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Le Jog Day 10 The Final Chapter

Le Jog Day 10 The Final Chapter

Tain to John o' Groats 89m 6h7m15s 14.54mph average

Total 904.3m

Our final day dawned bright and sunny. Quite remarkable because we knew that big storms were due for this area from the next day. The route north followed the dramatic eastern coastline but with a variable wind and undulating road it was not an easy day. We all knew that for the second day running there would be one evil climb somewhere in the middle. 'Watch out after Helmsdale' was the warning...... 

We stopped in Helmsdale for a brief coffee, as there were very few places open on a Sunday and then the fun started. The first skirmish was a steady 5% climb out of town for half a mile, followed by a brief flattening out. Then came what we thought was the main event with a 10% climb for about 2 miles, but it was a steady climb which we took in our stride. Churchill commented how he felt cheated out of a proper climb but was soon to rue those words. One mile later there was a dramatic descent with a 90 degree bend at the bottom, immediately followed by a hairpin bend with a 13% climb on the other side. This was about a mile long - and was much like going up Kidd's Hill, in length and difficulty, but the real problem was how strength sapping it was. 

After this the road was undulating and quite windy until we changed direction for the last few miles into Wick. Then we had a tailwind and were really shifting. We stopped at Tesco for a quick meal (we had long found that supermarkets on the outskirts of towns give you a quick decent meal at a sensible price) and were ready for the final stretch, 16 miles to John o' Groats. By this stage Churchill was beginning to suffer and anything remotely uphill was becoming a challenge. Everyone pulled together and we finally reached the outskirts of town and stopped for a photo at the town sign. 

The final mile down to the harbour will long live in the memory. The realisation that we had reached the end was just amazing. The Saint was waiting for us and went ahead to film the final arrival. 

From my perspective I feel this has been one of the hardest challenges in my life but it was made achievable by having the company of 4 super companions and the support of the Saint without whom the whole thing would have been so much worse. We have laughed so much over the last 10 days you would not believe.. In spite of our West Coast drenching we were remarkably lucky with the weather. Bad weather throughout would have been purgatroid - a new word coined by Saint but it sounds right! 

Summary

Ox (Ian Anderson) - super strong throughout, may need some new bib shorts !

Brace (Mark Jordan)- creaking bottom bracket, creaking right knee, (one of the 'limpers')  but never wavered and stayed very strong. 

Wobbler (Brad Williams) - creaky knees (the other limper) but always prepared to laugh from his belly ( you have to see the video when we can get it uploaded!!) 

Cling On (David Ricketts) - chuffed to bits to have finished and always maintained his steady pace. Will dine out on this achievement for many years to come!

Saint (Emma Alden)  - what can I say - indispensable!! Did so much behind the scenes to make the ride a pleasure for the rest of us. Thank you so much from all of us. 

Churchill (Steve Alden)  - Totally knackered!! But is he still bobbing his head ?  OH YES!!!!

 Photos here

 

Le Jog Days 8 - 9

Le Jog Days 8 - 9

Day 8

Dumbarton to Spean Bridge 101.18m 6h49m04s average 14.84

Total so far 728.96m

What a difference a day makes!!

Today we had virtually wall to wall sunshine although being so far north it has been quite cold. We were delayed at the start when Churchill realised he had a puncture. Further investigation revealed not one but two Dumbarton thorns had pierced right through the tyre. The first one was easy to spot but Brace's finger found the other!

Dumbarton is just on the West side of Glasgow, but is only a short distance from Loch Lomond. In bright sunshine the two hour ride along the lakeside road was amazing. We had to stop for a photo call to capture the scenery. Ox took a picture on Wobbler's
camera and he had to ask how to change the camera angle. 'Move the camera'  came the reply!!

Once we left Loch Lomond we started the climb into the Highlands - for over 5 miles, fortunately interrupted by a stop at the Crianlarich Hotel for a snack as there were no towns for the next 36 miles.
Luckily Saint stopped to join us and we were able to put on extra layers as in spite of the sun it really was very cold. We then carried on to the top, where the scenery was truly breathtaking, with high mountains all around, small lakes dotted about and the road rolling ahead of us. There was one more big climb near the ski area before the drop into Glencoe and some of the views here were stunning. The descent was fast and furious, and even Cling On got wind  burn
with his brakes glowing - at one point he thinks he may have hit 16
mph!

