Friday 5th March. Rosslare - Arklow. 82km. Done: 2411 km.. To go: 477 km. Weather: Perfect.
Pass me the thesaurus mother. I am running out of superlatives. And while I remember, thank you all for reading, and the feedback. The fact that anybody at all is taking an interest is very gratifying.
The recruits parachuted in for stage 5 are wondering what the fuss is about. In at the shallow end. Last night at Kelly's Resort Hotel in Rosslare was five-star, we then started at 9.30 today under a cobalt blue sky, cruised north in wide cycle lanes with the Irish Sea away to our right, crossed the Slaney river at Wexford, rode up the coast through Kilmuckrideg and Courtown, and breezed in to the equally lovely Arklow Bay Hotel and Spa at 1.30. What's the fuss?
Paul Kimmage is back and took a group including my wife Joanna, Future's Simon Wear and Mike Ryan, one of our core group, who came down in a crash with Simon Bryden and snapped the rear stay, but came home on a spare Giant. I rode the undulating but gentle 86km with my new team which includes Andy 'Mr Incredible' Scott. So named not for performance, but the fact it's incredible Assos make tights that big.
We are a whopping 64 riders on the stage and the way it works is this. We divide into groups - seven today. And each is led by someone with a Garmin 705 and/or map. Young Rob Bennett then leaves about an hour before us on his Vespa and puts balloons at all the key junctions. This tends to work, though each group has its own MO. We can't shake off Pierre-Yves who is now going the distance and takes the 'lantern rouge'. Greg you know about (just got in, 4.30) - and Lawrence is heading the same way - our cameraman Campo finally decided to ride today, with him, having waited 21 days for the perfect one - and said 'he may be a leader of men, but he's no navigator'. His group had about a dozen flats, Ben broke his chain - but bizarrely left it at the side of the road - and they stopped short of Arklow and lunched on burgers and Guinness at Seafield Golf and Country Club.
Since little to report a few words about Systeme Jacques, which will come up again. Alexandre Dumas created the three musketeers, we all know that, but Jaccques was his little known fourth creation, who never really bought in to the 'all for one' stuff, and ploughed a lonely, even selfish furrow. Dumas' book 'Je suis d'accord' is sadly out of print, but did form the basis of the 1959 Boulting Brothers Ealing comedy 'I'm all right, Jack', starring Peter Sellers as trade unionist Fred Kite. Our own cycle team (you can see us in pink in the Surrey Hills and on L'Etape) is called Systeme Jacques - literally the jack system - in tribute to our members who over the years have proved that when the chips are down it's every man for himself. At the end of next week there will be some inductees in to the SJ hall of shame. Not many to be fair - this tour hasn't been like that. Much.
The Walliams relay is over in the blink of an eye. They raised a million I hear. A lot of money, and shows that the British public - as we know- are very generous.
The forecast for the next four days is hard to believe. Sunny. We could have ridden in shorts today - it was like a spring training ride, just beautiful, bewitching, captivating, charming, comely, enchanting, engaging, enthralling, enticing, fetching, glamorous, gorgeous, hunky, luring, magnetic, mesmeric, prepossessing, provocative, seductive, stunning, tantalizing, teasing, tempting, winning, winsome. That's the trouble with thesaurus.com - but it was all of these. Well maybe not hunky.
I'm sure there is another twist to come, but for the moment let's enjoy it. Tomorrow Dublin and stadium number five....
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.