And so, cleaner, dryer but alas hungrier than the previous night…the control kitchen had spectacularly failed on food provision… Baking Ben, Saville Row Alex and The Wattmeister set off for Pocklington, control town number 4 in the Vale of York.
We had completed a 245 km chunk on Sunday but….but, our grip on the ride was still fragile, we needed to at least reach Brampton on the north west corner of the Pennines by nightfall, a total distance of 560 kms.
Perhaps due to not eating properly, Monday morning was spent in a mental and physical brown study as Alex and Ben moderated their pace to accommodate the bilious baroudeur. We crossed the massive Humber Bridge and joined forces with another group through surprisingly hilly North Newbald, Sancton and Market Weighton before the speedsters rioted through the lanes around Burnby with a meek, weak Wattmeister conniving to hold on to the group. This leg ended with a painful Team Time Trial into Pocklington at 340 kms.
The old tummy was rumbling but would not accept much in the way of food or drink. A few bowls of tinned fruit and a half hearted attempt at some spaghetti bolognese helped to restore some energy, but this level was way off The Wattmeister’s target of 9 square meals a day.
One high point at Pocklington was discovering a secret peaceful building within the control benefitting from empty toilets and a bit of space in which to try and make sense of the situation.
No use moping, we set off gently towards Thirsk via the Howardian Hills. The sweetest of lanes, ridden in sunshine, through Fangfoss, Buttercrambe and Bossall helped to lighten the mood, we were not going fast, but we were going forwards. On the approach to Castle Howard and its sequence of short sharp hills, Alex and Ben set about defying gravity as The Wattmeister sunk to the bottom of the climbing ecosystem.
Actually it was not so terrible, but with dwindling energy reserves, the long hilly drag from Hovingham to Coxwold put more pressure on TW, but equally, it was plain to witness the pain of plenty of other riders.
Once again, Alex and Ben waited for their ball and chain, and once again he couldn’t muster the pace to join them on the run in to the control at Thirsk, 408 kms.
It began to rain. The temperature dropped. No food for TW, despite the control’s excellent menu. His reputation was beginning to suffer on more than one level. He may only be an average cyclist, but surely nothing could affect his unsurpassed ability to eat? All kinds of food. At all times of the day and night.
We set off for Barnard Castle, a ride of 63 kms….the rain ceased. We grabbed the wheels of two very steady French riders who allowed us to sit in….practically the whole way. This was a recovery ride par excellence. We crossed the wooden bridge at Whorlton with just 6 more kms to ride to the control at grand Barnard Castle School. The two Frenchmen accepted our thanks with grace….it is the normal thing to do…to help one another. We would repay the favour on Day 4.
Recovery and restoration.
Things had been looking bad for The Wattmeister. It is just not possible to complete these epic rides without eating and drinking sufficiently. At the start of the day there was a feeling of not quite being in the ride, but now we were well and truly in it, with a taste of the minor dramas and setbacks that punctuate such an undertaking.
At Barnard Castle, somebody put a full english breakfast in front of TW. Maybe he did it himself, subconsciously, a self-healer. The recuperative effort was immediate. He dived in for seconds and then topped up with a bowl of greek yoghurt and fresh berries. This was more like it. Food plastered his face, like a baby, Other riders at his table gave him more space, more RESPECT. The fear in their eyes was palpable. He looked like a man who lived on roadkill, a man who ate randonneurs…dead or alive.
The sky over the Pennines looked angry, scolding, threatening. We had a long, bleak climb over desolate moorland in front of us. It rained harder. We passed High Force and Langholm Beck Youth Hostel. The temperature dropped a few degrees. The wind howled. This wasn’t a movie set, this was real. Bitter cold rain ripped at our ears. We stopped to put on thermal skull caps and long fingered gloves. With about 3 kms to the top, we turned bang into the wind, but as we crested Yad Moss, the weather gods seemed to show us some mercy and we hurtled down towards Alston and the lovely valley road to Brampton.
The woes of early morning had vanished, never to return on this ride. As darkness fell over Tindale and the surrounding fells, The Wattmeister stopped to pay his respects to Malcolm and Margaret who had rescued his 2005 LEL by replacing a broken seatpost bolt.
In Brampton, a shower, change of kit, more sausages, eggs, bacon and beans dispensed by a firm but cheerful woman with an American accent (?), then 4 hours sleep with blindfold and earplugs.
Not one fart nor one tiny bit of snoring could disturb this reverie.