TCR No.8 – Day 4

I need to add a note here on the nature of this entry. The views expressed in the account of parcours #1 are purely my own. They are authentic to my experiences at the time, but it must be understood these reflect as much on my mental and physical state as they do the actual route. I know some riders at the tail shared similar feelings but I’m sure many other riders did not, and enjoyed the challenge of the parcours. I do comment on the nature of the parcours in terms of how I felt as I rode it. But none of what is written here is intended as a criticism towards the organizers of TCR No. 8 in any way.

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TCR No.8 – Day 3

Once again, I’m dead to the world when the alarms go off. Hauling myself out of the bed I survey the untidy mess of gear across the room. Getting ready today is going to be a two stage affair with the bike down in the garage. First I have to get myself kitted up, for which the hotel has kindly provided me a conventionally easy-to-operate kettle and tea to lubricate the process. Second is lugging bags down to the basement and loading up the bike, passing reception along the way to collect my packed breakfast – which turns out to be an entire paper bag’s worth of goodies. Some of the contents get scoffed whilst I potter around with the bike. The rest gets stuffed in my feed bag and back pockets


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TCR No.8 – Day 2

A chorus of alarms drags me out of the depths of sleep, both my watch and phone nagging me to get up. I can’t recall any long distance ride where I’ve fallen asleep so quickly, and slept so soundly – there were some pretty lurid dreams too which I remember mentioning to Yoli, but for which the details have now gone. As I potter around the room repacking my gear and attempting to make tea nothing is overly sore either. My bum is rarely a problem area anyway, but my hands and feet were worryingly painful last night and both now feel like they can handle another round in the blender. The only black spot on the morning is that tea. I totally stuff up the unfamiliar brewing contraption, covering myself and the furniture in near boiling water in the process. If I wasn’t a stubborn Brit I’d probably have given up, but tea has a near mythical property for me in the morning and on a second, more careful, inspection I figure my mistake and manage a half decent cuppa to go with a couple of muesli bars. The few minutes delay is more than worth the calm bliss this brings.

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TCR No.8 – Day 1

0km – the start – 22:00 24 July 2022

The atmosphere at the start alone would bring me back to TCR every year. The plug of riders compresses together as we funnel under the Start banner, and then fans out again into the slightly wider channel beyond, flanked either side by a cacophony of cheering supporters, clanging bells, and the wafting heat of those torches. I’m already mounted up and pedalling slowly as we pass under the banner. As soon as the space opens in front of me I stamp on the pedals – the rough cobbles are every bit as steep as I remember and I spin like mad to get up and over them with some semblence of balance. It’s a frenetic, somewhat chaotic start but it’s done in seconds and I’m cresting the rise onto brand new smooth tarmac (did they lay this just for us?). I barely have to back pedal before Nico is alongside. The road is closed and we have space all around us as we begin the cruise back down into town. We’re not racing yet – this part is to be enjoyed. We exchange banter about keeping an eye out for dangerous kerbs (a reference to my near mishap in 2017). Other riders slide past us, and we do the same as the throng jostles and settles into position. Once we are around the town, the gloves will come off and we’ll be racing for space on the narrow ramps of the Muur.

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TCR No.8 – Prologue

Friday 22 July 2022

I guess I have some explaining to do. I mean how does one get from the previous blog post where I questioned my desire for more long distance riding, to sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow watching baggage handlers load my bike box into a plane bound for Brussels and another TCR. I can’t even blame it on hallucinations – the lurid blue smurfs decorating the inside and outside of the plane are actually there (apparently the national animal of Belgium). The answer starts in the middle of an unusually mild British Winter.

