An epic, hectic and eventful ride. Not that I expected it to be “easy” but it was much harder than I thought it would be.
Not a single drop of rain! And how I wished it could be cooler or even wet sometimes. Other remarkable things were: organisation, volunteers and the food! I really liked the lasagna, currys, dals and local dishes.
Accommodations were quite great as well. If only we had non-snoring rooms, that would be perfect. I leave here my suggestion to split the rooms and punish with disqualification any rider that self declares him/herself as non-snoring and gets caught snoring 😉
On the negative side, British drivers could be more considerate and road surfaces were in bad repair in several places. Nothing new to me but for foreigners it was a bit of disappointment.
Before the start I had the opportunity to meet two other Brazilians and later in Barnard Castle to meet the wife of one of them volunteering. BTW, the volunteers were amazing. My deepest gratitude to all of them.
Incredible the number of Indian riders, 120 ish apparently. I heard from one of them that there should be even more, ~ 150, if not for visa issues.
I didn’t use the drop bag service, it would only complicate my logistics, better have everything I wanted/needed right with me. Yet, I forgot in my backpack at Debden, my power bank and a bag with coin batteries and usb adaptors. Fortunately I didn’t need them.
Dehydration and saddle sore were always haunting us, I feared for the worse during the hot afternoons but fortunately I kept them at bay. I went changing bibs roughly every 500 kms and drinking constantly to the point of always being in need of a pee.
I’ve applied some lessons I learned during Miglia Italia, especially about wetting my jersey, cap and bluff during the hot weather.
Mostly done with Tor Hovland, yet we splitted sometimes when personal issues showed up. We managed to sleep 3 hours per night and at least one power nap during the day.
A brief summary of the stages. Mind you we had 20!(TLDR)
Stage 1, Debden to St Ives, 100 km
We started by 9:45, Sun 7th Aug, and we went fast. Actually I went even faster, so that the Norsemen would only catch me up at the control, for which I took a 41 min break. Lasagna and veggie casserole on the menu. All familiar roads since I lived in Cambridge for many years. Met Wyndham from Oxford.
Stage 2, St Ives to Boston, 91 km
We regrouped and left the control together. Soon they got behind again but reeled me back once in the open flat roads, since I was alone against the wind. The flatests roads by the way of the whole ride. We had to do a detour and it was choking to find out it was because of an accident with a rider. Sad and worrying to see a bicycle smashed and a lorry parked nearby. Don’t know the outcome. Then Tore Andre increased the pace. I tried to keep them at 30 km/s but for no avail. We splitted here and Tor and I kept going, sometimes having others as company. Again, a fast stage. We had a 44 min break in Boston.
Stage 3, Boston to Louth, 53 km
Started flat and then came the hills. We left Boston around 18:20 and arrived at Louth by 20:30. We were still keeping a good pace despite leaving the flatlands. A 43 min break in Louth.
Stage 4, Louth to Hessle, 58 km
Still one more stage before calling it a day. Started with a climb and then undulating roads. We crossed the Humber bridge in the night, nothing much to see, in a large group. We got to Hessle before 23:30. All seemed great so far. Excellent control. We spent 5 hours there with a good 3 hours sleep. It was 302 km for day 1.
Stage 5, Hessle to Malton, 67 km
Mon 8th Aug, by 4:30 we were already on the road and arrived at Malton before 8am. Breakfast was not the British breakfast Tor was hoping for so he suggested an eventual stop. I was fine but little did I know what would happen next. We took a 48 min break.
Stage 6, Malton to Barnard Castle, 113 km
We had a quick stop in Helmsley, coke and magnum for me. Several other rides stopped there as well. We would have the longest stage under plain sun, still, we were riding hard, especially when in strong groups. Secret control was around halfway, a welcome break. It was clearly a Yorkshire landscape now. Greener pastures than the day before. But we were still going hard, with many sharp climbs under heavy sun for which I refused to walk. And for that, perhaps, I paid the price. We got to Barnard Castle before 14:10 and I urged for toilets. Once I got one, I puked all the breakfast and whatever I’ve eaten during the stage. Nasty, but I immediately started to feel better. Told Tor to not wait for me. I’d take my time, eat calmly and take a good siesta to let the food settle in my stomach. Spent a worthy 2 good hours in Barnard Castle.
Stage 7, Barnard Castle to Brampton, 90 km
Feeling better but afraid to compromise the rest of my ride, I took it easy in what would be a long stage with two huge, long, steep climbs with 15% and 17% gradients, a detour from Yad Moss, whose road were blocked. Yet we heard rumors of riders taking that route. We had agreed before that unless hearing from the official organiser we wouldn’t do that lest it could imply disqualification. Nevertheless, I could climb confidently, it was not hot anymore, and whatever goes up, must go down, and I did, like a stone, yet a far cry from a kind like Tom Pidcock. I rode along Laurens, another Miglia Italia veteran, for the final 20 kms. He had suffered under the sun as well. At the control in Brampton, I found Tor again who looked surprised to see me not much behind after all. I had just a 30 min break there.
Stage 8, Brampton to Moffat, 74 km
We had the company of Paddy from Northern Ireland, who were familiar with those roads. We did a good pace, being a night ride. Stopped for the mandatory photo at the Scotland border. We got to Moffat control by 1am ish, another excellent stop, with great food and good beds. Day 2 had ended, with 344 km covered, now at the 646 km mark. We took a 4h35 break.
