Fat Bottomed Boys & Girls ‘Game of Thrones’ Diaries
TIP’s ‘Fat Bottomed Boys & Girls’ team has completed this year’s charity cycle ride, seemingly the most challenging for a few years. This year’s effort, dubbed the ‘Game of Thrones Challenge’ was a 3-day trek from Split to Dubrovnik in Croatia.
Approximately 300 kms was travelled, which has typically been the distance covered by the FBB&G team over the years. However, a combination of the steep hills to climb and the rapidly rising temperatures each day, ensured an especially gruelling challenge. The team, including its fair share of newcomers, met the challenge ‘head on’ though to ensure another successful FBB&G escapade.
Thanks to the team and its wonderful supporters, we have reached this year’s fundraising target of £70,000, which is to be donated to the Dougie Mac hospice, which provides amazing support throughout the Staffordshire region for those less fortunate.
Reaching the target for the year means the FBB&G teams have helped surpass the incredible milestone of having raised more than £500,000 for various charitable causes from the nine cycle rides.
We haven’t quite finished the fundraising part for this year yet and if you’d like to make a donation to support the team and this year’s nominated charity, you can do so by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/page/tipfbbg-gameofthroneschallenge.
Below, Mike Furnival summarises a memorable 3 days:-
DAY ONE – 7th June
Most of the group were on the 6am flight out of Manchester for this year’s challenge. Up at 3am for most not being the ideal preparation.
However, all were present and correct and the flight boarded at exactly the right time. All going swimmingly until Wazza’s mates, Billy and Maria, developed some ‘medical issues’ just before take-off and were relocated for examination in amongst our party at the front. After a rigorous series of medical tests that they slept and slurred through it was finally deemed that they were unfit to fly and were spirited from the aircraft on a scissor lift.
mmm.. not the best start.
So we duly arrived in Split a couple of hours late and made for the hotel to build up the bikes and prepare for the tough day ahead. There were 11 new ‘victims’ for this year’s challenge, including Sir Hoy of Motherwell (Wheelie), ‘Mackem’ Carlin from Grayrentals and Theo, providing representation from TIP’s HQ. Once the bikes were built we obviously took in the local Split culture with a pizza and a couple of ‘liveners’ before calling time early after dinner to prepare for the next day.
Up at 7am, with the usual scramble for breakfast before Dave’s ever professional photo shoot.. he is available for weddings and bar mitzvahs at very reasonable rates..
One bit of good news before we set off.. Wheelie’s mere presence on the starting line meant Scott had lost yet another substantial wager.. the day was looking up..
With the starting heat around 21 degrees C, the nerves were palpable.. Moreover, whichever way we looked, Split was completely surrounded by mountains.. Big ‘uns as well!!
Anyway.. we set out in four main groups on the coast road south for around 20kms.. the Goat obviously set off seeking higher ground.. in their case, the highest tarmac road in Croatia.. Why!? Anyway, for the main group everything seemed ok.. bit of driver harassment, the odd obscenity, but relatively smooth travelling.. There was sea on the right with amazing views across the bay and a giant wall of rock on the left.. we knew it had to come.. and it did..
At the town of Omis we missed our water stop and instead chucked a left and started a nice 6km climb up to 1000ft.. lovely views but heart-breaking on the lungs and legs..
All four teams did a great job to make it up and there followed a lovely descent down the other side where we thought it was then flat to lunch at 60kms.. Oh no.. it’s never easy is it?
The road suddenly kicked up again for another 6kms to 1,000ft.. by which time the thermometer had reached 30 degrees C, incredibly tough for the most experienced rider but the pace and the efforts of the non-cyclists were commendable.. even super human in some cases..
After a few orienteering issues, we finally arrived at the beautiful coastal town of Baska Voda for a well-deserved lunch.. An hour later we set off for the remaining journey to our first day destination at Podgora.. All present and correct.. a top job and a big relief celebrated by many with a dip in the Adriatic.. lovely..!
As for the Goats, they actually made the 4,000ft summit to a stunning glass walkway.. an amazing effort.. but they are truly bonkers!
Having done 8 of these now, one consistent thing we have enjoyed is the amazing courtesy of our European cousins.. People in all countries wave merrily as we sweat by and drivers are only too happy to give way and provide consideration to the cyclists on the road… Not on this occasion though!
Big day tomorrow in forecasted hot conditions.. today x 1.5 in distance and climbing.. Might be a muted celebration for today’s fantastic achievements, but I think everyone will sleep well.
DAY TWO – 8th June
First of all, the ‘muted’ celebration forecast didn’t really happen due to the discovery of Croatian wine at the dinner table and the evening entertainment provided by the resident duo, ‘A Taste of Indigo’.. check them out on Spotify..! ‘The Dazzler’ entranced the locals with his exotic dancing, and a raucous Rod Stewart rendition was a moment to remember.. I think we’d temporarily forgotten the toils of the cycling and what was to come the following day..!
There was a certain grogginess at breakfast and not a little anxiety regarding what was to come.. the rumours of the climbs ahead were getting louder and everyone chased Adam and his team to better understand the challenge ahead.. There was no getting away from it.. 130kms riding with more than 5,000 feet of climbing.. It was going to be a long day..
