NB: statements of ‘fact’ should not be taken as statements of fact
We were awoken at 5.30 AM to the sound of ‘Let’s get ready to rhumble’. I had slept oddly well, and in my semi-conscious state of bliss I pictured a world where extra coroners had to be drafted in to deal with the camp’s mass of in-tent suicides. But I decided against slitting my wrists with a tyre lever and instead stumbled to the catering tent to eat vegetarian sausages and eggs, jammed into a croissant and served with bullshit coffee (brown flavour instant caffeine powder). I had a feeling it would be a hard day.
Note that the suicides were mainly PJ and Duncan related, although the marathonical cycle ahead probably swayed some would-be fence-sitters.
Actually though they day wasn’t all that bad. Good, even, I suppose is the technical term. My legs felt heavy and tight at first, but they loosened up plenty good in time. The course was mostly undulating (or ‘lumpy’, which is the apparent technical term) with two serious (‘grippy’, which allegedly means ‘steep’) climbs – the Quantock and the Cheddar Gorge. I kept about the same average speed as yesterday, took in more liquids and energy gels, and still felt relatively cheerful on the final stretch into Bath University. The climbs were tough, but I was easily amongst the fastest up them, and there is nothing like leaving a trail in lyour wake to cheer you up. I left at 8AM and arrived at about 3.30PM, so the day took 7.5 hours, of which 6 hours 50 was moving time, at an average speed of 26.2 km/h. I was 38th fastest overall. Obviously I would have won, but I got stuck behind a farm vehicle for about ten minutes at one point, and that obviously made all the difference.
The best animal I saw today was a small goat and a goatette. They were mooching about on the Cheddar Gorge, so named as it is the largest structure in the UK made of cheese. Each year, on a given day, calculated by a series of rules and conventions so arcane that many claim it to be random chance, the people of Cheddar feast, or gorge, upon the structure before laying their eggs and rolling down the hill.
In many way, England is a very different place from Glasgow, where mating practice has evolved via a special Pantone colour chart which females use to select their skin colour based on what they are up for sexually. Don’t be fooled though—it isn’t as simple as you may think. Yes, orange tends to be indicative of unprotected threesomes with strangers in disabled bathrooms, but some shades of pale blue can be really quite kinky too.
As I ascended the Cheddar Gorge, I was impressed by the various sizes and shapes of human wheeling their way up the climb. I am astounded that anyone can be fit enough to achieve this voyage while carrying so much extra weight. I wonder what they are eating after their training rides. Other cyclists, I suspect.
Clearly though, not all are quite fit enough. I had the good fortune to witness another competitor fall off his bike while going up hill today! I am not sure quite what happened. I suppose his legs just gave up on him. He did a little wobble, veered right, and came down like a party guest on Pete Doherty’s veranda. I’m not a misanthrope though, and I didn’t laugh until I was sure he was alright. I mean, I can’t say I was that sure. I twisted round him and sped on into the distance. I’m sure someone else stopped.
We are staying in the dorms at Bath University tonight. I am making the most of this by using the laundry facilities, watching the Chicago Bears collapsing to a sad defeat against the Buffalo Bills on the wireless internet, charging all my fucking things, and skipping the compulsory rider briefing. I was going to text a colleague to ask if I missed anything, but I didn’t bother (and it transpired he didn’t go either). I also took two showers, for some reason.
There will be no music to wake me up at 5.30 tomorrow morning. No PJ, no Duncan. I decide to award myself a lie in, until 6AM.
Today it was my turn to be massaged. Every rider is entitled to a massage every second day, Dear reader, after much contemplation, I did not have a massage. I am semi-disappointed in myself. I had been genuinely looking forward to it yesterday, before the harsh reality of it set in. See, I have never had a massage before—I can not imagine ever paying for such an experience. But I had a wander by the massage room and took a butchers, and it was all I feared and more. It’s just not for me. I saw the oil. Dear reader: massage is a sex thing.
It’s a sex thing. And there isn’t anything wrong with that—I fully support permissiveness and a person’s right to enter into contracts for whatever sort of whatever they like, and I’m generally in favour of sexual expression, and in fact I’m positive about all the sex things that there can be between consenting adults. But that isn’t for me. I don’t do massage, I don’t do prostitution, and I don’t really like getting my hair cut either.
I fully comprehend that it is probably me that has the issue here rather than the givers and receivers of commercial massages, and that it is almost certainly self-defeating on an endurance cycle event such as this. But there you go, we all have our principles, and they are all stupid.
If it wasn’t for everyone else, I’d be my own worst enemy.