August 28, 2012, by David Greenaway
The VC’s Life Cycle 2 Blog: Day 4 – Spean Bridge to Cairndow
The weather forecast for today promised it would be grim. It was grim, and we had 93 miles to do.
But, first things first: In yesterday’s blog I forgot to mention it was Simon’s birthday. Because our ‘hosts’ at Spean Bridge Hotel refused to serve us dinner because we were 10 minutes late, we were late eating elsewhere, and the blog was even later in being written, so a few bits got missed. Anyway, we did have a pie for him with some candles on it, sang Happy Birthday and gave him a bottle of malt (a safe bet given the way he was quaffing samples at the Glen Ord Distillery).
Departure from Spean Bridge was a bit disorganised. It was raining heavily and blowing a gale, so riders just wanted to get away rather than hang around. I saw Andy and Gavin go off with our leg rider, Carl Fey; then Chris R; then Kate, Karen and Penelope. Mike went back to start from where he walked yesterday and Neville was presumably somewhere in the mix. I was out last with Chris J, Steve and Nick.
Conditions were atrocious, driving rain and strong winds, sometimes headwinds, sometimes cross winds. We picked up Penelope, Karen and Kate before Fort William, by which point Steve had pressed on. So I grouped and regrouped with Karen, Kate, Penelope, Chris J and Nick, until we split into two groups at Benderloch. I rode the final stretch with Karen and Kate.
We were all well prepared in terms of clothing. In my case four layers on top, two on the bottom and overshoes. All garments were high visibility of course. Since I had a bright yellow jacket and helmet cover, Kate likened me to a Lollipop Lady; note Lollipop Lady not Lollipop Man.
We managed to grind out 47 miles before stopping for lunch at the Ben Lora Café in Benderloch. However well covered you are, in these conditions it eventually gets through. Not just because of driving rain, the sheer volume of standing water ensured regular drenching from passing vehicles. So Benderloch was our first clothing change.
It’s a shame visibility was poor because the route was a feast of western sea lochs: Loch Linnhe, Loch Creran, Loch Etive, Loch Awe and finally Loch Fyne. Even in miserable conditions it is an impressive part of Scotland, where the mountains reach the sea at a more relaxed pace than in the north-west. But cloud and low mist meant most landscapes were missing a frame. It only changed when we were a few miles from Cairndow when conditions brightened and there was a lovely rainbow over Loch Fyne.
In between Benderloch and Cairndow, there was another change of clothing, including my impregnable waterproof socks. The only back up clothing I had not taken was socks, because they’re waterproof, aren’t they? Fortunately Kate’s were still working and she had a spare pair which saved the day. There is nothing worse than riding in rain and wind with sodden feet.
I had a lot of washing to do tonight. I came without any washing powder and used shower cream; if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for my gel pants.
Happily no mishaps today, and amazingly still no punctures (and Nick was on his new tyres). I can’t imagine this streak will last much longer. So Mike retains the pink bell for the second successive day. Two each for him and Sergeant Major Jagger. Despite his two mile penalty, Mike was first in, so he is the first person to hold both the pink bell and the yellow jersey at the same time.
Team of the Day: the Support Team. Simon, Paul, Barry and Ian were never far away and the van was available if required every 20 miles or so for drinks, dry clothes and food. In addition, now Andrew has left, Paul has assumed responsibility for shooting video clips. He is now sporting a new stone washed baseball cap. He thinks it makes him look like Steven Spielberg.
Quote of the Day: when I told the others my waterproof socks were soaked, Karen asked ‘are you sure you put them on the right way round?’ I know I have reached a certain age, but really.
Shock of the Day: the bikers that brunch reeled in Chris R between Fort William and North Ballachullish and I have the picture to prove it. Chris said he had been foraging in the woods. I wonder whether it is a delayed reaction to losing the yellow jersey to Andy yesterday.
Some readers have requested updates on a couple of our riders. Colleagues in Malaysia are wondering about Neville since he has not been mentioned over the last couple of blogs. I can reassure them he has been complying with the traffic regulations of the United Kingdom and has not been locked up. Mind you, yesterday I saw him talking to what in these parts is called a ‘hairy coo’ (or in French ‘une vache poilue’). I am not sure what that was all about.
Other readers have asked about the tests on Steve’s special cream. They are ongoing. I have however had a tip-off that it may contain a compound designed to increase performance on hills, which would of course render his bets null and void.
So another 93 miles completed, making 279 miles in total so far. By some way, this was our most demanding day, but one everyone completed safely, successfully and in good heart, though most were in bed by 9pm.
Tomorrow the distance is a similar. I am especially looking forward to it because we travel through the part of Glasgow where I grew up; Nick too, because our destination is his home town.
Professor David Greenaway
Send my regards to Mr Spielberg 🙂
Sounds like a really tough day, and what a pity there wasn’t even the consolation of spectacular views. keeping going through that is pretty impressive – and with such good spirits (perhaps the distillery helped?)! The West of Scotland does have a reputation for rain! Here’s hoping that today is a bit better and perhaps I shouldn’t mention that its currently sunny and not excessively warm in Nottingham. Good luck for today – and safe travels though Glasgow!
Good effort everyone! In the rain one is always going to get wet, especially on a long ride. Waterproofs become useless quite quickly and one gets wet from the inside (this is true as soon as one gets too covered). Two clothing items which work well are toecaps for their protect the front of the foot whilst not getting it fully enclosed (but this only works for a short while), and are excellent in the wind!, and a waterproof/windtex gilet only. Mudguards with long flaps (front and rear) don’t look very good but will help too. Good luck today. I was out on a 10 miler on Saturday and got rained on in the first hour; as you wrote wet feet are not nice…
I meant 100 miler ride…
Well done all, it’s sounds like a pretty brutal day, you’d never wish those conditions but fingers crossed they may make other days seem slightly easier! Regards to Nick, hope he’s ok after previous days bump. Amazing to think that’s the first quarter done! All the best and keep going
We are following your efforts closely at this end and it all sounds great so far!
I am sorry Spean Bridge were so inflexible about your dinners- they were all booked weeks ago! Glad you managed to eat (eventually) and here’s hoping the rest of the accommodation is more… accommodating!
Keep on pedaling
93 miles in those conditions, hats off to all of you, I’m afraid I’d have been crying for my mammy. Fingers crossed the weather improves.
I hope you’ve had a better day today. David – I went to watch Forest vs Wigan in the league cup tonight, and saw some spectacular goals but, sadly, Forest lost 4-1.
Good luck for the rest of the trip.
Hello David, sorry to have missed your call tonight. It sounds a pretty gruelling day yesterday, sorry about the waterproof socks especially when you have had so much faith in them! I am sure Glasgow will give you the welcome you deserve, enjoy the moment and make sure you tell us all about it in tomorrow’s blog – can’t wait. Love Susan XX
I hope that’s the toughest day you have to endure. Enjoy your visit to Thorntree, the thought of Ms Strachan giving me the strap at the age of 5 still sends shivers down my spine!! Beware of anyone asking “can I look aifter yer bik mistur”
As we don’t get many cows in Malaysia perhaps Neville forgot what they look like and mistook it for a “local”. Do please keep an eye on him.
I particularly like the idea of the Vice-Chancellor asking the Director of Campaign & Alumni Relations for a lend of her socks. Under no normal circumstances can I imagine this happening. Before a graduation ceremony, for instance.