LEL Chronicles – Day 4

I slept again in the marquee dormitory that was arranged for the riders and without my bandana it felt cold in the night but other than that had a restful sleep. Woke up 30 minutes earlier than planned, with a start, thinking that I have overslept but after that didn’t attempt to sleep again.

By now had got the drill right for the mornings and in about an hour was ready to roll.

Today was the day to capitalize on the previous day and get closer to the plan.

Section M: Brampton to Barnard Castle

Distance covered : 89.94 km; Elevation gain: 1493 m;

Start time: 10-Aug-2022 0709 hrs Expected time to reach next CP: 10-Aug-2022 1050 hrs; Actual time to reach next CP: 10-Aug-2022 1245 hrs

Ride time: 5 h 36 m; Moving time: 5 h 00 m; Stoppage time: 0 h 36 m;

Stoppage time at CP: 0 h 49 m

This was a playback of the monster climbs and good rolling terrain. My mud-guards were being a bit of botheration since we rode on the cobbled streets in Scotland. Apparently the entire skeletal structure had been rattled completely on those streets and if I could hazard I guess that’s where I might have dropped the gloves and bandana. Anyway I digress. So these mud-guards, front one actually, was rubbing against the tyre and shaving off few precious watts of the power output. For the climb that I was about to commence, they might make a difference of go or no-go so I had to get it sorted out.

Guardian angels watching over me, had found me a bicycle shop open early morning (around 9ish) with a very knowledgeable and experienced owner willing to help me fix it. In a few minutes he had removed the snag and I was ready to scale the climb. I thanked him profusely for his help and asked him for the charges for this service. He politely declined and mentioned that he had volunteered for this help for LEL riders. Such acts of volunteerism and kindness were literally strewn all over this ride and they used to fill you with immense joy, energy and push you to go even further.

These 2 pictures sum up the story of the 2 climbs. Apparently there was also a signboard of 20% gradient but I missed capturing that one as I was busy grinding my knees while climbing.

This time around they became even more challenging since there were massive head winds to the top and confirmed by bushes of Heather waving against us on either side of the road. What would have been otherwise a beautiful sight was looking like a nightmare.

While maneuvering my bike to cut the climbs, got trapped in one gust of headwind and coming as a crosswind for me and had a fall. This was the 3rd one and on the right side of the cycle. My heart skipped a bit and immediately checked if my rear derailleur is okay. It appeared to be fine and I made a decision to walk remaining 250 mts of the climb. It didn’t feel very good but definitely was a better option than an injury to self or bike. For solace, there were 10-15 more riders ahead of me, who were walking to the top.

We were greeted by 2 noble volunteering souls offering water and flapjacks, God bless them. I narrated my tale of getting to the top, they re-galed with their stories, re-charged, re-filled and sent us further.

Zipped through the descent clocking speeds upward of 70 kmph and felt good to be alive when we got to the base. Now biggest of the climbs were behind us. Rest of the climbs were not as nasty, even though there was a lot of climbing still left.

Section N: Barnard Castle to Malton

Distance covered : 112.03 km; Elevation gain: 1237 m;

Start time: 10-Aug-2022 1334 hrs Expected time to reach next CP: 10-Aug-2022 1821 hrs; Actual time to reach next CP: 10-Aug-2022 2003 hrs

Ride time: 6 h 29 m; Moving time: 5 h 43 m; Stoppage time: 0 h 46 m;

Stoppage time at CP: 0 h 53 m

So this was the longest remaining segment and the one with the maximum elevation gain. After this one could have thought, even if a fleeting one, for a home run. Sun was beating down in its full glory, it was hot and burning the skin and focus was to ride long, with minimal breaks, keep hydrating oneself. Stopped a couple of times to get some electrolytes and energy in the body and get some respite from the heat. Wearing a merino base layer that day was clearly a wrong move.

After going through the grind and the sun, it was really nice feeling to get the CP and devour the food.

Next stop was Hessle, which again was a drop bag access point and hopefully the resting point for the day.

Section O: Malton to Hessle

Distance covered : 68.75 km; Elevation gain: 747 m;

Start time: 10-Aug-2022 2056 hrs Expected time to reach next CP: 10-Aug-2022 2300 hrs; Actual time to reach next CP: 11-Aug-2022 0238 hrs

Ride time: 5 h 43 m; Moving time: 4 h 15 m; Stoppage time: 1 h 27 m;

Stoppage time at CP: 2 h 23 m

It was a short section, had started with little bit of twilight remaining and was hoping to complete in under hours, leaving enough time to rest and recharge.

Saw the moonrise beyond the hills and it looked spectacular.

Started off well with downhill to negotiate and then riding through roads with no traffic. Since it had become quite dark, had tagged along with some riders riding in a group. It was a bit challenging to keep pace with them but was pushing myself wherever I could to have some company. Rode with 2 Norwegian riders for some time and then a British rider, Andrew. Wherever we could, we chatted up and it was great fun to have conversations about cycling, life, family, kids and geo-political issues.

