August 21, 2014, by David Greenaway
The VC’s Life Cycle 4 Blog: Day 6 – Guildford to Chipping Campden
Last night we stayed in the Travelodge at Guildford. Tonight we are staying at The Kings Hotel in Chipping Campden. The latter is unambiguously superior in every respect bar one: to write a blog you need a table and chair, this (otherwise very nice room) has neither. So I am writing perched on the thing you put your suitcase on. I hope I do not fall asleep writing this one.
It was Charlie Dodd’s day, and Chris R was riding in his honour. Chris’s comment was ‘Charlie had a short but happy life that never made it into adulthood. Understanding the pain suffered by the family and profound commitment to improving the odds for the next youngster with this condition are what LC4 is all about. It places in perspective the aching limbs, tired brain and long days in the saddle. It is a real privilege to be an LC4 rider and, most poignantly, to wear Charlie’s bracelet today’.
Again, I had no idea who left when this morning. It seems Doug and Steve were off first: Doug was going to see his Mother, then meet his family at Chipping Campden; Steve was also meeting his family there. Chris R and Penelope left together, followed by Chris J, Karen, Marion, Svenja, Nieves and Nick. David W, Susan, Andy and Esteban waited for me, and we left around 0845.
Getting clear of Guildford was not straightforward. I think Esteban had his Spanish maps loaded! But, we got away eventually, through Camberley, Wokingham and Sandhurst, then skirting Reading to the north.
At Wokingham we stopped to check maps. Two things happened. First, a lady called Kate Hirst asked if we were raising funds and made a donation. It turned out her daughter had suffered a brain tumour, so we spent a bit of time in conversation with her.
Second, Susan made the innocent comment: ‘do you realise we have done 500 miles?’. I immediately thought of The Proclaimers and their anthemic ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)’ which gets played at Hampden before a match to get the crowd jumping (then the opposition score and that quietens them down). I found it on my iPhone and before you knew it, Susan, Andy, David W and me were singing, and dancing to ‘500 miles’, by a roundabout in Wokingham. Goodness knows what passing drivers thought. To cap it all, our van suddenly appeared on the other side of the island with a bemused Adam and Andy wondering if the strain had finally flipped us. Esteban filmed the entire thing. But it is not footage which will reach the public domain, a still shot will suffice!
Anyway, it cheered us up no end and we pressed on to the agreed lunch stop at The Cherry Tree Inn in Stoke Row. By the time we arrived, Karen, Chris J, Nick, Marion, Nieves and Svenja had left; and Chris R and Penelope were just preparing to go. But, as pre-arranged, Graham Curren was still there. He is CEO of Sondrel, a very successful company we have a great partnership with in Ningbo. Graham’s offices are nearby. He joined us with his colleague, Hilary, and bought everyone lunch. Louise Wilson also came over from Windsor to see us. Louise is an alumna, and Member of the University Council. Whilst there, she pledged £1,000 to our cause. Thank you Louise.
From Stoke Row we headed north west through Wallingford, Didcot and Abingdon, taking a final feed stop at The Emporium in Eynsham. At Bladon, we joined the A44 for the final push, through Chipping Norton and Moreton-in-Marsh to Chipping Campden. Andy and David W split off at Eynsham, and Esteban, Susan and I were last in at 1945. David R cycled the whole route and arrived just before us.
We had been out for 11 hours today, covering 97 miles. That said, the actual riding time was seven and a half hours, the rest being taken up with eating breaks, just getting out of the saddle for a stretch, and way finding.
Conditions were again good, generally bright and sunny, and although the winds were from the west, you could hardly call them winds; they were light breezes. The terrain was undulating, with only a few tough climbs (although one of those was right at the end!). And the route planners had done a great job. We passed through a seemingly endless succession of picturesque villages, as well as some of my favourite Cotswold towns, including Moreton-in-Marsh and Chipping Campden.
This evening, Steve, Andy and Doug had their families join us; as did Steve and Julie Davenport – Steve will be a leg rider with us tomorrow as we head for Market Drayton. Susan, too, was with us again.
Unfortunately, we had another fall today. Marion came off at the bottom of a steep hill, where gravel had accumulated and sustained lacerations on her knee. Fortunately, Karen was again on hand to administer reassurance and care. Even more fortunately, Marion did not have a nose bleed.
One mechanical problem today: a broken spoke for Chris R, so he will be on my spare bike tomorrow. Two punctures, one for Esteban and one for Steve. In the case of the latter, it was the first puncture he had ever had. Doug was on hand to sort it out for Steve. I held the dust cap for Esteban (and showed Susan how to do it in case she ended up in the same position on another occasion).
Speaking of Esteban, Paul brought an Italian guest to meet him in the hotel this evening. It was a very confusing conversation.
We have reached that stage of the challenge where garments have started disappearing; in my case a pair of gel shorts. I think I will work with one pair less rather than risk picking up someone else’s from the back of the van (which doubles up as a mobile dryer).
Finally, Andy was in his bright blue shorts today. In training he also has a bright blue top. The first time Karen saw him in this kit, she described him as a smurf. I did not get it, until someone sent me a picture of Andy at a secret training camp. Now I see the resemblance.
In total we have covered 585 miles which, for this number of days in, is pretty amazing. Everyone is inevitably getting more tired, but still grinding out the miles, and our Support Team do everything they possibly can to make life easier and keep spirits up. They have long days, but are endlessly cheerful.
Tomorrow is an 80 mile ride to Market Drayton. I am looking forward to getting in a bit earlier, and maybe even having the chance to answer a few emails!
Professor Sir David Greenaway