Monday 8th March Belfast - Stranraer Distance: No idea, rest day. Done: 2621 km. To go: 267 km Weather: Dead calm
A fun night in Belfast. The legendary Irish rugby player Mike Gibson joined us for dinner at Pizza Express. (They have been a very generous sponsor - in Maidstone 85 of us ate 312 pizzas, which is pretty good going). After dinner we set off for the Apartment and sadly I screwed it for all sixty of us. I hope the owner reads this, but the neanderthal knuckle-scraping doorman had all the interpersonal skills of a US immigration official, and because I did not show him the sort of respect reserved for visiting heads of state or Premiership footballers he took offence at my amusement when he asked me (at 11.30pm) if I'd been drinking. "You look unsteady". A Mexican stand-off ensued - and bear in mind the place was empty on a Monday night, and I had sixty platinum Amex bearing captains of industry in tow, facing a rest day - but Simon Brydon broke the deadlock (using the diplomatic skills acquired in his early career in the police force) by giving him some advice loosely associated with sex and travel. At which point they simply weren't going to have our money.
Captain Scott did a quick recce and we transferred to Benedicts. Decor was gothic cum middle period Hilda Ogden. And the band. Well. Four blokes beyond parody. They seemed to be dressed as EasyJet stewards, had cornered the Belfast peroxide market, and the drummer was still on page two of the Tommy Lee stick twirling manual. They started banging out a motley selection of covers - Purple Rain, Valerie - and when they got to Dirty Dancing both Jan and Jeremy came over all Johnny to Michelle's Baby and decided to give Michelle the 'time of her life'. Nobody puts baby in the corner, and nobody got Michelle over head height. Good thing too - it was getting messy. Some random chap tried to pick up Joanna while I was standing next to her - not helped by her introducing me as "this is my friend Andrew".
I know the fines are popular. Probably best would be Jeremy arranging his own massage a few streets away. But actually booked by his wife -will get to the bottom of that one readers. Jeremy is in the vanguard of those going through a life-changing experience. I shall do this in English money. He is a big guy, maybe 6-4. He played rugby at 19 stone, ballooned to 24, and is riding at 21. He just loves it on the bike. David Yarnton - from Nintendo had never ridden more than 26 miles before this - I went past him on yesterday's climb and he sounded like he was giving birth - but he soldiered on and is committed to cycling. And finally the one and only Peter Nagle from Causeway. We are talking epiphany. Over dinner last night he showed me the 'before' photo. from October last year, taken by his nephew Mike, on the day he got his bike, and first wore Lycra. His wife Sharon said "Oh my god, you look like Big Daddy". I thought he looked like he was getting his Santa outfit on. He tipped the HGV scales at 19-5 - now he's 16-8 and looks a new man, and is so hooked he has the best bike in the field, the £8k all electric Giant TCR. Flash.
And the Causeway fund-raising now admirably nudging £54,000. Joanna not far behind. Not given??? No excuse.
The Chuckle Brothers have recruited two sisters, Mel and Shell. They drink Chuckle juice (Magners). Andy Scott has defected (he says not true "I was recruited") - three teams in three days - tart. Bonzo is looking at brand extensions. I am convinced this leg has produced the most cycling converts - half of the room stood up last night to admit they had never ridden 100km before. And of course Alistair took the Dogs out at 7.30am, and convinced that the climb would break them, took them round the peninsular for an extra 25km - so they lost their 100 mile cherries.
Docking in Stranraer. Nearly there. Very odd not to be on the bike today. Not even a Tour de France rider can write 'Day 25' in his blog.
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.