August 20, 2014, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 4 Blog: Day 5 – Hythe to Guildford

LC4 riders with Kirsty and Tim LeeToday 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.Paul and Helen

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.

Gorgeous SvenjaSo 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?).

Susan's new bikeThird, 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

Posted in Life Cycle 4