We stopped for tea and cakes in a tea shop in Glencoe village before
crossing the Loch and heading for Fort William, with Wobbler setting a very strong pace and the group functioning as an effective peloton. The last 10 miles to Spean Bridge was rolling with one final climb past the commando memorial to our B&B.

By mutual agreement, yesterday must have been one of the worst ever days cycling for any of us, but was today one of the very best?

Oh Yes!!

 

Day 9

Spean Bridge to Tain 86.34m 5h29m16s 15.73mph  average

Total so far
815.3m

Last night's B&B was the best accommodation yet. Our hosts kept shaggy, horned highland cattle which were totally friendly and happy to eat toast! The location was just North of Fort William under the shadow of Ben Nevis, so stunning scenery as well.

We awoke this morning to a thick blanket of mist as we were quite close to Loch Lochy. It was also very cold, about 4 degrees. We set off suitably wrapped up and by the time we rode through Fort Augustus the sun was shining. We then followed the West bank of Loch Ness, keeping our eyes peeled for signs of any strange beasts. Local reports did
suggest 5 strange beasts, but this has not been confirmed. The road here is surprisingly undulating so was quite challenging.

After a morning tea stop in Drumnadrochit we elected to go cross country to avoid going through Inverness. Here we found the one true monster of the day - the climb out of town. It had an average gradient of 15 % and was about a mile long but with the cumulative fatigue it was a really tough test. Some sections were very steep but we all got up - even the Ox had to use his granny ring but stayed seated whilst everyone else was standing on the pedals (except Brace who managed it even without a granny ring). The real reason Ox remained in the saddle was that he was hoping no-one would notice his bib shorts. He was wearing his special Ann Summers bib shorts again, but rightly decided to wear a second pair on top. The problem was that these were on inside out!! At least this way he got an extra days use out of them!

Once North of Inverness we had arranged a tea stop with some Help for Heroes supporters, close to the Cromarty Bridge. As we approached the Bridge we were cycling as a fast peloton, as one in perfect harmony. Everyone knew where the meeting point was and Brace was pushing hard at the front. Unfortunately he completely ignored the signs and bunting that had been put out for us and shot round the roundabout to go over the Bridge, closely
followed by Wobbler, whilst Churchill and Ox could only look on in dismay as they went the opposite way. Cling On came to the rescue and just managed to stop them going over the bridge and back to Inverness.

Tea and buns had been laid on for us and several local cyclists also met us there - they all seem to have done Le Jog at some stage so they really understood what we were doing.
After the very welcome tea we cycled the last 20 miles to Tain like an express train, alongside the Cromarty Firth led by the Ox.

So we now just have one day to go!!

 

Photos Here

 

Cast List

Ian Anderson - now known as 'the Ox' - for his formidable power over any terrain and in any circumstances.

David Ricketts - after tenaciously sticking to the back end all day yesterday - now known as 'Cling On' Cling On clung on as only a cling on can!

Brad Williams - needs no introduction as he is the legendary 'Wobbler' and has already lived up to his reputation.

Mark Jordan - now known as 'The Brace' after hobbling everywhere the day before the ride with a purpose made knee brace pretending to be injured before wiping the floor with us on his bike. Whilst riding if you hear the command 'Brace! Brace! ' it means that Mark has another puncture!

Emma Alden - now known as 'The Saint' for her amazing efforts behind the scenes, driving the van, making sure everyone has a proper breakfast, loading and unloading and generally being completely fantastic!

Steve Alden - now known as 'Churchill' - because of his natural leadership and organisational skills. NO - it is because he nods his head when he rides - just like the dog on the insurance advert - Oh Yes

 

 

Le Jog Days 5 - 7

Le Jog Days 5 - 7

Day 5

Runcorn to Kendal 82.61 m. 5h49m14s. Average speed 14.15mph 

Total so far 447.16m 

It was great last night meeting up with Fiona B. who has been working here for the last 2 months. She was happy to show us the giant chimney stack where she works, on our way to Frodsham for an excellent meal. This morning's breakfast however was not so good because the hotel did not get their milk delivery. That didn't affect Churchill or the Saint who missed breakfast altogether but the others had to make do with what they could get. 

