August 20, 2014, by David Greenaway
The VC’s Life Cycle 4 Blog: Day 5 – Hythe to Guildford
Today was a tough one: 95 miles, 5,000 feet of climbing, and all into a constant head wind. More of that later.
Keira Lee was the child being honoured today, with Steve Wright as the nominated rider. Keira sadly passed away last December, age two. One of our stops was at Keira’s home in Smallfield where we were met by her parents Tim and Kirsty who laid on tea and cakes. Steve’s comments on Keira were: ‘Today reinforces why I am doing this. To see and feel the impact this disease can have on a family is humbling. It makes me more determined to ensure we meet our target’.
Most of us were hurting pretty badly this evening in one way or another, then you remember the hurt of those parents, and it puts it into perspective.
I have no idea who left when this morning. I subsequently worked out that Chris R went solo, as did Steve; Nick, Susan, Esteban and Penelope formed another group; as did Chris J, Karen, Marion, Svenja and Nieves. Doug, David W and Andy waited back for me, we were last out. David R and Ottilie stayed in the same hotel, were with us for another day, and departed just before us.
I was not looking forward to setting off. I had slept badly and intermittently, was very sore, and did not know how my body would react, especially my hands. Both were badly bruised and stiff. And good hands are fundamental to steering, braking, changing gear, balance and so on. By the time we had completed 10 miles, I was confident I would get through the day. My shoulder was stable and my hands were warmed up and in control. Riding was still uncomfortable though – every time I hit a pothole or change in surface, it reverberated through my shoulder. That happened a lot. Despite the fact the South East is one of the most prosperous parts of the UK; they clearly do not spend much on roads. The surfaces were atrocious and we and our bikes took a real battering.
Incidentally, a former Life Cycle veteran enquired about the welfare of the pink chicken in my accident. I can assure you he was unharmed. I keep him on the right hand side of the bike to make sure he gets the best out of his good eye (well, his only eye). My bike landed on the left hand side.
Our route took us west towards Tunbridge Wells, through East Grinstead to Dorking and then to Guildford. This is classic Weald country, with us starting by climbing the South Downs and ending climbing the North Downs. The sandstone core in the middle is heavily wooded. It is delightful country as you skip between East Sussex and Kent, with attractive red brick villages and towns. It is also English wine country, with Tenterden and Lamberhurst at its heart.
We made our first stop after 25 miles at the ‘The Bakehouse’ in Biddenden; lovely village, excellent food. About five miles later we ran into the two other main groups who had stopped at ‘Weeks Bakery’ in Goudhurst and clearly enjoyed just as good hospitality and food. The owners discounted the bill, made a £20 donation, and asked for a donation box for their counter. Thank you for that.
We stopped again at 57 miles, at the Caffé Nero in East Grinstead, so top cappuccinos at last! We then saw everyone except Chris R and Steve at Keira Lee’s home for a final stop, where Andy played football with the kids, but failed to score a goal.
Chris R was in by 15:30; everyone else, including David R and Ottilie, were in between 18:30 and 19:00, with Chris J’s group having an especially demanding final stage.
We have had a lot of visitors this evening: Susan, David W’s brother, sister-in-law and mother; Jenni Wright and Esteban’s boys; and Ottilie’s parents were all waiting to welcome us in at Guildford.
So what news on the team front?
First, I like attention to detail, and going the extra mile. When Svenja received her Life Cycle T-shirts, she did not like the cut of the neckline, nor the length, so took them to a local tailor to be re-engineered. She also invested £30 in getting her nails done, which is great. But they are purple! Svenja has another exotic name for the colour, but trust me, they are purple, which is not a LC4 colour. Very disappointing. Anyway, despite that, we have had a Svenja submission for the LC4 calendar. So, finally a challenge to the David W monopoly.
Second, a number of readers have enquired about the absence of yellow jerseys. I decided at the start we should not have any. Last year it became a bit divisive, largely because I won so many. Indeed, there were even some ‘match fixing’ suggestions. So they do not feature this year.
Under Life Cycle rules, in such circumstances, the winner of the last officially verified yellow jersey continues to hold it. As luck would have it, that’s me, for my win on the final stage of LC3. And as I write this, I am reminded that I pipped Andy, Svenja and Esteban at the post in Morecambe to win the ‘Way of the Roses’ yellow jersey. (I guess holding both is a bit like being football World Cup and European Nations Cup winners at the same time?).
Third, Karen has discovered a statue of her husband in Guildford! An eight foot bronze called ‘The Walking Man’ by Martin Jennings. Evidently Duncan modelled for it when he was at Oxford, and it stands in Guildford Tuns Gate Square. How great is that!
Fourth, as you can see from the picture, we have managed to secure a backup bike for Susan, and at a good price.
Finally, Doug, Andy and Nick decided to have a nightcap and got the bar re-opened. The young lady looking after them asked: ‘So, how big is a standard measure of whisky………’
The riders have done hard miles today, and on the back of four previous days which averaged 90 miles. Some of the stresses and strains were obvious. But, this is not a cycling vacation! For the most part spirits remain high, and our outstanding Support Team were just that, outstanding: always there or thereabouts, always encouraging, and always maintaining the highest professional standards.
