Cancer Archives - Phil Cox

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Category Archive: Cancer

  1. Tour of Britain, 12th September 2014

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    The Tour of Britain was coming to town…Wantage Town that is! The event as a whole had stirred up a lot of media and public interest, a fantastic chance to see the great and the good competing on your door step albeit for a few seconds as the peloton flashes past. I was lucky enough to see it and soak up some of the atmosphere.

    The week before the Tour, I had spent a few hours on a turbo trainer outside of the local Sainsbury’s raising money for a cancer charity and also a local defibrillator fund, the bikes and turbos were provided by, a local company helping with the charity event. Richard from Bikelux explained that, on the following Friday, he would be setting up an awning on Chain Hill to watch the Tour approach and then sweep down into town. There was also a chance to have a go at the quickest 1km on the turbos, this sounded great fun so I booked the day off.


    Steve, me and Nobby cycled up to Chain Hill from Steventon to find Sarah and Phil Tynan already there chatting to the TV and radio guys. It’s always interesting to hear presenters ask the questions, they never seem to run out of things to say. Richard did a quick interview too and then it was on to the important issues of the day: finding some food and also deciding where to stand.


    Food was easy, bike folk always have food whether it be jelly babies or Spanish omelettes and today was no exception. Personally, I think you can never have too much food so once we had sampled the usual fodder we wandered over to the Umami tent and destroyed his stock of pork pies – they were handmade, full of calories and extremely tasty.


    More people began to arrive, most were cyclists out for ride as well as taking in the Tour. There were a group of riders from Yorkshire who had been touring and had ridden from the Cotswolds to watch the stage. A welcoming message was chalked on the road for the riders and the scene was set; the excitement was building and the weather was being kind, it was hard to imagine a better place to watch a cycle race from.

    The road management side of things appeared to be running well, plenty of police motorbikes and race marshals zipping up and down. About 5 minutes before the leaders came through, a car rolled slowly along giving race information over a loud speaker. This was a great touch and helped to build the excitement further; 3 breakaway riders (including Alex Dowsett) nearly 7 minutes ahead of the peloton….we waited.

    The TV helicopter appeared overhead, the lead group of three were moving in a staggered line cycling towards us on an incline. It’s difficult to estimate pace but I suspect they were doing at least 22mph – uphill!. Dowsett got a warm welcome and a cheer from the crowd; the group came and went in a flash, all the riders were looking relaxed, as if they were on a Sunday ride-out. The peloton was next.

    Chain Hill Gang TOB 12..09.14

    Finally, a dark mass of riders appeared near the Ridgeway, it swept down the inclines preceded by the lead cars and police bikes. We were positioned at the roadside, within touching distance, as the main group came through at a comfortable pace. I was struck by the noise of the tyres and also the clicking hubs. Cav and Wiggo got a massive shout but the applause and cheering were meant for all, people that ride know the effort required to sustain any sort of pace, these guys were demonstrating that in spades…almost superhuman.

    And then it was done, pictures and videos were appearing on Facebook in large numbers, the race had captured the imagination of the town and was well supported. Stage finish in Wantage next time…bring it on!

    Further reading…..

    If you liked this blog please take a moment to check out my book describing the solo Land’s End to John O’Groats ride in 2012, all profit from sales to

    Please click the cover image for the Kindle version or click here to order a paperback copy. Thank you!


  2. Wantage Stands Up to Cancer

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    On the back of a wet April and following a bizarre rib injury involving a skip, I turned out for the first charity sportive of my season, this time accompanied by my 9 year old daughter, Harriet. She was determined to ride the 10km without issue and in the hope that she would see some of her friends too. I had attempted to explain that we needed to prepare for the ride during the previous day but this had fallen on deaf ears. The task of prepping two bikes fell to me; and then I had a last minute change of heart and decided to take my mountain bike given the bridal paths we were due to ride.

    Sunday, 27th April was ‘Stand up to Cancer’ day in Wantage. An event organised by the redoubtable Ray Collins and staffed by many willing volunteers. The ride formed a part of this action packed day, in addition to cyclists, there were 5k runners and a group of Konga-thoners (a bit like Zumba but Konga). The square was packed and it was a good chance to catch up with people I don’t usually see locally.

