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


Posted in Life Cycle 2