Keen to continue the adventure, I felt surprisingly fresh and awake at 3am. I start with Chris and at 4am we leave the campsite and start our journey to Scotland. Davina now has the luxury of sleeping in til 6am and packing up all my kit!
We ride out of York, past nightclubs as the young and foolish (oh to be young and foolish again) are leaving, walking home from partying all night. Chris is an ex-rugby player, not the obvious route to becoming a rider but he is super strong and we are setting off at a fast pace. It seems odd working hard at this hour on the bike. In fact the first 40 miles are so quick I’m struggling slightly to keep it up.
The first feed is very welcome and the organisers have responded well to our requests for more savoury foods, we had so much sweet stuff yesterday. I’m also riding with Carl today, both him and Chris rode the Tour de Force last year and are both going to be at the Cent Cols in June. We are working hard together and today is going well. I’m happy to stick with this and maybe nail it towards the end.
The group of 6 gets whittled down and by halfway it’s down to 3 of us. Just before the halfway feed my gears are slipping slightly on the larger sprockets. At the feed (which is also the overnight stop for the 4 day riders) I ask if there is a mechanic around. There was not. No worries I thought it will hold out! A few miles down the road and while changing down on an incline my gear cable snaps. The derailleur defaults to the small cog (highest) in my case the 11 spocket. I’ve got about 15 miles until the next pit stop, so I have no option but to attempt to get there. Luckily this section is not too hilly, and although hard work I just about make the climbs, ridiculously over geared. At the feed the last section has really taken it out of me and I pray there is a mechanic there. Unfortunately not. One of the organisers phones for one but he is an hour away. I (seemingly) have no choice but to wait. It would be impossible to complete the next 85 miles in that single gear. Reluctantly I wave goodbye to Chris and wait.
One hour actually turns out to be 2 hours and any hope of a good time has vanished. The mechanic arrives. Unfortunately he does not have a Campagnolo cable, so I’m screwed. The best he can do is to adjust the rear mech limit screw to lock the chain in a bigger spocket. It only goes one up to the 13! He looks at me with a ‘there’s no way you can finish in that gear’ expression. I have no option, I set off, knowing the profile gets nasty, with 2 gears a 50/13 and a 34/13. I know the next 4 or 5 hours are going to be unpleasant.
Through Alnwick and the scenery gets severely beautiful, it would be such a pleasant place to ride. However I have to concentrate so hard. I must get a good run up to any climb. So I can afford zero recovery on the flat, I must maintain maximum momentum. The climbs start and it’s hard on the legs in so higher gear. Every crest of a incline and I’m gurning like Niki Sorenson is in town. It’s a long 50 mile stint until the final feed stop. I pass riders, as I’m forced to attack climbs early to have any hope of getting up. I try and offer encouragement to riders, ’not long now’ etc. Most of the time I get a desperate ‘how long to go?’ response. We are nearing the end of a mammoth task and everyone has gone beyond their limits.
My Garmin batteries ran out after 13 hours, (so much for the 17 hours on their spec!) I wasn't using mapping or live tracking. Luckily I had my old device with me to record the last 43 miles.
In the panic of leaving the last feed I forgot to re fill my bottles. I am out of water and realise I will struggle to make it to the next stop. I decide to stop and ask for water. A lady in a doorway comes to my rescue. Water is so important and vital, otherwise the power fades so quickly. I ask her probably the dumbest question she would hear ‘how far is Scotland?’ The reply brings a smile to my weary face, ‘this is Scotland’. Hydrated and with the extra impetus of knowing I’m over the border, I power on to the final feed. Now only 32 miles to go.
I do not have a route profile on me but I know there are 3 big climbs in the final section. The first is steep but with a lot of weaving and using both sides of the road I make it up. The 2nd one I see from a distance. Christ, I thought, if we are going that way I’m screwed. We went that way, (it's called Hungry Snout!). I get a third of the way up, but I am worried such strain might do some serious damage to my knees. Also if I snap the chain it’s still a long walk to Edinburgh! I had to get off. I walk 20 metres over the steepest section and jump back on. The final climb of the event is the 6kms of Redstone Rigg. I am determined to ride it. I try and get a good run up but it’s so windy and exposed that I need to drop to the 34/13 on the flat before the climb. I weaved across both lanes (looks funny on the Garmin map) and luckily there is no traffic as it would be impossible if I would have to ride in a straight line. Over the top, now it’s just 24 miles down to the Edinburgh.
It’s nearly 8pm by the time I finish, still light, just. Two and a half hours later than planned. Poor Davina has been waiting so long. I’ve tried to keep her updated but she has been so worried. She cries her eyes out when I get to her. I actually feel fine, gone so far beyond tired. It's been a very special two days.