    My fellow challenge riders from the Isle of Wight ride (2013) were there too.  I sported my ‘Big Isle Be Back’ (BIBB) challenge jersey for our ride; a jersey that I am proud to wear and I know that Phil and Mark feel the same, we definitely earned the right over 24 hours and 243 miles. If you are in anyways curious as to what a ride of this length does to mere humans, please have a look at my 3 part blog here:

    We also caught up with the foreign BIBB team member, Brian (German blood, lives on the Isle of Wight). He had made the trip with two of his colleagues from the Anthony Nolan Trust and had set up their stall next to the information tent. You can read more about Brian’s amazing story here:

    We arrived in the square around 9am, Harriet disappeared to find mum who happened to be manning the information tent with Sarah, Phil’s partner. I was left with two bikes and a ruck sack trying to make my way through the crowd to the start point. Harriet appeared in time for the line-up, we chose a spot half way down the field and waited for the off. A couple of her school friends joined us along with their parents and we all set off together.

    SUTC 27.4.14

    Two things immediately occurred to me as we crossed the line: Harriet has never ridden in a group before (or peloton as us amateur athletes like to call it in conversations at the pub ;o)) and I had a ridiculous amount of kit for a 10km ride. It became clear that riding in a group wasn’t going to be an issue for any of the kids, they simple talked amongst themselves remaining oblivious to the outside world. In fairness, they didn’t stuff their brakes on at inappropriate times that often so all went smoothly for the first couple of miles out of the town.

    The weather was kind with some sun; things were progressing nicely until Harriet asked what ‘that hissing sound’ was. Being a little hearing impaired in my left ear, I couldn’t discern anything but hoped that some poor sod wasn’t going to have a puncture. Approximately 300 metres later my front tyre was looking quite poorly.

    Harriet and her friends sailed on with the other beleaguered parents as I turned my bike upside down and struggled to get the inner tube out.  Since getting my posh road bike, I have paid little attention to my mountain bike, it needs a good clean and de-grease plus the front brake bleeding. My road bike, of course, shines and you could eat your dinner off the drivetrain. To add insult to injury I forgot to use the foam sleeve on the CO2 cartridge and burned my fingers; cycling is about enjoyment apparently.

    With the tyre done, though a little under inflated, I now had a good opportunity to flex my lungs and catch up. There was a nice incline followed by some downhill stuff, I managed to catch up with the group in Ardington. After a few bridle path sections to Wantage, there was a short stretch along Ormond Road to negotiate along with a few other cyclists and motorist intent of getting somewhere quickly. Once we had turned into Church Street things were slightly more relaxed. A warm welcome awaited us in the town square, the kids had done really well as the route was by no means flat.

    The rest of the day was spent supporting the event and finally, lending a hand to clear the square once things were finished. The community really comes together on occasions like this, it’s great to see.  Once again, a cracking effort by Ray and his team, roll on the carnival in June!

    Stand Up to Cancer Sportive 4

    Further reading…..

    If you liked this blog please take a moment to check out my book describing the solo Land’s End to John O’Groats ride in 2012, all profit from sales to

    Please click the cover image for the Kindle version or click here to order a paperback copy. Thank you!








  3. Brian Baggott – a bloody good bloke…

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    Brian isn’t always honest, he has been known to give false information about hills to tired cyclists, but that is another blog altogether. As far as I am aware, this is his only vice and he is otherwise completely trustworthy.

    Brian is a committed fundraiser and recruiter of stem cell donors for the charity Delete Blood Cancer. Their aim is to connect possible donors with people who are suffering with blood cancer by maintaining a register. Registers need people and this is where Brian comes in, he gets people talking about the need for donors and most importantly, he gets people signed up to the register. A recent push on the Isle of Wight resulted in 2k+ sign-ups to try and find a match for a little boy desperately in need of a transplant. This comes naturally to Brian; he has survived Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and values everyday as a cancer-free person, he is keen to ‘give back’ what he can to the charity that helped him beat his illness.

    Through a twist of fate, I was fortunate enough to meet Brian as a result of a challenge ride invite supporting Delete Blood Cancer. A small team was assembled for the ride and the planning began, our aim was to raise cash and awareness for the charity. We decided that a couple of organised events before the ride would help to get people talking about the charity, one of which being a leg wax. Brian made the trip from the Isle of Wight to Wantage to support the event.

    Brian 1

    Our team leader, Phil, is a reasonable hirsute man and the remaining hair that carpeted his thighs led me to comment that he looked ‘like a German by a swimming pool’. Brian instantly pointed out (with a grin) that there was nothing wrong with Germans, his stem cell donor hailed from Germany! This is typical of his sense of humour; quick witted and economical in delivery.

    There was an important point in this exchange, that of re-birth. The stem cell transplant effectively provides the transplantee with a brand new immune system so they refer to this date as the ‘re-birth date’. Given the much anticipated donor match and transplant, the birthday and gift analogy continues!

