Heading onwards from Wales I found myself riding with Cathy (aka Person Number Three). With the rain of the last few days the road surfaces have collected a lot of debris and unfortunately for Cathy this translated into three punctures in rapid succession. On the second occasion we pulled up on the drive of a local house owner who soon appeared with her dog to see if she could help. In short order we learnt that Kathy was also a cyclist, that her husband races and that her dog was called Thor. As is usually the case on these occasions we had an interesting chat about our tour and, Kathy, if you are reading this please accept our grateful thanks for your assistance. You are another fine example of the kindness of strangers.
We headed off on the final leg. Today had the feel of a sluggish ride. I guess that the accumulated mileage is taking its toll – on some more than others. Bruce is wearing compression socks at night and packs his knee with ice as soon as we finish each stage. Pete is maintaining steady progress starting with the early group and keeping to a pace that he can sustain. There is a steely determination building in the group and we are all focussed on getting to the finish – individually and collectively. I have found that a little treat towards the end of the stage provides both the CV and me with a good boost. So let me tell you about today’s “little treat”.
Riding on our own gave us the chance to up the speed and burn off some extra calories. We were making excellent progress and pace when we had a little mishap. There are three things readers that I dread on tour. Three ways that can force us to abandon. First is getting sick, so we are as scrupulous as we can be about our hygiene, particularly at SAGs when lots of people are handling the same food. I have known riders succumb, leaving them with no choice but to head home. Second, a major mechanical – a bike breaker. And third, serious injury – broken bones, especially collar bones the cyclists Achilles Heel as it were. Well today we had the luckiest of escapes and cheated two of the three threats.
A couple of miles from the finish we were whizzing gently downhill at about 35mph along a long, wide, smooth shoulder. We were so happy that we were about to burst into song. Our reverie was cut short by an almighty bang, total and instant loss of air from the real wheel and the sound and feel of the rim bumping and grinding on the tarmac. But worse than that the CV began to swing from side to side. I spent the next two hundred yards desperately trying to stay upright whilst reducing our speed. The rear brake was largely ineffective due to the speed and the flat tyre. Using the front brake too harshly risked accentuating the swinging into a jackknife with the certain consequence that we would hit the tarmac hard. Eventually we managed to come to a stop and I unclipped and nearly fell over so much were my legs shaking. I heard a voice behind me say:”Buddy are you alright?” or words to that effect. Looking up I could see a policeman walking towards me and behind him was his car with the roofs lights flashing. Once I had collected my wits and we had made our introductions I learnt that he had seen the incident and quick as a flash had acted to slow the following traffic in case I veered out onto the carriageway. He remained with me until I had replaced the tube and temporarily boosted the tyre (there was a hole nearly ¼ of an inch long in it). Then, after shaking my hand and wishing me well on the ride to Boston, he followed me for about half a mile once I got going again. It was a mighty relieved Captain and CV who eventually pulled in to our hotel.
All’s well that end’s well though. I’ve fitted a new rear tyre – and a front one as well. The CV has stopped shaking and we are both ready to go tomorrow. In my experience the best medicine in these situations, apart from a glass of beer, is to get on with it. So that’s precisely what we’re going to do. And besides, tomorrow is a stage that I have been eagerly anticipating. As I hope you will discover.