Updated: Oct 10, 2019
I'll admit it did feel a little silly staying in a Premier Inn just over the road from Bicester Village last night. Just 65km from home. But as I already wrote last night, it made sense and it also meant we started the day with breakfast at Rapha, which will surprise no one who knows me.
The guy making the coffee there said "where have you guys come from?" Me: "Hamburg" (beaming) "Oh yeah" Me: "Hamburg....in Germany" (with added emphasis ) "Yeah" Me: "it's 800km" (consternation) "Right. Sugar?"
This guy was like 'mate you guys are ten a penny. We had some proper cyclists in here last week'. For a brief moment, I was upset. Then I reminded myself that I didn't do this for external validation (then how come you published your blog you ask? Shut up you, stop pointing out the flaw in my argument before I've even finished making it, I say.) No, I am doing this for myself and Michael, so I shouldn't need praise from some random stranger. [Meanwhile at Rapha Bicester "did you see that bloke's face when I pretended 800km was a piece of piss. Priceless."] Anyway once we got on the road I wasn't sure whether Michael would want to smash it home as fast as possible or savour the last day. Perhaps he would be eager to get back to lazing around, making a mess and sleeping in bed till midday? It turns out that even 20-year-olds have their limits and he was restricted to a narrow band of effort. He could go one speed and no faster and had very little left in his legs. After one wrong turn from me and few 'where has my turning gone?' moments, we made steady if slow progress. The route home was lumpy, but there were no big hills. Nevertheless, we were climbing like that kid in the old Hovis advert with his basket full of bread for deliveries. Just after halfway we turned towards the village of Cropredy and a familiar jersey was spotted heading towards us. Here was a smiling Mark Tiff from Lanterne Rouge heading out to guide us home. And that he did, not only sitting on the front but picking up the pace to get us back into Warwick. It's this kind of small, selfless act that means so much to you when you are tired and want to get to the end. Michael and I both really appreciated the gesture. Very Mark. Very Lanterne Rouge.
The final roll towards Warwick got faster and faster as we could both sense the end and could use up what energy was left. Once we arrived in Warwick there was time for a brief coffee stop and then home. 800km in 8 days for me and 850km for Michael, but I am sure he will never mention the difference. I am going to save conclusions for a separate post. For now, I am happy to have finished, sad that it's over already and immensely proud of my son for completing.
Michael's Bit So, the final day arrived, and we began in the Rapha café. Fuelled by two tasty coffees and some porridge, the ride started well with no real issues to report. English roads are familiar, and the past week’s riding makes a simple 65km seem easy. Oxford’s roads are not great to say the least but I honestly didn’t care. The previous 780km had sapped all the power my legs had, yet there remained a thin band of speeds that if I rode in them, it was effortless. Sitting on the wheel of either Mark or my Dad, the kilometres flew by. Once we neared Warwick that was it, the thought of clean clothes and the reward of a sausage sandwich was enough to get me home. And then, the Warwick sign edged into view. We got a picture of course and then rolled into my hometown. I have truly never done something like this. The journey has been so much of everything - so challenging, so different and of course so much fun. Lots of ‘firsts’ too; I had never been to Belgium, I had never travelled so light, I had never even ridden over 100km. And yet it was evidently doable. Yes, I am 20 years old and yes, I have trained for a couple of months but really, is that so hard? What I’m trying to say is, if you’re tempted (or even inspired, if I’m really blowing my own trumpet) to do something like what we’ve done, do it. The amount of support we have received throughout the journey has been astounding. Positive comments on posts, personal messages, and in the case of the very kind Mark Tiff- a wheel to follow. This was not the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen someone achieve, nor the hardest thing I’ve seen someone do, but the point is: I did it. I have ridden the long way home.