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There and Back Again – Day 3

At some stage in the middle of the night, an enormous crash made me jump out of bed for fear someone had hopped over the fence and was stealing my ride. Only as I finished up in the bathroom in the morning did I discover the real cause – the soap shelf had detached itself from the wall and crashed to the floor. The bike was, still safely parked outside, covered in a fine layer of ice cold dew. As I pottered around repacking and mounting the fork bags the decision to backtrack my route from home was firmly set in my mind. You’d think that might mean a less interesting or adventurous day ahead, but cycling is never like that. The same route in different conditions can feel very different, and in reverse, looking at the landscape from the other side, it often bears no resemblance to the previous ride. Today’s journey had other surprises in store for me than just a different viewpoint though.

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There and Back Again – Day 2

Breakfast TV was talking to itself in the background – the news was typically grim and I had more pressing issues on my mind. In between mouthfuls of muesli and swigs of coffee, I was churning over the route down to Land’s End. I’d intentionally followed an off-road section for the last part, but after the heavy rains I was pretty sure it would be even boggier than had been described in accounts I’d read.  By the time I was kitted up and ready to go the decision was made, I’d take a largely on road route down and back. This meant an operation I am always loathe to trust a Garmin will do reliably out in the wild: asking it to reverse a track. In theory, it should work with plenty of track points, but in practice it makes me nervous. So I wasn’t entirely confident in the little purple line as I wheeled back down the alley and out into the streets of Truro.

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There and Back Again – Day 1

It was never planned that last year’s Highlands to Home tour would include a complete JOGLE. But I did always intend to ride from home down to Lands End at some point. And as the mornings slowly grew darker and chillier, I’d failed to do any kind of distance riding during the summer of 2021. The idea of ticking this last piece off the list with a 3 day mini tour down to the bottom of the country started to take shape.

In between family and work commitments, free weekends were in short supply. I was doubtful of the chances of decent weather when I commandeered the earliest opening (17th through 19th September) and stuck it in the calendar. Luckily the AirBnB I found with 2 nights available in Truro had a generous cancellation policy, meaning I could take a view on the weather forecast on 12th September and pull out if it looked truly horrendous. Of course when it came to it, things were not quite as simple as that. The long distance weather radar had some strong bands of rain passing over – but the worst was late on Friday, with mixed and generally improving weather across the weekend. It’s all too easy to find excuses not to ride (the weather wasn’t the only one bothering me, but more on that later) – and the forecast really wasn’t that horrible if viewed overall so the decision was a ‘go‘. If I missed this ride, there’d likely be no other tour opportunity in 2021.

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Munga – Get The Book!

Really pleased to announce publication of the first Just Keep Pedalling book. “Mungral” recounts the adventures myself and Theunis Estherhuizen had on Munga 2018, together with extensive tips for those inspired to see if they have what it takes themselves.

Kindle and paperback editions are available. Be careful to select the Amazon store your Kindle is registered with – usually Amazon UK or Amazon US. It isn’t easy (or even possible) to transfer a Kindle book to a different regional store.

For South Africans, a special print run has been commissioned to ensure readers can enjoy the authentic experience of a proper book, printed and bound locally in Cape Town. Orders can be placed here.

… I did not ‘read’ the book, I listened to you talking to me. I hear T’s voice, felt the aches and pain as you cycled the Munga, tasted the dust, laughed and cried with you … reading this book will make any cyclist think of doing the Munga …

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H2H – Epilogue

Highlands to Home was an experiment. All of my previous long rides have been events – personal challenges to see if I could ride that far, pushing my own boundaries driven by the desire to finish in time. And although (mostly) solo and unsupported in nature, all of these were organized events, which means they were never really done alone, or in isolation. H2H was the very opposite of this. I had a goal to complete it in 10 days, but there was no cutoff clock running. And with no official route, or checkpoints, my route was not only my own, but also not fixed – I could (and did) change it on a whim. The daily distances I set myself were also conservative – designed to maximise my enjoyment of the scenery by riding almost entirely in daylight, and ensuring I had plenty of time to sleep and recover for the next day. So how was very much my first experience of what could be called “solo long distance touring”?

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