GBBR Day Two – Tavistock to Yeovil

So day two was a bugger too. It began with the now customary Reveille, which consists of a piped bugle call at about 200 decibels at about 5am, perhaps earlier. The morning was very cold, if fairly still, and Dartmoor in the distance looked a stark and foreboding place. It was to prove that and and so much more, as we go straight through the middle of it.

Our camp at Tavistock RFC - the start of Dartmoor in the distance.

We set off just after daybreak, having first packed our bags and brought them to the truck that would take them around all week:

Our luggage gets ready to leave Tavistock

We then had to go back down the awful hill that we came up last night, and into Tavistock. From there we took a road which apparently the locals call ‘eight mile hill’. The reason for this somewhat eludes me, as the hill is actually about 12 miles long. No breaks, just an unrelenting tough slog from about 100ft above sea level to about 1700ft. It passes Princetown Jail at the top of Dartmoor, which today in the swaling mist made it appear an even more forbidding place than it no doubt normally is. Here is the profile of the morning’s route:

This was not a fun morning at all....

As you can see we went to over 1,500 feet, and the ‘hill” basically sorted the men from the boys. There were people lieing at the side of the road at almost every turn it seemed. On top of the fact that legs were stiff from doing 100 miles the day before, this was a beast. In fact it would be a beast in any circumstances. I think the longest hill I have tried climbing previously is probably half a mile long, so this was unchartered territory on every level for me. Dartmoor was also cold and misty to boot, with low visibility.

Once over the top of ‘High Moor’ there was a huge 14 mile descent, which was more of an undulating set of rollers than a true descent. It wasn’t helped also by the fact that it was into what was now a strong headwind. I would imagine that with a nice westerly wind and the benefit of knowing the run, you could have some fun down there. Apparently it is part of the course for the Tour of Britain in two weeks time. I would love to see the pros on it, it would be rather humbling for me I am sure.

There followed some real ups and downs through some very pretty Devon villages. There are no flat roads down here at all! After a couple of pit stops which took us through about 55 miles in total the route passed Exeter and then out of Honiton. Lunch was at a pub called the Lamb and Flag – would love to go back when I can actually have a drink! I walked into the bar on my way for a pee break and apologised to the landlady. I told her that I hoped sincerely that I would be back there someday in “happier” circumstances.

The roads out of Honiton had three brutal climbs, one about four miles long. I didn’t see one rider who didn’t stop at least once, myself included. One of the climbs had been newly gravelled, and was just about impossible to stay upright. Once we had got to about 70 miles for the day I was exhausted, totally. Thankfully it is amazing what bananas, tea, flapjacks, energy gels, electrolyte drinks, Clif shots, Mars Bars and jelly babies can do. I ate all of the these daily in abundance, and still ended up losing weight.

The final run came after pit stop three. Apart from the fact that they got the mileage wrong it was actually great. The run was about 24 miles, making about 90 for the day, taking us from somewhere near Chard (we had now reached Somerset) to Yeovil. There were a couple of nasty climbs again towards the end, but that is becoming expected now.

Pulling into Yeovil (Ivel Barbarians RFC) at about 3pm, I was greeted by the familiar army camp set up – those guys must have moved heaven and earth each day to get everything up and about – they were brilliant.


In the evening after a sports massage there was a rugby game between the army guys and the Ivel Barbarians Vets team. I allowed myself a celebratory pint of Guinness too – I figured that one wouldn’t hurt me, and I am glad to say that it didn’t! I was soon in bed by 9.20 however, absolutely wiped out.

The stats for the day were:

Total mileage 90.

Total ascent 2,390 metres.

This meant we had done 186 miles and 5,200 metres (17,000 feet approx) of ascent since yesterday morning. No wonder I was tired. I slept very soundly, hoping that the rest of Somerset and then Hampshire would offer some easier riding than today. They would in fact do just that – the delights of the New Forest lay ahead……

25 Days to Go!

I can hardly believe that there are just 25 days to go until I get to Lands End for the Great British Bike Ride. It seems rather surreal. I say this as someone who is filled with dread at the prospect of cycling 330 miles – I actually am very unsure as to whether I am physically capable of that at all. I have no idea what cycling more than 50 miles feels like currently, and time is rather running out.

I went out yesterday for my first cycle in almost a fortnight, and thankfully felt fine. I thought my holiday would rather have caught up with me (although I did do a few exercise bike sessions in the gym at the hotel, but it was hardly very much), but the legs apparently still work. I did 25 miles, at rather a good pace (averaging 20 mph, my best ever) and so all is back on track as such.

I got a call from Mike at the GBBR to ask if I wanted to go on their training weekend on the 13th August, but I have a big family party that weekend which I am hosting, so cannot do it. The weekend will be therefore rather a setback, as it will be no bike riding and probably a lot of vodka drinking (these things have to do be done sometimes :)). So much is happening now as far as the event is concerned, and I have a lot of organising to do. I still need quite a bit of kit, including some extra bib shorts as it is important to have a clean pair for each day, so I had better get the credit card out again. I have to sort out my transport down there too – I am hoping that I can get on the train with my bike, and then I have to work out how I get from Penzance to Lands End – I won’t be able to cycle as I will have too much kit to carry, so it could be interesting. Maybe they have big taxis down those parts….

Oh and another exciting piece of news that I picked up via Richard Hill’s twitter page ( – apparently Martin Johnson no less, will be riding day Three (Yeovil to Winchester) with us – how exciting is that?

So, with 25 days to go, that means I will be out probably only another 8 or so times in anger on the training front. The last week before the ride we have been told to take it very easy and get some rest before the event. I have only two weekends of riding therefore, and I need to make them count. Tomorrow therefore I am intending to do 80 miles, and then follow it with 60 on Sunday morning. There’ll be a few hills in there too. This will give me a taster of what is to come and how far I need to progress still. It is daunting, but very exciting too. It is interesting how you do progress with time, as the thought of 80 miles just four weeks ago would have terrified me, but now I am rather looking forward to it.

On Sunday after an early morning ride I am getting a visit from Darina and Paul, who are doing Kilimanjaro next month. They originally contacted me via this blog, and are coming to have a look at my pictures and stuff. I get to talk about Kilimanjaro all over again – yippee! Here is a link to their blog so you can see how they are getting on:

OK that’s all for now – off to work, and have just got my head together after an early morning swim in the Thames. Yes you read that right, I must be flipping nuts!