Wednesday 10th March Stranraer - Dumfries Distance: 110km. Done: 2738 km. To go: 150 km Weather: Spectacular
The Lee Dixon curse is broken - he came back and it didn't pour, and in fact was maybe the best day yet. But step up DCI (we've promoted him) Simon Brydon who over dinner suggested that the A75 trucker route along the coast was maybe not the best way, and why didn't we head north and loop through the Galloway Forest National Park on the A712? Well, maybe the best call of the tour. Over the last ten days or so of unbroken sunshine, Wales and the Irelands – North and South – have shown us the best they've got to offer, and it was spectacular. And then Scotland grabs the hem of its kilt, lifts it up, and you stand there open mouthed. This was simply the best road we have ridden, through the most beautiful countryside you've seen, with no traffic, and clear blue skies. And then Kenny Logan (whose Mum is from Dumfries) says 'it's much nicer further north'. Bring it on.
So biking fans, this goes straight into my top ten rides. From Newton Stewart, up past Clatteringshaw Loch, and the Bruce Stone, then on through New Galloway, Corset and Crocketford. It's twenty miles, and known as the Queen's Way, named in 1977 at the time of the Silver Jubilee. I haven't worked out the others really, but Chapman's Peak (Cape Town), the bowl up to the back of Soulor (Pyrenees), the Col de Cayolle (Alps) and the gentle hills behind Loule (Portugal) are all in there.
I sense we are getting demob happy. The hard core are drifting back. Les 'Gandalf' Causton, Hugh McHardie, Les Ferdinand. The Castle Hotel last night was also the home of the Stranraer Ice Curling Club, so we all ended up curling into the night. Very funny and thank goodness Kenny Logan was with us because he is an expert. This is what he said anyway. Lovely guy, if a little shy and introverted. Have to say, for a man whose longest ride was two laps of Ricmond Park (20km) he breezed through 110km today.
My little group with Lord Relton was cruising but Groupe Kimmage hunted us down. Not enough to ease past us at 35km he briefed all his group individually, and when about 200m back put the hammer down and went past so wide and fast we couldn't get on, and then had the cheek to drop back and wave goodbye. However, not much use if you can't tell the difference between the A714 and A712. So we found ourselves back in front. But so what, as Dickie reminded me 'it's not a race'.
Simon Brydon is a renaissance man on the bike, not for him watching a wheel with his fingers hovering on the brakes. He likes to ride hard and alone, is riding into fitness, and to take in the view of his homeland. He came in maybe five minutes behind us. But those Cycling.tv shorts have to go. I've just seen his fancy dress outfit, picture to follow.
Today on Chucklevision. The Chuckles are now maybe twenty. Chuckle scouts are sent ahead. The view of the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall gave Shelley a chucklegasm. Brother Darren had a white van moment. Brother Povey provides the group's drag coefficient and then does the old trick of charging to the front in the last 5km claiming fresh legs. Bonzo just sent him the wrong way at the last junction as penance. Oh dear, oh dear.
The SRU are holding a celebration of Bill McLaren's life at 6.30pm tomorrow at Murrayfield. Those rumoured to be appearing the next day for the final 55km sprint include Ally McCoist, Jill Douglas, John Inverdale, Gavin Hastings and Andy Nicol. Should be lively.
Andrew Croker is part of the core team accompanying former England rugby union captain Lawrence Dallaglio on every leg of his epic 2,770km Cycle Slam which started on 12 February in Rome. They're riding between Nice, Paris, Twickenham, Fishguard on to Rosslare and finally Edinburgh. The aim to is to raise £1M to be shared between Sport Relief and the The Dallaglio Foundation. You can support the Cycle Slam at www.dallagliocycleslam.com.