Stage 9, Moffat to Dunfermline, 111 km
Tue 9th Aug, by 5:45 we were on the road. One of the most beautiful stages (Yorkshire, despite my crisis, were wonderful too), still, a quite long one with a good climb to warm up. By the final kms to the control, we had the company of Blair, a young Scottish schoolteacher from Glasgow. His family were there in Dunfermline to welcome him. Dunfermline was likely the best control and I only wish I had the legs to be there for 2nd night but, we take what’s given. Yet, we spent a good time there, with a 90 min break, including a good power nap, shots of whisky and free sunscreen. At the 757 km mark, it was not actually halfway yet. The return leg would be even longer, just 782 km to go. We found Fintan there, another Miglia Italia veteran.
Stage 10, Dunfermline to Innerleithen, 81 km
Being unusually hot and sunny, at least for me at those latitudes, riding across Edinburgh was a bag of mixed feelings with precarious roads, intense traffic and some insensible drivers. My iPhone fell on a broken downhill road, luckily no damage. We stopped for an ice cream. Nick J, a fellow Cantabrigian rider, passed us. Once outside the chaos and up in the hills, we were greeted with calm and beautiful views. Finally at the pleasant control of Innerleithen, more of Scottish delicious traditional food. We took an hour break there.
Stage 11, Innerleithen to Eskdalemuir, 49 km
Though short, it was packed with 3 good climbs and Tor had his rear gear cable snapped after the first climb and told me to go. He took a good time to get it fixed. I kept going and without his company in the next stage too since I was foreseeing problems as my Di2 was running out of juice. I spent only 15 min at Eskdalemuir, enough to have a bowl of soup and learn how to pronounce “Eskdalemuir”.
Stage 12, Eskdalemuir to Brampton, 59 km
We had planned yet another stage before calling a day so I would meet Tor in Brampton again, hopefully. But it was an eventful ride for me. At the 917 km mark my carbon drop-end snapped at brake level, while pulling hard the brakes in a downhill to river Esk full of awful potholes. Miraculously nothing else happened. Managed to stop and felt the left hood soft. I crossed the border back in England. Once in Brampton, I had to sleep in the cold barracks outside, after a cold shower. We’ve reached the 947 km mark, with 301 kms for day 3. A 4h45 min break.
Stage 13, Brampton to Barnard Castle, 89 km
It was then Wed 10th Aug. I woke up because of the cold and soon found Tor awake for the same reason, a total coincidence since I hadn’t known what happened to him since his mechanic issue. Don’t know how much he slept but his gear cable problem was an hectic one. Two long hard climbs awaited us, the very same contouring Yad Moss, with now even harder gradients. But being in the morning it helped us, just. I could do the climbs without walking. Back to Barnard Castle, now in a totally different state, I enjoyed the control more, with a good 1h40min break, including, again, a good siesta.
Stage 14, Barnard Castle to Malton, 112 km
Another long, hard stage, under full sun. We were concerned at some point about where to get water but serendipitously supporters on the road offered it to us and several other riders that happened to pass there. We eventually found a pub: cider, coke and ice-cream for me. I was then Worried about my Di2 battery charge. At Malton I tried to find a charger, but no luck. Still, not yet to get desperate, at Hessle I would probably have better luck. We spent an hour and half at Malton control.
Stage 15, Malton to Hessle, 67 km
After the first climb my Wahoo lost GPS signal. Stopped to reset and let Tor go ahead. I saw Fintan pass, we’d join for the next day when I met him and Tor again in Hessle. Soon Di2 dropped to 5% and only rear gears were available. I became a “thrift-shifter”. Met and rode with Dave, ultra-marathonist, from south London. Chatting helped the time to pass and to forget my issues. Funny when he said LEL was much harder than a 100 km run, while I think that the only marathon I did was, by far, the worst and most difficult thing I ever did. Once in Hessle, a fantastic mechanic went the extra mile (actually a 10 min drive) and got me a Di2 charger. It would be our last night and though I always managed to sleep well, this time I was near to a very noisy snorer, anyway, I ended up sleeping, however I’d love 30 min more. But we wanted to finish, just 323 km to go. It was our shortest night stop, with just a 4 hours break. At 1217 km mark, 270 kms covered in day 4.
Stage 16, Hessle to Louth, 60 km
Thu 11th Aug. The Last day. Fintan joined us for most of it. Still hilly but with wonderful vistas. Just 50 min break at Louth.
Stage 17, Louth to Boston, 53 km
Mostly hilly but now reaching the flats to Boston. We three kept working together at a good pace. We were now in “let’s-finish-mode”. A break of 54 min in Boston, eating well with power naps to give time for the food to settle.
Stage 18, Boston to St Ives, 89 km
Issue again with Wahoo at the start. Let Fintan and Tor go ahead. Then I went fast and hard to try to reel them back. Rode a while with Nick, from Switzerland. We had agreed to regroup in Crowland. Got there and didn’t find them, they took a wrong turn! Worth the wait, we had shandies with sundaes, Fintan’s courtesy. Likely one of the top three things during the whole event. Despite the heat, we kept a good pace, it was all flat anyway. I set myself to finish before 108 hours and managed Tor to bite the bullet, after all, he was the one who told me we are not getting younger :-). Fintan was in no such hurry and dropped himself, he wanted a long break in St Ives while we took just 50 min. I was on all the familiar roads again.
Stage 19, St Ives to Great Easton, 70 km
I was at home, slow at first while too hot. Crossing Cambridge is always a pleasure for me, no matter what, though I was always keeping an eye on the clock. Bikes still rule in Cambridge and the drivers are more considerate, if not by nature, definitely by necessity. After that, it was like my usual commuting route and then after Saffron Walden, a nice tarmac in very exciting roads with switchbacks. Finally at the control in Great Easton, I just wanted the stamp, not even a photo I remembered to take. Didn’t last 5 min there if so. Hurried Tor to the point he ended up forgetting his bottles, really sorry about that. He calls me crazy for riding halfway LEL with a broken drop-end, says the one who rode the last 50 kms without a single drop of water!