For those that like a story to have a happy ending - this one does: Richmond welcomed us with open arms.
I certainly wont forget seeing our names written in chalk on the road outside Jacko’s parent’s house, a bountiful, delicious barbecue, the many friends and family that stopped by to cheer us on or the whole keg of real ale we had waiting for us. All of you are wonderful and it was fantastic to see you all. It was a terrific end to a torrid day.
I think I’d probably heard the phrase ‘sense of humour failure’ before, but never before has it been more useful. It’s an expedient way of saying I want to have a paddy but I know I’m now apparently classed as an adult and that would be ‘inappropriate’ - today there were a number of failures of various senses of humour. I will set the scene:
In the lejogs camp there has been a running joke that today would be a difficult day; that Jacko had routed us - perhaps unnecessarily - over every hill in Yorkshire. As testament to this the team jersey has a route map on it - a simple straight line joins ever stop… every stop apart from the Rossendale to Richmond leg; this leg is joined by a meandering S shape as it includes part of the Grand Depart from this year’s Tour de France. With ample trepidation we departed the farmhouse in Rossendale after a delicious breakfast.
Hill 1: Burnley Rd I might be able to list the hills - maybe; I can only do so with the weary words of a shell shocked soldier, recalling after the fact a meaningless blur, trying to impose order on chaos and extract meaning from madness: The complaints started early from the team; at which point Jacko stated that there were only 6 hills to climb today and we’d just done one of them. This seemed manageable. As we would soon find out, this would hinge keenly on what Jacko felt was a hill, and not an ‘undulation’.
Hill 2: Skipton Old Road I can’t honestly remember this one. I happened less than 12 hours ago, I hope a similar protective amnesia will soon rob me of the rest of the ordeal. Henry tells me that there was heather, that it was purple and quite nice.
Hill 3: Col de Cray Adam, Amy and their daughter Hannah (also Jacko’s god-daughter) formed our support team in the morning; it was fantastic to have their enthusiasm at our backs and to be met with delicious sandwiches at lunch - less so the knowing nods that passed between them. Col de Cray was one of these moments - a hill they all knew, so much so that Amy was stood halfway up to capture the exact moment that athleticism gave way to the survival instinct. It was a tough climb but I told myself it was the worst there was that day and we carried on.
On the way down the hill we say a 17% sign - much as you might do seeing the same sign on a bottle of wine, we wondered if this was entirely wise. Henry celebrated with a puncture. In a moment of near-professionalism we were able (via the expertise of the support team) to pass the necessary equipment back up the hill to Henry so he could fix his tyre and continue.
At lunch we changed our support team to Henry’s parents who diligently followed and documented then last 3 ascents of the day.
Hill 4: Buttertubs At this point the thematic crescendo of the day was clear - there would be no let up, Jacko would use ‘views’ as a justification for any amount of pain and Yorkshire wasn’t going to be very forgiving. There were 6 ‘hills’ but countless undulations between then. Buttertubs I think is a local euphemism along the lines of ‘extraordinary rendition’ or ‘highly kinetic interview’ - it sounds fairly harmless, but covers something particularly painful. Halfway up the hill I saw another 17% sign. I’d just seen how unmanageable this was to descend. Every part of my lower body was in vocal agreement that whatever I was currently doing should stop immediately, my knee excelled itself in producing a new kind of pain. The hill continued.
As a slightly bizarre counterpoint, the road is still painted with the markings from the Grand Depart.
I tried to imagine my name was Cav, or Froome or Sky or Allez, they all seemed popular chaps and the road willed them all on - at one point the road declared “Better to have ridden and lost in Yorkshire than never to have ridden in Yorkshire at all” - as our visitors might have said - au contraire.
Somehow, after a cattle grid, the hill ended, photos were taken, an agreement was reached that something of merit had been achieved and we moved on.
Seeing that the descent was 25% Henry celebrated in his people’s customary way with a puncture.
We rebuilt the tyre and readied ourselves for the next assault. Senses of humour wavered.
Hill 5: Fremington We saw a sign marked ‘Richmond 21’. We turned off that road up a sharp hill, I struggled up the hill, grimly keeping level with Jacko, a final push took me over the (false) summit. “Oh. There’s a bit more” - I said. “No, not really, just a tiny bit”. This as I saw soon after was Jacko’s diplomatic way of introducing the fact we’d got to halfway. This was the moment that I had my sense of humour failure. Asked at the top how I was doing I just stared at my shoes.
Hill 6: Radio masts Henry was overcome with excitement and celebrated with a further puncture on the approach to the final hill. I was mid tantrum / tantric ascent and had reached the top before I knew much was wrong - behind me, chaos was occurring.
The third (and then fourth) tube change of the day didn’t exactly go to plan, faulty valves, leaking gas canisters and torn tubes played their part. Chris suffered the further ignominy of having his cleat break and being forced to summit the entire hill on one leg.
I waited at the top with a huge swell of local support - Abigail, Adam, Amy, Hannah, Helen, Jan. By the time the others reached the top they’d been joined by another local (Dan) who had been waiting patiently for the peloton to pass - it was handy to have someone that actually knew the bends in the road on the way down rather than playing chicken with approaching cars.
It was a short downhill on to Richmond and with that we had arrived to a very warm welcome - Hannah leading the peloton in, to a cheering crowd, bunting flapping in the wind and our names chalked in the road. But look at the view:
We all love you really Jacko. Even my knee.