London-Edinburgh-London part 4 – I think we’ve gone the wrong way

I arrived at Barnard Castle and I met the physio, he’d traveled from Italy to offer his services as a volunteer to the riders. He gave me a pot of cream, it was down to the last dregs, so many other riders had been before me. He told me to rub the cream all over my knee, it would bring down the swelling and he continued to treat another rider. After this, he would tape my knee and this was my best hope for getting back to Loughton. I was full of ambition, hope, happiness, and strong will. I had made it over Yad Moss in really bad weather to get to him and now I had a chance to keep moving further. 

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My hero Mauro, taping up my knee at Barnard Castle

 

By the time I got fixed up the rain had stopped and our kit had dried out. On the way North this next part of the route was my doom day and everything seemed difficult but now with my knee taped up and my strong spirit I was managing to dig in and ride with renewed strength. It wasn’t easy but I was climbing hills and getting through the ride, I was even enjoying it. I laughed at myself for how my mind had become overwhelmed on day 2 but I was proud of myself for sticking with it and carrying on.

The kms to Thirsk rolled by and we spent a good few of them with Ivo, we had ridden with him on a number of occasions throughout the LEL journey. He mentioned an alternative route from Thirsk to Pocklington and said quite a few riders were planning to go this way. It cut out the Howardian Hills and this was very good news for my knee. This route was the 2013 LEL route, along the A19 to York. It seemed like a brilliant idea so when we arrived at Thirsk David and I discussed it and we agreed to follow this route. We didn’t have a GPS to follow but we had instructions and a hand drawn map, what could go wrong. 

We headed out from Thirsk and the sense of relief, knowing I wouldn’t have to climb those hills with my injured knee was massive. We charged off, chatting away and quickly found ourselves on a very busy A road with large lorries flying past. I clocked the road name and called out to David, “I think we’ve gone the wrong way”. We had been riding for about 20 minutes in the wrong direction. We had to double back and my heart sank, I began to think we might spend the whole night going wrong, losing time in our quest to make up time. We turned around and found ourselves back on the 2017 route but this time heading for the A19. The A19 was a different kind of pain and I’m still undecided if it was the really the easy option. The first section to York was 33km of straight road in the dark. It was like a double time trial with a 1000km warm up. Every time we passed a sign I prayed it would say York so we could turn off and give our legs and my head some relief. David did an incredible job of driving us on from the front, I was hanging on at the back.

York eventually appeared and we slowed down to pass through the city center, we stopped at a 24hr hour petrol station and met some other LEL riders who had also chosen to follow this route. They had the same hopes as us, shave a bit of time off here, get a bed for a few hours at Pocklington then it was the big push for the finish line, riding around 360km on the last day. 

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Trying to find our way through York City center with no route or map, Heather another LEL rider joined our train

We arrived at Pocklington with some time in hand so it gave us an opportunity to sleep there. When we woke we changed into fresh kit, topped up our packs with new snacks and recharged our batteries for the final big push to Loughton. We made the decision not to shower, it was in the interest of saving time, it was going to be a long day and night and maybe another day but time was now something we were watching very closely. 

Day 5 Pocklington – Loughton

Distance covered: 359.76km

Ascent: 1963m

Moving time: 18:50:16

Stopped time: 08:27:30

Average speed: 19.1kmph

The route from Pocklington to Louth was long, almost 100km and from my memory of the way North it was another tough section. The wind was blowing strong and again it wasn’t in our favor but we were full of optimism again, we had overcome so much to get here and this was carrying us up and over those climbs. We reached the Humber Bridge, and again it was a proud moment, we were really going South again. I did a Facebook check-in to notify family and friends who were now on tenterhooks, waiting by their phones for any snippet of news on our progress and how my knee was holding up. I was surprised to see an LEL rider fast asleep on the bridge, he was in a safe place but he was being battered by the wind and loud traffic was passing very close by. 

The next stretch of road along the Lincolnshire Wolds can only be described as grinding, this is how I remember it. The combination of the wind and hills made the going very slow and tough, we’d go up and we’d need to keep pedaling to go down again. The climbs were long and draggy and mixed up with some very steep ones, it was punishing on our very tired bodies. Up until now, my bike had performed perfectly well but my gear shifts started making an awful noise each time I changed, I was convinced my cable would snap at any moment. I called out to David, explained the problem and he advised me to be very gentle. I was nursing each shift with the slightest of touch and trying not to shift at all which was increasingly difficult amongst those hills.

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Fighting the wind as we rolled through the Wolds

I noticed a sign for Caistor ahead in 4 miles, it appeared to be a big town and I suggested to David we take refuge there, just 10 or 15 minutes, maybe we could find a bakery or somewhere to get coffee and have a quick break. My knee was OK, I was pushing with my left leg up the hills to compensate and the taping was doing a really good job but the wind was bearing down on me and I finally needed that emergency caffeine hit. It turned out Caistor didn’t run directly through the route and we didn’t want to detour so we continued on, I felt a bit deflated, I was ready to stop but just as we were about to ascend a climb we spotted a big cafe sign off to the left. 

They’d run out of cake but they made us some toast with jam. We spoke to the staff and customers, they were intrigued by all the bikes passing by and they asked what we were doing.

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Top of the Wolds Cafe, a welcome break from the unrelenting headwind

As we set off on the next stage towards Louth, we continued to climb and we continued to feel strong and confident. A man leaned out of the passenger window of a passing car and applauded us, he shouted out “Great Work”. At that moment in time, despite all the pain and suffering, it felt like the world was on our side, my knee was OK and I finally dared to believe I could complete this.

About 20km from Louth something unusual happened to me, I was descending on my drops and as I tried to lift my head back up at the end of the descent I had nothing, no strength there to lift my head back up and I almost lost control of my bike. The descent came to a gradual stop and I pulled over to the side of the road, I called out to David and tried to explain what just happened. I had no idea what had really happened, I said to David I could descend on my hoods, I was comfortable doing that, let’s press on to Louth.

To continue reading the final part of my LEL journey click here

I’ve taken on a number of cycling challenges this year to help raise money for Ambitious About Autism, if you’d like to make a donation you can here thank you

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