Today was the longest day in miles. The longest day in time will almost certainly be in the mountains.
Two things stood out for us today.
The first: following the route card is more reliable than using a GPS. And the second: team work always pays.
Most of the riders are using the organiser's "route cards" to get them from A to B, but they keep the cards in a back pocket. That works well enough. You pull the card out. Read: "cycle 3.9 miles on the D22, then turn left". And off you go.
However, the tour organisers recommended buying a handlbar mounted route card holder, and that is so much better. When you're riding, you can usually remember several turns ahead...until you get tired. Then, you're lucky if you can remember an instruction long enough to complete it. And constantly pulling out the card's a real chore.
I do a lot of audax riding in the winter, and most audax riders use route card holders. So when the organisers recommended buying one - and told you where to get it - I jumped at the chance. So far, the card and holder haven't let us down.
A handful of riders are using GPS units that show the route on a map, flash your instructions up as you reach a turn and, if you're wrong, they sound an alarm. But for some reason, the instructions are sometimes wrong. And if you're riding 110 miles in a day, the last thing you need is extra miles because the technology has let you down.
On the first day, our group of five relied on the route card and two GPS units. On one occasion, one GPS told us to go left, whilst the other told us to go straight on. And on several occasions, we missed a turn because the GPS' only gave us the instruction after we had passed it.
Today, this pattern was repeated. One group of riders followed a GPS down a long steep hill onto a camp site, only for the GPS to make them turn round and ride back up. Another followed the GPS reliably, but constantly missed left or right turns because the GPS only flashed up an instruction as they passed the relevant turn.
Our group used a route card, a route card holder, and a GPS for back up, and scored a perfect 10. Insure, reinsure, really sure.
After lunch, Steve and I got into a group of faster riders from QBE Europe, Arthur J Gallagher and Barclays Corporate Bank. This was like riding in a professional peleton. When experienced club cyclists get together, they automatically work together as a team. You take turns on the front, so that other riders can "follow your wheel" and get aerodynamicly "dragged along". If you "fall off the back of the group", the strongest riders will "pace you back on". This worked brilliantly today for more than 50 miles. At one point, we were averaging 25 miles an hour. At another, I was paced back on by an elite rider from Barclays Corporate Bank. We covered the last 5 miles before our afternoon break in less than 13 minutes.
This level of genuine team work seems rare in other walks of life, and it's rare in most other sports. But it's absolutely brilliant. And "absolutley brilliant" pretty well sums up our afternoon. Insure, reinsure, really sure...and always, always, work together as a team.
Today's ride: 110.69 miles
Mileage so far: 299.82 miles
Today's climbing: 1,127 meters
Climbing so far: 3,903 meters