Waking up in a misty country idyll, we set off towards the heart of industrial Lancashire. From Jez and Katie’s to Mum’s house, in other words.
80% of the ride was fantastic. I had no pain to speak of and started to get the sense that my body might be adapting to riding every day. The legs felt ready, or at least resigned, and to bit where they joined the rest of me felt pretty well moulded to the saddle.
In theory this was one of the easiest days of the trip. Long enough, at 82 miles, but with just a couple of climbs at the start and nothing but rolling countryside the rest of the way.
Jez and Tony were riding with us and seemed gleefully excited to be making the trip. Tony managed to maintain most of his smile through the various technical glitches his (let’s just say ‘twice as expensive as anyone else’s) bike threw in. Watching him tinker kept the rest of us smiling too.
The climbs were fine and soon done, after which the miles started to roll by. The terrain was forgiving enough to allow long conversations and catching up with two old friends was worth any effort the trip might have demanded.
Tea stop in Malpas. Can’t recall the name of the cafe but it had impressive collections of both ceramic snails and septuagenarian cyclists, this latter group seemed attracted to Tony’s carbon fibre Cannondale, succeding only in irritating him rather than making his gears work.
The stretch through Cheshire was the best 20 miles of the whole trip so far. It felt like we were flying along on a magic carpet, and brought me as close as I can remember to the pure pleasure of childhood riding, pedalling and pedalling and pedalling and just going and going and going. All great. Tom was enjoying himself too, as far as I could tell, although when we talked about this being the easiest day and I, pedalling harder to go faster, said, “perhaps we shouldn’t be pushing it so much,” he replied, “are we?”
Lunch was an enormous picnic laid out by Mike and Shirley, my in-laws. It’s been one of the revelations of the trip the extent to which friends and family seem genuinely excited by what we’re doing. Mike’s been texting advice when we’ve taken wrong turns, watching our progress on Endomondo, and i’m surprised how much messages like those help. They managed to feed us well, encourage us, explain GPS technology and, along with everyone else who tried during the day, fail to fix Tony’s bike.
And from that point the day started to fall away from me. We said goodbye to Tony and Jez in Lymm and met my brother Stu, who had ridden out from work in Manchester to meet us in Irlam. The people who have come out to ride with us have been a really important part of the experience so far, so it was great to see Stu pulling up on his single-speed bike, keen to ride the only 5 miles of the trip that he could possibly get to. However, from the moment we set off I felt my energy really start to flag. As we got closer to Mum’s, Tom and Stu disappeared farther and farther into the distance, with Rob only held up by the terrible potholes in the unclaimed road over Astley Moss. I couldn’t believe it. A great day and now, riding through the streets where I grew up, I couldn’t find the energy to catch my brother and ride home with a smile on my face. It seemed as if the last 5 miles sucked both the strength from my legs and the joy from what had been a great day. I found it hard to recover and as the day ends i’m wondering again whether I have what’s needed to get to the end of the trip.
430 miles down.
Don’t forget, if you’d like to use our trip as an excuse to give to the Disasters Emergency Committee, you can here: http://www.justgiving.com/rob-lejog. What’s more, Environ UK will match the total donations.