Accident prone. I've never understood that phenomenon.
As I child in Yorkshire my life was part Billy Elliot/part Parkour and I have plenty of scars to show for it. My Dad used to say if there was a matchstick on the ground i'd not only fall over it but i'd break it in the process. I still seem to break things with monotonous regularity....cars, bikes, my body, so it comes as no surprise to me that this week has not gone to plan. Well, it hasn't gone to plan' A', but at the age of 53 i'm used to plan 'B' being plan 'A'.
I left Adelaide at 6:30 on a Monday evening and arrived in London at 7:30 on a Tuesday morning 11000 miles in a readjusted 13 hours is a bit jet lagging at the best of times but the little fall I had off my bike the day before I left made it even more arduous. The scabby face was fine but the bruised kidneys were uncomfortable. I drank the plane dry.
I lugged my bike box on the peak hour tube to Central London with the plan on leaving it in storage at the rail station but as it was too big for the x-ray scanner I was stuck with it. I don't think many people in London or the world for that matter could help pondering 'what's in the box?' that the man with the funny things on the side of his scabby head keeps dragging into public toilets.
First stop was Wimbledon. There is a daily queue for tickets that snakes around Wimbledon Common. I joined it following a leisurely breakfast after my first jet lagged night's sleep...I was 8311 in line and I have the ticket stub to prove it, I entered the hallow grounds just in time for lunch. Everyone else seemed to be drinking beer by then so why not! Beer. Pimms, strawberries and cream and a sunburned nose, I was feeling fortunate, my new ears were soaking in the new sounds to the point of tears at times and I even got to cheer for Little Lleyton while chatting with the Ranga Woodie alongside Court 19
Itching to get the Volvo prepared and go for a ride I headed North to Leeds and to the warm welcome of family. I'd had a new drivetrain delivered for the Schwinn and assembled it with care in the kitchen of my brother's place while we caught up on lost time. I needed more gears to keep up with Con up the Planche de Belle Filles. The Volvo had been sat for two years and started first time so I drove it down to a Garage i'd given the head's up before I left home...it had perished a little more than I had anticipated...but it was fixable and the sun had popped it's head out for one of those brief Yorkshire moments where riding hill and dale becomes a pleasure. My brother lives only a few miles from the Stage 1 route so I headed off for a recon out to Skipton and back to stretch the legs, warm up the bike and get a feel for the event and go to church. :-)
With home in sight my drivetrain suddenly and without warning seized demolishing my lovely Dura Ace deraillieur and hanger and taking a few spokes out of my rear wheel...there would never be any photos taken of such ugliness.
As a child I had a picture of a cycle racer wearing a sodden Woodrup Cycles woollen top racing up Snake Pass and it was the first bike shop I found. Fingers crossed it's ready by Friday if not I saw a fold-up for a hundred pounds at Asda.
So...my plan of riding stages one and two was out the door, my car was still getting fixed and my feet were itching so I rented a roller-skate to explore Le Grand Depart.
Stage 1 Preview.
Everyone talks about whether the main contenders are physically prepared....stage one is all about mental preparation. I can honestly say that at for 90% of the route part of the peleton will be turning, generally with very little peripheral vision and on roads with hidden traps. High dry stone walls or hedges line the constantly undulating narrow roads which are never the same width for more than a mile. I envisage carnage, even if it is only blackberry thorn induced I think a break will form shortly after Ilkley on the grind to Skipton and I'm going to be somewhere around there at the side of the road to wave them by.
All of the villages and towns along the route are dressed and prepared and even on the Wednesday some of the camp-sites were filling.
I stayed in Hawes for the night. The sun had brought out all of the walkers and there was very little room at the Inns. I got an attic but it had a view to die for and I could see the famous 'White Bike of Buttertubs' on the hill beyond. I sampled some of the local food and hospitality, chatted with some of the locals to get their view of the proceedings and watched Argentina progress to the next stage of the World Cup.
The climb over Butturtubs is where the race will begin in earnest. It's not as gnarly as I thought it would be and after the 17% pitch at the start of the climb they'll be in the big ring. Prime spots have already been taken up and over there by hardy Tour followers and Sky employees. The scary stuff happens before the legs settle in to downhill mode over the summit
and there are a lot of these things to eat anyone who strays over the edge.
This was where my reconnaissance of the Stage 1 took a detour. It's been a dream of mine to see a Puffin in the wild my whole life. I've lived in the North of Scotland and spent time on the Yorkshire coast and never set eyes on one. The last time I was in England I missed their migration by a few days and was bitterly disappointed...not so this time :-)
From there my trip took a bit of a downturn as I found that my bike couldn't be repaired so I had to head back to Leeds to get something sorted.
If I don't get a bike I'll join the throng at the Grand Depart at Harewood House to wave them off on their journey...if I do i'll be a bit more mobile and be further up the road. It's already madness out there and the logistics and planning of these first two road stages is paramountly evident....I do hope it doesn't rain.