August 16, 2014, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 4 Blog: Day 1 – Truro to Exeter

This Time is Different’ is the title of a terrific book on financial crises by Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff; its sub-title is ‘800 Years of Financial Folly’. The interplay of the two tells you a lot. Every time we have a crisis, the familiar refrain from financial markets is ‘this time is different’ but the point is that is not the case and the same mistakes are made over and over.

By now you may be thinking the old guy’s confused and thinks he is in an Economics tutorial rather than on a Life Cycle. But there is a connection. For some time I have sensed ‘this time is different’ about this Life Cycle, and I have not quite been able to put my finger on why.

The obvious difference is it is 300 miles longer. But it is not that, it is the cause we are riding for.

Childhood cancer fills anyone with horror, and brain tumours are the biggest cancer killers of children. One of our riders, Andy Foote experienced the devastation of losing his son, Joe, to the disease; another, David Walker has spent most of his clinical career treating young patients. The rest of us can only imagine just how life changing it is for a family.

Once we had committed to the cause, we worked on a greater understanding of the disease and got to know some of the children and their parents. Seeing first-hand how so many turn tragedy into something positive to change the prospects for future patients only served to make the case even more compelling. And the fact we are each riding in honour of a particular child makes this a more personal experience. Today Nieves was riding in honour of Ryan Cornwall from Leicester, who has been living with a brain tumour for six years.

Andy and Doug in prisonWe are obviously not the only ones who find this cause compelling. As of this evening we had raised £569,000 for the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre, an astonishing total, already more than double what we raised last year. A big thank you to everyone who has supported us so far.

Now, let me introduce a few of the newbies.

Doug Thomson is our Director of Campaign and Alumni Relations. He is a History graduate and has stayed very close to the University for many years, before being appointed to his current role earlier this year. He is a proper cyclist. Whilst I was climbing local hills around Nottingham for my training, Doug was climbing Mont Ventoux – three times in a weekend! As you can see from the picture, Doug likes being behind bars.

Nieves la Casta is a great friend of the University. She was not a cyclist before she committed to this challenge, but the work she has put in to be physically and mentally prepared is just phenomenal, and her fundraising effort just stunning. The only complaint I have had so far from Nieves is not about the hills, but about by being stalked by a man who thinks he is Spanish.

Susan in trainingLast year Susan Anderson joined Life Cycle 3 for a day and a half in Ireland. When the opportunity to be part of the Life Cycle 4 team was offered, she grabbed it. She too has trained well; I know because she has trained a lot with me. It is possible she will create a new record on this ride, by cycling the greatest number of miles on a child’s bike. As you can see from the picture, she bought it when she was about eleven and has not upgraded since. Mind you, she is a demon on the hills with it.

Departure from Carnon Downs this morning was a bit disorganised. Esteban left with Svenja shortly after 07:00 (it was early and I think he got his German speaker and Spanish speaker mixed up). Chris R and Penelope were next, then Chris J, Karen, Marion, Nieves and Steve. I set off with Nick and Susan. That left Doug, Andy and David W (as well as David Ross and Ottilie, who were cycling for a second day).

Broadly speaking there were two routes: the scenic route south of Dartmoor, then over the top. Chris R, Penelope, Doug, Andy and David W took this on. It sounded brutal. Chris and Penelope were not in until around 20:15, having climbed 11,000 feet in cycling 95 miles.

The rest of us decided to take the A30, which skirts Dartmoor to the north. In my case that resulted in 97 miles and 7,000 feet of climbing.

Cycling the A30 is not pleasant: the background noise is incessant, with heavy traffic roaring past at 70mph, and although it smooths the hills, it does not take them out. Moreover, riding at the side, you need to be constantly vigilant of the debris and detritus, some of it obvious (shredded tyres, hub caps, cans), some less obvious (barbed wire, screwdrivers, even a washing up bowl). So it’s a case of head down and get the job done.

David with JaneSusan, Nick and I actually split in Truro, both taking a wrong turn in opposite directions! Susan and I ended up heading to St Austell, then had to climb over Bodmin Moor to get back on the A30, an unplanned and demanding climb (though with a nice descent through Bugle). Happily we picked up Nick again in Bodmin, where we stoked up at the Green Frog Café. Jane who looked after us, asked about the challenge and made a donation.

After that, we just ground it out, before leaving the A30 at Tedburn St Mary to come in to Exeter via Whitestone. There we were confronted by a long 15% hill, a brutal end to the day (as my two year old grandson is fond of saying ‘sss not funny Grandad’). The other A30 riders had the good fortune to chat to a local cyclist (Richard Taylor) who took them on an alternative and flat route.

Today was a really long day for everyone, and exhausting for all, so much so that we all bailed out of the restaurant early, foregoing dessert. So that is 139 miles covered.

A few ‘personal bests’ today: Svenja cycled 30 miles more than she has ever done; Penelope, Nieves, Susan and Andy climbed more than they had ever done. No quotes of the day – you don’t get the time to chat on the A30.

Tomorrow we head for Bournemouth in what looks like another tough day. But so far, the weather has been with us, generally overcast with sunny spells, and mostly tail winds. Every little helps!

Though we are only at the end of the first full day and I am already behind on my washing (kit, not me). So I hope I am in early enough to get ahead with the kit.

Professor Sir David Greenaway

Posted in Life Cycle 4