What the cycling God's can give with one hand they can take away with the other. After yesterday's excellent recovery ride, today was a return to a tougher day. But support from others made all the difference.
Last night my fantastic hosts Jonathan and Claire spent ages going through my route for today, making corrections to the Komoot route. They asked what I wanted most or at least, didn’t want. Given the experiences on days 1&2 I asked them to help me avoid any hills over 12%. 'You know it's the Peak District right? ' said Jonathan. I did, but I was hoping there would be some secret flat route into Derbyshire - spoiler alert, there isn't. After an hour of consulting Komoot and OS maps the route was altered to avoid the sharpest climbs, but unfortunately added 10km and 200m of climbing. I decided to trust their local knowledge.
It rained all night, so when I got up I fully expected them to say that I was on my own. Not only where they ready to ride in the rain, but they had roped in another friend Andrew to join us. On top of that, my friend Ieuan got up at silly O'clock, drove to Birmingham, got a train to Crewe and rode 16km to join me too. I'm honestly being stunned every day by how much effort people are willing to put in to help me on this ride.
Jonathan predicted today would be a ride of four quarters: flat on the Cheshire plane, some 'climby stuff', some rolling hills and some unknown ( he hasn't ridden that far into Derbyshire). He was spot on for parts 1-3. A decent intro was followed by a lot of climbing. Jonathan had also promised that the scenery would distract me from the climbs. Maybe that would be true if it wasn't for the thick fog and rain, which obscured everything. Instead what I got was a series of very long hills with no view in any direction, culminating in us reaching Flash, the highest village in Britain. The reward for all this effort was a lunch stop after 41km at a slightly odd cafe in the middle of nowhere.
The trouble with cafe stops in bad weather is that they tempt you into sitting longer. Both Ieuan and I were dancing on the spot outside after lunch trying to convince ourselves we weren't freezing (it's August FFS). The other three headed back home, job done. In fact they had gone above and beyond. Ieuan lead me away from the café on a series of ups and downs, which at least got us warmed up pretty quickly. We did have to negotiate some pretty terrible road surfaces and rain that made it hard to see. Not a great combination on steep unknown roads.
And then we entered Derbyshire and the rain cleared. We had views. We could relax a little and enjoy it. Ieuan had the good grace not to mention my slow riding on the hills and probably thinks I didn't notice he was riding up every hill in the big ring. He'll probably deny it, but when you have loads of time to stare at a rear cassette you notice things.
We made short work of the 55km after lunch, even having time for an extra coffee at Carsington water. When we rolled into Belper and my overnight Airbnb, we found my oldest friend Brian already there. He is taking over from Ieuan as the domestique tomorrow.
So 444km done with almost 8,400m of climbing. Just 925km to go over the next 8 days then.
Comedy moments of the day came this evening at the pub where Brian and I had dinner. My chicken burger came garnished with Monster Munch, actually in the bun. When we asked the barman if one of the desserts was any good, he paused for a moment then said 'well that's definitely a popular choice'. Classy place Belper.
Tomorrow is supposed to be a flat day according to Komoot. Then again Komoot lies like a politician being asked about expense payments, so who knows what tomorrow might bring.