August 25, 2013, by David Greenaway
The VC’s Life Cycle 3 Blog: Day 6 – Belfast to Balbriggan
Our leg rider today was Susan Anderson. Susan is a Lecturer in Pathology in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. She was born and bred in Balbriggan and was a student at Queen’s University Belfast, where we stayed overnight. In fact, she lived in the Hall next to the one we where we stayed.
We started with a photo call at Queen’s, before heading south out of Belfast. I have spent a lot of time in one way or another in this city over the last twenty years. It is a lot like Glasgow where I grew up, and Liverpool, where I was a student.
Our route map suggested a straightish line from Belfast to Newry; it seemed anything but. We were constantly up and down as we wove our way through County Down. It was testing, with some very steep climbs. (On the advice of one of the other riders, I stayed well behind Karen). But it was also beautiful, with views all the way down to the mountains of Mourne. Conditions were good, cool but bright, even if the wind was from the south. For much of the time we rode in a 9-3 formation (Leeds, home or away, when they sneak an extra player on without the ref noticing?).
It took longer than I expected to get to Newry. When we did, eight of us decided on an early lunch. Café Brass could not have been more helpful in storing our bikes and delivering food in short order. Chris, Penelope and Steve decided it was too early to eat and went on.
A big climb out of Newry got us on the road to Dundalk and pretty soon we had crossed the border into the Republic of Ireland. In truth you would not notice but for the fact that the road signs were now in kilometres and things were priced in Euros.
Stefano dropped off quite quickly and Kate, Marion, Andy, Karen, Nick, Susan, Neville and I saw out the rest of the day together. Our route took us to Dundalk, Castlemellington and a final feed stop in Dunleer. We then rode out the final stretch through Drogheda to Balbriggan in rain, the first to speak of that we have had on this trip.
Steve, Chris and Penelope ended up on the (longer) coastal route. Steve’s was more direct and he was in first, picking up the yellow jersey. Well done Steve.
Chris and Penelope’s was more adventurous. They took in a moto-cross track, an army base, and a firing range. I speculated the range might have been a bit risky, but Penelope was confident the red flag was not flying.
Three punctures today, for Stefano, Andy and me. Andy’s was two miles from our destination, mine just one mile. That is the first puncture I have had in two and a half Life Cycles. Nick and Kate dropped off to help me sort it out, the Deputy VC made a dash for the hotel with barely a backward glance.
Now on to other matters.
First, I have been trying out Penelope’s method of rolling wet gear in towels then jumping on them, it works a treat. Nick also suggested a time-saving innovation for washing; take the kit into the shower, give it lots of shower cream, then tread on it whilst showering. That too works well. Though I have discovered that if your red socks are not completely colour fast, your white base layer ends up with a pinkish hue.
Second, Steve has had enough of rooming with Lord Neville. He said he does so much moaning he is like Victor Meldrew. So, he is now in with Stefano. I have no idea who ended up with Neville. Perhaps he has got his wish and is sharing with Professor Miles and his OBE.
Third, the Support Team have held a kerby championship in every country so far: Paul won in England, Ian in Northern Ireland and Sebastian in Scotland and Ireland. Simon only has Wales to go for, or he returns home trophy-less.
Finally, let me say a big thank you to those who have sent in good wishes for the pink chicken, it is greatly appreciated. Some reconstructive surgery is underway and we hope to release another picture soon. It has been suggested that rather than forever being referred to as the pink chicken, it should be given a name. I agree. So, since Stefano rescued it, I gave him the honour of being its godfather and naming it. After much thought he came up with ‘Pollo Rosa’. I am sure it translates into something endearing in Italian. So, that’s its new name. Thanks Stefano.
Shock of the day: my Garmin was useful. Once I had worked out how to turn it on (well Seb did that) and once I realised it was not a touch screen like my iPhone, it had this line setting out the road ahead, with a little triangle that was me, and I just followed it. I have no idea why Chris J found it all so complicated last year.
Some quotes of the day:
Susan to me when she arrived to join us in Belfast as a leg rider: ‘That’s the last time I have a glass of wine with you at a reception’.
Andy on the composition of the team: ‘The Scots are over-represented in this team’ (actually only four of the eleven riders; and only one of the four Support Team are Scots).
Marion’s contribution to a football discussion: ‘Isn’t this loyalty thing in football really rather pathetic?’
So today we visited our second capital and our fourth country. Mileage ranged from 89 to 95, so we will record 90 for the log. That makes 515 miles in total.
My Forest shirt has still not turned up and they have a top of the table clash with Watford today.
Professor David Greenaway