August 23, 2014, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 4 Blog: Day 8 – Market Drayton to Garstang

We have reached the halfway point in terms of days, but with 762 miles completed, passed the halfway point in miles.

Today we were riding in honour of Katy Holmes, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at age 10, and died within three months. Karen was the nominated rider and said: ‘Katy’s parents set up the Katy Holmes Trust, to raise support for brain tumour research, including at Nottingham. I will be thinking of Katy and her family as we pedal today; in particular her mother Paula who is beginning her own challenge in climbing Kilimanjaro to raise funds for this profoundly important cause’.

photo(3)Katy’s dad, David, was at Lancaster University to welcome the early riders, and drove out to meet Karen and our group at our final stop in Preston. That gave us all a lift for the final 18 miles.

It was wet and windy when we left Market Drayton, so wet weather gear was the order of the day. The early group comprised Chris J, Doug, Penelope, Svenja, Nieves and Steve. They were followed by Andy, David and Chris R; and I was in the final group with Karen, Nick, Marion, Susan and Esteban, who had all waited, despite the fact we had a 90+ mile day to come. We left at 08:40.

To bank some easy miles early, we headed west on the A51 to Nantwich, to then turn north on the A530 through Middlewich and to Knutsford, where we would pick up the route again. We figured this was a few miles longer, but could save time on quiet main roads. Within the first 15 miles we had two punctures, one each for me and Esteban, which soaked up our saved time! I was glad to have Nick at hand, there is no way I could have got my tyre off given the state of the ends of my fingers. As we were dealing with that, David R passed on the same route, and rode out the remainder ahead of us.

In Middlewich, we stopped by a Morrisons to use their facilities, and ended up taking an unscheduled tea / coffee / Bovril stop at a Portacabin café. Then on to Knutsford to the Cheese Shop Café for an excellent lunch (during which Adam sorted Esteban out with another new tyre). All of the others had passed through by then.

The remaining 60 miles were almost exclusively urban riding, as we picked our way through the north west conurbation that spreads from Liverpool and Manchester. Our route planners had done a skilful job in threading us through this densely built up area, and Esteban did a great job as way finder for the entire day. We crossed a toll bridge to take us over the iconic Manchester Ship Canal, and had great views for the Reebok Stadium as we passed through Bolton (where Forest earned a good draw last week).

It was steady riding, and at 28 miles out when we passed on the opportunity to visit the ice cream shop where everyone else had stopped, it was 16:30 and I estimated we would be at our destination around 18:30. Then we hit Preston, on a bank holiday Friday. It was gridlock and we were pretty well limited to the speed of the crawling traffic. It was 17:50 before we got to the other side of the city, which was frustrating. It also meant we had to eat.

photo(4)Andy and Adam had found us at this point and directed us to an excellent Italian restaurant and deli (Siciliana something) at the north end of Preston (near Deepdale as it happens, so I now understand why the team’s name is Preston North End). Despite the fact the restaurant was already full with early diners, the staff helpfully treated us as if we were take-away customers and knocked up three pizzas in record time. So we ordered, ate, met David Holmes, and were away by 18:35.

We arrived at the University Hall at 19:35, having cycled 95 miles. Everyone else was well in by then.

At dinner this evening we were joined by Susan, David R and Ottilie. We also had James Saunders, the CEO of Simon Jersey, one of our corporate supporters; and two of my closest friends, Dave and Mary Sapsford. In addition, Daniel Hallgarten joined us, not just for dinner, he will be a leg rider for the next two days. We ate at The Plough in Galgate. When they heard of our endeavour, they gave us a substantial discount. Thank you.

We had one mishap today, Nieves fell off in Knutsford and hurt her knee, but so far it seems to be fine.

We had another island experience, not spontaneous singing and dancing (though we did have a blast of The Proclaimers at our Portacabin teashop). We stopped to call the van at an island in Leigh, to see if it was close enough to relieve us of our wet weather gear. It was too far away. Just as we were about to leave, Susan’s husband Brendan appeared (he was on his way to the Lakes to climb Scafell). Susan was overwhelmed and there were tears of joy. But, it did not take her long to get back in the bubble. As their embrace ended, she asked ‘can you take this gear to the van?’C Jagger

We have seen the first major prize of LC4 awarded today, for the team time trial. Some seemed to be unaware this was today. However much you put in to communication, some just don’t bother to read the notices. The course was set from the Siciliana Restaurant in Preston to our accommodation, an 18 mile sprint. The team I was part of, with Esteban as the front man, stormed the course in an hour, and were awarded the title of LC4 Sprint Champions. Inevitably there was a challenge, from Svenja (and note how important that comma is). She claimed Doug and her must have done it quicker. Aside from the fact that is assertion not evidence, you need six in a team to qualify. So well done to Esteban, Karen, Marion, Susan, Nick and me for winning this coveted title. Well done to Svenja and Doug for coming second. Had this been the Olympics you would have got a silver medal. But this is Life Cycle, and you get nothing.

photo(6)Some Quotes of the Day:

First, Chris J to Steve: ‘That is just what Greenaway would have said’. I don’t think it was intended as a compliment.

Second, when we had decided on wet weather gear, Paul suggested I put on overshoes. It was not an easy operation and he had a couple of others helping. ‘Crikey, how many people does it take to dress a VC?’ Quite.

Finally, another submission for the calendar: Sergeant Major Jagger at the gates of Sandhurst dreaming of a commission.

So, half way. It has been a tough week, the toughest of any Life Cycle, and as you can see from Penelope at dinner, it is beginning to show. Our final day in England tomorrow, as we head to Carlisle.

Team of the week? No contest, The Support Team.

Professor Sir David Greenaway


Posted in Life Cycle 4