C’est fini! Peoples Grand Tour day 23
It wasn’t entirely surprising that the sun was up and shining brightly when I awoke this morning, in fact given that I was very tired when I crawled into bed at 1am waking up at 7 was still comparatively early. We’d had a fabulous Saturday, though long and tiring, in London. A guided trip down the Thames started things off nicely. One of the great regional British cliches is that “Scousers have a great sense of humour”. Well maybe they do but give me a real thoroughbred Londoner any day and more often than not, like our tour guide today, they’ll keep you entertained for ages with a wonderful combination of observation and humour, occasionally laced with a touch of healthy cynicism. We alighted at, and entered into, The Tower of London. None of us had been in there before, and we were all surprised by how big it actually was inside. Lots of towers, so lots of stairs, and plenty to see make this one of the better value attractions in the capital. I was particularly pleased to have seen the crown jewels, but in truth I can’t rave about them. For one thing the display wasn’t particularly impressive in terms of layout and lighting, but more importantly I’m not a fan of jewellery and ostentatious displays of said rocks. Most of all in the huge quantities and forms in which it is on show in the Tower, there absolutely can be too much gold - it just looks gaudy and tacky to my peasant eyes and I wouldn’t give you tuppence for it.
So with a late night following an almost no sleep night interspersed with a few miles walking around London I was incredibly tired today, and in truth I felt like I was limping over the People’s Grand Tour finish line. The lack of energy was compounded by a westerly breeze which was blowing either into my face or onto my left should for the first 40 minutes of a 60 minute ride, sapping further my energy and eating into my enthusiasm. It was merciful release when I finally turned homeward and spent the last third of the ride heading in a south/ south easterly direction with wind assistance. Nevertheless I was glad to be home, and glad to be able to properly rest for a day or two now with my goal of riding every day for the PGT attained. Tomorrow I will take the car to work, Tuesday too in all likelihood, and with a long journey to Kent for work booked in on Thursday I may try and stay off the bike until Friday (although I will undoubtedly be tempted on Wednesday). It will be interesting to see how my body reacts to a few days rest.
So that’s it, my second People’s Grand Tour finished. Thanks again to Lionel for the inspiration to do this. Over the 3 weeks and 23 stages I’ve learned that a full recovery from my bowel cancer is going to be a longer haul than I’d hoped, but that it didn’t knock me about as much as I feared. I’ve discovered that I can blog every day for 3 weeks and keep the subjects fairly varied, even if daily life constraints restrict meticulous checking of spelling and grammar (that’s a ctahc all excuse for every error I’ve published). Furthermore I’ve realised that when you can’t go so fast or too far you come to appreciate that any speed or length of riding is riding, and that riding itself, just for the sake of it, is the real joy.
Totals for the 23 stages are 880.7 km ridden in 34hrs 54 minutes including 9589 metres climbing.
Dawnbuster - People’s Grand Tour day 22
In sharp contrast to yesterday morning, today began with reveille at 0515hrs. I say reveille but in actual fact I was gently awoken by “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, probably the most perfect alarm ringtone ever. For those unfamiliar with Pink Floyd’s work “Shine On” starts quietly and gently and takes several minutes to get to full volume. As such it gently and magically burrows into one’s slumber, occasionally entwining itself into that last minute dream, rather than hitting you around the head with a metaphorical sledgehammer. It’s a beautiful way to be woken up. Unfortunately, and annoyingly, my shoulder problem flared up overnight - sort the tooth out, now this again, humph - and that made getting my gear on slow and painful.
I was dressed (I suppose that goes without saying really) and on the road by 5.35am with the bright beam of my Lezyne Super Drive cutting through the fading, early morning darkness and shining off the wet roads. Riding on an empty stomach was quite pleasant in actual fact, and I’m certain that I prefer being empty to overful. My one hour loop (almost entirely in the saddle as the shoulder pain made holding the bars whilst standing difficult) took in the climb of New Road, before heading through the quiet village of Claverley, past Ludstone Hall and then on to the Col De Tinker’s Castle where I joined (albeit in reverse) the route of my normal Roller Coaster commute, all whilst the sun gently rose, spreading weak light and warmth. A hare crossed my path at one stage, one of my favourite wild animals, as well as a beautiful fox. The temperature had crept up to just 3° by the time I got home, so I was good and ready for a bowl of cereal and a huge mug of coffee. Nobody else in the house had stirred either, so I reflected once again on succesfully riding a People’s Grand Tour stage without detrimentally affecting the family’s plans, immediately after which I cruelly shouted “wake up” at them all using the sledgehammer alarm method!
