Day 37 – Ceremonial Handover in St Andrews, Part 3

We headed in our teams along North Street towards St Salvator’s Chapel and Quad, where the University flag was flying high.

The rogue pedestrians and cars reversing out of parking spaces aside, the road was closed, and bystanders lined the street applauding.  Heading over the famous “PH”, the students amongst us were more than a little hesitant, but we decided that being on wheels rather than feet meant that the superstition didn’t apply.

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We’d been told there was quite the crowd in there, but I didn’t really expect this…

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  We entered to rapturous applause.

“Don’t fall off, don’t fall off, don’t fall off” was all that was going through my head at least, well, and “don’t drop the Bull, don’t drop the Bull.”

Safely around 1, 2, and 3 sides, “unclip, unclip, unclip,” and I’m coming to a stop towards the end of the line.  Here it was, the moment we had all been waiting for since August 5th when the first of us left St Andrews.

“Let’s get this over with.”

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Such a relief!

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And now for a team photo, Papal Bull Cycle Relay, 2013.  Those of you who could not join us today were sorely missed.

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The Principal, Louise Richardson, having completed Leg 1 and crossed the Pyrenees with her team, congratulated everyone on their achievement and we all shared a few stories.

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Team 2 must have been explaining how they coaxed Jan up a Munro (by not telling her it was coming).

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And Team 3 perhaps narrated the tale of how Christianne crashed into a sign that said “slow down.”

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And this must have been about the sacrifice of Phil the Bear to the white van population of Essex.

What’s missing from this scenario?  Cake.

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Happy Birthday, St Andrews!

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And well done, everyone!

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Day 37 – Ceremonial Handover in St Andrews, Part 2

Day 37

We met at Dean’s Court, the postgraduate student residence opposite the cathedral at 15:45.  Our security team, coordinated by Stewart Davidson, met us there and we went over the plan of action before it was relayed to the teams.

Once everyone knew what was happening and after many iterations of “ONCE around the quad.  Stop at the cloisters.  In your teams” the anxious waiting really began.

“The Younger Hall is emptying, it should be about ten minutes.”

Malcolm, one of the only members of the Principal’s Office not tied up in the Academic Summit, got a puncture.

Frantically, pumps were sent to the rescue, but to no avail.  Christianne (Team 3) was called to bring her bike (she didn’t have a helmet with her so she couldn’t ride in) in case we needed to swap them.

“Under five minutes – they are securing the quad.”

It was a slow, a leaking valve.  Jim (Team 6) whipped off the wheel and changed the tube in barely any time at all.  Malcolm was ready to go.

We lined up, Team 1, The Principal’s Office, first.  Then Team 2, Gestion Verte, followed by Team 3, Ever to Excycle.  Team 4, T.R.E.C.C. were close behind, then Team 5, The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and last but not least, Team 6, Amici Ludi.

“They’re ready for you.”

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Day 37 – Ceremonial Handover in St Andrews, Part 1

The first task of the day was collecting and emptying the support van.  Despite Neil’s best efforts at cleaning and tidying it, around 8 weeks and 3 countries worth of stuff had been accumulated and tucked away in the corners.  There was also a mountain of spares that were meant to be there.

All of this threatened to take forever, but, as if by magic, along came Jude and Christianne from Team 3, Ever to Excycle.  They kindly offered their services, making the whole thing much more pleasant, and before I knew it a mere wooden shell remained where had once been tonnes of cardboard.

My next job was to straighten the sashes and sort out the numbers, checking that we had enough safety pins.

Soon I was meeting Jenny from Team 4, T.R.E.C.C. to give her a spare bike since she had travelled from Inverness, and meeting Stacy from Team 6, Amici Ludi who had kindly offered to transport the sashes etc. to our meeting place, and we were off!

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Day 36 – Edinburgh to St Andrews, Friday 13th September

And the final day of riding is upon us!

Day 36

Scotland welcomed the relay back in style with torrential rain and a strong wind for good measure.

That didn’t make riding over the Forth Road Bridge any less spectacular.

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Or returning home.

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Good job guys.  Now for some rest before the ceremonial arrival tomorrow.

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We survived Friday 13th and the Papal Bull Cycle Relay!

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Day 35 – Chatton to Edinburgh, Thursday 12th September

Another early start was difficult on the penultimate day of riding as the tiredness kicked in.

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This was made easier by the thought that there were only 160 miles to go (it comes to something when this seems short).

Only a few hills (sadly not all down) remained before we reached Edinburgh and familiar territory.

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This was our route:

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When we reached Edinburgh we were generously hosted at the Principal of the University of Edinburgh’s residence, and we would like to thank Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea for his overwhelming hospitality and for pledging his support in commemorating our anniversary.

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Day 34 – Durham to Chatton, Wednesday 11th September

After being told that what looked like a bridge over the Tyne on our map was actually a closed tunnel, a re-route through Newcastle was scheduled for a little way into the journey.  This would be quite a contrast to the peacefulness of Van Mildert.

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But we were off, towards the Cheviot Hills and Chatton, where a bunkhouse awaited our arrival.

Day 34

If our second day was anything to go by, it was set to be a little hillier than it looks on the map.  Not deterred, Team 6 started off up the A167 and made time for a quick visit to the Angel of the North.

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Then over the river and on through the city.

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At least the weather was looking up.

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Another long day, and the team arrived in Chatton, greeted by Jane Ord with a quaint little farmhouse and a wood stove to make the now chilly evening more pleasant.

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There was even time to enjoy the scenery.