We would have been about 15-16 km away from the CP, when at the start of one of the climb, the chain came off the chain ring. Nothing significant, I hoped. Both of us stopped and examined it. It had got entrenched between the chain ring and frame, so took some effort to pull it out and put it back on the chain ring. So far so good, except that the chain didn’t stay there, it kept going off the cassette. On little close examination we thought that we should open up the chain and then take off the link which seemed a little twisted / bent. Out came the splitter, the malicious looking link was taken off but the outcome was still the same. Now it appeared that we would have to replace the chain.

Damn!!!

One doesn’t carry a chain with him / her. Few helpful riders stopped by and tried helping with the tools and expertise available with them but sadly we were just reaching the same conclusion, that at least, the chain needs to be changed. We spent about an hour or perhaps more, trying to fix it and got nowhere. After all this effort and time spent, I requested Andrew to continue forward and inform the control to arrange a 11-speed chain, if they can and I’ll figure out a way to get there. Most of the riders advised to call up a taxi, get the bike in it and move to control. That seemed to be the sanest advise available at that juncture. I assured them that I would, once I have some network connectivity and started walking to Hessle CP.

Darn that luck!!

I also mentioned to a few more riders, who stopped by to check on my well being and offer their help to just inform the control for this chain, if they can somehow manage it.

Hessle CP was about 15-16 kms and I figured that it would take me about 3 hours to get there, walking with my cycling shoes but at least I’ll get there.

I informed the command center of the situation, shared the update about my walking and went into conservation mode for batteries, phone, food and water. I also called LEL helpline and informed about the situation, asked for Hessle CP phone number, was denied and advised to call up a taxi.

That’s where I decided that I will not take a taxi and if the need be walk the entire night to get to the control but am not going to surrender my ride at this point of time.

Another helpful rider came by (was absolutely loving the spirit of randonneuring and the desire / intent to help fellow riders) and offered a good advise to ride downhill on the bike and walk the remaining. I tried it but it didn’t work and there were some very weird and painful sounds coming from the drive train / cassette so dropped it. Didn’t want to damage anything else and make my chances even slimmer.

Riders kept passing by and offering their help but after trying all these things I realized that I would wasting their time and mine by stopping them and taking further help so would call out to them to continue further and inform control about this.

One more rider came along, named Matt (he was from UK but lived in Germany, that’s how he introduced himself and that’s how I remember). He was relentless in his persuasion to try fixing the bike at least one and tried his hand at it and after an unsuccessful attempt he offered me to haul me to the CP.

What?

He said, just hold my hand and I’ll pull you to the control. It’s a short distance and he can do it.

I had no words to thank him or express my gratitude and I told him, the biggest help for me would be to just have a 11-speed chain at the control and if he can ride there faster and inform them it would be really nice.

Reluctantly he moved forward and apologized that he couldn’t help much and assured that he would convey the message.

I continued my walk.

After walking for some 3-4 kms or so, saw a large utility van coming and stopping besides me. In the darkness a man stepped forward and said “Can I interest you in a new 11-speed chain?”

It was like the famous Hindi proverb “अंधा क्या चाहे दो आँखें” meaning, that’s what was desired.

Like a super skilled bike technician / doctor / healer, he examined the situation, replaced the chain and checked the bike and blessed me to ride further.

I almost cried and thanked him with all my heart and soul, got on my bike and shot like an arrow from a stretched bow. Rolling elevation became flat for me for the next 10 kms and I breathed easy only when I got to the control.

At the control when I mentioned my rider number C53 (the joker in the pack) everyone seemed to know me, “Weren’t you the same guy who had an issue with the chain?”, “Several riders came by and spoke about your issue”, “Glad to know that it has been fixed”. I also met up with Matt, the guy who offered to tow and bring me to the control. He was super glad to see me there and I thanked him again for his help and all that he had to say was that he was sorry that he couldn’t help more and this is what randonneuring is all about.

Absolutely touched by this and loved it.

Went over to look for this guardian angel (he’s known as Ed, I learnt) who had revived my ride from a certain DNF and got to know that he’s attending few other riders who needed help.

I showered, forced myself to eat something (had lost my appetite after this incident) and went to see Ed again. Thanked him once again (can’t ever thank him enough) and requested him to examine the bike once again and let me know if I need to make changes at my end to avoid the chain going between chain ring and frame. He examined it finely, made some adjustments in the bike and confirmed that my steed, my Orca is ready to roll.

I told him that I would now be able to sleep peacefully and when I wake up, I will complete this ride, no matter what. Ed gave me his best wishes and asked to rest up.

Day 4 Stats

Distance Covered: 270.72 km Elevation gain: 3477 m

Ride time: 17 h 47 m; Moving time: 14 h 59 m; Stoppage time: 2 h 48 m;

Stoppage time at CPs: 4 h 05 m; Avg stoppage time at CPs: 1 h 22m; Sleep time: 3 h 00 m

So this marked an end to an eventful and traumatic day. But all’s well that end’s well and after getting to Hessle my resolve was even stronger to get to the finish line and God willing, I’ll go for it tomorrow (today) itself.

One thought on “LEL Chronicles – Day 4

  1. Pingback: LEL Chronicles – Day 3 – Pedalling thru Life

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