August 23, 2016, by David Greenaway
Nottingham Life Cycle 6 – Day 4 Chippenham to Milton Keynes
When we arrived in Milton Keynes this evening, Sara, Kate and John had all completed four successive days in the saddle for the first time ever. Well done to them, and 5 bonus points each.
I have already introduced Sara. Kate is another newbie. She completed her PhD at Nottingham in 1996, held a series of Post Doc positions for a number of years, and has been an Associate Professor since 2012. She has ridden both the ‘Way of the Roses’ and ‘Lochs and Glens’ challenges, and did not hesitate when given the opportunity to take on this challenge.
Our task today was 94 miles from Chippenham to Milton Keynes, in more benign weather conditions than the last couple of days. Two groups of four (Steve, Marion, Karen and Sara; Susan, Nick, Kate and Andy) got away by 0800. Doug was flying solo. I was delayed getting the blog off, and John and Stefano again waited back for me.
Gavin Scott has done a terrific job in route planning, keeping us clear of major roads and out of major cities, and today was no exception.
From Chippenham we headed north east through Royal Wootton Bassett, west of Swindon (which is almost as tricky as Milton Keynes to navigate), through Highworth and into Farringdon for a first stop. Conditions were pretty well ideal, overcast but warm and with light cooling winds.
All of the others fuelled at Costa. Much as I like their coffee, after yesterday’s food debacle, we wanted a more substantial second breakfast and ate at Sandwich Phillers, an unpretentious café with great food.
From Farringdon we followed the A4095 all the way to Bicester, via Witney and Bladon. It was a lovely route, undulating but with a few sharp climbs. We stopped at the side of the road to do some plane spotting at Brize Norton, as Hercules C130s and C17s practised take offs and landings. We also stopped at Bladon.
From Bicester we worked our way through the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire villages of Stratton Audley, Twyford, Steeple Claydon and Padbury, and on to Stony Stratford. Apart from the potholes (Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire are the worse counties for these thus far) it was straightforward running, expertly navigated by Stefano. Once we got to Milton Keynes it became trickier. Doug reckons there are 125 roundabouts in Milton Keynes, and we crossed 24 of them. It felt like more.
Chance meetings and visitors are always very welcome. At the Village Shop and Café in Twyford we met John Baker and his wife Sam Bowker, who were cycling from Cambridge to Oxford. John is a Senior Research Fellow in our Institute for Place Names.
Then this evening we were joined by Daniel Hallgarten, a graduate and great friend of the University, who cycled two legs of LC4 (as well as Lochs and Glens) with us. He drove up from London to join us for dinner. Sara’s brother-in-law also joined us for a drink. He has just sailed around the world!
I have had multiple requests to extend the Decomnium beyond 10 events, our riders are obviously enjoying the competition, and want more opportunities to win points. After all, points mean prizes.
So, the Decomnium will become a Megomnium (which is just as well because we had two disciplines today and at this rate we would have completed them all before we are half way to Dunnet Head).
The first event was the individual pursuit, from Chippenham to Woodstock, and Doug won it by a mile (well by many miles, but you know what I mean). For that he gets 10 points, but because he played a joker, it doubles to 20 points. This looks like a big move on Doug’s part.
The other event was the Bladon Races, from Chippenham to Bladon. I am aware that ‘races’ is plural, and that the famous song ‘Blaydon Races’ refers to Blaydon in Gateshead, rather than an Oxfordshire town. But this would have been an opportunity missed.
Our Bladon Races was a road race from Chippenham to Bladon, for teams of two or more. Since the team I was part of left late, I was concerned about ensuring times were properly recorded. But I had no need to worry. No one else went to the official finishing line, which was Sir Winston Churchill’s memorial. My team did, whilst everyone flew past, and we have the picture to prove it. That’s ten points each for me, Stefano and John.
Whilst on the Megomnium, I should note that Susan’s dodgy Strava data has been cleared; she was in the van, which explains why she was climbing the hill out of Bradford on Avon at 60 kph.
John however is not there yet. It is all circumstantial of course. But the Stewards are concerned about two things. First, as a Doctor (and I do not mean someone with a PhD in Economics; a proper Doctor) he has access to potentially performance enhancing substances. Second, missing random tests (and John’s defence on the latter that ‘I didn’t know about the test’, does not wash. After all John, that’s what random means). So he is being watched carefully.
The Megomnium table now looks like this:
So Dr John has pushed in to second place, Doug is on the rise and a couple of pre-competition favourites still have to make their move.
Quotes of the Day: again I have two,
Over dinner this evening Karen told me ‘None of us are paying any attention to this Decomnium rubbish’. She then went on to complain that she should have had more than 14 points. Karen, it is now the Megomnium.
In discussing our Megomnium rules, one of our dinner guests, Daniel Hallgarten pointed out: ‘It is just like Mornington Crescent in I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue’. Daniel, that is real insight.
Team of the Day: goes to the three newbies who have now ridden for four consecutive days for the first time ever.
Quiz of the Day: this tortoise was snapped passing one of our riders on a hill before Woodstock; who was it?
Finally, as you can see from the last pic, John is at last receiving the level of service he is accustomed to.
Today our Life Cycle miles were for Jennifer-Gwen Buchanan, nominated by Chris Dula and Ambrose Kirkland, nominated by Caroline Humber, both women with inspiring stories.
94 miles today, taking our total to 331. Tomorrow we continue our journey east, to Thetford.
Professor Sir David Greenaway