The Latest Look at how our WCR Grand Tour Riders are doing.
The metaphorical firework which we metaphorically launched on February 18th in Greenwich, London has metaphorically exploded. The WCR Grand Tour is in full flight, and its individual riders have been scattered like so many brightly coloured hot shards of flame, firework-like across the Globe. And to (perhaps over-) extend the analogy, we feel sure that they will continue glowing against the metaphorical Night Sky until they have all put down their 18,000-odd miles, hit two antipodal points, etc., etc.
Each rider’s path is naturally not without its trials. Having been stopped en route by police in Spain under suspicion of “cycling at night”, Sean Conway‘s chosen airline in Madrid took his bike off the plane shortly before take-off to Santiago de Chile. Apparently the plane was “overweight”, so they decided to relieve the poor thing of a few pounds of aluminum tubing. Which like as not made all the difference, of course, and ensured a safe and speedy crossing for all concerned to South America. The airline very kindly sent his bike on a couple of days later.
This enforced time out of the saddle has given other riders the chance to play catch-up. Sean was an early leader, and had been averaging 200 miles a day in Europe.
He is now moving briskly along the Pan Am and has already tasted the delights of “bivvying” on a new continent. He has also hit some fairly mountainous terrain along the way, if some of his interval times are anything to go by. On Monday, for example, he was clocking a less-than-heroic average speed of 2.5 km/h for half-hour-long stretches. Ouch. Still, the weather’s nice there this time of year, which is more than we can say for Simon Hutchinson‘s current location.
Hilly, chilly, breezy, rainy eastern Poland was the less-than-perfect place for Irishman Simon’s satnav to start acting up earlier this week. Riding somewhere in a hurry, laden down, while getting blown around the road as icy sheets of rain pelt down on you is rarely fun, and is less so when you discover you’re going in the wrong direction. Rookie bike messengers working a first day in a foreign city in adverse weather conditions may have an inkling of where Simon’s head was at. Let’s hope he’s packed lots of Proofide. He is one of two riders working their way eastwards across the European continent, and his odometer has been showing some serious mileage since departure.
His KOS-ometer’s readings have been fairly respectable too. The John Boultbee Brooks Patent KOS-ometer finally went into production in 2011 after a decades-long search to somehow quantitatively measure the Kindness Of Strangers, an element of Long Distance Touring without which, if long distance tourers are to be believed, their bikes would never move as much as an inch in the right direction. We’ve been testing the KOS-ometer with our Grand Tour racers and have been able to extrapolate some graphs from the data already.
In Dresden last week, Simon was given a bed for the night by somebody he had never met before, on the back of a telephone conversation with somebody he has never met before. On top of this, people he has never met before are hitting the “Like” button on some of his Facebook posts. Hence…
Sean, meanwhile, did get free lunch off a family of Strangers in Morocco, but had hassle with previously unacquainted police in Spain, and didn’t know any of the airline people. On the upside he didn’t get attacked under cover of darkness by Strangers while bivvying in Chile. This sort of counts as Kindness. As well as which, on Monday he cadged another free meal! This time from a family of Strangers in northern Chile. So…
By a similar token, Mike Hall exhaustedly ate his biscuits sitting on the floor of a supermarket in Croatia recently and nobody said a word. Just a couple of hours later, however, a tree fell in the road, blocking his path. Whether this was Unkind or merely Inconsiderate of the tree, we can’t say, but is none the less fuel for the KOS-ometer.
Croatia has been stormy this week, and local police who Mike has never met before Kindly advised him to rest up while it was particularly hazardous. And of course, last week Mike was stung by an unknown bee while trying to remove an orange net that had got snagged in his cassette. As we go to press, it has still not been established whether Mike personally knew the person who had carelessly discarded the net. But we’re guessing not.
While all this is going on, Richard Dunnett is powering through sunny Spain, availing of the free WiFi connections to be had near most Iberian filling stations.
Stuart Lansdale had a few wisely spent hours in Cologne last week tweaking his baggage set-up, and is making the most of the improved aerodynamism. We’re sure the stopover had nothing to do with the fact that the German equivalent of Rio de Janeiro was kicking off its Mardi Gras celebrations at around the same time. He is hot on Simon Hutchinson’s wheels, heading East.
Martin Walker is already in the US. He has a brother living on the East Coast, and when he dropped in to say hello said brother was thoughtful enough not to spoil Martin with anything like a big feed or a comfortable bed. The tough love seems to be doing Martin good. Mileage-wise he’s well up the Leader Board. Martin has no previous long-haul cycling experience to speak of.
Stephen Phillips‘ path has been beset by all sorts of trouble so far. Prying Gendarmes, an immobile ankle, a heavily swollen Achilles tendon, unexpectedly mountainous Spanish roads… he’s currently resting his leg up for a day and hopes that with a little medical attention he can get moving again very soon.