Day 30 – Handover from Team 5 to Team 6, Saturday 7th September, Part 2

After muddling our way over the cobblestones of Lincoln with the aid of a few random locals, we finally reached the handover destination.  Lincoln Cathedral.

Sneaking up on Bill, who was conveniently placed in the courtyard clad in the all-too-familiar red jersey, was rendered easier by the fact that all of Britain’s Morris dancers had descended upon it at the same time.

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As a collection of mismatched people in matching kit we fitted right in.

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Once Team 5 had emerged from their third lunch, we got things underway by persuading a bystander to be our photographer so that Neil, our support driver, could get in the team photos.

Besashed and ready, Stuart handed over the Papal Bull as we sorted out the final logistics to get us to our respective destinations.

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Now to find our accommodation, then some coffee.

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Day 30 – Handover from Team 5 to Team 6, Saturday 7th September, Part 1

And so began the long journey to Lincoln from St Andrews.  05:45.  Raining.  Tired.  Kind of beautiful.  The winding roads of Fife were as yet untouched by traffic, and we enjoyed stunning views over the Firth of Forth at dawn.

When crossing the bridge, I did have a momentary realisation that I was probably mentally unstable, crossing the bridge by car that we were to revisit on bikes a little under a week later.

For some unknown reason, Fred (the SatNav in the other van) decided to direct the convoy down the M6 and across the M62 from West to East. Being native to Yorkshire, I had grown up with the attitude that nobody is to drive on the M62 unless absolutely necessary.  The experience quickly evidenced my deep-seated views.

Not to mention the rain.

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Anyway, apparently the Nightrider car was guesting at Junction 32, a land a previously associated with hellishly long shifts at Starbucks and a fleeting encounter with Justin Timberlake and his posse one dark January day.

From now on I shall associate it with one idiotic driver.  A driver who stopped dead in the middle lane of the motorway about 20m ahead of us.  Thankfully, the caffeine stimulated fast reactions, and we escaped unscathed with the exception of a sore palm where I had pressed insistently on the horn.

We were still on our way, and if I could get down the country safely in a caged van, I felt confident about the imminent experience of going up the country on two wheels.

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Meanwhile in Team 6, Amici Ludi

The final preparations are underway for Team 6: eating lots.  I began with some pasta, in a vague attempt to store some calories to stave off the effects of riding 80 miles per day for 5 days, the longest leg of the relay.

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I also decided to try making an alternative to my usual “power flapjacks”, the rice cakes made by Hannah Grant, Team Saxo-Tinkoff’s chef, as featured in the Grand Tour Cookbook and on Global Cycling Network’s youtube channel.

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So, it’s basically a coconut milk rice pudding with enough dried fruit to sink a ship.  Oh, and I added ground almonds for good measure and extra protein.  It needs to be thick so that it will form bars.

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And then you spread out the mixture evenly in the tray before putting them in the fridge.  Honestly, they seem a little gooey for a cycling snack, since I don’t like to eat porridge with my hands.  We’ll see how they work out… I think baking them might help.

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Here’s looking forward to breakfast.  Mmmmm.  Rice bars at 05:45.  Can’t wait!

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Day 29 – Spalding to Lincoln, Friday 6th September, Part 2

Captain’s (B)log: Final edition

Although work meant I missed the last day I shared in the sense of having taken part in a bit of history.

Our team was more of a mixture than many, ranging from endurance racers through commuters to hobby cyclists. We were especially delighted for Lesley who met all her goals. What a fantastic achievement.

The whole team owe huge debt to Eric. I was mis named the captain, Tom led us mainly. The team combined academics, estates and professional staff. The fact we all got on so well fits with our self image of St Andrews as a uniquely friendly place.

P.S.  I hit my goal, cycled without Lycra, in normal shorts and in training shoes.

Jim Naismith, Team Leader

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Day 29 – Spalding to Lincoln, Friday 6th September, Part 1

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Last night Gordon went to bed dreaming that he would be breakfasting at the Boulangerie de Spalding (aka Greggs), however our first meal of the day was a much simpler affair – the Travelodge Breakfast box.

