Monday, 22 October 2012

Giro de Nottingham - Day Two

Up early in the morning the team were raring to go, well at least they were keen to go down for breakfast. It seemed after a night's sleep and a decision to go for it today the mood was positive for the day ahead. After an all you can eat breakfast we were loading up our chariots for stage 2.

The team headed through the city centre and even through the shopping centre - despite all the shops being closed. The start of that days route would take us away from our intended finish and further south along side the canal. It felt great to be riding at a good speed on flat ground and only a headwind stopped it from being perfect.

Team Pannier now in its third official outing was starting to look like a more slick outfit (and that had nothing to do with John and Neil's Lycra). Riding as one peloton the team formed more of a line as they looked to maximise speed and take advantage of aerodynamics. The miles flew by and along with the beautiful scenery it was a great time to be on the bike. The canal route took the team past lovely lock side pubs, beautiful fields and hills (in the distance thankfully) and started to loop to the west and then started to turn north.

It wasn't long before the M1 was crossed and a choking fog descended on the route. It seemed there was a fire not too far away and this triggered in Neil's mind that he'd seen on the news that there was a woodchip fire and people had been warned to stay indoors! We then had cyclists coming towards us with hankerchiefs over their mouths. Maybe it was REALLY bad ahead? Luckily it wasn't much further before it cleared and we were pushing on.

Knowing that the trail ended further down the line and that there was an unknown section of riding coming up it was important to get the miles in the bank. Everything certainly seemed to be going to plan and it was looking like half the miles had been covered before lunchtime. In fact at 11.40 the team had done close to 25 miles. Keen to push on Jon set us the target of 30 miles before lunch.

At this point the team reached the end of the cycle route and headed off on Spanners speculative route. Having only been able to use the Sustrans mapping system it wasn't clear whether we would be following cycle routes, bridal paths or b roads. As we made our first turn the first thing we were hit with was a hill. Not Rich's favourite at this point - put him on a flat or a downhill and he could push the speed with the rest but the weight of his panniers were slowing him down. In fact on getting back he threatened to put them on eBay "if I haven't got 'em I can't fill 'em".

The route then weaved its way through a housing estate before coming to a bridal way. It looked like the right route on the map and, having conquered closed routes and water crossings in the paste, this wasn't going to stop the team. With a short run down a foot path and a lift over a style the team were soon on to a track used by cars down a field. Following it down the team found themselves on a farm. With no one to ask for directions the team picked their way through chickens and pig poo. Letting themselves through two gates and walking past the farmers front window the team eventually came to a main road - and back on track by the looks of things.

Having lost faith in the planned route it was decided to go more direct on the roads, hills or no hills, main road or not. A steady pull out of Heanor and we headed toward Codnor. With food now in our mind we noticed a pub but decided there was bound to be a nice pub in the next place called Somercotes. Sure enough there wasn't anything up to scratch and we pushed on to Alfreton. Spotting a pub at the top of a hill Spanners was sent in to check it out. Rich came out saying it was alright, John suggested we pushed on with thoughts of the previous days pub in mind. Chef sat out of the front of the peloton and pushed the pace on.

The route continued to go up and down as the canal cycle route seemed a long time ago. With the undulating terrain the miles were ticked off a lot slower and with no lunch inside them the progress seemed to be slow. Coming out of Alfreton Jon spotted KFC and McDonalds. Suggesting it first half jokingly and then seriously. Not matching the previous day's high John pushed on. Called back by his team mates he protested this was not what he wanted. They agreed that if he didn't want to eat there they would push on. It was now 1.30 and the pressure was on to find somewhere to eat, if they didn't find somewhere John would be in BIG trouble.

The end of the adhoc route was in sight as the team turned off in to an industrial estate and soon worked their way on to the Silverhill Trail. More trails meant less chance of anywhere to buy food and the pressure was certainly mounting on John. The only hope was that it was a disused railway and the old pubs that used to be by railway sidings were still there.

On a flatish trail it was good to be getting some miles done again but running on empty the team weren't going as quick as they had been earlier that day. Progress was still slow and the 35 mile mark still hadn't been reached. So with no other choice the team asked some walkers (aka the enemy) where to stop for food. It was pointed out there was a carvery pub 500 yards up the road, just past the turn off for the route home. One mile later and with the team only just pulling away from the gentleman in the mobility scooter they finally reached the turnoff for the pub and scrambled up the hill towards their oasis.

Or hell? I guess it depends what you want from a lunch but the boys didn't seem to be pleased to be queueing with half of Derbyshire for their lunch. Spanners and Jukebox had a "Yorkshire" carvery, no, not one filled mainly with Yorkshire puddings but one big plate loaded high to share between them instead of paying for two. There was silence at the table as everyone tucked in or was it just tiredness after the miles and beers of the day before?

Stocked up on food the team made their way back on to the trail and the mile ride back to the planned route. Diverting off on to the Five Pits Trail it was clear that the trail wasn't based on a flat railway line. Every slight incline now felt like Alpe d'Huez as the legs search for a bit of power with each turn. Soon it was another motorway marker to tick off as we went through Tibshelf. It may have services there but it is a small village and we passed it in the blink of an eye.

We knew now we only had Grassmoor to tick off before we were at the end of another trail and heading in to very familiar territory in the form of Chesterfield. As we rode out from Grassmoor and headed towards a place we had spent nights out in the past we saw the famous crooked spire. This was a real moment of realisation 'we're close to home'. Coming in to Chesterfield, Rich, Neil and John knew it pretty well and it was easy picking our way through the town. Jon predicted we'd be home (i.e. Neil's) by 5 - no way sai John, 5.30 at best. Even so it was a lot more promising than the previous days prediction of getting a train.

Heading out towards Unstone we discussed how maybe Rich and John should cycle ahead as they got to Dronfield - our home town. This is something done by professional cyclists whenever they get chance to go through their home town. However I think Rich and John knew what was coming, a couple of steep hills!

Regrouping on Dronfield Bottom the team cycled together the final miles within site of each other and headed out of Dronfield and in to Yorkshire. Heading up to Greenhill the team suddenly realised they'd lost Jon. Ten minutes later and he was back having taken a wrong turning and the four cycled as one as they rolled down Bocking Lane to the end of the ride. Bang on 5 o'clock.

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