Saturday, 23 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 6 - Chester to Settle

Miles - 101.57
Cycle Time - 8hrs 40mins
Total Time - 12hrs 26mins
Average Speed - 11.72mph

After our early finish yesterday and comfy beds at the Oldersma's the riders were rested and ready to tackle the century! Tim was the only one of the group who had tackled the magical 100 mile in one day, and enjoyed casually dropping into conversation the fact that he had rode 3 or 4 centuries in his time. The rest of the group were tackling the not inconsiderable distance for the first time, but the overwhelming feeling was one of excitement rather than fear as the group left bright and early at 6:45 in the morning waved off by the support group and the Oldersma family.

Luke lead us out for the first miles using his local knowledge as he had visited Amber's house a number of times and so was keen we avoided a noterious and busy roundabout. Joe and Luke navigated us through Chester without too much bother, the big target of the morning being Runcorn and the crossing of it's busy bridge. On the approach into Runcorn me and Garmin took control and immediately made a wrong turn, back on track and with my navigational confidence increasing I decided to head direct to the bridge. How hard could it be? Well quite it would seem, as the bridge grew closer it also grew higher as we stood at it's base. Road closures meant we had to go back on ourselves, eventually negiotiating our way successfully onto the bridge. The group is always keen to use the roads as much as possible, but on this occassion the cycle path running alongside the bridge may have been the better option. A bus driver beeping at us, and trying to mow down the 5 enthuastic cyclists was probably of a similar opinion.

Safely over the bridge we found a bus stop for a break and got some food and drink in before setting off on the busy A Road. The turn onto a quieter B road wasn't well sign posted, and as we went over a bridge I looked below to see the quiet B Road just out of reach that we should have been on. None of the group enjoyed the busy duel carriageway with fast moving cars being driven by inconsiderate drivers, the lack of enjoyment was felt most strongly by Dad. But after 4 or so pretty hairy miles we managed to get off the A Road onto the safer B Road. We celebrated this victory with a stop outside a newsagents selling hotdogs/sausages in rolls. It was a pretty unusual looking sausage but at a pound a go none of the hungry cyclists were complaining.

With the long day ahead of us the cyclists weren't dragging out the breaks, and with the alternative sausages eaten the group was on it's way. By the time the cyclists met up with the girls at a park 48 miles had been chalked off and it wasn't even midday. The troops were met with good news from back home in Essex, with the girls having taken a call from Lauren telling them that she had raised £500 with a non-uniform at school. A nice little lift to see us through the afternoon.

The rest and recovery enjoyed at the park were soon removed as we got through Leyland to discover that Dad's back brakes had worn through and he was stuck in big ring. As the rain poured down, and with no shelter to hide under the cyclists got a soaking. Mine and Joe's combined Iphones were struggling for coverage, as we attempted to locate the nearest cycle shop. Eventually despairing with the mapping app and settling for ringing Paul Hewitt Cycles whose number we found on google. Joe was given some directions, and thankfully the shop wasn't too far. The five of us keen to stay together headed to the bike shop and arrived 10 minutes later. The guys working in the shop weren't the chattest ever, but got Dad's bike fixed in no time which is what I prefer in my bike mechanics and so within half an hour we were heading back to where we had started via a new short cut we had been given. 5 wet bikers with 5 working bikes cycled past the same street we had pulled into an hour ago, but we were heading in the right direction and keen to make progress.

By 5 O'Clock we had made it to the beautiful village of Waddington 75 miles into our century. Relaxing by a stream we felt confident knowing the finish line was so close. Little did we know just how tough the run into Settle would be. First up was the slow, challenging climb up to Waddington Fell. The weather was holding off, and I enjoyed the couple of miles to the top and the views at the summit. What goes up must go down and the group enjoyed some fast descents. My enjoyment was some what curtailed when I discovered that my front right brake pad had come right off, I was thus limited to my back brakes on the fast, wet downhills of the dales. A cycle shop would have to be visited yet again tommorow.

With 20 miles of the dales to defeat before the day was out the clouds decided to unload on the tired cyclists. It didn't rain, it just poured, absolutely solid. I gave up with my fogged up glasses, and tackled the roads blind. The four Hedges cyclists had seen the rain coming at the previous stop with the car and so picked up their jackets, Pete had not. It was only as he stood shivering with 2miles to go that I realised he was coatless and so lent him my jacket, but I was worried this had come far too late! Joe, Luke and Pete headed onto the finish to get Pete warm and into a shower, whilst Dad and I tackled the final challenge of the day, a woman struggling with her trailer which had come detached from her car. Her father had attached it and when he did it she knew it wasn't right, which begged the question why the hell did you leave then! But even after 100 miles on the bike we kept our cool and with the assistances of a local guy we pushed the trailer off the road. Dad and I were cold and they seemed happy reattaching it so we went on our way.

We made it to the B&B wet, cold and relieved. No back slapping celebration, no hollering. Just a well done and a goodbye as we headed for our rooms and a hot shower. In some fresh clothes, showered and warm I rolled into the quiet country pub... O no there is a room packed full of strangers having a good knees up. We later found out it was a party of 50 having some big reunion, but it was nice when they went to the restaurant and left the tired cyclists and support crew in peace to enjoy their 3 course meal. But the group had swelled from 8 to 9 with the addition of my Mother in Law Jan. It was great to see a new and enthuastic face after the tough day we had all had. Jan also came bearing gifts of cake, sweets and lucozade which I had just run out of that day. I was tired and for the one and only time on the trip couldn't finish my dinner (the bag of haribo I had on Jan's arrival probably didn't help). But Luke was still full of energy after his century debut and was happy to interogate Jan on her job teaching at a Young Offenders Prison. Jan set off on the two hour drive home at half 10 to leave the cyclists and support team to their beds. The day ended on a bad note though, as I found out that my Iphone had not taken well to the downpour and so was currently out of action. Really felt cut off from the wifey, hope it drys out by tommorrow!

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