So that’s my penultimate PGT stage done. Next stop today is London for sightseeing and, perhaps, the “Where’s Fred Soho Challenge”, then tomorrow morning I will mug for (non existent) cameras and ride a bike that’s too small for me whilst sipping champagne en route to the pretend Champs Elysee. See you then.
Where’s Fred on P.O.E.T.S Day? - PGT day 21
Late start this morning. Trying to get three teenage girls up and out for a set time as early as 10am is a ridiculously painstaking affair, and my own plan to leave home by 8.30 was holed way below the waterline from the moment I woke them up at 8. In the end they left 5 minutes before me, and with Friday being P.O.E.T.S* day in the building trade I almost met myself leaving work whilst still riding in. It was wonderful cycling weather though, a bright, sunny sky and dry roads meaning the return of a certain white and red shiny carbon FP7.
As far as routes go it was pretty standard fare, headin into the office on The Roller Coaster again, then a little later into Wolverhampton via Springhill Lane, another favourite climb, for Club Day at Fred’s before heading home via the direct route along the A449, which is predominantly flat or downhill. Topics discussed in the shop today included Vasectomies, tooth extraction and Soho. The latter came in the form of a challenge, a “Where’s Fred” challenge to be more specific. As my gang and I are day tripping to London with Amelie tomorrow I jokingly suggested that I would try and get a photo of me in a piece of Fred’s kit (it will be the jacket and casquette, NOT lycra shorts!) on top of Big Ben, but that even if I did people would assume it was a Photo Shop jobby. However, in a way typical of predominantly male working environments, the challenge developed into a slightly more smutty option involving getting a snap of me in a “dodgy” doorway in Soho. Now I just have to figure how to broach the idea to Paula (that will be fairly easy I think) and then pulling it off ** without exposing the children to the distinctly sleazy side of our capital city.
That’s it then, short blog for today, and probably an even shorter one to come tomorrow morning. We’re planning to leave for “The Smoke” at half seven, and I plan to finish my one hour ride by 6.30am to enable me to eat and shower prior to that departure. Watch this space to see whether I manage to rise to the early ride challenge, and the “Where’s Fred” dare.
* P*s* Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday
** Unfortunate turn of phrase acknowledged
A Pulled Tooth and Pouring Rain - PGT day 20
When you roll out of bed thinking about how soon you will be able to get back in it’s not usually a good sign. Whether my tiredness had made me more emotional I’m not sure, but about 90 minutes after surfacing from the Slumberland, I was shedding a tear or two at a gritty, warts and all, American Cop show, The Wire. My interest in this programme had been piqued months ago by it receiving more than the odd positive mention during old episodes of the wonderful Word Magazine Podcast which features David Hepworth and Mark Ellen. Of the two Hepworth is the Wire convert, and he’s never struck me as somebody easily swayed by hype or anything else. During my post operative convalescence, after I’d I watched Danish serial “The Killing” and it’s sequel, I started on The Wire and for the last few weeks have watched it every time a suitable moment arose when nobody wanted use of the tv (we only have one so have to share) AND the children were not in the living room, for this is not a programme suitable for a 12 year old lad nor his 14 year old sister. On most days this viewing slot is from around 6am for an hour, so whilst the family slumber I eat my breakfast and drink a coffee in front of the TV and it doesn’t half seem a long time since I’ve seen the BBC Breakfast News. Anyway, back at The Wire, one of the main characters had been fired for using well intentioned but illegal methods, and he was given a traditional detective’s wake in an Irish bar, and quite simply his Sergeant’s speech about him brought a tear to my eye. By and large I’m not a big telly watcher, but I have grown to love those types of series where the plot stretches over many episodes. Having “invested” 20 hours in “The Killing” and well over 60 in “The Wire”, stories that are done and dusted in an hour or 90 minutes seem unsatisfying and thin-of-plot by comparison. Paradoxically enjoyment of such high quality programmes has actually served to increase my disenchantment with the medium for which they were made. My awareness of programmers giving us plenty of quantity but very little quality (or originality) is now heightened. Fortunately it matters less at this time of year as there is a greater amount of cycling to watch on TV anyway, and once we get to the Grand Tours (these are the ones known as the “Non-Peoples’ Grand Tours”) it can be quite time consuming watching all that there is to see.
Fortunately exercise usually overrides sleep deprivation type tiredness, so riding my 30 minute route to work was actually beneficial, especially my favourite stretch of the journey, the bit I’ve always called “The Rollercoaster”. In essence this is the 1km stretch of the B4176 from Tinkers Castle Road to Tom Lane, and it’s just a smoothly surfaced stretch of road undualting beautifully along a ridge overlooking Halfpenny Green Vineyards. I recall loving this little piece of road from the first time I was taken along it as a child, a rear seat passenger in the family car. Within a couple of hours of passing my driving test in March 1983, I borrowed the family Mini 1000, drove to school, dragged 4 mates out of the dining hall and took them with me for my first drive along the Roller Coaster. Whilst I loved every second I think they were quite frightened! Nowadays I cycle along it more than I drive, but I still love it in either direction and will always use it as a commuting route if I can afford to add half an hour to my journey.
