Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Day 8 – Launceston to Land’s End (83 miles)

We awoke to a drizzly morning, and another buffet breakfast. After a brief batch of puncture fixing (a legacy of riding on the hard shoulder of the A30 yesterday), all seven of us set off for the last stretch of the ride. The route sheet made clear this wasn’t going to be an easy procession to the finish though – there was more climbing crammed into today’s 80 miles than all but one other stage [check] – and the drizzle we’d started off in soon turned into an apocalyptic downpour as we crossed the edge of Bodmin Moor.

With a train back to London to catch and progress again slow in the wind, Jon S reluctantly hopped into the support van somewhere along the Cornish coast, to be followed not long after by Paul and Jon N when conditions failed to improve. It was not a day for admiring the scenery, and if we hadn’t been in touching distance of the end there might well have been more takers for the broom wagon.

The rain finally ceased sometime after we passed Newquay, then after a brief mechanical stop when Dave snapped his chain, we hit Redruth and Camborne. Here, a welcoming committee of Pat and Dave’s better halves had already arrived at our hotel for the night, and bade us good luck for the last 20 miles down the coast before whizzing off to meet us there.

We filled our bellies with one last cake stop, then pressed on for the final stretch in the intermittent company of a fellow end-to-ender in a bright yellow raincape. In our frazzled minds we seemed to ride through a series of picture postcards – a watchful egret surveying the beautiful Hale estuary, a stunning view of St Michael’s Mount, and pirates in Penzance high street (well, drama students advertising a play). There were a few perfunctory hills coming out of Penzance, but this close to the end either our legs didn’t feel them or our heads didn’t care - there may even have been some ill-advised sprinting.

As if by magic, the clouds began to clear and we were greeted by blue skies and sunshine as we crested the last rise. We rolled gently down through Sennen to Land’s End, four abreast on the empty road, resplendent in our pink team strip for the eager gaggle of photographers. A flurry of hugs and handshakes; a pat on the saddle for our long-suffering bikes; Champagne popped, cameras flashed and it was over. Eight days, nearly nine hundred miles, a heck of a lot of climbing and a mountain of food – we had done it, together, Brothers of the Wheel.


A combination of post-ride euphoria, sea air, and several glasses of champagne helped the van ride back to the hotel in Camborne pass in a flash. A shower and one last recovery drink had us feeling vaguely human again before we sat down for our last supper, several moustaches having disappeared in the interim. Tonight there was no tomorrow to fuel up for, but we ate well anyway, and with no early alarm call we drank well too. We drank to the puncture fairy who’d looked after us, to the beauty of the country we’d travelled, to every last inch of tarmac we’d covered, and to friends old and new.

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