Everybody was a bit jaded today. The aches and pains were beginning to catch up with us. Both Brace and the Wobbler now have sore knees, whereas for Churchill and Cling On it is easier to list what doesn't hurt!! It was not hilly today but the wind had turned. The majority of the day was spent riding into a headwind. It was much colder than usual and intermittently there was driving rain. It was much safer getting out of Runcorn than getting in and we soon crossed the Mersey and on through the very busy areas of Widnes, St. Helen's and Ormskirk before heading towards Preston. We cycled through Preston in torrential rain but our Landlady this evening says it is not much better in bright sunshine. 

Churchill was so tired today that when he was cycling along a cycle lane he was totally unaware of his surroundings, and had a near miss with a cyclist coming the other way. They had been approaching each other for at least half a mile but he failed to notice him at all. They missed each other by inches! Did he get away with it - Oh Yes!! 

It was a good to see Lancaster which seems a really nice city, before we crossed into Cumbria and headed towards the lake district. We were still generally at a low ebb, partly because we had been told we had much further to ride than we really did - they just do not put mile markers around here. In desperation Cling On asked at a petrol station and found out that we only had 12 miles to go (about 10 less than we thought) - as we left Brace shouted to the attendant 'I think I love you'  but received a very bemused response. 

We then saw the River Kent and followed it as it gently wound it's way into Kendal. Churchill led them directly to their B&B where we were met by Yvonne, a bubbly German lady who insisted she would have been called Brunhilda except for a quirk of fate!! 

Kendal is a delightful town, and we have just had steaks all round with 3 bottles of wine and desserts for about £60 - astonishing prices once you start getting further north. 

Tomorrow we are looking forward to getting into Scotland but there is the small matter of the Lake District hills to contend with first. 

We are now about half way!!!

 

Day 6.

Kendal to Thornhill 96.72m 6h50m44s  14.13mph average 

Total so far 543.88m 

The Wobbler has been room sharing with Brace and today he let us all know what it was like having a Sikorsky helicopter in his room - not that Brace's snoring was affecting anyone else. Ox's snoring however has been described by Cling On as like an epileptic hippo. 

One thing we cannot generally complain about so far is the weather - and today has been no exception. We awoke to bright sunshine and although it didn't last all day it did least stay fine until we were out of the Lake District. We had one of the monster climbs over Shap Fell and Ox had a mechanical problem halfway. The others had to wait for 10 minutes at the top and got very cold in spite of the sunshine. 

At the bottom on the other side we stopped in Penrith at a Sainsbury's cafe. Brace hobbled across the store which was huge. When he arrived back his knee was quite swollen from his effort. He had walked across the store to find a toilet and came back to find it was in the cafe all the time!! 

The next town was Carlisle which took forever to traverse because we got caught by just about every traffic light. We had a plan to get to Gretna by back roads but it was difficult to find so the Wobbler stopped at a motel to ask. After some trouble we worked out where to go and the receptionist's face lit up when the Wobbler said we had been staying in their motels along the route - travelodge. Unfortunately we were standing in the reception of a Premier Inn!! 

We crossed into Scotland and then headed West to Dumfries - into a howling cold head wind until we finally reached our destination of Thornhill and a welcoming coaching Inn. 

Were we pleased to see it - Oh Yes!!

 

Day 7

Thornhill to Dumbarton 83.9m 6h2m37s 13.89mph average

Total so far 627.78m

WET, WET, WET!!!  is the only way to describe today. Torrential rain all day - until it got really wet! I have been drier swimming in my wetsuit!!

It all started quite positively with the Wobbler getting everybody going with his deadlines to departure then a photo shoot with the Saint (with us sheltering under the tailgate of the van).

The first 20 miles followed the Nith valley which is beautiful even in the rain. It didn't take long to reach our lunch stop in Kilmarnock, but we were already getting a bit cold. We had to cross some verges to get onto the road after checking some directions. I have never seen anyone bunny hop over a foot high railing before. I still haven't!! Ox McQueen tried and failed and ended up in a heap on the grass!! At least he wasn't badly hurt.

