It's grim cycling up north
Alarms went off at 5am so we could start getting the fuel on board for the day ahead - I went for porridge with water and honey and a bulletproof coffee (google it and make your own mind up).
As targeted, we met up at the Solihull office at 630am and set off at 7am with the temperatures much more comfortable than last week's 30+ to Leek but with a feeling of heightened awareness that we were now at the 'business end' of the challenge. I had been silly enough to look at the route produced by Garmin and it didn't make for comfortable viewing - we were to be going up and down more times than a fiddler's elbow at a barn dance. We got away trouble free and were soon whizzing through the countryside with a growing sense of bonhomie - happy not to be delayed by Mr Stobart and his dodgy tyre.
First stop (around 31 miles in) found us hooking up with Helen and Scott Johns at a closed public house - fortunately there were secluded corners in the car park which didn't stop us proving we were well hydrated. As the sun started to breakthrough the clouds we headed off for the next stage - Duffield - and to meet up with Sharon at her house for lunch and for her to join us for the last 40 odd miles. This leg proved much harder as the hills grew steeper and more frequent and conversation started to fade away in favour of maximum oxygen intake.
We were well ready for a warm welcome into Duffield and some sandwiches and Delia's energy cakes (highly recommended).
At midday we cycled out of Duffield and into the Derbyshire hills, from the off the inclines were punishing and the joviality quickly dissipated. The admiration I had felt for the beauty of the Derbyshire countryside just a short while earlier subsided quickly and became one of deep resentment as I pushed my heavy frame up one hill after another.
The theme continued for the remaining 40 miles, broken by a brief stop. Where possible Kevin 'the bull' Johns and I shared the role of 'domestique' in taking the lead to make it less challenging for the lighter, younger and fitter Demsey Slater (hang on a minute....).
A quick search on wikipedia provides the following definition: A domestique is a road bicycle racer who works for the benefit of his team and leader. In French, domestique translates as "servant". The use of the term dates back to 1911, although such riders had existed before then (Kevin).
Some of the hills seemed to be there simply to spite us but we all powered on, determined to get to our goal. Sharon had said that her previous training ride in this area had resulted in an emotional phone call to her partner to pick her up. This triggered the male instinct in me to avoid her at all cost but I was pleasantly surprised to see her chopping each hill down one by one with a fantastic effort (and no tears - phew!).
On the final run in we managed to take a wrong turn and go a couple of miles through some woods and fields before picking up the route again into Sheffield, I came off the bike but without injury - other than to my pride. Kevin, not to be upstaged 'went for a burton' in fantastic fashion as we were within 500 yards of the postbox, hitting his bike that hard that the de-railer de-tached!
Our team had bonded over the previous 10 hours and we were not going to leave a man on the battlefield. As a show of solidarity we walked the final 500 yards through the crowded city centre full of revellers due to the festival that was taking place that weekend and reached Jessica Ennis' postbox with a feeling of achievement and pride.
What a great day, great company and a genuine sense of accomplishment.It's true what they say though, it's grim (cycling) up north!!!
PS - I feel sorry for the idiot who volunteers to cycle to Scotland (hang on a minute....)