The penultimate day started with the long distance cyclist’s two favourite words - buffet breakfast! After we’d finished gorging ourselves it was time to don waterproofs and head out into the unpromising weather. The heavy rain overnight had apparently been the worst storm to hit the Southwest in 50 years, so we counted our blessings that it had mostly passed, leaving just the odd squally shower and a brisk headwind to contend with for most of the day. Mercifully, the first part of this stage’s route was pretty flat across the Somerset levels, so we took turns to share the windbreaking effort in our little peloton as we passed Weston Super-Mare and Bridgwater.
When we refuelled at a burger van (at Pat’s request!) the couple serving warned that the road would get hilly soon, and unfortunately they weren’t wrong. Our route led us around the edge of Exmoor, and before long we were on some narrow back roads with grass down the middle, gravel all over the place and some excruciating gradients which left us scrabbling for grip. The roads got better as we passed Bickleigh Castle and Crediton, but the hills kept coming thick and fast. At least the weather had improved by this point so we could briefly enjoy the views as we crested each rise.
Although we were still in Devon, the support van came to the rescue with some great Cornish pasties just before Okehampton. With time ticking on, and our average speed lagging somewhat, we decided to take our chances on the busy A30 for the last few miles of the day to Launceston. This turned out to be a bit of a grind – the hills were a little gentler but the headwind just as biting, so Evo and Jon S decided to return to the back roads when the opportunity arose. Pat, Dave and Mark pressed on for a couple more junctions, and eventually made it to our accommodation for the night at a golf resort just outside Launceston, followed soon after by Evo and Jon, who’d ended up in the town. We managed to stay awake just about long enough to cram down some dinner and watch most of the England v Sweden football with some rowdy golfers, before falling asleep like babies. Still, only one day to go, how bad could it be?