Captain’s Blog. Star date 15th March.
Sunday morning, sitting on the train to Kings Cross. It’s packed – some (not us) have paid £25 to upgrade to first, and are standing or sitting on the floor, Hardly seems worth it.
The Sunday Times sadly (yet again) has given no space to Paul Kimmage’s piece, so you’ll need to see it here. Their cursory hundred words today said Ally McCoist rode in to Edinburgh with us – news to me. Reflections of the whole event will come in a few days. For now here is the social diary, match report and court circular from the last 48 hours.
Let’s get the match out of the way. England rugby fans travel as optimists, not with any sense of expectation. Jonny-bashing is the new sport but if he’d stayed on we’d have won because he has more lead in his pencil than Toby. They should put a net across the half way line and give the referee an umpire’s chair. Back and forth it went, and ended up at deuce. When was the penalty shoot-out introduced? Have I missed something?
By a mile the best bit was the Scots’ singing of Flower of Scotland – really powerful and moving, particularly when the piper stops playing and they sing the second half acapella. Then after the match (trust me, there was nothing in between) Gavin Hastings was the host in the massive hospitality and called me up to give the text number (text ‘SLAM to 70005, to give £5) – imploring everyone to do it – and two Scots came up to me and pressed £200 in my hand. The haggis was piped in, serenaded with Robbie Burns completely unintelligible ode (the bulging bladder looks like the egg thing in Alien) and was delicious. And what a beautiful city. Must come back for the Fringe.
A simply outstanding end of tour party – hosted by Wasps owner Steve Hayes – at the splendid Malmaison Hotel in Leith.
Judge Damian Hopley made a surprise return, having spent the afternoon at Muirfield thrashing the SRU boss 8&7. A ‘dog licence’ as he called it. I pointed out that’s 7&6. Obviously.
Lawrence gave a long and passionate speech, primarily to thank everybody. “My mother Eileen died last year. She believed in me long before I’d done anything to justify this. Parents are the foundation of your life, and that’s why I now have my own Foundation’. He thanked everybody who’d made this happen – the fund-raising riders, the sponsors, the support staff, and those who had made individual contributions.
A bewigged Judge Hopley presiding, I was installed as Clerk of the Court. ‘Order, order’. The defendant, Lawrence Bruno Nero Dallaglio (his mother must have thought he would achieve something with that lot), also trading as Lorenzo Bowleglio, decided to defend himself - against the six charges, all relating to offences between the 15th February and 15th March.
Frankly you can’t win with Hoppers – he makes Herod look even handed – so you might as well take your punishment. The most serious charge was the San Remo Lunch Club – ‘I put it to you that on Tuesday 16th February, in San Remo, Italy, you willfully caused all the other riders, and the major sponsor Causeway, who had flown in a chef from Ireland for the party, at the company palazzo, to spend four hours in a car park in the pouring rain, while your group went for lunch”. In mitigation he had already apologised at the time so was found guilty on this and in fact all charges. It was close run, because of course the judge was present (in San Remo), and a co-defendant on this charge. As he took his punishment (six shots – one per conviction) his wife Alice knew she was in for a long night. Sorry let me rephrase that, she was going to bed, Lawrence was in for a long one.
In sentencing Lawrence asked for 72 similar offences to be taken in to consideration, including taking Phil Brown, Peter Nagle, Neville Upton, David Yarnton and others to Riva and the Ivy for lunch, on unspecified dates, choosing the wine, letting them pay, and persuading them to sponsor the Slam. He asked the Causeway boys for £50k and gave them places on the ride – they asked if they could make it £100k and skip the riding.
Richie then went for his party piece of drinking two pints of Guinness simultaneously - very close, but no cigar. Lee Dixon – father, husband, dog owner – was accused (and found guilty) of having his Giant bike as his screensaver. Gary sang the Gambler. Brother Seele – Elvis is in the building – gave us Suspicious Minds. They ran out of Chuckle Juice (Bulmers), Guinness, Red Bull, Sambucca and Kahlua. The other well-heeled hotel guests were thrilled with the singing, piping (lady bagpiper – the ‘blowfish’) until 3am, followed by the alarm going off at 4.30am (people going out) and again at 6.30am, Lawrence and the Ampleforth boys (coming in).
Special mention to Rob Mauchlen who got back to the city centre Premier Inn at 3.30, went to bed, got a call, and went back to the Malmaison. And why did he do that? No idea. Ask him.
Should probably quit when ahead, but Saturday night found us in the Opal Lounge on George Street. The ratio of people we knew soon dwindled as it was opened to the public, and it soon filled up with revellers the same age as our children – teenagers. Kenny was strutting his stuff – on the recent Strictly tour he came last every night until they got to Scotland, when he won six on the bounce. I’d vote for him. Lots of friends, children, loved ones joined us – particularly Nicola Bird’s boyfriend Will who was her fiancée by the end of the evening. Sorry boys.
We have just stopped at Durham. The windows are flecked with rain, the first we have seen since Twickenham fourteen days ago. Amazingly lucky. I have a tan.
Everybody asks me the same questions. How is your thumb? (A: Seeing surgeon Wednesday). How do you feel? (A: don’t know, ask me in a few days). What are you doing next week? (A: working, if I can find the office). Best moment? (A: finishing). Worst moment? (A: getting sick, crashing). Hardest stage? (A: Italy). How are your legs? (A: fine). Have you lost weight? (A: a lot). For the one and only time in my life I was told – by Simon the doctor – to put on weight. Readers, I have worked hard on this over the last two days.
But THE best thing was this. They say you can make new friends, but you can’t make old friends. As you get older it’s harder to find time in your life for new people, but we have met some truly amazing people on this trip. We will meet again. We will ride again.
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 £1 million to be shared between Sport Relief and the The Dallaglio Foundation. You can support the Cycle Slam at www.dallagliocycleslam.com.