We piled into Asda for a bite to eat and basically just dripped everywhere. At least we warmed up a bit after fish and chips all round, and at that moment the Saint appeared with the offer of dry clothes. Cling On and Ox had been riding with shorts and at least Cling On took the chance to dress more warmly and more dry layers were added by several of us. Yet again generous members of the public gave us spontaneous donations to our charity (Help for Heroes).

The afternoon was tricky for lots of reasons - not only was it wet, windy and cold but we were heading for the Erskine Bridge to cross the Clyde. We wanted to avoid going too far into Glasgow itself so we went a scenic route which was harder to find as many junctions were not signposted. This slowed us down so we became wetter and colder still. We finally reached the Bridge when we realised that Lord 'Cling On' Lucan had disappeared. Wobbler and Brace went back to look for him and we had just got the Saint out to help look for him (while Churchill and Ox were sheltering from the rain in a garden centre) when he finally appeared. He had 2 punctures, but with the rain and traffic noise, nobody heard his shout and only realised a little way down the road.

Once we were back together we were freezing cold and shivering and our combined brains had completely turned to mush with the result that we tried to cross the bridge on the main carriageway to the great annoyance of all the drivers. Once the tailback was about a mile (Half way across) we had to carry our bikes over the crash barriers and onto the cycle path (which was officially closed - hence our mistake). It was a lot safer on the path.

With light failing we finally reached our B&B, to find they had a problem with the hot water. Churchill and Cling On ended up with cold showers but at least we were out of the rain. Luckily the limpers (Brace and the Wobbler) managed to sort out their water and later it was available for all!! 

Were we happy to finish today? Oh Yes!!

 

Cast List

Ian Anderson - now known as 'the Ox' - for his formidable power over any terrain and in any circumstances.

David Ricketts - after tenaciously sticking to the back end all day yesterday - now known as 'Cling On' Cling On clung on as only a cling on can!

Brad Williams - needs no introduction as he is the legendary 'Wobbler' and has already lived up to his reputation.

Mark Jordan - now known as 'The Brace' after hobbling everywhere the day before the ride with a purpose made knee brace pretending to be injured before wiping the floor with us on his bike. Whilst riding if you hear the command 'Brace! Brace! ' it means that Mark has another puncture!

Emma Alden - now known as 'The Saint' for her amazing efforts behind the scenes, driving the van, making sure everyone has a proper breakfast, loading and unloading and generally being completely fantastic!

Steve Alden - now known as 'Churchill' - because of his natural leadership and organisational skills. NO - it is because he nods his head when he rides - just like the dog on the insurance advert - Oh Yes

 Photos here

LEJOG Sunday Lunch

LEJOG Sunday Lunch

"We'll be at the Severn Crossing for coffee and cakes at 11am" they said - I foolishly thought they were still working on BST.

 

12:10pm they finally rolled across the bridge claiming strong winds and steep hills, by which time I was already heading towards the lunch rendezvous thinking I had missed them. A quick scout of the pubs in Monmouth brought me to the conclusion that Google recommendations are rubbish, and I quickly changed the venue. If you are contemplating doing LEJOG yourself - I can now highly recommend stopping for lunch at the Robin Hood Pub in Monmouth.

 

The boys rolled into town at 1:45pm with Emma arriving simultaneously in the support wagon, and with the bikes stowed safely in the beer garden, there were instant demands for full fat coke; crisps; and directions to the nearest little boys room.

 

An almost universal vote for steak and ale pie was followed by more coke and sticky toffee pudding (albeit with a loud request for a spotted dick from Steve). All this fuel was washed down with stories of near misses with taxi cabs and high speed tours around the car park in order to take yesterdays daily mileage from 99.6miles to 100. New nicknames have now been endowed on each of them, with Emma being regarded by all as "the Saint".

 

The goal of John'o'Groats draws them ever onwards, and discussion was had as to whether it would be acceptable to fill the very last water bottles with beer so the party could start early on the final day. Once they were suitably fuelled, photographed, and restocked with Snickers bars, we sent them on the way for the final 40miles of the day. It was great to meet up with them all. 

 

Three days in and they are doing well, demonstrating once again that there is nothing a well trained club member cannot do, providing there is a promise of alcoholic oblivion at the end of the journey.

