Friday 26th February. Maidstone - Twickenham. 96km. Done: 1729 km. To go: 1159km. Weather: Fine. Strong westerly wind.
An amazing finish to Stage 3 for our group of 70 odd riders, riding in to Twickenham and being greeted in the stadium by Prince Harry, who I reckon spoke to every single rider - and Bonzo's young daughter Isabella, who said he 'smelled lovely'. Clearly tomorrow's game is the hottest ticket in town. Or is that the Bridge -Terry date earlier?
A pretty hard start - did I know that Biggin Hill is a 10% slog?- and then a Garmin based zig-zag through south east London, past Dulwich College, and via the Elephant and Castle. Will Greenwood had rejoined us, and James Cracknell - one a hard core very capable cyclist, and Will new to it, and clearly a convert, sitting very comfortably on his Giant (Lawrence's spare) and a wheel. Both lovely guys and delightful company. I had a proper altercation with a mini driver on Sloane Street - at the lights he engaged verball, and then realised that he might have bitten off more than he could chew when the reinforcements rolled up. Why are english drivers so aggressive, we have had it all day?
Paul Madeira from Causeway, based in Dubai is one of the funniest guys I've ever met. He arrived at the lunch stop in a taxi, after the Biggin Hill climb, honking his horn. He's hailed a taxi, loaded his bike, and then said 'I shouldn't be in here with what I've got'. 'What's that?' said the taxi driver. 'I've got no money' said Paul. And he still took him ten miles.
We rolled down the King's Road, familar territory, and made a stop at the cafe in Richmond Park. I have been doing doing laps there for 17 years, but have never ridden in such a strong wind. The strong westerly does not augur well for the run west to Fishguard.
Thank heavens tomorrow is a rest day. About 15km out of Maidstone, coming down a steep hill at about 45kph in heavy traffic, I hit a small log, baguette sized (just didn't see it), and the bike just went out from under me. Cuts and scrapes, but just back from an X-ray at Parkside and have broken my thumb, which needs to be extended for 4 weeks, so back tomorrow to have a splint made that I can ride in. There are lots of things you can't do without a right thumb (list to follow), but it includes typing on a blackberry, so I am at home tapping on my keyboard.
Off to my own bed. ...
Andrew Croker is part of the core team accompanying former England rugby union captain Lawrence Dallaglio on every leg of his epic 2,770 kilometre Cycle Slam which started on February the 12 in Rome. Joined by celebrities including former Arsenal defender and Match of the Day pundit Lee Dixon, one time Spurs and Newcastle striker Les Ferdinand and newsreader Dermot Murnaghan plus members of the public they're riding between Nice, Paris, Twickenham, Fishguard on to Rosslare and finally Edinburgh. It's all for Sport Relief and you can support the Cycle Slam at www.dallagliocycleslam.com