August 28, 2016, by David Greenaway

Nottingham Life Cycle 6 – Day 9 – Thirsk to Hexham

Steve became a Grandad for the first time this morning Pic 1 - new grandad Steve. Congratulations to Victoria and Matt on their first child. Steve, it’s a cliché, but true – this will change your life.

We also had an unexpected visitor at breakfast, Chris Jagger, who has completed four of the six Life Cycles and been closely involved with the planning of this one. It was great to have him join us, and he is with us this evening. That was especially useful in explaining the Barrett – Jagger method. He admonished many riders for not taking the trouble to know the rules.

Pic 2 - Chris JaggerAt 72 miles, today was a short day compared to the previous three, but with some really tough climbing. It was also a day when four teams took four different routes.

First out were Andy and Doug. They were going to see their respective relatives in Richmond, then coming over the top of the Pennines. Steve, Karen and Kate were next, they followed the recommended route. Finally we had Nick, Sara, Susan and John; and Stefano, Kerry, Marion and me. We were both on a variation of the recommended route, plus the A68.

The first 20 miles was fast riding, through the lovely market town of Northallerton (with Saturday’s market in full flow) then towards Darlington. We knew there was 3,500 feet of climbing to be done and the choice was between doing that in more or less relentless short ups and downs, or long big climbs and long fast descents. We chose the latter and headed for the A68.

After 35 miles, and before the heavy duty climbing kicked in, we stopped in West Auckland and found the Antique Tea Shop; a proper antique shop, but with a lovely tea shop. It was a surprising find but a very welcome one. Stefano tried out a new hat whilst we were there.

Then the climbing started. I hate really sharp climbs first thing, or straight after a lunch. We were into them straight after lunch.

Pic 3 Kerry (Tow) LawWe seemed to top out at Tow Law , around 1,000 feet above sea level and with stunning views over Weardale. Then up and down, up and down. I found it hard going, but wonderful open terrain across the Pennines.

We goofed on the final stretch. We were due to leave the A68 and join the A695 through Corbridge to Hexham. At the end of a long downslope we had too much distance between us for effective communication, and ended up on the A69, the Newcastle to Carlisle trans Pennine route. It was horrible.

We pulled into a layby to review maps. Marion spotted a flyover ahead and pointed out it must lead to a B road. But how to get there? Stefano did some exploring. We figured out if we climbed a fence, spent about 800 metres on a recently harvested / fertilised (and therefore very smelly) field, it would get us to that road, which went through Corbridge and reach the A695 to Hexham. So that is what we did.  Pic 4 - Crossing that field

Everyone was in before 1700, for the first time on this challenge. You might think that means a nice opportunity to relax and have a few beers. The biggest benefits are actually getting your washing done early to maximise drying time; emptying your case to find out what is actually in there, and re-packing with some sense of order; and in my case, getting to blog writing earlier.

The last of these is especially welcome. For the second night in a row, I woke with stabbing pains in my knee at 0400. I couldn’t find any Voltarol, so just tried to get off again. At 0430, the stands for the Thirsk Saturday Market began to be constructed directly under my window! Extra time was therefore especially welcome.

I again have to pay tribute to our Support Team . They had to cope with four different routes, and Gavin and Paul still found us in the West Auckland teashop. Pic 5 - Support Team 1

Life Cycle miles today were in honour of Sally White (nominated by Sue Stannard) who sadly passed away in 2013; Anne Ashley (nominated by Kate) who is making great progress; and Andy Nicholl (nominated by Cheri Ambrose) to remind us breast cancer does not discriminate.

In the Megomnium, the first challenge of the day was to find a Caffè Nero, without our bikes. After all, athletes like Mo Farah swear by an espresso before they race. Seven of us managed to do this and were rewarded with 10 points. They are Susan, Sara, Kerry, Marion, Nick, Stefano and me. It was a great start to the day!

Pic 6 - Caffe Nero challengeThe other challenge was the point to point; the first team to get from Thirsk to Hexham. That was won by Nick’s team, so 10 points to Nick, Sara, Susan and John. I was part of Stefano’s team, which was second and there are no points for second. It is just as well I picked up 10 on the Caffè Nero challenge or it would have been a pointless day for me (only in the sense of winning no points of course).

With Chris Jagger present the Stewards are scrutinising all points awarded, challenges mounted, and penalties missed. I should be in a position to publish an authoritative leader board tomorrow.

Today’s 72 miles takes our total to 794. Tomorrow’s ride across the border to Thornhill is again in the 70s, but also with more climbing.

Our funds raised continue to grow (and were helped by a £40 bet I had with Stefano on the result of the Forest – Leeds match). Thank you all for your donations, your emails and your comments on the blogs. We really appreciate your interest and support.

Professor Sir David Greenaway


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