After a couple of hours in the office I upped and left onto another well ridden route, from work to the dentist. Today was “D Day”. The tooth that has been troubling me since December, even hospitalising me for a night in February, was to be extracted subject to the state of the gum which has been swollen in varying degrees as a result of the mysterious underlying infection. Although I was a little later leaving the office than planned I still went the slightly longer, hillier and more scenic route down Camp Hill, Stourton Hill etc, and still managed to arrive in Stourbridge 5 minutes early. The “good” news was that the swelling on my gum which has been going up and down relentlessly in spite of antibiotics was down, enabling Iain the dentist to administer three litres of local anaesthetic into the lower gum and jaw on my left side, thereby numbing tongue, nose and brain. Even so, I clearly felt the moment when the tooth was finally, and fatally, released from it’s home of 40 plus years as dentist and pliers waggled it alarmingly from side to side and a sharp alarm shot down a nerve or two that hadn’t fully succumbed to the freeze. As a root filled molar it was not expected to come out in one piece, nor to be so well bedded in, but come out in one it did, and as soon as it was revealed in all it’s bloody glory the source of my months of discomfort was obvious - the infection had been eating away at the bone itself and extraction had been the correct course of action. The same thing probably could not be said about my decision to cycle to the surgery as per usual. As I may have mentioned before, riding a bike after dental treatment is good as it helps to more quickly dissipate anaesthetic if any has been applied. However, I had failed to consider that it might also hinder the clotting of the blood in the cavity after a tooth has been removed. Furthermore I’d omitted to take into account that I would be required to bite down on a swab staunching the blood flow from that cavity for half an hour afterwards. “How” I asked any member of staff within earshot “am I going to gasp for breath through clenched teeth”. In the end I encountered no problem with either blood or breath, but I did make a mental note that sometimes I might better serve myself by allowing the freeze to linger a little longer in my system. This thought occured to me as I approached home and started to become more fully aware of the effects and temporary gum damage caused by having a well established gnasher weedled and yanked from it’s socket.
My cyclist’s mettle was actually well tested on my way back from Stourbridge. When I got back on my bike outside the dental surgery the temperature had halved to around 5°, and the rain was coming down quite heavily.However, on short journeys like today’s I actually find this type of weather strangely invigorating, and once you are soaked through there is a certain delight in riding through the deepest puddles and staying wet. It must look strange to motorists, esconced in their vehicular comfort, seeing a soaking wet cyclist riding with an inane grin on his face.
My legs are feeling passably ok but are truly ready for a day or two off now I think, I’m limping towards our Champs Elysee. Indeed Lionel Birnie made me aware that I needed to move my mental goalposts today - having ridden 20 stages I had convinced myself that tomorrow, Friday, would be my 21st and last. However, an LB Tweet reminded me that GTs start on a Saturday and finish on a Sunday, and that my decision to ignore rest days will not change this. So it’s a 23 stage GT for me now and Saturday will have to be a ridiculously early start so as not to detrimentally affect our scheduled trip to London, when we will be taking Amelie and the children to see the Crown Jewels in The Tower and as many of the famous outdoor sights as we can fit in. Tiring though that may be, I’m too close to our Champs now to quit!
Roll on Sunday.
Day Tripper - People’s Grand Tour day 19
Early start (and an early blog post), familiar route and a short ride today - well, a 1 hour ride to stay within my “minimum PGT ride threshold” - because we’re having a day out in Aberdovey and introducing our French guest Amelie to the British seaside. So the car boot is loaded up with food and “toys” (balls, bats, buckets and crab lines), and by 8.30am we’re planning to be on our way, although it will be nearer nine without a shadow of a doubt. I quite like these trips, even though they make for a fairly long and tiring day, because Paula tends to drive, Rom sits in the front passenger seat (because it minimises her travel sickness) and I get to “rest my eyes” in the back whenever that feeling grabs me. The main downside is my tendency to over indulge in the sweets and snacks that get passed around, and worse than that tea tonight is sure to be fish and chips.
At least on this occasion the People’s Grand Tour commitment has forced me onto my bike early to pre-burn some of those unnecessary calories off. The harder, clockwise route up to Tuck Hill should see to it that I’m ready to eat crap AND to snooze en route to the seaside, once my finger tips and toes have recovered from the bite the cold air gave them. So that’s it, a short ride - not often I’m finished before 7.30am - and a matching, short blog.
Have a lovely day y’all.