Lands End At Last!

So I arrived today in Lands End. I thought the journey was going to be a very bad one when I got to Didcot railway station and found my train had been cancelled! This would have been fairly bad, as my connecting train from Swindon to Penzance was leaving only some 30 minutes later and I would have missed it. Thankfully all was not lost, as the Penzance train was actually rerouted to Didcot, and came along some 25 minutes later. Here I am about to leave good old Didcot railway station:

Do I look nervous? I was!

The journey took about 6 hours, and was ‘marred’ slightly by a delay at Exeter. We were held up for 30 minutes there, to be told that there had been a ‘fatality on the track’. That put many things into perspective for me, and I vowed at that point not to moan about things as trivial as cycling into Easterly winds, although I do reserve the right to moan about them tomorrow when I am actually having to deal with them!

Trusting your bike to British Rail is also a bit of a leap of faith, as you cannot lock it! Having not had my bike out of my sight (almost:)) since I had it, I had a good lock with me to ensure that the only person who would be taking it out of the Guard’s van would be me, but to no avail. When I got on I was told that I was not allowed to lock it ‘in case train staff needed access to the equipment in there’. Great.

I left my bike in a rack alongside several others, and spent the whole journey peering out of the window at the 18 (yes 18) stops we made along the way, half expecting to see some youth pedalling away with my pride and joy. Thankfully it didn’t happen, and neither did it happen to the Cervelo or the Trek that were parked there too.

So after leaving the train, and sadly leaving my iPhone charger on there, I left the station to find about four other people get off the train with bikes too, headed for the same place as me. We duly found a big van (marked with GBBR stickers, but looking back it could have been anybody!) to load our bikes onto. Our bags came with us and we duly set off the remaining 10 miles or so to the Seaview Holiday Park – pictured below:

Our home for the first night

So we found our accommodation was a series of massive army tents at the back of the campsite, set up and guarded by probably 40 or so army guys. I was in tent 3, where I would stay all week, the tents being moved each day in a huge operation by the army guys:

Easy to go wrong in the dark....

The whole set up was incredible. With a mechanics tent, a massage tent, a check in area manned by the army, a water station complete with electrolyte drinks, etc. The only downside was that we had to (under strict instruction:)) use the campsite toilets, and with the exception of the bar area, which was some ways away, we had two male toilets for about 250 people. Lets just say that the queues were ‘ridiculous’ and I shall leave it at that.

The site was probably about 3/4 of a mile or so from the Lands End ‘signpost’, marking the most extreme south westerly point of Great Britain, where we would cycle down to the next morning for the start of the ride itself. In the tents themselves we slept 10 to a tent, which was cosy, but fine, and the bikes stayed with us in the tent too:)

"You're in the army now..."

And so the rest of the day was fairly uneventful. We were served a huge feast of pasta, pasta and pasta in the evening, and I generally tried to busy myself by keeping away from the campsite bar. Not everyone was as successful as me, but being the strong minded, impossible to influence figure that I am, I gnawed at my knuckles and shut my eyes and hoped it was all a mirage. There was also a very comprehensive briefing by the organising team, where we were told where the pit stops would be, what obstacles to look out for, and also that we would be doing just shy of 100 miles the next day, including 2,890 metres of ascent (9,537 feet for those of you who still work in the old money). This sounded very daunting, and accompanied by what would be a week-long easterly wind (we would travel easterly all the way), there were some pretty worried faces that evening, mine included.

After a bike check up by the mechanics, I retired at about 9.30 to bed, having been told that we would be woken at 5am by a bugle call from the army. It was here, finally. The final few days before things like this drag, and yet go so quickly looking back at them. I think it is the anticipation – you cannot wait for it to begin.

Tomorrow would be it, the start of a complete unknown for me. It was a fitful and cold night that lay ahead……..

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