Tomorrow, we have another 90 plus miles to Chipping Camden. The weather forecast is good, which is a relief after we were well and truly soaked for the last 15 miles today.
Professor Sir David Greenaway
I know I’m meant to be working but this blog is becoming more gripping than a Scandi crime series. Knowing the people involved makes it so much more tense as I really admire your determination in the face of physical pain (accidental injuries included). Keep safe, rest up at night and I look forward to seeing you when you get back.
To David and the LC team, I have just read the blogs and I am in awe at your dedication and perseverance. I have never done a long-distance cycling trip but have always wanted to and this is providing inspiration and provoking admiration. I will be cycling 75 miles on the 31st for the cause as well.
I hope there are no more incidents and plenty more ice creams to come, I am very impressed at how high your spirits seem to be.
Great to hear that you’re in such good spirits despite another hard ride. (And very relieved that the pink chicken is safe and sound!). Here’s hoping the weather is a bit kinder today. Keep up the great work – really proud of you all!
Congratulations to all the team on your achievement so far. Your dedication to the cause is astounding and we are totally confident you will find your way through all the difficult and painful times on your journey ahead. It was our pleasure to welcome you to our home yesterday, it was the least we could do to support your efforts. We look forward to seeing you all again in Nottingham on the 31st. WELL DONE!!!
It was lovely seeing you all last night. You are doing so well with much longer and harder days than before. Keep pedalling and I’m so proud of you Steve x
I always admire the positivity in the VCs Blogs. Only the riders appreciate the arduous reality of actually riding these legs across the UK. Bloggers can only imagine the pain of climbing back onto the saddle day after day, with little recovery time, rain dripping everywhere, bone-chilling cold, hazardous road surfaces and lorries whizzing past just inches away, etc. Luckily, you have a great Support Team, and an awesome motivation to raise more funds for Impact, and Children’s Brain Tumour Research.
Good to see you are all still managing to enjoy the experience when stopping for refreshments at the national network of Mrs Bumble’s 🙂
Make sure you all get plenty of re-energising puddings in the evenings. Andy M – remind Chris Jagger he needs to have plenty of ICE with his.
Paul – I’ll make sure Dawn arranges for your stabilisers to be fitted to one of the U-Cycles for the ride across the line on 31st 🙂
I hope the back of the van is in good order.
Thanks for the latest update – a beautiful combination of purpose and humour as always. There have been a lot of expressions of concern for David’s well-being over the past 24 hours, so I’m pleased to learn that the day was manageable, if not comfortable. Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow in Market Drayton, although I’ll try to remember not to shake your hand on this occasion David…
Susan – is that my bike I failed to sell on eBay?!
I’ve found a bicycle powered washing machine to wash your kit on the go! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-15009397
.. or two
I’m not sure what Guildford will make off all the Scots, Yorkshire folk, Geordies and many others from around the country. I spent my formative years in Guildord (up to the age of 19) and I’m sure that we would all have trouble understanding you. And going into the heart of the town, under the clock, on the cobbles on Tuns Gate. You’ll be making an appearance in the Surrey Advertiser next. All the stock brokers will think that aliens have landed!
Sounds like another gruelling day. Well done to all – keep up teh good work.
Glad to see the injury hasn’t stopped the blog! You are all doing such a fantastic job and for such an important cause. Looking forward to the next update – take care.
I just don’t know how you all do it. Having greeted you all last night I was struck how tired people looked but characteristically everyone was happy and upbeat by dinner time. An amazing group that continues to support each other and bring out the best in everyone. Keep keeping safe. X
I am beginning to think that “Sir David” is engineering these injuries as a way of gaining extra “sympathy donations” Am I the only one to notice that he has a fall around the middle of each LC? We deserve the truth Prof. Anyway you have my sympathy vote, so I will drop in another 100 quid to help ease the pain. Keep on keepin on LC4!!!!!
Hope everyone is less sore and the weather is much kinder today. The VC’s blog is posing me some challenges with terminology as Chinese colleagues here ask for detailed definitions of key words and concepts … Google translate definitely struggled with ‘butt butter’. Nick will be pleased to know this is the first day without heavy rain in Ningbo for some time but I have not started sandbagging the fourth floor yet. Full of admiration for you all. Take care.
Having enjoyed the blog since the start of your journey we were delighted to meet you all in Guildford. We admire the determination and courage of all the cyclists despite injury exhaustion, big hills and testing traffic conditions. We were also extremely impressed with the level of organisation and dedication of the support team. We both wish you all a safe and successful journey to Scotland from Paul and Consuelo (Ottilie’s parents)
What a fantastic feat – 5000 feet of climbing coupled with 95 miles. Sounds painful and that’s without the soreness from injuries.
Susan – is that my bike I failed to sell on eBay?!
I’ve found a bicycle powered washing machine to wash your kit on the go http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-15009397
Keep going everyone, we are thinking of you all EVERY day x
Gripping and entertaining blogs. The bit on the children and their families each day really gives it depth and context so despite your bumps, bruises, aches and pains, please keep cycling.