Wednesday, 20 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 3 - Tiverton to Bristol

Miles - 73.63
Cycle Time - 6hrs 7mins.
Total Time - 10hrs 17mins.
Average Speed - 12.04mph
Top Speed -

After two hard days in the hills of Cornwall and Devon the group were desperate for a lift, and they were handed one in the form of a guest appearance from work record holder and adventurer Ben Rockett, along with his friend Matt another very capable cyclist. Ben was happy to give advice where he could and Pete had a couple of issues with his bike which he was concerned about. The 'crack' in the carbon fibre frame and the bit missing from the chain were actually designed to be there rather than problems waiting to happen. Looking silly in front of the record holder would be a theme running through the mornings ride.

So at half 8 with the ranks swollen to a record 7 riders we set off from the Tiverton Travel Lodge with the carrot of Pete's house in Bristol to look forward to. This carrot soon felt very far off, as we struggled on some quiet, but poor quality country roads up and down hills.

I had promised the boys before hand I would challenge Ben to a hill climb to see how many million miles away I was from being a World Record Holder. Those first 5 miles as I worked hard behind Ben and Matt as they chatted merrily spinning up and down hills with no apparant effort I realised the hill climb wouldn't be necessary. It was obvious I would have to return to the world of Accountancy, rather than take up a career as a full time athelte.

Thankfully I wasn't the only one working hard over those first hilly miles, as we went to head off onto the busy but mercifully flatter A road Ben turned around to see Dad white as a sheet and slumped over his handlebars and with a meer 70 more miles to get through. Ben's second piece of advice of the day was sound as he recommended that we got some sugar in him fast. So full of jelly and eager to impress we got going.

The morning was full of punctures, first to go was Dad's but eager to redeem himself after nearly passing out after 5 miles he attacked the tire with enthuaism and no little skill. 5 minutes later and one very slickly changed tyre later we were off and rolling again.

With the additional two riders we were a little more spread out than usual and the group dynamic which we had started to develop over the first couple of days changed a little. I had tended to cycle at the back of the pack on the basis that I would be on the wheel of the 4th rider and so if any problems came up I would act as the sweeper and let those ahead know what was going on. But on Day 3, it was all very fluid and people were moving up and down the group and chatting away. So inadvertantly Dad and Joe were the two riders at the back of the line. Joe got a little seperated off the back and it was at this moment that he was the victim of puncture number 2.

Dad now off in the distance, Joe was in a bit of a pickle stuck in a pub car park on his lonesome with a puncture. But Joe was blessed with a great set of lungs, and so a passing motorist heard his shouts of help and relayed the message to the rest of the group. Cue a stream of riders turning tail and getting back to aid the stranded cyclist. Joe's stress levels were soon lowered though when Ben offered to fix his puncture.

The group then came back together again for the trip to Ben's house where a beautiful breakfast spread was laid out. Ben's Dad Paul was a great host and set us on our way refuelled and rested. The sun was out and the mood was good, I took the opportunity to take a photo of the guys riding down a country lane. But I didn't even make it to my camera because as I reached behind my back the bike decided to go right, up a slight slope and into the nearest hedge. The link to my surname has not been missed by many on my retelling of the story. Thankfully it was a quiet road, I had stayed on my machine, and the bike had no damage, and I only had a few superficial injuries. An added bonus being that I was at the back of the group and so most missed my spectacular crash. Pete was fortunate enough to see my efforts to extracate myself from the hedge before we set off again hoping for no more drama.

For our next rest stop we had the very picturesque surroundings of Burrow Mump, where Ben recounted a very amusing tale, but it is one that I can't retell here. Dad discovered some glass in his tire before we set off again and on Ben's advice removed it. Cue hissing and another puncture to deal with. Puncture number 3 mended we headed on our way.

Ben and Matt rode as far as the Mcdonalds services on the way to Glastonbury before they had to turn and head for home. We really enjoyed their company, and they were both top guys and very humble. As they headed for Taunton we headed for Cheddar Gorge. But Dad and I succeeded in getting punctures numbers 4 and 5 simultaneously and so bikes were left strewn all over the layby as we got to work with ever decreasing enthuaism.

The mood was lifted when we arrived at Cheddar Gorge which had looked beautiful from the postcard Dad had sent a decade earlier and it didn't disappoint. The team didn't get to explore the caves inside, but the largest inland cliffs on the outside were spectacular. Joe and I formed one team, whilst Pete, Dad and Luke followed afterwards. The climb wasn't particular steep, apart from one or two sharp turns, but it did climb for a couple of miles before it flattened out near the top. The slow speeds meant we could fully appreciate our surroundings and reaching the summit was something of a disappointment as it was over. It was definately my favorite part of the trip thus far.

Luke decided to join the puncture party at the top of the climb to make it 6 for the day. Dad got comfy in the car and let the young pups get on with the tyre change. With 5 working machines we left the girls and headed off for the final leg of Day 3 to Pete's house in Bristol. After the stunning surroundings of Cheddar Gorge we were treated to more great views as we headed down to the reservior. The descent was pretty hairy and more climbing awaited us on the other side. It was comforting knowing this was Pete's territory and he guided us through the final busy run in to Bristol expertly.

The heavy traffic and fatigue meant the group fanned out a little, it was at this point with two miles to go that Dad cried out puncture and I sprinted off to let Luke and Pete know. We all trapsed back to find dad struggling with our 7th puncture of the day. The wheel and tyre had come off fine, but the tyre was old and stretched and the struggle was getting the tyre and inner tube back on. We started to think of wierd and wonderful ways to get us all the 2 miles back to Pete's safely but in the end after much huffing and puffing brute force got the tyre back on and we were on the road again.

The five tired and relieved cyclists arrived at Pete's over 10 hours after setting off from Tiverton Travel Lodge. A tough day and only 75 miles, how are we going to handle the upcoming century? The answer was new tyres. Luke's and Dad's tyres had both done around 1,500 miles and were holey and threadbare thus the run of punctures. My trusty slicks had done 2,500 miles but I didn't want to rock the boat so soldiered on with them.

After enjoying a fantastic Pasta Bake with added Bacon, Chicken and Veg the youngsters took to the task of putting on the four new tyres. Mum and Dad had a nightmare trying to find the Halfords where the tyres were bought and so headed for the hotel. Luke and I struggled with our assigned two tyres, whilst Pete and Joe had the knack and so I tried to busy myself with the lowly task of bike cleaning. By half 10 and under floodlights Joe and Pete completed the fourth and final tyre and the bikes were ready for the rigors of day 4. It would only be in the morning that we'd find out if the five riders were ready.

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