September 1, 2013, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 3 Blog: Day 13 – Hatfield to Nevill Holt

It was another long day, longer than it should have been.

Because breakfast at Hertfordshire University was not available until 0730, everyone set off later than usual. Andy, Steve and Neville got off to a flyer, hoping to make time to see Manchester City on the way. Chris and Penelope followed. Karen, Kate, Marion, Stefano and Nick waited for me, whilst I despatched yesterday’s blog.

We were ready to leave about 10 minutes after the others, but had a problem. Well two. For some reason the route maps were missing from Stefano’s Garmin, and my Garmin was just missing. A bit of a coincidence, or a bit of sabotage?

Anyway, mine was not where it was last seen the night before and we wasted 30 minutes searching the van for it in vain. So we set off Garminless and a bit clueless. Our strategy was to pick our way out to Harpenden, then head north from there.

Stefano in PisaWhen we hit our first village we took local advice and obviously followed it. We ended up on a two mile gravel bridleway, which would have been fine if we had souped up mountain bikes with big, fat tyres. On road bikes it was no fun at all, and Nick had the first two of his punctures. Fortunately the Support Team were following me on a GPS tracker. They arrived at the other side of the field, re-supplied us with inner tubes and words of comfort (‘do you know how far on the others are?’). They had also found my Garmin in a hedge at the accommodation, so we now had that to help us.

We were finally on our way north, having covered six frustrating miles in an hour!

We had to make up some time, so headed for Luton, picked up the A6 and followed that to Bedford. Not a pretty road, but a quick one. En route we stopped at Gino’s in Barton-le-Clay for lunch. As you can see from the first picture, Stefano was very happy indeed to be in an Italian restaurant.

We left the A6 just below Bedford and picked up the planned route at Kempston. The logistics team had again done a great job with this stretch. We made rapid progress through some delightful villages in north Bedfordshire and south Northants. However the terrain became increasingly undulating. I lived in south Northants for a number of years and had forgotten how hilly it was. Moreover the headwinds we had been facing since we set off strengthened. It was a pretty demanding riding.

Nick's bikeOur final stop was at the Lamb Inn in Little Harowden. Although it was four o’clock by now and food was not being served, they obligingly rustled up toasted sandwiches and chips to keep us going. Then it was down to the last 17 miles to Medbourne in Leicestershire where we were staying. But not before a final puncture for Nick at Rothwell, his third of the day. He was not a happy bunny. You can see from the second picture where he parked his bike at the end of the day.

Needless to say, we were in last. The flying squad had not been able to see the Manchester City match, but were in very early. They share the yellow jersey, so well done again Steve, Andy and Neville. Chris and Penelope were in close to two hours ahead of us.

We are all scattered across a range of guest houses in Medbourne, just a mile from Nevill Holt and were joined for dinner at the Nevill Arms by Kate’s family and John Mills. John is a Mathematics alumnus and current President of the University Council. He will be riding the final leg tomorrow. It will be his maiden cycle ride, on a tandem with Olympic cyclist Bryan Steel. Good luck John, just keep pedalling and keep your eyes closed!

A few team matters to close.

The Kerby on eBay has reached £130. But there are still two days to go and it is clear that some of the big time collectors are still waiting to make their move. So we are expecting a real flurry of activity today.

Pollo RosaFollowing many requests as to the welfare of our twelfth rider, Pollo Rosa, I have decided to release another picture. As you can see, he is in very good shape and will complete all of Life Cycle 3 (well, all but the visit to Rosslyn Chapel when he was under a lorry).

Quote of the day has to go to Marion. In response to increasingly vicious attacks on my blog from some riders, she said ‘I think your blog is great, I am going to give it 10/10’. You can come again, Marion.

Song of the day: from Kate, getting very much into the Italian theme, regaled us with ‘Just One Cornetto’ over dinner.

Team of the day: goes back to the Support Team for finding my Garmin, finding us in a field, and of course their marvellous support through the day.

So, here we are, at the end of the penultimate day. Another 76 miles completed taking our total to 1,051. I was hoping we would get a picture at the 1,000 mile point, but that turned out to be on the A6 for us, so it didn’t work out.

One day left to complete our task, and what a day it should be. Everyone is looking forward to joining the leg riders in the morning at Nevill Holt, and seeing family and friends on University Park.

Professor David Greenaway

Posted in Life Cycle 3