Thursday, 6 June 2013

Day 9 - Taunton to Bodmin

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

This was day 9.  This was a day that firsts were made; a day that most thought would never (ever) end.  This was to be the heavy end of 110 miles.  Regardless of route selection, this was going to ask some serious questions - questions that I am pretty sure that none of us fancied answering.

Yet it all started so nicely...


Teams A and B continued their drive towards solidarity.  Building on the first 40 miles of day 8, they decided that a unified force was the way forward.  The Routemasters (H and CJ) had plotted a course for champions - though I'm not sure that the lads felt that we were packing quite that sort of quality.  Indeed Dartmoor had been highlighted as "possibly the hardest leg of cycling you could ever wish for in England" and all on our second to last day after circa 780 miles.  Wiggo (in true Wiggo style) made his feelings quite apparent and I feared for H as he suggested that Wiggo man up by necking a Cherry/Beetroot gel "because we're gonna need plenty of these today".  YOURS.

Sadly for the Wiggmeister, any sense of....erm...sense, was ignored as Froomedog left him swinging in the breeze as he joined the chorus of "it's all about the experience and the scenery".

So off we peddled as the cool and calm partnership of Team C weighed up 10 hours of playing "chicken" on the A30...


The united teams of A & B (which I would like to refer to as AB's given our svelt disposition) slid rather quietly along the first few sections.  Hereford to Taunton had taken it's toll, allied to a sense of foreboding about what was to lie ahead.  Soon though, we found our rhythm, and we were motoring through Wellington and on towards Tiverton.

Tiverton provided the first of many stunning scenic backdrops - and none better than the famous boozer 'The Fisherman's Cot.  Famed of course for the rumour that it was the inspiration for Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water".  It was 11am when the AB's tanks rolled in.  Little did we know just how troubled all our waters would be as we pulled out and over said bridge en route to Exeter and beyond.

As we turned to cross the bridge, the exocet partnership of Team C tore past us in the opposite direction.  Focused and utterly determined, they had little time for a wave...though they did spare a rather despairing glance at our choice of direction.

The university city of Exeter was our next target 15 miles down the road.

It was here that focus began to shift towards the sort of climbs that would become such a fixture of our ride.  It was also the first sign of the strain that the AB's would be under - and the mental decline allied to such a predicament.  This decline manifested itself in various ways - including frequent outbreaks of song from the whole team - ranging from "Sit Down" by James (how apt) through to the rather cleverly re-worded and re-mixed "Snoop Doggy Dogg" - which was to roll as "Walt Doggy Dogg".  Anyone familiar with the 'track' can see how this would be a natural fit - however, the real beauty (read temporary insanity) was in the way that 6 grown men would then bark in harmony in various tones and styles after the chorus.  They say timing is everything...well we certainly delivered on that score.  Having ripped through the first ball busting rendition, we were happily barking our chops off when we were suddenly joined by a chorus of over 20 real life pooches that were hanging out at the Sunny Mead Boarding Kennels over the road!

Laughing our gnashers off, we trundled towards Dartmoor.

Smiles indeed.  We were around 40 miles in.  The sun was shining.  Lunch was calling.  Other than the odd short, sharp, steep one, the hills were alive with the happy sounds of 6 portly chaps gunning their way towards Bodmin.

As we consulted our team Garmins for signs of progress, we felt rather chuffed.  We entered the stunning market town of Moretonhampstead safe in the knowledge that "we had completed around 20% of the 'green bit'" (i.e. man speak for looking at the map thinking we could see we had taken a large slice off of Dartmoor).  What we had no idea of at that point, was that Moretonhampstead is actually known as "The Gateway to the High Moor" - something not lost on our support driver Colin.  On checking in with him over the phone, our spirits were dented somewhat when telling him where we were.  I rather confidently said that we were over half way across Dartmoor.  This was met by a hearty Geordie laugh and the following words - "YOU WOT!?  HAF WEE ACROSS THA MAWAAS LEEK???!  DORNT MEEK ME LAFF LAD.  YAV NOTT EEEVEN SCRATCHED THA SORFASS OF THE MAWAAS MAN!!!!".

As the lads chuckled away at Colin's hearfelt words of motivation, we were then stunned to find that we were being served by SUBO2!  (For the unversed, that is Susan Boyle Mk II - complete with fetching chin stubble).  She was a great girl though and did a fine job of introducing the pub's pussy - Poppy.  After a few strokes, we left Poppy basking in the sunshine as we made off for the 'High Moors'.