I guess in that situation you’ve just got to get on with it and the spirit amongst the teams ensured this would be the case as we pushed off on our 8.30am start.. After a carb loading breakfast it’s always difficult to get going but the road surface was smooth, the climbs winding but not energy sapping and the wind benign for the first 35kms to the drinks stop at Gradac.. It was all going so well as we stopped at a petrol station for 20 mins to grab a drink and a bite to eat.. Maybe we’d got it wrong? This was going to turn out fine after all..
One improvement was the reception of the locals.. less abuse, even a few friendly waves and we wondered if they were just getting used to us.. Braggy finally pointed out that a few of us were wearing the 2022 France tops of red, white and blue which is both the national flag of Croatia and the local football team, Hajduk Split!!
Maybe it’s the pessimistic half of me but I’m often more on edge when things are going really well and I had the same feeling at Gradac.. and these fears were soon to be realised.. A couple of big climbs started to drain the energy before we mercifully dropped down into a vast, beautiful valley near Ploce.. with good roads and flat terrain, all the teams raced along with enthusiasm until they realised there was only one way out of this beautiful valley.. straight over an ugly great mountain!
With the mid-morning temperatures nudging 28 degrees C, it was a tough finish to the morning but we finally made the 70kms down to a beautiful restaurant on the Adriatic at Komarna..
All teams had a blissful hour’s recharge next to the lapping waves looking up at the new 2.5km Pelješac Bridge which is an incredible architectural masterpiece connecting Croatia and avoiding Bosnia Herzgovinia.. it was also unavoidable for us to cross..
Refreshed and refuelled, we knew what lay on the other side of that bridge.. one of Croatia’s national parks with the most punishing climb of them all.. By early afternoon, the temperature was registering 33 degrees C as the teams pushed off one by one.. As my own team crossed the amazing structure it did occur to me that the bridge resembled a motorway and there had been some chatter that ‘we’re not really supposed to cross’.. Of course we completely ignored this chatter and the first three teams crossed safely without incident.. Not so lucky were team four who were the victims of someone obviously reporting 40 odd lunatic cyclists illegally crossing the bridge..! Two huge officers merely shook their heads at the idiocy before escorting the team safely off the bridge on the other side to continue their journey..
Certain things will stay with you throughout life and that afternoon climb will be one of them.. In searing heat, every single team attacked the 5km hill with some gradients well in excess of 10% .. for non cyclists, that is steep.. Every single person can gain huge personal credit for that achievement in those conditions and the run down after through the vineyards to a drinks stop at the historic town of Ston was simply exhilarating.. The final leg into our evening destination of Slano was relatively incident free apart from a few snakes saying hello..
no dramas.. we’d all made it!!
Not a lot of mention of the Goats today but in short, they just weren’t very ‘Goaty’.. There were even rumours of some hill walking at times.. probably just nasty slurs but given their epic challenge the previous day I suppose we can make allowances if they’re true.. ;)
All in all, an amazing job by all the team members.. up there with Portugal 2019 in terms of the level of physical/mental challenge in really tough conditions..
DAY THREE – 9th June
After a relaxed evening in the beautiful marina town of Slano, we awoke on Friday morning knowing that we only had a short leg to finish.. The final day from Slano to Dubrovnik was relatively uncomplicated as it was a straight road all the way. Agreeing that we could start later, we finally pushed off in our separate teams around 10.30am.. Temperature was already up in the mid 20’s and there were a couple of thousand feet to climb..
Apart from the endless hills, the big challenge was the single lane highway to Dubrovnik which was really busy with cars and freight traffic.. everyone needed to concentrate on the white line and stay in small groups to avoid any potential accidents.. tough to do as the sun got higher.. After a couple of hours, we all pulled into the meeting point high above the bridge at Dubrovnik.. an amazing site.. After one last drink, we all set off for the remaining 10kms circumnavigating the hills of the city before dropping down into the jaw dropping beauty of the old town.. You don’t have to be a Game of Thrones fan to appreciate the beauty of this ancient, fortified city.. if you haven’t been, stick it on your list..!
After three punishing days we all sat outside an ancient bar for an hour to celebrate a great team effort.. We attracted a lot of interest from the locals and tourists alike as we sat in our Dave George designed Dalmatian Dog cycling tops.. very natty indeed.. if not a little tight for some of us! There were also a few renditions of the tour anthem.. ‘Who let the dogs out!’.
The final 5km out to our hotel on the peninsula didn’t disappoint.. ridiculous hills all the way before we met our cycle chauffeur, Lee, to repack all our things to return home.. This guy just provides the best care and fantastic logistical support on every tour.. we’d be lost without him..
So, the FBB&G Tour of 2023 is finally over.. as always, it’s highly emotional when you’re working in teams to achieve a tough goal.. This year’s teams had a great hardcore of supporters that always turn up and get the donation machine cranking.. but we also had a lot of new people that just mucked in, shared rooms, physical pain and great stories over the week..
There was some serious anxiety and complete distress at times but the camaraderie, resilience and sense of humour across the board carried us all over the line. We all agreed that this trip was right up there with Portugal in terms of difficulty, but I’ll always remember Croatia for the fantastic squad of people pulling together in the most wonderful scenery ever.. it’s truly a great place to visit..
Finally, the important bit.. the level of financial support from sponsors, colleagues, family and friends has been absolutely humbling this year.. and I know there’s still plenty of pledges to come !
I’d just like to finish by thanking everyone that took part last week and every single person that supported financially or otherwise to get this challenge done..
Words truly cannot express.. thank you so much.