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