    The leg wax was a great success raising over £800, more importantly the good people of Wantage were now more aware of Delete Blood Cancer; perhaps we even persuaded some to sign up to the register. Above all, the cyclists now had proper buff legs and were the toast and envy of all their male cycling friends.

    Brian’s commitment to supporting our Isle of Wight ride was total and down-right anoraky…he essentially plotted our route on the island and then drove around it 5 times to make sure everything was right. Upon meeting him at the ferry terminal, regaled in a Delete Blood Cancer t-shirt, we were introduced to the large, black arrow which would guide us around the route. The plan called for Brian to drive ahead and park up at junctions, deploy the large arrow indicating the correct way and take any requests for the next stop. Requests were usually about drinks and food, both of which were taken very seriously by energy deprived riders.

    So, a good bloke all round but, when it comes to boosting the moral of ruined riders his sense of distance (and gradient) becomes a little distorted. The hill from Shanklin to Ventnor was only a ‘small hike’ and the top was ‘just around the corner’…apparently. When we did arrive at the top, Brian sought to boost morale further by reminding us how sore his foot had become from pressing down on the accelerator for so long…a panacea for our ills, maybe not but it made us laugh and that’s proper medicine when your body hurts and you want to stop.

    And finally, I learnt at the end of last year that Brian is hoping to work for Wessex Cancer Trust as a Befriender doing what he does best, talking to people and helping them to get through their challenges using his own experiences. How many of us can truly say that our job really matters and makes a difference?

    Further reading…..

    If you liked this blog please take a moment to check out my book describing the solo Land’s End to John O’Groats ride in 2012, all profit from sales to

    Please click the cover image for the Kindle version or click here to order a paperback copy. Thank you!


  4. The Big Isle Be Back Challenge – Isle of Wight Loop

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    Click the ‘read more’ link at the bottom of the post to reveal the photographs!

    We saw Brian before he saw us; sporting his white Isle Be Back Challenge t-shirt standing on the dockside with his hands in his pockets. The last time we had met was at the leg waxing in Wantage the week before. Phil thought it would be a good fund raising opportunity as well as a chance to drum up some publicity for our ride and the charity. Brian made the journey from the Isle of Wight to support the event and watch us get our leg hair removed by Faye from the Indigo Beauty Rooms. A proper job, mine are still silky smooth.

    It was good to meet up again although the time spent at the terminal was brief. The clock was most definitely running on this ride, if we had a chance of getting round the island in time to catch the planned ferry we needed to be moving and not talking.

    Brian was well prepared and knew the plan; we dumped our rucksacks into his boot and had a quick brief before heading off towards Cowes. The plan called for Brian to drive ahead to crucial junctions and indicate our route; he had taken the time to print a big black arrow to be held up for our benefit.

    It was nice to be riding again after the hiatus of the ferry crossing; I was surprised at the amount of recovery in a reasonably short amount of time. The ache in my neck and shoulders returned; on the mainland it had been insidious but now the discomfort came back quickly. At least it wasn’t getting any worse, it was just annoying.

    I made a point of yelling out to the Phil and Mark when we passed a pub that I had eaten at during my recent holiday. It would be fair to say that I have eaten at quite a few pubs on the Isle of Wight so it was nothing remarkable. I was slightly embarrassed to realise the garden was full of punters and they had all looked up from their conversations when I had disturbed the peace.

    IOW somewhere

    Brian met us near Cowes and directed us to a hidden cycle path that would run the length of the River Medina towards Newport. The smooth surface and deserted feel to the path spurred us on; the odd runner and dog walker greeted us along the way but in the main it was free riding. Regrettably, the 10mph speed limit had to be ignored but we did slow down when approaching other path-users.

    Newport suddenly appeared as did Brian. The Medina had narrowed down to a dead end dock and mud banks were visible on either side of the water. We took 5 minutes to eat and top up bottles; I had a small pork pie as a change from the sweet food I’d been eating. I have enjoyed pork pies at all sorts of events, mostly days out at cricket but I have been known to sneak the odd one on board for a ride. Phil asked if he could have one but, to my complete dismay, I realised I had only packed one. I was supposed to be good at food but I had failed miserably on this occasion.

    We headed up towards Ryde, back on busy streets with building traffic. I’d dropped behind on one of the longish, shallow hills, when I caught up I realised that not all was well. Phil was gathering bits of Go Pro mount from the road after it has sheared off from its handle bar position. He was clearly very miffed, the camera had been a present from his mum and dad specifically to record the ride and now he had no way of mounting it let alone using it for the rest of the ride. Now was not the time for a smart comment, we ground on up the hill. I spoke with Mark about setting his Go Pro to capture our return to Wantage Market Place, at least we could put that footage up on the Facebook page, this would be no consolation to Phil though.


