There are residents of the Kintyre Peninsula who have never been to Aberdeen. A car journey from Campbeltown to Aberdeen would be a major undertaking. Tackling the 240 mile journey by bike is of another order entirely. This was the route ultra-endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont followed when training for his round the world cycling record, and he returned on Sunday with seventy other riders to re-enact the ride in aid of the STV Children’s Appeal. The first and by far the most significant challenge for the fourteen-strong FWCC contingent was waking up at 3AM after arriving on the ferry just four hours previously. And it was raining. Indeed, the first two hours of the ride took place in pitch darkness with support vehicles, volunteers and STV cameras in tow. Heading north up the West Coast peninsular the riders faced into a headwind which fortunately became a tailwind as the group angled East and the day progressed. The 240 mile marathon ride was broken into four sixty mile segments with strict thirty minute breaks in between. Here FWCC’s support team swung in to action with food, clean clothes and moral support. The large group of cyclists stuck together all day, working well through Inveraray, Crieff, Perth and Forfar. There was plenty of chat on the first few segments, but as the day wore on the group became silent, focussed on the end goal, and having to concentrate harder and harder on turning the pedals and keeping the momentum going. At times everyone struggled. It was extremely hard work as everyone’s energy slowly drained away and pain levels increased. The last leg from Forfar was a psychological milestone. With 180 miles completed and 60 left to go the possibility of success was tantalizingly close. With renewed vigour the group set off once more. The first two hours were strong, fast and on good roads. Spirits were high as everyone finally felt they could do it. The last water stop was outside Stonehaven and by this time it was dark and a cold breeze was blowing off the North Sea. With the end in sight the ultra-endurance route dealt one final near-killer blow with a steep climb into a headwind. The neat peloton of riders shattered. Energy levels were spent, food and water was no longer of interest. Just getting it over with was all that mattered. Eventually, and fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, the group reformed and freewheeled into Aberdeen’s Duthie Park for a hero’s welcome. With seventy thousand pounds raised in total for children living in poverty the welcome was well deserved. Weary and sore the FWCC squad of Derek Skinner, Alan McCall, Jim Ryland, Gordon Stead, Darren Kean, Richard Sykes, Sean Barron, John Todd, Brian Loye, Stevie Watters, ably assisted by drivers and masseurs Ian Hackney and John Hannah, will all look back on the challenge with pride and probably with a unanimous view: never again!

Image notes: The FWCC 240 squad return to base after successfully completing the charity challenge with round the world record holder Mark Beaumont. Left to right are: FWCC Club Chairman Derek Skinner, Alan McCall, Jim Ryland, Gordon Stead, Sean Barron, John Todd, Brian Loye, Stevie Watters, Ian Hackney and John Hannah. In the front row are Darren Kean, Richard Sykes, and unofficial club mascot Bracken the dog (camera shy).