August 30, 2013, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 3 Blog: Day 11 – Cardiff to Wantage

Roger saying goodbyeAnother 100 mile day (well, 101 to be precise) though Chris exceeded even that with 110.

Getting out of Cardiff is even harder than getting out of York.

Chris went solo today and was away quickly, his navigation challenges came later than ours. The rest of us, 11 riders, plus Roger, plus our new leg rider Doug Thomson (History alumnus and great friend of the University) got there in the end. We worked our way through the south-east of the city and ultimately on to the A48 through Newport. That took us to Chepstow, where we had scheduled our first stop. I can’t remember the name of the pub, but it had inflexible rules: before 1130, you are on the breakfast menu; if you want lunch, you must order after 1130. We arrived at 1117, so it had to be second breakfasts.

From Chepstow we headed for the Severn Bridge, an impressive piece of civil engineering, and a special way to cross from Wales back in to England. On the English side, Roger left, to return to Cardiff for a WRU Board meeting. He had cycled with us for 285 miles, it was great to have him along and he was a wonderful host at the Millennium Stadium.

It was not only Roger who left us at the bridge, Andy, Steve, Neville, Penelope and Doug made a successful break for it. After our Day 9 puncturefest, they clearly did not want to risk riding with the bikers that brunch. Shortly after, Penelope dropped back and Stefano, Nick, Karen, Kate, Marion, Penelope and me rode out the rest of the day together, with just one puncture for Nick. Fortunately Kate was again quickly on hand to assist.

The route took in long stretches of the Avon Cycleway, a beautiful track of lanes and quiet roads. They are largely flat, which was obviously welcome. On many stretches the deciduous vegetation was so dense that the road was completely enclosed, lending a real Rivendale feel to it.

Penelope taming cowsNot far out from our second feed stop at Malmesbury, we ran into a field with a large herd of cattle more or less parked on the road. Penelope immediately took charge, riding towards the cows intoning something that sounded like ‘Grrrawaaaytharnow’. The cows dutifully parted, cleared the road, and we moved on.

Kate’s parents were there to meet us when we arrived at Malmesbury. We also saw Andy, Doug, Steve and Neville making a quick exit before we could tag along. We ate at exactly the same place as we did on Life Cycle 1 when we passed through this beautiful market town, en route from Bourton on the Water to Shepton Mallett; an odd feeling.

The final stretch from Malmesbury to Wantage was also the hilliest. We were in Wiltshire Downs country, undulating riding and made a little longer by our decision to avoid the endless roundabouts of Swindon at peak time. That meant sweeping north and picking up the route again about 12 miles east of Wantage, not far from the Uffington White Horse. We arrived at The Bear, where we were staying, at about 1900, by which time everyone else was in, with Andy was claiming another yellow jersey. Chris had the longest ride, having gone wrong at Chepstow and ending up by the side of the Severn rather than on the bridge; and then taking on the roundabouts of Swindon.

Two punctures today, Nick and Neville; no mechanical failures; no traffic violations.

The most momentous moment of today was holding the Welsh Kerby Championship at the Millennium Stadium, umpired by the CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union (who had picked up enough about the rules in his briefing in Aberystwyth to be given this responsibility). In a tense match, Simon defeated Paul 10-6. Simon was elated; he will leave now Life Cycle 3 with a trophy. Paul alleged the crowd kept him awake overnight, suggesting they had been set up to do this. Both Gavin and Ian deny any responsibility.

To mark this occasion, the finalists have signed and dated one of the kerbs. This is now on eBay under ‘Sporting Memorabilia’ with whatever it raises going to Stroke Rehabilitation Research. The bidding started at 99p; the last I heard it had reached £52. There does appear to be some international interest, and there is a rumour that the Millennium Stadium itself is preparing a bid to add it to its trophy cabinet.

Shock of the day: Chris J has evidently returned from his secret mission, and having heard how expert I have become with a Garmin, has requested a master class when I return.

Accomplishment of the day goes to the maiden centurions, so well done Marion, Kate and Karen.

Quotes of the day:

Kate holding Nick's dustcapsPenelope, when Stefano and I disagreed about what to do at a junction: ‘Well, Stefano, I trust your Garmin more than I trust David’s, so I’m sticking with you’. Actually, I was overruling my Garmin, like Stefano’s it said straight on, yet we were standing by a road sign that said Malmesbury to the right. Still, majority rule and all that, so we followed the Garmins and went through a nice little housing estate, then back on to the Malmesbury road.

Kate when she minced out of a hedge having taking a comfort break: ‘Yep, I can confirm I have sat on nettles’.

Kate when helping Nick with his puncture, held out her hand and said, ‘You can put your little bits here when you are ready’. (For the avoidance of doubt, she was referring to the dustcaps which she does a good job of holding on to).

Bargain of the day: a unique Kerby stone, from a Millennium Stadium final, potentially going for under £100 (

It was a long ride today and there were many tired legs by the end. Our 101 miles today takes us to 890 in total. Tomorrow we head for our final capital. If we thought Cardiff was hard to get out of….

Professor David Greenaway

Posted in Life Cycle 3