not a great swimmer (in a pool, let alone in open water) and my body does not like being made to run. Anywhere.
So the closest I’m going to get is reading about or watching competitions, the Olympics, drooling over gorgeous tri-bike porn like this…
The Cervelo P5X, or watching films like this…
I stumbled across it on the PlayStation Network the other day and watched the trailer.
Looks good right? Emotionally charged, nice cinematography, good score… So I took a punt, paid my money and watched it last night.
It started well. The opening credits feature Fitzpleasure by Alt J. Cracking song. And then it went downhill. Fast.
The story revolves around Natalie, an Ultrasound Tech who is basically dared to do a triathlon by one of her patients, Candice, and then talks her friend Skyler into it as well. Her inability to finish anything is demonstrated to the viewer because she doesn’t eat her pizza crusts… genius. The script isn’t great. It doesn’t give the actors much to work with. There’s a lot of SHOUTY ACTING when the scenes really don’t demand it – particularly from Candice. There’s no real character development, the direction isn’t fantastic and it can’t make up its mind whether it’s a comedy or a drama. We learn that triathlons are tough and that bonking (possibly not in the sense of the word that you’re thinking) and cancer is bad. And not a lot more than that.
The two leads, Natalie (Jensen Jacobs / Bucher) and Skyler (Walker Hays) are watchable. Their chemistry is pretty good, it certainly doesn’t feel as forced as the rest of the character dialogue in the movie, but again it’s the script and direction that drags them down.
For every good character there’s someone like Zeus, a retired wrestler and cancer widower who’s some sort of softly spoken Tri-Yoda! On the whole, the cast of characters is just generally very difficult to like or connect with.
Even the tag-line on the poster doesn’t really make sense until you watch the film, ‘When surviving cancer is not enough’. And when I say it makes sense afterwards, it doesn’t really… the main character isn’t a cancer survivor. Nor is her best friend, nor are most (all but one in fact) of the team she trains with. But cancer is mentioned. A lot.
And not in a ‘let’s tackle this subject properly’ kind of way. It does it in a heavy handed, almost over the top kind of way.
There’s one of the most dreadfully unintentionally funny bike crashes in cinematic history. And god only knows what the hell the ending is all about – it’s more farce than believable comedy and it’s a long way away from serious drama.
So that’s the bad, but is there anything good?
Well, yeah. The scenes shot at the Luray Triathlon and Washington Nation’s Triathlon are good – because they’re shot at real Triathlons. Here, where you’ve probably got several camera crews working under their own unit directors there genuinely is a bit of spectacle – in the best way. The set up, the transition zones, the open water swimming, cycling and running sequences in a lot of cases shot against the backdrop of DC landmarks – all good. And then they’re ruined by the finish line finale where there is a whole lot of stupid and precisely zero spectators to make you believe that you’re actually watching the end of the same race.
It just falls flat. It’s well and truly in the realm of Made For TV or Straight To DVD movie.
It’s disappointing, so I guess I’ll keep hoping and looking out for a decent Triathlon movie.