Though the fact that he and Ray had only ordered one between them led to a quick dash to MacDonalds to ensure that sufficient fuel was taken on board for the beginning of final day.

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The weather forecast had left us expecting a very wet day and for the first time on this leg the waterproofs made an appearance, however the gods must have been looking down on us and all we saw were a couple of light showers.

We made an early start through rush hour Spalding before heading out once again into the fens. We made quick time on the flat, straight roads and after a brief meeting with the van we arrived in Heckington (unique 8 sail Windmill and Pea Room (?)) in time for an excellent coffee at the Heckington Sports club.

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The exceptionally friendly staff provided us a warm welcome and dished out the biggest and best bacon sandwiches of the trip! She refused to charge Stuart for his espresso on on the grounds that “there wasn’t enough coffee in that thing to bother paying.”

We moved on once again to discover our road was closed for resurfacing and there was no way through, so after a quick diversion were back on track.  At this stage some of the group noticed that we’d moved out of the fens as the hills had begun again and they got progressively bigger and steeper until the end of the journey at Lincoln Cathedral.

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Finally, at Ruskington we began to pick up the signs for our destination and a long run along a very busy B road led us into Lincoln.

About 3 miles out from toen, the massive Cathedral Appeared from behind the trees pointing us in the direction of where to go.  The final surprise was waiting here in the shape of Lindum Hill, a very steep climb at the end of the day that led us to the Cathedral and our finish.

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At this stage most of the team went off in search of a beer and a well-earned lunch…

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…leaving one member to find his panniers in the back of the van, strap them on his bike and head off to his mother’s house – adding another 15 miles to the total!

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I’m glad to see everyone one made it.  We have had 3 punctures, 2 very minor falls (better oil those cleat releases) and 4 days of glorious sunshine.

We started off as a mixed bag but through the course of the week the team has risen to every challenge offered and met any setbacks with patience and good humour.  We are all still talking to one another and speaking personally I would say I have had a fantastic week with this interesting and diverse group of people.

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I’d also like to add a special word of thanks to Eric, our support driver who has done a brilliant job and has saved us with water and food deliveries on more than one occasion.

We make our handover tomorrow (photos with sashes for that!) to Team 6.  Bring on the next challenge!

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Day 28 – Cambridge to Spalding, Thursday 5th September, Part 2

Captain’s (B)log: Away Team Report

Our away team of four Ray, Lesley and Bill set off the explore the mountains of the fens, like our own dear Fife, Cambridgeshire pushes a cyclist to extremes.  The iron clads set off on a more circuitous route (see part 1). Fuelled up on Italian coffee and sweet pastries (how surprising that Italian cuisine so dominated our Cambridge experience), our band set out.

The early morning mist allowed us a cool 15 mile trip from Cambridge to St Ives (thats St Ives, Cambridge I re-assured the team). We cycled alongside the guided busway, amazing to watch double deckers suddenly appear from the gloom in the middle of fields. After a refreshing coffee, we put the hammer down and headed for Whittlesey, 20 miles up the track, quiet roads all the way.

Whittlesey was a bit of a gem, the straw man festival was about to get underway. You can see him on the roof.

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All the public iron work has a straw theme. Topping up water (the captain likes to knock back over 1 litre per hour) we headed out to the Dog in a Doublet joined by Eric the driver for lunch by the river. Staff were very helpful and the food delicious, well worth a return visit we all felt. The pope’s bull demanded a drink, thirsty work being strapped to the handlebars on such a hot day (see photo).

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Saddling up refreshed for the last twenty we found the pope’s bull tired and emotional and needed help to get on his perch.

The stretch to Spalding was almost lyrically beautiful the sun had fully risen and the mist a memory. We cycled along the Cradge Bank road, we saw fewer than five cars on this tarmac river bank road.

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We had views across and along the river Welland and the fens with wildlife galore for seven miles. For at least two of the party, this segment was the most enjoyable so far and thats setting a high barrier.

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We followed the river all the way into Spalding and the Travel lodge. Starfleet orders required the Captain to hand the con (and pope’s bull) over, as he set off to Diamond, sad to miss the final day.