The following 4 hours will live long in the memory for many reasons.  Bursting quads, never ending climbs, false (downhill) dawns, Groundhog Hour.  It was the same thing over and over again.  Glass half full had rapidly become rather more empty.  Nice downhills meant only one thing.......more (OBSCENE) uphills.  The lads were suffering as one victory....................

Was followed by another....................
.............and a little more..........
Thinking about it.  Is 16% ever any good?!  Has it ever represented anything good?!  Not in my book...and not in the eyes of my team mates either - especially when 16% swiftly becomes 20%.

As the time approached 6pm we had to face up to the fact that we were still 50 miles from the end.  This was a bitter blow.  The lads were almost out of supplies - Wiggo almost out of expletives.  Dartmoor Prison was no more than a few hundred yards away - and we figured a serious crime or two would have us banged up with food, water and Sky telly.  It was the other type of getting banged up that quickly moved our minds away from that outcome, along with the arrival of our gaurdian angel.  Saint Colin of Tyneside swept into our lives once more as choirs of angels greeted the Transit.

Hamish was straight onto rallying the troops and doing his moonlighting work for ZipVit by pushing the Cherry / Beetroot gels ONCE A-FECKING-GAIN.  I made a duck to the otherside of the van to neck a cheeky Mars, whilst Froomedog ran away from Colin, Benji calmly filled up on water, Hamish force fed CJ and Wiggo collapsed in a heap............
As the dust settled on what was ahead, I enquired to Colin as to how Team C were getting on.  Given our earlier exchange, I should have learned my lesson.  "DORNT WORREE ABOOT THEM LADS.  THEY'RE DOOIN JOOOST AS SHYTE AS YOU BOYZ.  YUZ LOT REEEELIEE ARE MAD AS BASTADS.  YUZ WANNA SEE WHATZ CUMMIN UP OVER THEM HILLS LEEEK!!!"

Thanks Col.  You are a gent of unparalleled proportions - and our saviour.  But a career in motivational speaking really isn't for you buddy.
Needless to say, Colin's prognosis was bang on the money.  This shot came at around mile 80.  Seemingly we were at the top of the world, with no hill in sight......... guessed it.  There was no 25-30 mile downhill into Bodmin.  Hopes were dashed after 2 miles of downhill at circa 50mph - including a full bunny hop of a cattle grid from CJ and H - and something resembling a patriot missile from Yorkshire.

The climb from Tamar Bridge was like nothing any of us have ever seen.  What should have been a seminal moment (crossing into Cornwall) actually became the defining moment of the entire ride.  To put it into perspective it was so vertical, that Froomedog actually fell backwards off his machine and into a bed of stinging nettles - where he lay wilfully for the next 10 minutes as the pain was so much less than what he was having to endure. 

Fast forward to Wiggo emerging in the distance pushing his wheels up said hill.  I could hear the rumble from around 400 yards and went something along the lines of (feel free to fill in the blanks):  "WHAT UTTER......DECIDED TO PUT THIS........ROUTE IN ON THIS......STUPID.......LEG OF THIS.......MAD......RIDE?!?!?!?  HONESTLY, WHAT A............ .............!!!  AM...........IF I AM GETTING ON THIS............BIKE AGAIN UNTIL THIS STUPID...........HILL IS............DONE!!!"

Rather amusingly, Wiggo then managed to push his bike for three quarters of a mile faster than anyone peddling.  He was to be found further up the road licking his wounds and polishing his profanisaurus.

The balance of the ride became such a haze that I can't actually remember much at all about it!  By this time were were dizzy and running on fumes - mainly coming from CJ's backside I might add.  Before we finally rolled into Bodmin at around 9pm.  It really had taken its toll, but we had overcome against the odds and made it.  Around 12 hours in th great outdoors on a journey of madness and mayhem and we were in.
To our great relief, Team C - who had ridden the a vast portion of Cornwall's very own Autobahn (the A30) were in safe and sound.  Not only that, but snagging the yellow jersey in the process.  A truly titanic effort that put the AB's in the shade.  The decision to ride direct was vindicated and the boys looked very contented on the patio in the beer garden - well, until someone opened their purse (mentioing no names)...

The night will ultimately be remembered for an addition to our ranks.  A co-support driver for Colin and cheerleader extraordinaire Ashley Anne.  The boys were very glad to welcome her on board and we all thank her for making the effort to join the team.  Cheers Smashings!

Thankfully CJ made a remarkable recovery from suffering every possible symptom of sun-stroke to go from looking like this........... necking 2 pizzas, a garlic bread and half a portion of chips.  Well in lad.

Good night to all.  On to day 10.  Let's get this puppy wrapped up.