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Day 33 – Lindisfarne Gospels Exhibition, Durham, Tuesday 10th September

Ravenous from the efforts of the preceding day, the full English breakfast and lavish spread that awaited us in the dining hall was extremely welcome.  As was being free to eat for ten men.

There were duties to be done, laundry to be cleaned, bikes to be washed, blog posts to be written, and photos to be uploaded, but the highlight of the day was undoubtedly to be the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition.

We had very kindly been furnished with tickets to this popular attraction, and as an English literature Ph.D. student, I was particularly excited to see the long-travelled treasures of the British Museum.

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Scheduled for 1pm, the rain thankfully held off, which meant that the humidity didn’t cause further problems for the staff of the exhibition who were subject to the strict conditions of the loan that dictated the maintenance of a controlled environment.

The team emerged cultured, then topped of the experience with a visit to the cathedral quarter and a dose of Durham’s history.

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Day 32 – York to Durham, Monday 9th September

On a bus from Pocklington before 7am wearing lycra, a high-vis jacket, and a helmet, carrying a suitcase but without a bike, I am sure I appeared more than a little unhinged.  An appearance I cemented when I sat atop of the said suitcase at the side of the road in the middle of Heslington as I awaited Neil coming to my rescue.

Soon after, we went to this petrol station, and I felt a little less alien.

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Another feature of the North is a prevailing assumption that if you are there, you must know where you are going, resulting in a paucity of signage.  Inevitably, this led to a number of different turns and seeing a handful of unexpected villages.  The morning was cold, though, and the sun hadn’t managed to peek through, meaning that windbreakers were a must.

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Then it got a bit warmer, but the most interesting diversion of the day so far was an accidental jaunt along a track leading only to a travellers’ campsite.  Ponies and guard dogs lined the track, tugging at their chains with all their might as they launched themselves towards the flying fluorescent intruders.  We were pleased to get out of there alive.

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We wound our way Northwards and upwards towards Northallerton.

Day 32

And then on to Thirsk, where we stopped for lunch in the town centre.

After a short stop, spurred on by the gathering clouds, we headed for Darlington, a section of the route with a surprising amount of climbing.  A surprise only enriched by the headwinds.  And the downpours.  Not to mention the thunder.

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Some of the team hid in the trees as the heavens opened, while the rest cowered in the van.

It got hillier, and the descent in to Durham was only to be followed by a few hidden killer climbs, too short to really show on the elevation map, but long enough after 85 miles to hurt.  A lot.

Then we reached the warmth of Van Mildert College, Durham, where the laughter of the jolly porter and scents of dinner wafted through the air.

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I would like at this point to offer our utmost thanks to the Treasurer of the University of Durham and to Van Mildert College for so generously hosting us and for providing the comfort (and the protein) to make that exhausting day bearable.  Also, thanks are owed to Adam Bent, of the Durham Bicycle Users’ Group, who provided assistance with the route in the area.

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Day 31 – Lincoln to York, Sunday 8th September

And so it continues.

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An early start for a Sunday morning at the University of Lincoln Graduate School, a place more accustomed to student habits, and we set off to head up the hill to the cathedral for a photo opportunity sans Morris dancers.

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I did feel a little unholy, gathering by the doors to the looming landmark while other more sombre groups scurried through them.

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Then we were off, back down the hill and Northwards up the B1398 towards Scunthorpe, a  green landscape sullied only by cooling towers.

Day 31 It was lovely and quiet until we got to Scunthorpe, where a stretch on the A18 (aptly named Mortal Ash Hill) chilled us to the bone.  Riding in two pairs at that point, Stacy and I joined the carriageway behind an older guy riding a tourer with panniers.  If he could do it, we could.

“Pedal like hell!” I yelled into the wind as we cranked up the pace and tucked in to the side.  Soon we were spared by a roundabout and a usefully placed Morrisons where we correctly anticipated the van would be waiting.

We carefully negotiated the outskirts of the city before the landscape opened up once more.  This time we hit a series of wind farms, which, it turns out, are rather difficult to cycle through.  A number of miles of headwind later, and we entered my home territory, the historical West Riding of Yorkshire.

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Wobbling over a strange cycle path over a swamp, we then stopped for a classy lunch on the side of the road by a Co-operative supermarket just before Goole.  With 25 miles to go, we’d done almost 2/3 of the day.

The final stretch was riddled with quaint little villages and winding roads, the surfaces of which became progressively more uneven as we traveled North.

Stacy’s mascot even had time for a spot of navigation.

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Finally, after what felt like forever, we arrived in York.  Only a few laps of the student village to go before we checked in.

Thank you especially to Jo Hilton-Scott of York Conferences for furnishing us with a generous discount and somewhere to sleep (for us and the bikes).

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Day 30 – Handover from Team 5 to Team 6, Saturday 7th September, Part 3

First things first.  Once we’d been checked in to the accommodation, had a cup of coffee and a custard cream, it was time to sort out the important things.  Mascots.

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Something of a tradition had been established by the previous teams of allowing stuffed toys to ride along with the relay to show their support.  The sad absence of Benny the bull (who apparently  went on vacation to Geneva) noted, we made do with the array of animals presented to us by Team 5.

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It did change the tone of my bike.  As did most of the others.  The highland cow with the ever-altering hairstyle, for example.

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Or the water-filled cow that moos like a duck.

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Neil (our support driver) had a good sort out and clean of the van (he hoped it would stay this nice!) and we all got our bikes all tweaked ready to go in the morning.  Once the route had been checked over for tomorrow, we headed out to dinner.

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There were a surprising number of restaurants on the waterfront, but we plumped for Wagamama, a euphemism for Mountains of Noodles.

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Quickly followed by an early night.

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