    Ryde disappeared behind us to be replaced by Sandown, a fairly nondescript place that is always busy; we pushed on to leave it behind quickly. I was looking forward to Shanklin because it was an area of the Isle of Wight that I knew reasonably well, unfortunately, we approached it from an unfamiliar direction so my ‘local’ knowledge had less value than my pension fund. We pulled up at a T junction by the local church.

    ‘I can’t see Brian, better give him a call as I haven’t got a clue where I am,’ I mentioned in a low key way.

    The advice was to head downhill which required a left turn at the T junction, then look for a car park on the left. After 500 metres or so it didn’t feel right and we weren’t seeing the car park that Brian had mentioned.

    Just as we put the phone down for a second time, two local lads tripped over to us offering their assistance. They were definitely street geezers and off their melons on something more than the local ale. They couldn’t stop talking and the delivery was almost too fast to follow.  Given the amount of time we had been up I considered asking them to share some of their gear but soon realised that would be cheating.  Cycling could not cope with another scandal…too soon.

    ‘Good luck lads, you look like you like a challenge, that hill is a challenge go so good luck yeah man haha woooo.’ Etc., etc., etc. They were genial lads, nothing nasty about them at all and, to be fair, they did point us in the right direction.

    We topped the hill and freewheeled down to Brian in the part of Shanklin that I did know. All my favourite places were there: The Rock Shop, The Crab Inn and the Chine. No time to sight-see today though, we had a very brief stop to fill up our bottles and headed out towards Ventnor. Another ride milestone now beckoned; the climb out of Shanklin to Ventnor.

    I knew this would be a tough one having driven it a number of times earlier in the year. It’s always the case that climbs appear innocuous from the comfort of a car, and so it was for this hill.  We managed the first steep section out of the town; Brian had parked up in a layby, we pulled over and asked about the rest of the climb.

    ‘It’s not that far or steep now and then it’s downhill into Ventnor, no worries lads,’ said a deadpan Brian.

    As a result of this slightly inaccurate description we now refer to long, tough hills as a ‘Brian hill’. It was hateful and I wanted it to end but it wouldn’t. However, our falsely derived hope got us to the top…just.

    Things settled down a touch now as we freewheeled into Ventnor and headed out towards St Lawrence and the Military Road. Lights were required again as it was getting dark quickly. The road surface was a little uneven and we saw evidence of roadside subsidence. One particular stretch had a traffic light control around the slumped roadside. I warned the others about the odd camber in the road as we rode around the cones, I remembered that from our holiday after nearly burying the car in the cliff side.

    At this point I was starting to feel the miles we had put in during the day, the thought of getting to the ferry became all-consuming. I cast my mind back to the start of the ride and it seemed a long time ago. We had made a sterling effort to catch up some time but it hadn’t produced the results we were hoping for.  In fact, the penultimate ferry was now out of reach, we would really have to pull the stops out to get the last ferry. It had always been a contingency but I never expected to have to use it.

    We faced one last big hill as we climbed up to Freshwater, again it was a nasty one and I was glad to get it done. I was rapidly running out of fuel given the extra push but not yet at the stage where I would have to chance my delicate stomach with an energy gel. Instead of risking a ‘reverse liquid lunch’ I went for a whole ginger cake – down in one! It worked a treat hitting the spot very quickly. Suddenly, Yarmouth terminal appeared and not a moment too soon, we had approximately 20 minutes to spare before the last ferry left.

    Brian had been fantastic, his diligence with the route finding had paid off and we were back in one piece. His mum had joined us for the last section but regrettably, we didn’t get a lot of chance to chat. I think we were all starting to suffer given the mounting mileage, chatting seemed to be an extra, unnecessary effort.

    Leaving IOW

    Not much else to say about the Isle of Wight except that a nice man took our photo’s promising to post them on the ‘What’s on in Yarmouth’ website and Mark caught up with an old school friend who worked on the ferry.  A bizarre coincidence but then this trip was completely out of the ordinary. We could put our feet up for a bit and get a hot coffee on ferry; this left plenty of time to worry about how the last 80 miles would pan out.


    Read about the last 80 miles from Lymington to Wantage soon…!


    Further reading…..

    If you liked this blog please take a moment to check out my book describing the solo Land’s End to John O’Groats ride in 2012, all profit from sales to

    Please click the cover image for the Kindle version or click here to order a paperback copy. Thank you!