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Day 28 – Cambridge to Spalding, Thursday 5th September, Part 1

Another blazing hot day was forecast for the journey from Cambridge to Spalding.  Slightly unusually, the leg broke into two parties for this part of the journey.  Owing to the Team leader’s urgent requirement to be on a train at 1500 to London and the predicted very hot weather, he led one group on a direct(ish) route to Spalding.

Untitled4 others members of the team decided that the Papal Bull should continue it’s visitation of cathedral cities (Canterbury, Rochester and Chelmsford so far) with a trip to the magnificent Ely Minster so they set off on a more dog leg route.This is what I will be talking about here – Jim has written another report about his trip.

We left Cambridge on our traditional morning climb up Castle Hill to reach the highest point of the day within 10 minutes of leaving our accommodation.  At this stage the mist came in thick and stayed with us for the first hour or so of the morning.  This bit of the trip comprised our first taste of fenland roads and a fast trip was taken to Ely where the sun came out to spoil more photos!

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Every photo on this trip appears to have to have been taken into the sun…

Anyway, we reached Ely cathedral and a very pleasant looking café with large tables on the minster green only to discover it had no water.  Not to be deterred we wheeled into Ely town centre and enjoyed the delights of Café Nero in the high street.  Stuart partook of his traditional espresso based morning fuel up to get the rocket motors primed for the next leg to Downham Market.

Most of this took place along the “Ten Mile Bank” of the River Great Ouse (the clue’s in the name again!) It turned out that this was a fantastic quiet road through beautiful countryside and is much to be recommended.  We even had to stop to climb the bank to view the river at some stage!  Lunch was taken in a lovely wee pub, and we felt it was important to compare the size of Stuart’s sandwich to the Papal Bull.

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A fast downhill run took us out of Downham and back into more fantastic fenland riding – wide open skies with only a few tractors and combines to avoid on route.  It was really getting hot by this stage – I know those on the Relay in France and Spain have also felt the heat but this was pretty exceptional for England in September.

UntitledStuart was overtaken by the desire to have a posh afternoon tea in Wisbeach (!) however as no suitable establishments could be found, we all had to be satisfied with a quick bottle of coke outside a BP garage to propel us around the busiest roundabout so far on the trip.

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After more riding we finally passed into Tom’s home county of Lincolnshire, where he insisted on posing for photographs before aiming to find a refreshment stop.

As all suitable establishments seemed to be closed for the afternoon (I ask you!) we felt resigned to a long hot finish to the ride until a bit of sharp reading by Tom and Gordon and a precipitous right turn into thick Gravel led us to the Aero Club at Fenland Airport.  There we were amply replenished by a lady who seemed to be service behind the bar and running the control tower at the same time!

Half an hour later and we were in Spalding with Tom congratulating himself on a successful day’s navigation when he managed to lead everyone through a broken fence into Lincolnshire’s largest bramble patch.  In the ensuing escape Gordon managed to puncture within 400m of our final destination, an ever reliable (and cheap) Travelodge in the middle of a discount shopping centre.

Here we finally met up with the rest of the team who had made it safe and well and were full of strange tales of automatic bus lanes in the middle of nowhere.

Tomorrow brings our final day, with heavy rain forecast – we’ve been lucky so far.  I’m really looking forward to the first view of Lincoln Cathedral, but most of all to my Travelodge breakfast box that is due to be delivered at 0700!

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Day 27 – Chelmsford to Cambridge, Wednesday 4th September, Part 2

Captain’s (B)log

In Cambridge we discovered the purpose behind Stuart’s coke drinking extravaganza, it fuels his river beating punting. Despite lacking a straw boater and winning song, he punted the team (who helped by eating ice cream) up and down the Cam.

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Tom and Gordon broke all records all the way to Cambridge, Lesley set several personal bests. Bill, Ray and Ewan flew along on good roads in perfect weather.

We were sorry to say adieu to Clive who carried his heavy rucksack all the way from Chelmsford to Cambridge.

