Thursday 11th March Dumfries - Lanark Distance: 92km. Done: 2833 km.To go: 55 km Weather: Overcast
A steady 92km north to Lanark today. Looking at the profile I knew that we only climbed 300m in the first 50km, but we were going alongside and against the River Nith so could tell it would be steady hard work on heavy roads, against the prevailing north east wind.
When Dave Brailsford trousered the SKY billions he set out to recruit the dream team to achieve a clear objective, a man in yellow in Paris by 2013. I envy sportsmen that single sense of purpose - they know what they are trying to do - I can just see Lawrence and the boys heading in to extra time in the 2003 World Cup Final at the Telstra Stadium (I was there) - and saying 'not now Clive'. They knew what had to be done. And so with Team Croker, I needed the A Team to take on Team Kimmage on the road. So just as Brailsford would, I approached it scientifically, I downloaded Garmin data, I worked out who could drive on through the wind, I asked Andy Scott how many pints he'd had.
Anyway, being fancy dress day, they were easy to pick. My wingman Dickie (top half centurion, bottom half morris dancer), Rab C Nesbitt, Russ Abbott, a transexual, the town crier, and finally I came out and rode in Systeme Jacques pink, with a matching g-string. Nice. What a team. Only possible flaw the Relton-Croker axis reminds one of Armstrong-Contador. Every team needs a leader, we have two.
I did supect that three kilts might be a handicap. It's not well known but the UCI banned the wearing of kilts in international competitions in 1955. An all Scottish team in rode the 1954 Tour of Britain in kilts. The problem started when the BBC, covering the sprint finish of Stage two in to Morecambe, captured team leader Duncan Millar (David's uncle) crossing the line and celebrating in unique fashion. A young Mary Whitehouse said she was "appalled, but at the same time impressed". Team captain Jock Spratt blamed the strong headwind. Their tartan shorts remain a collector's item, and Simon Brydon is still wearing his.
It was a beautiful ride. We rode through Ae, which I thought was a two letter word for Scrabble (a ligature, scottish for one), and up through Thornhill. At one point as we climbed up through the valley to Lanark I swear a golden eagle swooped across my path (Kenny Logan said extremely likely). Could have just done without the boneshaker roads. A familar pattern has emerged - about 25km riding as a smooth train, and then it falls apart. A flat, somebody drops off, a mechanical, and of course TK coming past. This time we larked about and three abandoned me to them, Capatain Scott turned into Captain Oates, but trusty Foxy stayed with me, hampered with his kilt snagging in the wheels. At the food stop he needed to strip but I went through (to uphold the Jacques principles) but Paul got William to hunt me down. Oh well, fun while it lasted.
Lanark is hosting the 2011 Children's Games. How appropriate that we should arrive looking like the clowns from Zippo's circus. Fancy dress day has come to represent what this event is about. I sent a picture of me (pretty in pink) and Les Ferdinad (leopard print knickers) to a Spurs fan and he texted 'They used to call Les the black salmon, you look like the real thing'.
I hesitate to mention the Chuckles again today - but on Chucklestats their ride time was 3-36 (only 30 minutes down) which means they are not as bad as they make out. Bonzo has gone all Daniel Day Lewis, staying in character all day as 'Bruno' - "I have viagra in my bottles, and I had sex wiz five vomen before ze food stop. It was fun". Event director Rob Mauchlen made his Lycra debut, after 30km he said 'I don't know what all the fuss is about' - after 80km he understood why we all give him the look we do as he cruises past in his Range Rover.
I must save waxing lyrical until tomorrow. For now I have to say it is still fun. Not much on fines last night, but you have to admire the guy who fell off while trying to change the ring tone on his iPhone. We have not seen rain since the day we left Twickenham, and until today it had been sunny every day. Just 55km tomorrow, in a coordinated run into Murrayfield. There are nine of us who left Rome four weeks ago - some of whom I have just not ridden with at all - Bonzo, Greg, Pierre-Yves - I need to fix that tomorrow.
Team awards tonight. I'm afarid I am the Captain Bligh of cycling - Bonzo would have everybody in his team if he could - I finished with two on Tuesday and lost the lot today. Fine coming.
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.