 

Andy Lennox

Le Jog Days 1 - 4

Le Jog Days 1 - 4

LeJog Day 1 

Land's End to Okehampton 100.04 miles 6h28m58s average speed 15.51mph.

We started just after 8.30 after the obligatory photos at Land's End. Ian had bought a new bike at 12 days notice when his original Ribble bike (actually hewn from solid rock) had finally died and was deemed beyond repair. He was therefore making adjustments right to the last second. As we started he realised the saddle wasn't right and he had left his glasses behind, so our first pitstop was after less than a mile to get him sorted. The other problem was that he has always used Campag group sets, and the new bike was Shimano which is sufficiently different to cause trouble until he got used to it. So the very first significant hill after 6 miles required a gear that he just couldn't find, the chain came off and jammed and we had another lengthy pit stop!! Remarkably another lad (also riding LeJog) had a chain problem at exactly the same place at the same time so a large group of cyclists were hanging around the roadside.

The only rule we had made before setting off was that everyone should get new tyres to reduce the risk of unnecessary punctures. So guess what? Yes - the only old tyre in the whole group had the only puncture of the day. Mark got it changed quite quickly but it happened on the most exposed part of Bodmin Moor with a howling crosswind so by the time we got going we absolutely freezing.

In spite of taking the most direct route along the A30 it was still a very hilly ride. The 4 mile long hill as we approached Okehampton was expected but still tough. The steepest climb of the day was a mini Cobb Lane in the final half mile to our night stop at the Youth Hostel. At the top we realised we had done 99.6 miles so we cycled round the car park several times to make it 100 miles before we stopped.
Sad - or what?

 

LeJog  Day 2

Okehampton to Burnham on sea 77.50m 5h7m44s average 15.11mph

Total so far 177.53m

There is a cast list at the end of this report so you know who I am talking about.

Day 2 started much brighter than yesterday. The sun was shining and everyone was up in time for an early breakfast sorted for us by the Saint. It turned out that the Tour of Britain was finishing in Okehampton today so there were many cyclists at the Youth Hostel, but there were also road closures in place which fortunately didn't affect us.

Today we kept off the major roads and were rewarded with generally low traffic levels. There was one kamikaze tractor driver who managed a 90 degree left turn into a field at speed while the Ox was trying to draft him on the way to Crediton. Minor roads does of course mean monster hills, and today's special was Cadbury Hill on the way to Tiverton - 3 miles long with a similar incline to Kidds Hill made it quite special, but having a vintage car tour going the opposite way was quite spectacular. There were about 30 or so pre war motors, and most of the drivers gave us a cheery wave. I distinctly heard a young passenger in an old car shout something about old gits on new bikes though.

We stopped in Tiverton town centre for a bite to eat, and received our 3rd spontaneous public donation to the charity ( that is £12 so far). We then took a detour to visit Churchill's sister to find the Saint already there. We were treated to another tea break as well as a delightful ride along the narrow Devon back roads which also included encouragement from the local youngsters. Single track roads with steep descents and climbs to match were about as far away from yesterday's riding as it was possible to get. Only Cling On struggled and came down the hills with his brakes glowing red hot!

We then had a faster ride on into Taunton then Bridgewater where we planned another break. Before we got there though, Brace had another puncture, and we then had the comical scenario of 5 men changing an inner tube. Unfortunately Brace's pump was not suited to the type of valve he had, and after fully pumping it up, twice it released the valve insert and lost all the air. Luckily we had spare pumps and we eventually got it fixed.

After our tea break in Bridgewater, The Wobbler confidently shot off in completely the wrong direction, eventually realising he was heading for Minehead and not Bristol. Once on the correct route though we managed to reach Burnham on Sea for our next stop.


Cast List

Ian Anderson - now known as 'the Ox' - for his formidable power over any terrain and in any circumstances.

David Ricketts - after tenaciously sticking to the back end all day yesterday - now known as 'Cling On' Cling On clung on as only a cling on can!

Brad Williams - needs no introduction as he is the legendary 'Wobbler' and has already lived up to his reputation.

Mark Jordan - now known as 'The Brace' after hobbling everywhere the day before the ride with a purpose made knee brace pretending to be injured before wiping the floor with us on his bike. Whilst riding if you hear the command 'Brace! Brace! ' it means that Mark has another puncture!

