With the prospect of an 80-mile ride, first thoughts turn to the weather apps on mobile phones.
The threat of torrential rain had been looming in the lead up to the challenge, but fortunately the day started dry and the RAF Coningsby Team were ready.
The Jon Egging Trust, the charity set up in the memory of the Red Arrow pilot Jon Eggin who tragically lost his life at the Bournemouth Air Festival, organised the inaugural JETRide; an 80 or 50-mile ride through the quiet Lincolnshire countryside, starting and finishing at RAF College Cranwell. A team of 13 personnel from RAF Coningsby, embarking on the 80 mile ride and led by Gp Capt Flewin arrived at RAFC Cranwell early in the morning for registration and last minute bike checks. They were joined by a team from the fire section who were undertaking the 50 mile challenge.
As the team approached the start line waiting for the starters whistle, it dawned on a few members that 80 miles was indeed quite a long distance. Hopefully the preparatory training sessions were enough to get them across the finish line in about 5 hours’ time.
With good riding conditions, the team left Cranwell and cycled south towards Rauceby and the only hill of any real note. After re-grouping at the top, the peloton continued without any significant trouble. That is until about mile 7, when a pot hole caused the first mechanical issue of the ride. Flt Lt Rob Chappell’s rear wheel did not survive contact, and a puncture repair kit was needed. Fortunately, with the speed of an F1 pit crew, Wg Cdr Paul Hamilton changed the inner tube, and the group were back on the road within 5 minutes.
The remainder of the first leg continued without incident, and it was with relief when they arrived at the feed station. After a well laid on buffet and hot coffee, the main group of riders got back on the road. By this time a couple of the speedier team members had pressed on ahead, leaving a core of 8 RAF Coningsby personnel to ride the next section.
The miles continued to slip past as the peloton rode south through Lincolnshire, with some segments requiring a ‘heads down’ approach, and others allowing time to take in the stunning scenery. About half way through the second leg, a lone rider from RAF Leeming loomed ahead. Flt Lt Martyn Clark from the Operational Training Centre had played the good Samaritan and stopped to help someone whose chain had broken and was subsequently left on his own. He was welcomed into the RAF Coningsby team as they cycled towards mile 50 and the next feed station.
The feed station car park was the scene of the second fall of the day. Keen to get fed and watered, the lead person forgot to compensate for the loose gravel and their front wheel slid away, depositing them in front of an unsympathetic crowd of fellow cyclists. Fortunately, the only thing damaged was pride, and after refuelling, it was back on the road to commence the final leg.
Spirits were high as people were keen to reach the finish line, but the cycling gods had other ideas. With approximately 7 miles left, Flt Lt Chappell not content to have one flat wheel, suffered a second puncture. This time the changeover was not as smooth and 2 inner tubes later (and some minutes) the group were finally heading back to Cranwell. Unfortunately, a second mechanical issue occurred when some loose chippings from a passing car flicked and lodged themselves in Flt Lt Clarke’s gear system. After some roadside repair, and with fingers crossed that nothing else was going to happen, the team were on their way again. With no further incidents, and after completing a circuit of the Orange outside of College Hall’s Officers’ Mess, Team RAF Coningsby crossed the finish line with a time of 5hrs 15mins, raising over £800 for the Trust.
Written by Flt Lt Rob Chappell