Brampton 04:30 a.m.
Ran the gauntlet of damp, smelly shoes and prone bodies between the building entrance and the canteen. Semi-conscious riders were attempting to re-distribute kit. Everything happening in slow motion.
Another cracking breakfast was served up by the smiling volunteers. Eat all you can! Having had a shower, sleep and sporting clean kit from the drop bag, The Wattmeister was feeling more sprightly than for a few hours…days…eons….he had lost track of time.
What to pack? The situation highlighted the juxtaposition between speed of eating and slowness of thought. Intuitive angel says..”take the heavy rain jacket…the zip will not let you down”. Vainglorious devil whispers….”travel light, you’ll go faster”.
Always side with the angels. The devil wants you to suffer and fail.
Now well into the ride, 860 kms completed, Baking Ben, Saville Row Alex and TW had found a contented rhythm…less of a chaingang tanking along….now more subtle and fluid, like a shoal of fish or a flock of starlings easing forward steadily and gracefully. The mind had a chance to wander too….making calculations based on time and distance…computing the possible luxury of more rest…making compromises in case of mishap….all the while absorbing the magnificence of the Pennines as we climbed Yad Moss from the West, passing Drew Buck’s tiny camper van dispensing succour to the riders.
For once it didn’t rain on the top and the leg via Middleton in Teesdale to the control in Barnard Castle afforded glorious views across and up the valley. Very little traffic, and such as there was, most courteous to us riders.
The control was as excellent as we had come to expect. It would have been just great to be able to loiter….to observe the volunteers and other riders…to bathe in the moment. But, we managed a swift turnaround to keep the momentum in our favour and headed off to Thirsk.
Suddenly afflicted by a crashing tiredness, probably aided by muggy conditions, The Wattmeister begged his two companions to leave him so that he could kip in a ditch. They desisted and slowed down accordingly. Thus, we inched our way in desultory fashion towards Middleton Tyas, Moulton and Streetlam, picking up a few riders on the way.
It started to rain quite heavily, which always means a drop in temperature. The Wattmeister revived in these conditions and the tempo lifted on the approach to Thirsk.
Here, our intrepid hero managed to ‘go through the card’, i.e he had ALL the main courses on offer, one after the other, and, some lovely portable flapjack was provided for the next leg to Pocklington.
The benefits of three consecutive main courses cannot be exaggerated. We whizzed up the hills around Coxwold and raced the lumpy bumps into the wind from Hovingham to Castle Howard. The lanesy transition back through Buttercrambe and Fangfoss softened the edgy competitiveness of the previous kms, and as we drew closer to Pocklington, the headwind gave us a taste of what was to come.
The return visit was a happier experience than the outward one. Great food, lots of love and a nice quiet toilet on which to doze. Apologies if you were waiting.
Somehow, the trio split up. Unable to fathom out if Ben and Alex had already left, and vice versa, The Wattmeister set off for Louth alone…quite alone. He didn’t see another rider until just before the Humber Bridge…and he hadn’t forgotten about that climb at North Newbald, 20 kms into the section. Naturally it began to rain on the higher ground. It really didn’t stop for the next 4 and a half hours. Thank you angel for suggesting the heavy duty rain jacket.
After making a mess of locating the cyclepath OFF the bridge, a little group formed, but it was moving very slowly. TW pushed on, the wet, dark conditions not helping his dodgy eyesight. He followed another rider at a respectful distance of 100m on the neverending climb up from the Bridge to Caistor. But when that rider stopped for a wee, he was cast out into the tropical (for it was mild) black deluge to fend for himself.
Retracing the outward leg via a stinky hill at Rothwell, where a small group were huddled tightly in a bus shelter, and negotiating a wind blown left hand bend at Binbrook, the thought occurred that it was a privilege to be out in these conditions, for when again would this perverse opportunity present itself?
Arriving in alone in Louth near midnight, The Wattmeister signed in, and upon exiting the control room, bumped into Ben and Alex. Two minutes behind but unseen for 5 hours.