Emma Alden - now known as 'The Saint' for her amazing efforts behind the scenes, driving the van, making sure everyone has a proper breakfast, loading and unloading and generally being completely fantastic!

Steve Alden - now known as 'Churchill' - because of his natural leadership and organisational skills. NO - it is because he nods his head when he rides - just like the dog on the insurance advert - Oh Yes

 

Le Jog Day 3
Burnham  on Sea to Leominster  100.55 miles 6h22m57s 15.75mph average.

Total so far 278.08m

We stayed at a great B&B which meant a late start as we had to have the full breakfast but it was well worth it. We headed off via Bristol at quite a good pace - only slowed down by 2 huge hills which seemed to go on forever. The first view in Bristol was the magnificent sight of the Clifton suspension bridge over the gorge. We eventually cycled underneath it before heading around the city to the old Severn Bridge which had a cycle path to cross the Severn. Unfortunately we came across literally hundreds of people who were also crossing by the same path. However they appeared to be dressed as dalmation dogs. On closer inspection it turned out they were actually meant to be cows. They were all on a sponsored walk for a local hospice but the connection to cows was never explained!! Because they were going the same way we had to slowly weave our way through dozens of small groups whilst also contending with the powerful cross winds. Cling on clung on to one of the groups by mistake and there was an anxious wait at the other end before he finally emerged unscathed!

We had now crossed our first international border successfully. Only the Wobbler was concerned about the visa requirements for entry to Wales but luckily there was nobody in customs to check and we got in safely.

The Welsh had been warned that we were coming and had resurfaced the entire road network which made a very pleasant change from what we were used to. The road from Chepstow to our lunch stop in Monmouth was delightful following the Wye valley and passing Tintern Abbey.

We met Andy Lennox and his charming wife Helen in Monmouth and put away huge numbers of calories. Of course Churchill could not resist commenting on seeing his desert 'Look at my Spotted Dick'

The final run via Hereford and Leominster was all up and down with the Ox leading the charge up most of the hills including one monster hill. Brace worked hard to keep Cling On going until we finally neared our destination when he started riding like a Cling On posessed.

They all asked Churchill 'Have we done 100 miles'

Oh Yes!!

 

Day 4

Ludlow to Runcorn 86.47m 5h21m27s 16.14mph average 

Total so far 364.55m 

We had a really good meal in plush surroundings last night in Ludlow and also sampled the delights of Butty Back beer, a Wye Valley speciality! It certainly got the Ox thinking so he turned out this morning with his Ann Summer's bib shorts that were completely see through. It was like following a bike rack! I have heard stories about the Ox and the Ass, but not the Ox's ass, and none of us will be able to sample 'Oxtail' soup without remembering! Having a crack at the front has taken on a whole new meaning and in the interests of transparency the story has been told in full! 

Brace really struggled with his knee all morning today and was in a lot of pain, being forced to virtually 'one legged pedal' to get by. Fortunately it settled later in the day but it has been quite worrying. By contrast Cling On shot off like a scalded Cling On and almost had to be restrained until he ran out of steam before lunch by which time he was clinging on!! 

It is always good to see some great views as you cycle. As we approached Shrewsbury the Ox pointed out the hill range named after him The 'Quantox' ( Quantocks). The Wobbler had a near miss when he was so dazzled by the appearance of the Ox in front of him that he almost didn't react to a pothole in the road. However it was he who had to shout Brace! Brace! to announce the only puncture of the day, which he changed in record time.

The team spent a happy few miles counting Churchill's 'bob count' and the record was 141 in a minute. They were all very pleased though, with his route today as it was gently rolling for the most part, and some great views in the Delamere Forest. All was well until we approached Runcorn, which appears to be a series of major roads joined  together by other big roads, and we really felt we were taking our lives in our hands as we switched from one dual carriageway to another. We got there in the end, to a fine hotel under the flight path, next to a railway station in the middle of a motorway network, to be greeted by the Saint, who yet again had checked us all in, organised food, got everyone's bags out and has been completely saintly. 

Have we had a good crack today? 

Oh Yes!!!

 

Photos are uploaded daily here