In this gloriously hot summer, 22 fool hardy cyclists turned up at South Barn Farm, Leadenham to take part in Andrew Watson’s 262 mile ‘torturethon’, aka ‘The Three Plots Challenge’. Lycra is an acquired flavour for non-cyclists as you struggle with the mixture of humour and disgust. The smorgasbord of shapes and sizes lining up at the site, was certainly a sight for sore eyes. It wasn’t long before the lead group were in their stride, with the strong Corteva team at the head of the peloton. There was no shaking off the dogged pursuit of Peter Brompton, Dan Macdonald, James Alllis and the ever-youthful Sean McGill. In the rear team, NIAB were battling with the forces of nature as punctures and pedal failure meant several stops. Koos, with his Dutch riding style, didn’t break stride showing that all those youthful years of pedalling on the flat lands of Holland were not forgotten. In the meantime, catching up from his late start Simon ‘tugboat’ Draper caught up with the Team NIAB. Simon riding what could best be described as a Scorpion tank bedecked with Garmins, Strava and panniers. Several slight diversions later, as Simon grappled with his technology, we arrived for lunch at Deeping St James. The temperature was now nudging 30C and we were 39 miles in and 35 to go subject to Simon’s navigation.
Andrew Watson now decided to join the riders carefully removing his trusty Penny Farthing from his home made bike rack. Anointing us with his presence did lead to many questions; Could he roll a fag and ride at the same time? Could he light a fag on the go? How long would each one last? The delights of Peterborough awaited. To say the least the city was an interesting mix as we toured a diverse mix of ethnic areas resplendent with Minarettes, Cathedral, Parks, naked sun bathing and several people enjoying an early gallon or two of cider. Craig Chisholm marvelled at the sights and sounds but with the heady mix of glue, alcohol and funny cigarettes he became completely confused causing him to forget which foot was clipped in his cleats! This led to a sedate and fortunately pain free fall. The rest of the afternoon was best described as torture, with the fens offering no cover and no breeze. The tarmac was melting and a Dews bus driver was determined to kill as many cyclists as he could. All sense of humour had now disappeared from yours truly as we melted away. Several pounds lighter and several degrees hotter we arrived in St Ives and day one done!
Our spirits were lifted greatly with the arrival of fresh meat in the form of Chris Delf and Bob Fitzgerald! As the tales of distress filtered through to Bob he started to be concerned that his Raleigh chopper with central gear shift might not be up to the task. A great meal at the local curry house hosted by Paul Savage from Rotam cheered Bob up with a Vindaloo, his curry of preference. The morning dawned cool and overcast which is more than can be said for the hotel which kept a high tropical temperature all night. Bob now suffering the after effects of his curry decided full English was the way forward. At 8.00 am the team gathered at the Park and Ride for the 13 mile cycle track into Cambridge. The 20 riders voted that Bob should stay at the rear and was accompanied by Sean and Neil, from Bayer, who rode a respectful distance in front of him. Neil enlightened me on the physiological aspects of a Koala Bears’ backside, which apparently is as hard as rock and a major defence against predators. I am not sure if this was to comfort me or to indicate that I would have a Koala’s backside by day 4? A brief stop at NIAB and the arrival of team Syngenta increased our numbers to over 20 and the merry crew now set off to the Bayer offices, where we were cheered in by the staff. It has to be said that this magnificent turnout was primarily to see Bob and Sean in Lycra. Several beautiful bacon sandwiches later and we started on the scenic trip through Cambridge. Bob had now developed a fascinating interest in manhole covers pointing to them as we moved through the city. Unfortunately, for those of you who know Bob co-ordination is not always his finest attribute. Removing one hand from his Raleigh Chopper was similar to Harry Houdini crossing Niagara Falls. Inevitably, there came a point when Bob had the brush with death and a double wobble over the Victoria Regina cover, brought an instant stop to his obsession with manhole covers. A stop at Fulbourn Park to be greeted by the brilliant Syngenta and Corteva teams was greatly appreciated. A super lunch followed at Swaffham Bulbeck courtesy of Sarah Hurry of Corteva and then back into the blistering heat. Not long into the afternoon, yours truly lead a daring solo breakaway pushing hard for Mildenhall. Meanwhile the rest of the Peloton firmly believed I was lost as mountain rescue teams and crack SAS units were dispatched to find me. Eventually, we all gathered up again in Mildenhall. The final afternoon miles became a slog, as we toiled again with temperatures into the low 30’s. A final flurry across a sand dune saw us all finish and Day 2 bit the dust.
A night of Watson entertainment ‘fifty shades of De Walt screw drivers’ and a beautiful Lasagne later and it was the start of Day 3. Sean now had to leave us, and we were sad to see one of the Musketeers go as his company had been a pleasure. No problem though as teams from BASF, FMC, AICC and Anglia Farmers joined the merry throng and the thermometer nudged 21C at 8.00am. This new testosterone enthused group set off at a tremendous pace covering the first 17 miles in an hour. Andrew Blazey completely forgetting that he was actually meant to be cycling with his wife! A more sedate second section saw the group arrive at Anglia Farmers for a Hog Roast courtesy of FMC. Bob now left the group taking his trustworthy Raleigh Chopper to be mounted on a plinth in his garden back at Sheriff Hutton. Thanks Bob your company was brilliant. Many people will have memories where they were when significant events happened in sporting history. When England scored the first goal against Sweden we were just arriving for a drink stop at the Crown Inn, Gayton as the huge cheer went up from the marquee indicating 1-0. The 2-0 final score was a less memorable happening, as we were somewhere in an Industrial estate in Kings Lynn. Day 3 finished in the car park of TESCO at Kings Lynn and there it was time to say goodbye to many of our co-riders. A huge thank you goes to all of you for your companionship and effort. A return to Chez Watson, and more De Walt carpentry tales, we were rewarded with a fantastic BBQ. Eventually after everybody was full, and England next opponents known, tired and fatigued the group meandered to bed.
Day 4 and we were now down to the hard-core, Simon ‘Tugboat ‘Draper, Dan Macdonald, Peter Brumpton and yours truly. A hearty breakfast in Dan’s family restaurant MacDonald’s was the order of the day, before departing for Kirton. Nice cloud cover meant that we were able to crack on at a good pace and quickly cover the 15 miles. This also enabled us all to reflect on the past three days. We all agreed that Andrews driving ability is second to none, literally, second to none! We would never buy a used vehicle or trailer from him, but he can organize a good event. Simon Draper is just an automaton on a bike and we wish him luck in his tour of Tasmania in December. Kirton was our final food stop kindly funded by Andrew. We pressed on in the afternoon to finish very tired and sore at South Barn 3.30 pm on the dot.
A big, big thank you to all involved, especially the support riders who tried to convince me that it had been just as taxing for them to keep chasing the peloton and providing food and iced drinks at the regular stops. All I can say is that I bet they do not have a koala bear’s bottom!!!
Remember to Laugh.Live.Learn.Play.
Huge thanks from the Rob Stephenson Trust.