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Wednesday 19th September 2007: “Westcountry slog”

Today was probably the hardest day of the entire journey. It was a horrible, horrible day. The statistics at the bottom of this entry just about say it all.

I didn’t sleep well and had a very light breakfast before setting off at 7:30am. That was a mistake and by 9am I was already very tired. I thought that if I could stick to an average speed of 11mph I would reach Land’s End by sunset. The fact that I was forced to give up 48 miles short of my destination shows how hard the going was on what turned out to be my penultimate day of cycling.

Unlike Scottish roads, which generally follow flatter glens and valleys, the roads of Cornwall and Devon run straight over the hills. I spent the entire day slogging on the A30 trunk road climbing and descending long and at times quite steep hills. I don’t think I passed a single flat stretch of road during my ride in Devon. The road improved somewhat in Cornwall but by then all the energy had been sucked out of me.

In addition to the gruelling hills I had to face a 20mph south westerly wind for the whole day. Again, I found myself having to cycle just to keep going downhill at times. By nightfall my legs were in terrible pain, I could feel a cold coming on and I was physically and mentally exhausted.

I tried several disgusting sports drinks, gels and bars and none of them seemed to work. If anything, they filled me up and I lost my appetite for normal food. I took lunch in a very quaint olde worlde pub near Launceston but for the first time during the whole journey I couldn’t finish it. I also had to force myself to eat dinner at the end of the day. My advice to other cyclists would be to stick to bananas – they’re the best energy food going!

When I ran out of daylight I rang Dad and asked for advice on local accommodation as I was still 15 odd miles away from the nearest Youth Hostel. He found me a fantastic hotel in Newquay but that was still nine miles away. Then by chance I came across a tiny halt on a branch line that runs from Par to Newquay. This station was served by just three trains a day and by sheer luck one was due ten minutes after I arrived. I took this train to Newquay and pushed the bike up to the hotel, collapsing in bed not really wanting to face another day of the wind in the knowledge that tomorrow a front of rain was due to make landfall in the morning.

Ride Statistics

Started: 07:30 hours
Finished: 20:00 hours
Distance: 78.90 miles
Cycling time: 8 hours 52 minutes
Top speed: 26.0 mph
Average speed: 8.9 mph (!!!)
Odometer: 879.7 miles

Hills in Devon
An Olde Worlde Pub in Cornwall
More hills, this time in Cornwall
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Day 11 Day 12 Day 13 Back to the map

Copyright © John Collins