Updated: Oct 10, 2019
I didn't get to ride the whole way here and missed out the only real hills of our trip. Michael did ride it though and in his honour, his blog entry comes first. I was woken up by a crack of light through the curtains. A glance over and sure enough Sir Crashalot had gone home on a train. It's all well and good smashing through your personal distance records alongside someone else, but to do it alone was a different mental challenge. My goal: get as far as possible. Dressed, checked-out, and clipped in, I began. I was also using a Garmin for the first time too, which I swear is just a repurposed Tamagotchi. I couldn't help but compare London's bike paths to the others I've been riding for the past week. London gets a solid: 'meh'. Initially, I followed the Garmin religiously. One bypass and four missed turns later I learnt to take its directions with a handful of salt.
I felt more a part of the bike today, which sounds like a good thing, but it was more like having an empty head and just watching the 'one-two', 'one-two' of my legs beneath me. Still, London faded and the hills beckoned. I ascended. At that point, I had to recognise the lack of power I had in my legs. I paused at what I thought was the top, and sure enough, the view was gorgeous. However, I rounded the next corner and (pardon my french) the road just fucked off. 13%,14%,15% even. Suffering ensued. I crested the hill and practically fell into a corner shop, a bottle of water disappeared and I inhaled half a pot of pringles. I pushed on, and eventually, thankfully, I descended. Villages flew by, as did the 80km marker. At the bottom, I joined a bike path and the dust in the distance indicated that I wasn't alone. Reunited with the old man and Rachel (my Mum) too!
The final part of the journey was hard. Really hard. We pulled in to Rapha Bicester and the decision was made to stop for the day. 110km with hills and traffic, not bad. Tomorrow we will finish the journey, one week, 860km, 4 countries, and a lot of fast food. I've loved it, and it has truly been an adventure. Time to plan next year's?
Paul's Bit. After yesterday's accident, I was left with very few options. * I could call it a day (not going to happen). * I could try and find a mechanic to true the wheel on a Sunday morning (seems unlikely and there's no guarantee that the wheel isn't also damaged ) * I could wait until Monday, get it fixed and ride 160km home after that (I doubt my ability to do that in the limited time left) * I could ask Rachel to bring me another bike to London (completely bloody unreasonable even by my standards) * I could go home, get another bike and go back to meet Michael somewhere. I chose option 5. I got the earliest train home to Warwick, got picked up at the station and went home and changed my bike. Within half an hour I was back on the train heading South with Rachel in tow. I knew that riding alone would be a challenge for Michael but I also know my son, I know how determined he can be. Without his Dad to hold him back, Michael was motoring along and had already left London long behind by the time I got on the return train. So a tactical decision was made to get off at Bicester and ride the route in reverse until we meet up with him. My legs felt surprisingly good as Rachel and I made our way south on the route and we met up with a smiling Michael on a section of National Cycle Route 57 called the Phoenix Trial near Thame in Oxfordshire. It's a mixture of tarmac and gravel and it almost felt like I was back in Germany. Michael had clearly been going well, although hadn't enjoyed the Chiltern hills. We turned around and headed back to Bicester where we intended to make a decision about whether or not to push to the finish.
Even though we stopped to refuel, I felt very tired and sore and before we had reached Bicester I had decided I didn't want to push to the finish. Michael had already had another 100km plus day and seemed happy to agree to stop. I am pretty sure he could have pressed on and I felt bad for making him stop. Once we had actually stopped though I was already starting to feel that regret you get, post ride when you think you could and should have gone further.
However, Michael was easily bribed with a coffee at Rapha Bicester and the idea of finding somewhere to watch Man United v Chelsea. Rachel decided to press on, but within 25km she was forced to stop by torrential rain and had to get the train back again the rest of the way.
On reflection I would definitely rather finish the final 65km feeling OK rather than force myself complete in pain, soaking wet. I don't want that to be the abiding memory of the trip. so we will get an early night and then set off for home. I realise there's a distinct lack of humour and stats in today's post. I definitely have mixed emotions: I'm going to finish 50km short of doing the whole ride and I know that is going to eat away at me. Of course, that makes no sense. It was still a great adventure. Perhaps a once in a lifetime trip with my son. And that's the point - the little git is never going let me forget it is he. I'm going to be an old man in a nursing home and he's going to say "remember that time I rode 50km further than you".