This weekend saw me take on my biggest challenge so far, riding from Gangneung to Seoul, as quickly as my tiring legs would carry me over the never-ending mountain passes. Sir Bradley Wiggins and the crew at Team Sky might not raise any eyebrows, but this was by a long way the hardest ride I’ve ever done so far.
With the initial route being a distance of 223 Km’s, I was expecting a long journey but not one quite as tough as this. Somehow, the fact 70% of Korea is covered in mountains, had seemed to slip from my memory. It was a fact I’d be reminded of very early on into the journey.
Monsoon season (or really just a slightly wetter month) set in this weekend, although the official date seems to change from each Korean I ask. After taking a bus the short distance to my starting point in Gangneung, I crashed on the floor of a friends place to get a few hours sleep before I started the long ride. Waking at 3am to find the rain still pouring outside, I waited for an hour, gave up on the prospect of remaining dry, and set off into the dark night, lit up like a Christmas Tree.
It didn’t take long for me to get lost, Gangneung is a big city and my handwritten directions seemed a lot easier to follow when I was writing them down. 40 minuets later and after a few wrong turns, I was finally heading west. It took me 10 km’s to reach the first and biggest climb of the journey…an hour and a half climb entirely up hill, over a national park on the edge of the city. With the rain getting heavier and me looking more and more like a giant sponge, I finally got to the top and the much-needed ride down the other side.
It wasn’t long though until this climb was repeated, again and again and again. Being on a bike, I couldn’t take the luxury option of cruising through the tunnels on the highway, instead having to go over each mountain pass that stood in the way. This was made even more heartbreaking, when, having thought I had reached the top of one such pass, raced down the 8km to the bottom, only to realise that I had to go back up because I’d took a wrong turn (blaming this on the ‘helpful’ builders who took down the road sign).
I soldiered on and the weather became kinder and kinder, eventually resulting in me riding along the stunning Han River into Seoul, with a glorious sun beating down on me. An irritatingly large city when you’re on a bike, the ride in seemed to take forever, but I eventually turned into the city, and found my friends. I was greeted to a hero’s welcome outside of a busy bar, with a stunning rendition of ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain’ to greet me and a few beers in hand for some much needed hydration. All told, the journey spanned 255 km’s (lesson learnt the hard way not to take wrong turns) and took a total of 13 hours and 20 minutes. Whilst no gold jersey’s will be coming my way anytime soon, a solid effort and a good time considering the brutal terrain.
Sunday was spent relaxing in some great company and sampling the local (and not so local #mexicanbreakfast) delights of Seoul’s unreal dining options. Back to the training for me tomorrow, but for now a good excuse to relax with some of the best friends a guy could wish for.
These big rides are all about promoting the challenge and the story behind it, and obviously giving me some much needed hours on the saddle. This weeks been incredible for donations and support, with close to 2000 already in the pot and another 1000 on it’s way from a kind and charitable businessman, who wished to remain anonymous. Saturday certainly wasn’t easy and, whilst I was rewarded with stunning views, hill climbs and miserable weather on my lonesome aren’t the best ways to spend a weekend. If this journey or anything you have read over the last few weeks inspires you at all and you’re interested in supporting the challenge, please give what you can and help me reach my target. Please continue to share, like and follow these posts and support a great cause. Thank you so much to everybody that has supported the challenge so far, you have no idea how grateful I am for every like, share and donation. Every little bit of help will go a long way to bringing happiness to a child desperately in need of something positive to help them forget, even for a day, their suffering. Please, continue to support and, if you haven’t and would like to, sponsor a mile for a great cause.