Jim Naismith, Team Leader

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Day 27 – Chelmsford to Cambridge, Wednesday 4th September, Part 1

The day dawned early in the stiflingly hot Chelmsford Travelodge.  A quick trip down to clear out the breakfast buffet and the team were ready to go early this morning – even with the “only 1 bike in at a time” size of the lift at the hotel.

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A quick meander around Chelmsford town centre with the inevitable navigational issues and we were on the road North. For once this week it was a misty start, putting some of the team in mind of the St Andrews Sportive a few days ago, organised by Ky Thomassen-Kay of Rebellion Bikes.

Luckily this time, the weather cleared quickly and we were soon cycling through hot sunshine into picturesque (and yes I really mean that) N Essex.

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 At this stage, however the road that we thought was going to be the lovely B1008 had been rebranded as the nightmareishly fast A130 and this led to our first casualty.  Unfortunately the mascot acquired by the previous team somehow parted company with my bike somewhere along this stretch of road and there was no chance to retrieve it!

Greater love hath no teddy bear than to lay down his stuffing for a white van.*

I would like to apologise for all concerned for this tragic incident, however I was also at the back of the group and didn’t see the moment of falling.

Luckily the road soon calmed down and we hit a lovely spell of cycling to Great Dunmow, where Eric our support driver was at the side of the road waving us into a cunningly placed café underneath a bike shop. Stuart impressed the team with his mid-morning cycling snack consisting of a double espresso and a power bar, clearly adding for more fuel for another breakaway attempt.

We next headed along to Thaxted where, in fact it was Tom who managed to leave the team behind with the aid of a fast moving tractor, a white van and a spot of draughting.

Pictures were taken of the team as they sped through the village (unfortunately every photo today seems to have been taking straight into the sun) before a major catch up effort ensued.  First Stuart…

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Then Lesley and Gordon…

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The team coasted into Saffron Walden, a lovely little town, though the complexities of the one-way system seemed to mean all members of the team arrived in the market square from different directions.  We were travelling so fast that we had arrived well before lunchtime so we decided to press on to Cambridge after a quick snack.

We had a quick meet with the van on the downslope of Windmill Hill (the clue’s in the name) just out of town to replenish water supplies. Stuart was concerned when he arrived at the van that there had been an almighty bang behind him, but luckily it seemed that was just due to 2 cars taking out one another’s wing mirrors at some roadworks and didn’t involve any of the team.

We were left about 13 miles to go of more fast cycling to make our accommodation at Emmanuel College.

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The cyclists managed this easily, though the baffling nature of the Cambridge traffic system meant it was a much harder job for Eric in the van.  Luckily the college porters kept us in touch with his progress by reporting which other colleges he’d been to visit to ask for directions!

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So, another early arrival after a high-speed day.  Tomorrow the Fens are beckoning, so we are hoping for some long, straight and most of all flat roads on our way to Spalding.

Tom Brown

 
 
*Phil Goose, master of thy beloved namesake, Phil the Bear (may he rest in peace), Phil’s kin are being sold off in B.E.S.S.  
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Day 26 – Rochester to Chelmsford, Tuesday 3rd September, Part 2

Captains (B)log: Star date 3-9-13

Given the all you can eat buffet breakfasts in our luxury hotels, the team will have increased rather than shrunk.

Both the Premier Inn and Travelodge are excellent value for money, clean and comfortable (note to expenses department!).

There has been excellent team spirit with everyone taking turns to set pace and be rearguard. The direction finders worked much better today. The challenge for such a mixed team is encapsulated in the two objectives, avoid main (busy) roads and avoid non tarmac’d surface. Currently no computer program or old fashioned paper map meets these twin requirements (here is an business opportunity!). Thus chance of a non-optimal route is high.

A much easier day today, tarmac surface and probably better for us all. The roads were however a bit busier and we had a bit of the ‘white van’ rage at cyclists but nothing out of the ordinary for anyone on the Queen’s highway.

Eric has been the most brilliant support driving the van and always meeting us at the right places.

The Papal Bull and the pope’s bull remain secure in the team.

Jim Naismith, Team Leader

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