Charlie Webster is part of the Ride to Rio! team cycling to Brazil in support of The Jane Tomlinson Appeal. The TV presenter took time out to talk to Chris Bond.
Monsoons, blisters in uncomfortable places and the “death highway”.
These are just some of the challenges Charlie Webster and members of the Ride to Rio! team have endured during their epic 3,000 mile charity bike ride from England to Brazil.
The Sheffield-born TV presenter is among the team cycling to the host city of the 2016 Olympics in tribute to the late Jane Tomlinson. Since setting off from London’s Olympic Park at the end of June the team – which includes Jane’s husband Mike, ex-rugby players Keith Senior and Paul Highton as well as Charlie – have cycled more than 2,700 miles.
Earlier this week they left Campos dos Goytacazes, a city 178 miles north east of Rio, and after nearly six, gruelling weeks they are finally in the home stretch.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post during a short break, Charlie admits it has been a bit of a slog at times. “Every day has been tough,” she says. “It’s physically tiring, I’ve got saddle sores and my hands hurt from gripping the handlebars, but it’s mentally demanding, too.
“You have to be mentally strong because each morning you have to tell your body that it doesn’t hurt and that you can do it. You get to the point where you go beyond being tired,” she says.
One of the biggest challenges they’ve faced is the weather which has thrown the proverbially kitchen sink at them, veering between blazing sunshine and torrential rain. “It was freezing when we crossed the Pyrenees in France and then in Portugal it was 39 degrees,” says Charlie.
Since arriving in Brazil the weather gods have proved no kinder. “We had monsoon conditions the other day and because the roads don’t have any drainage they were just waterlogged – that felt quite scary.”
The weather hasn’t been the only challenge. The terrain, too, has made life difficult for them at times. “The countryside is breathtaking and the people have been very friendly but we’ve not had one flat road. There are so many potholes they would make it difficult for a car never mind a bike,” she jokes.
“We had to change the route on one occasion because it was just too dangerous. We googled this road and it’s known as the ‘death highway’ because three people die on it every day. We’ve had to use dirt tracks and at one point we had to cycle for 20 miles through sand.”
Despite this, the punctures, saddle soreness and occasional injuries they have battled on cycling as much as 130 miles a day – the equivalent of travelling from Hull to Liverpool.
It’s a decade since Rothwell fundraiser Jane started a 4,200 ride across America while battling cancer, and the team cycling to Rio aims to raise thousands of pounds for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal to carry on her legacy, supporting children and cancer services across the country. A share of the money raised will also go to support Rugby League Cares, a charity dedicated to supporting the rugby league family and its communities.
“What Jane achieved was truly inspirational. She wouldn’t be beaten and she showed what the human spirit could do once it’s put to the test and hopefully we’re continuing a little bit of what she did,” says Charlie.
By tomorrow Rio should be in sight and the plan is to cycle to the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city, which will signal the end of what has been a mammoth and emotional journey.
“There’ll be a feeling of relief that we’ve made it and sadness that it’s all over,” says Charlie, “But I am looking forward to having a hot shower and cup of Yorkshire tea.”
Donate at justgiving.com/RidetoRio or text JRTR70 £5 to 70070 to donate £5.