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
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.
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'
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?