A fine nights sleep in the hostel for some, a night in the van for David (snoring avoidance) and a slight change to our routine to become more efficient (and to fit in with hostel breakfast-time policy) by packing the van first, then eating breakfast. Today we were met by Epilepsy Scotland’s Robyn, a companion via email over the last few months, to see us off in person. The swarming midges outside forced us inside for a few quick photos, but not before we were their breakfast. Robyn headed off, we got on the road soon after, a few of us circling round the hostel driveway in a vain attempt to avoid being bitten while the last few folk pumped tyres or grabbed essentials from the van.
We hit the A82 with our new domestique, Michael M, fresh from a 36 mile cycle to meet up with us. Sam took the lead as we single-filed it along the busy road at an easy pace, taking in the miles as the day started with sunshine looking likely. We’d not gone far when the first incient of the day was to occur. Moving out slightly to avoid the bulging cats-eyes at a parking spot, front-man Sam was cycling towards a large crow , which appeared to be resting on the road – normally such beasts will quickly fly out of the way, but this one seemd to have a grudge of some sort and barrelled into him instead of flying in the other direction. Bouncing off Sam, it hit the deck, and the following train took evasive manouvres, narrowly missing it. As we moved on, comments flew forward – “you pull that out of your pocket to throw at us Sam?”, “hmm, does that mean I’m the only one to have pulled a bird on this trip?” came the reply.
Onwards. Next issue – stopping at a contraflow there was a bang, this time Sam’s rear was flat. Gio ran a quick recce, and reckoned nipping through the lights, we could perform bike surgery on the coned off side of the road. He and Sam went to work, fixing the tyre and we were on our way. The road was damp, but the occaisional splash of water couldn’t change the fact that the weather was turning out to be near prefect for cycling.
Next stop – second breakfast (or first lunch) at the Green Welly Shop at Tyndrum, where we ran in to some JOGLE cyclists (North to South). Nice lads from Devon, raising money for Macmillan – we exchanged a few cycling pleasantries, swapped tales of each others road ahead and got Cameron to take a quick set of piccies.
Scones, soup and various other cakey consumed, we got back on the bikes and on up the hill beyond to Rannoch Moor. The climb was taken easily (big ring not quite all round), the occasional passing car or parked up tourist cheering us on.
Once at the top, just as we were going to start our descent into Glen Coe, Sam’s rear tube went bang again. Repair, this time replacing the (torn it was discovered) tyre.
Just as the repairs were done, a large squad of Hummersknott CC, also on a LEJOG, pulled up alongside us.
Hello’s and chit-chat ensued before we all moved on downhill, DIFDers nipping by the ‘knott guys and gals on the descent – we were in more of a hurry than them, covering a few more miles per day.
Our next target – Fort William, and second lunch. The promise of a fine feast lay ahead of us – Cameron’s sister Isobel had agreed to feed and water us, and we soon arrived to an excellent spread of sarnies, cakes & pancakes which was scoffed down in short measure “the best lunch we’ve had” – many thanks Isobel.
Off we set – well, nearly, Big J had a front puncture. Fixed in quick time, we headed off for the last 50 miles of the day, revived from our hefty sandwich consumption. A brief stop at the Commando memorial was our only pause as we piled on to the last planned van meet-up at Fort Augustus. A quick cakey break and back in the saddle, the realisation that we were running behind resulting in a blistering pace being set – the team stepped up and everyone took their turn at the front, the switches smooth and methodical allowing us all to work the train along at 20mph+ on the flats and lesser hills. We covered the last 20 miles in under the hour to be met by friends and family in the hotel car park.
Day 7 done. 135 miles (171 for Michael!).
The first day of actual cycling was preceeded by the night of a thousand squeaks – the hostel bunks had the charming feature of making a terrible racket every time you made any movement. Result – not a very good nights kip for many of us. Still, up at 6-ish, showered (optional), breakfasted, bottles filled and some last minute mechanical tweaks before heading down the 3/4 mile to the ‘start’ at Land’s End.
John, Sam and I filled in the ‘End to Enders’ book in the hotel, then a series of photos at “The Sign” for the whole team. Then to the ‘start line’ – yup, there is an ‘official’ start line painted on the road. Striking a quick pose for camerman Cameron and we were off.
Problem #1. We’ve only ever ridden as a group of 7 once, months ago, so the ‘system’ we regularly use to change the ‘man at the front’ which works fine for a single file line of 3-5 folk wasnt really going to cut it with the ‘peleton’. Three systems came into play, which made for a fun few rotations while we worked out what was what. Eventually we got into a rhythm, merged the 3 into 1 system, and the DIFD train was 2 abreast and working well, swapping the lead pair every mile or so.
On we went, taking it reasonably easy, aiming for our first break (and potential cakey stop!) at Redruth. Mark was having some problems with his gears, so a quick stop at a bike shop (no use it turns out) meant we missed the van rendezvous. A phone call re-arranged a layby stop – van, cake, bananas and water refills. On we went, toiling up a hill or two, making good time and only having to play with the traffic a few times on the busier parts of the A30. A silver van tried to take us out, but missed us all as he zoomed by, giving us at least 3 inches of room (why would we need more?) and nearly causing a peleton pile-up.
Target 2 – lunch at Wadebridge (60 miles) and rendezvous with McGivern cousins Gary & Claire. The only issue between us and there/ them, the haybale challenge. It must be some new Cornish cycling test. Local farmers block the road with haybales and us cyclists need to negotiate the resulting slalom to prove we are true masters of the bike.
Slalom test passed, we arrived in Wadebridge, located pub, van support, cousins and something solid to lock 7 bikes to.
Lunch demolished in quick time (for those that got it on first order, something of a wait for tables 2 and 3), chat with one and all, then we were back on the road for the last 40 miles. Should be easy enough but for problem #2 – the bikeroutetoaster courses and Sam’s and my Garmins were not playing nice, making dealing with route and direction changes ‘fun’ – wrong turns and roads aplenty. Still we got the right one eventually, only to discover problem #3 – the last 40 miles (no problem) contained 2 hefty hills (potential problem). So far Cornwall hadn’t quite presented the 25% inclines we’d anticipated and in the end nor really did these two. We took the first at pace, a long gradual ascent rather than a torturous steep affair, the team now well used to such challenges. In between this and the next, a road with new ‘loose chippings’. Or, in my humble opinion, a pile of gravel threatening to have you off the bike if you dared to move at any pace, pretending to be a road. For miles. And up hill, making it even more fun. In the end, no issues, but a nervous few miles.
The last hill took its first victim – Bryan going for the cadence record of the day, as his chain jumped off the sprockets, me narrowly missing running right into his back wheel. A short stop to fix his chain back on, resulted in the group stringing out and Bryan playing catch up. After a bit of climbing, it seemed he wasn’t catching the group, Gio, then myself eased off allowing him to regain contact with us, then a quick tow to Mark and David ahead. Sam and John had vanished into the distance, so the 5 of us got a train going , eventually catching them up at the roadside. We reformed the full group, hoping for an easy last 10 miles. This hope was dashed, most of the remaining miles taking us up hill, passing the 100 mile mark (and David’s first century ride) before a final fast downhill into Okehampton.
A last ‘where’s the accommodation?’ conflab – turned out it was just round the corner, up a ‘nice finish to your day’ bit of road according to a local. In other words, a hill. Not quite a killer, but did offer the opportunity to do a ‘Cav’ and childishly sprint by the rest of the team from the back for the first ‘stage win’. Day 1 in the bag. Lets see what tomorrow brings.
Garmin link to follow… and here it is:
LEJOG day 1