Psychology really came to the fore today. It had been billed as our hardest day and people tend to put off doing things that they don't like. So, we eventually set off at 09:10, as opposed to yesterday when we left at 08:50. As soon as we left Gatehouse of Fleet, we began climbing.
I felt really good today. Having risen early, I had successfully managed to stop my gears slipping and the front disc brake rubbing, which gave me the belief that I could finally get the most out of my bicycle. I was cycling in exactly the same way as I did on my old bike, but the results were massively different. The lighter frame meant I was carrying far less weight up the hills, and the cleats and toe clips meant that my feet never slipped on the pedals, enabling me to gain the maximum force from each rotation. The net result was that I cycled far faster.
Ric and I spent all day at the front of the group, climbing in tandem and taking it in turn to draught one another as we cycled into a strong headwind. At the summit, we entered into a forest, hurtling down the tracks at nearly 30 miles per hour. I was loving it, and realized that part of the enjoyment came from slightly scaring myself on the rough terrain, with my semi-slick tyres often losing grip as we pressed on. With all elements working so well, I formulated the plan to cycle LEJOG, Land's End to John O' Groats, which I hope to undertake next summer.
As we set off from a scheduled water stop, Richard realized that he had a puncture. So, Alan, Colin, Ken and Ian set off, whilst Dave, Graeme, Ric and I helped Richard change his tyre. Not once, but twice, as Richard's new spare inner also had a sizeable hole in it. Fifteen minutes later, we set off in hot pursuit. Ric and I soon caught up with the others, and we all cycled to our lunch stop together. A steep climb up to a stone commemorating Robert the Burns first battle victory gave us all an idea of what we would be facing after lunch.
We ate under bright sunshine in a car park, but the atmosphere was largely subdued. We had completed the first 32 miles by 14:00, and still had 28 miles to go, which we knew would be far tougher. Our sandwiches had barely reached our stomachs when we launched into the first major climb after lunch, 8 continuous miles. Ric and I just kept pounding away on the pedals and soon reached the summit, where we waited for Dave and Richard. After a quick drink, we enjoyed the descent, before climbing once again, this time a shorter, steeper climb. When we could see the summit of the second hill, Ric suggested stopping for a drink at the top. I needed little persuasion, and agreed, at which Ric put his foot down and sped off. I tried to keep up, in vain. He was laying down a marker.
We had agreed with Neil that he would wait for the others to reach the summit of the first hill, before coming to meet us at the top of the second. Ric and I arrived before him, which gave me an idea of how much the others were suffering. Once Dave and Richard had arrived and recovered, we headed for Dalrymple. Once we hit the flat roads, Ric and I were averaged close to 20 miles per hour, reassuring me that I still had plenty in the tank after our longest day. The others arrived about 40 minutes later at 17:30, in high spirits, knowing that the worst is behind us. To date, we have yet to experience rain, a massive blessing. Long may it continue.