September 7, 2012, by David Greenaway
The VC’s Life Cycle 2 Blog: Day 14 – Eastbourne to Dover
It’s interesting how distance becomes relative. At breakfast today when our maps were handed out, there was real delight that we ‘only’ had about 65 miles to do. Four months ago we were not even doing that in training runs. And, apart from two big climbs, one out of Hastings and one into Dover, it looked pretty flat.
I was again last out, but Gavin and Andy had waited for me. They were not the only thing waiting for me. My bike was adorned with every bit of tat you can imagine: streamers, bells, a pink chicken, even an orange warning bar to stick out from my back wheel. It was a fair cop after the fun I had poked at all and sundry through my blogs over the last two weeks
Unlike yesterday, the first stage of the leg was flat. Andy set a pace and we rattled through the Pevensey Marshes, picking up the others in Bexhill. There Andy and I took a wrong turn, got separated and rode on through Hastings, up over the cliffs and back down towards Rye. It was a nice ride at a good pace. Hastings was much more attractive than I imagined and for me, Rye is the most distinctive of the Cinque Ports. We stopped there for a quick coffee.
By this time further separations had occurred. Chris R, Kate, Penelope and Karen were riding together and followed us in to Rye, the others pressed on to the pre-arranged lunch stop at New Romney. All of us met up again there and kept the staff at Elsie’s busy for quite a while.
We knew there was one final stiff climb ahead and that always strings riders out, so we left New Romney in three groups to complete the final 27 miles or so. The elevation charts promised us a gradient as steep as any we had faced, and it was.
Unlike in John O’Groats and Land’s End, there is no ‘official’ start /finish point in Dover, so we had agreed our finish would be on the promenade in front of the hotel where we were staying. The one way system made it tricky getting there, but Sebastian came out to lead us through it and we were rewarded with a lovely 600 metre stretch along the waterfront, Dover Castle and the White Cliffs behind us and departing ferries beyond the harbour wall. The Support Team had a finishing tape ready and Susan and Kate’s parents were there to welcome us, with champagne and sandwiches at the ready.
So, at 16:01 on September 6th, our mission was accomplished, with all twelve riders safely over the finishing line. There was obviously exhilaration and celebration, but also a palpable sense of relief. Chris R and Steve even marked the occasion with a swim in the Channel. No one followed!
So after months of planning and preparation, it was all over. Job done.
Our logistics team had estimated the distance from Cape Wrath to Dover at 1,100 miles. After today’s 70 miles our final total was 1,089 miles, accurate to 0.01%, not bad at all. But that is just a cameo of how professionally the whole challenge has been planned and delivered.
This is a really tough challenge to have taken on, tougher than John O’Groats to Land’s End, and not just for the riders. The Support Team have been marvellous, working long days, bearing the responsibility of ensuring bikes are roadworthy each day, keeping track of riders on the road, and helping keep their spirits up.
As for the riders, they put their lives on hold for two weeks and their bodies through the mangle. I have nothing but admiration for their spirit and resilience. On many days, getting to the end was a mind over body triumph, and every rider completed every leg. Without the anaesthetic of getting back in the saddle and pedalling, they can expect a week of aches and pains, twitching legs, and hot flushes.
They can now look forward to getting back to their families and their day jobs, as well as a world with washing machines and tumble dryers.
Thank you to everyone for all your amazing support. Your emails, texts and comments on the blogs have given us constant encouragement and helped keep us going. Thank you also to everyone who has supported us financially, we are closing in on our target of raising £250,000 which is a remarkable achievement. That will make a real difference in helping break down the barriers facing young people in disadvantaged backgrounds who would like to access further and higher education. That really does make it all worthwhile.
On the promenade, Penelope said some very nice words on behalf of the team and they presented me with some mementos: the Support Team’s mascot (Ed the Ted who had made the entire journey on the front bumper of the minibus); the Captain’s armband; a fine cycling mug; and a red bell to go on my red bike.
Thank you. When I’m out cycling, my new red bell will remind me of you all, and the great adventure we shared that was Life Cycle 2.
Professor David Greenaway