September 5, 2012, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 2 Blog: Day 12 – Banbury to Winchester

We stayed overnight at the Cromwell Arms in Banbury and Susan joined us for dinner. It is a well situated hotel, with excellent rooms and good food.

Today’s route was put together by our leg rider Doug Thomson. Doug is a History graduate and a very good friend of the University. He lives in Woodstock and knows the area very well. It was a wonderfully scenic route, but also a hilly one.

In what is becoming a bit of a routine, I was last out, with Andy and Gavin who had waited for me. They set a nice pace, probably slow for them but good for me. The first half of the ride was through the rolling countryside of the eastern Cotswolds, and included some delightful Cotswold villages. It is a beautiful part of England. But, we were constantly up and down. Although the elevations are not as high as further north, it is energy sapping work because there is so little time to recover between one climb and the next.

We picked up all of the others by Woodstock, one of my favourite towns in this area. From there Doug managed to negotiate passage through the grounds of Blenheim Palace, which was really special. It provided a stunning backdrop for a picture of the team.

We targeted Wantage, at about 40 miles, as our lunch shop and rode hard, led by Neville or Chris R who set a good pace. Neville’s hand signals were especially pleasing, decisive, but with a regal flourish. At Wantage we had the unusual experience of all of us being in the same place for lunch, the first time that has happened on the ride.

After lunch we faced the first of two big climbs in the Berkshire Downs, up and over the Ridgeway, topping out at 800 feet, followed by a long descent into Newbury. You could see for miles over the chalk downs and the sight of twelve of today’s fourteen riders strung out on the winding road was very impressive.

In Newbury, Chris J took over way finding. I am not sure whether he was using his Garmin or his new iPhone. Either way, he led a pack of riders into a pedestrian zone and then down a one way street. That double traffic violation has earned him some ‘My Little Pony’ style streamers on his handlebars to remind him not to do it again.

Incidentally, Chris J is getting to grips with his new phone. He has installed a profile of himself as the screen’s wallpaper. We are not sure whether this was intentional, or if he had the phone the wrong way round when he first used the camera. Whatever the explanation, it has turned out to be a highly effective security measure. There is absolutely no chance of anyone stealing it now.

One benefit of going through the middle of Newbury is that we passed a Café Nero, so Andy, Karen, Doug and I pulled in and enjoyed the best quality coffee we have had in almost two weeks.

We then rode out the remaining 25 miles to Winchester, with Andy and Doug setting the pace and one further long and steep climb at Highclere. All four of us needed a rest at the top of that one.

Our destination for today was one of the Halls of Residence at the University of Winchester and we arrived just as Chris R, Chris J, Kate and Penelope did, with Gavin, Neville and Ahmad already in. Nick was not far behind; Mike and Steve were about two hours back. Despite having a damaged knee himself, Mike nursed Steve through the entire ride.

Gavin was first in and gets the yellow jersey. His parents asked for a picture of the chicken, so Gavin now has it on his bike and I have included a picture of him with his new acquisition and resplendent in his yellow jersey.

Two punctures today, one each for Doug and Steve. No penalties: as a leg rider Doug is ineligible, and Steve is suffering enough.

I mentioned yesterday that one of our female riders had been spotted jumping a red light at temporary traffic signals. When questioned, her defence was ‘I can’t remember’. Not good enough. So Penelope now has the pink bell to remind her that red means stop (and Andy’s special bike is just gleaming platinum again).

When I arrived at our destination, a UK versus Malaysia kerby challenge was underway. It ended acrimoniously with allegations of foul play against the Malaysian team, who are claiming the first in a best of five series.

Accomplishment of the day: has to go to Mike for chaperoning Steve through a long and arduous day.

Team of the day: goes back to the Support Team. Simon, Paul, Seb and Barry were stretched across quite a distance today, but always seemed to be ahead of us.

We have covered another 87 miles, making 926 in total. It was a demanding day, but for most of us a surprisingly quick ride. Almost everyone was in before five, maximising recovery time ahead of our 90 miles tomorrow.

Despite fatigue, which can result in naps being taken at meal times (and the picture is not staged), all riders remain focused on getting the job done and are still in great spirits.

Finally, I learned today we have passed £230,000 in fund raising. That means we are now beyond what we raised last year and closing in on our target of £250,000. That is an outstanding effort.

Thank you all for your support and for all your comments on the blog.

Professor David Greenaway


Posted in Life Cycle 2