Y’know that saying “it takes one to know one”?
Well here’s its big brother: “it takes one to know thirty”.
I make no apology for headlining Team Mouldy for the third week in a row because no bunch of guys n gals deserves it more than this lot.
1200 miles, 50K+ feet of climbing and all done and dusted in two weeks.
Nothing about that entire bike ride was easy…
Getting riders onboard: guys of varying abilities, and few of them anything other than yer average bloke on a mountain bike.
Getting sponsors onboard to help create a brand and swell the coffers of the three charities.
Getting a specialist operator to plan the whole thing from end to end.
Getting branded kit in a style that befits the journey.
Getting publicity material, including one humoungous banner, to help spread the word.
And then there’s the training…
You don’t need to tell me about the training. I spent three years, five days a week all year round, leaving the house at 5am to cycle to work, coming home into the wind by the same hilly unlit route, six months without daylight: I know, possibly better than anyone what Mouldy’s team have put themselves through. And that was just to make the start line.
I’m the first to admit that when I saw that the cyclists were heading down the spine of England, through the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales, I was concerned. That’s some seriously hilly terrain, especially when there’s a faster, flatter, albeit busier route through Lancashire. I watched some of Shaun’s early video diaries and I really felt for those guys. It reminded me so much of some of my worst days on LCFN in the middle of winter: but here’s the deal: you signed up to do this beast, so this beast you will do. You survived yesterday, you survived today so tomorrow you go again. That was always my mantra.
Just like a kid fighting cancer.
The journey is as relentless as you make it (or it makes of you).
I look at the photos of these guys and I just think “for the love of Celtic”. Imagine loving your football club so much that you are prepared to punish yourself through whatever winter can throw at you you, just so you can go and top it all come the summer: because by the time these guys got to Portugal, the mercury was screaming summer!!! Just like back home as it turned out, but that’s another story…
I look at the team and I only know two of the cyclists. Mouldy and I go back two and a half years to Cycling Santas, and wee Zuzanna and I met very briefly at Euston Station last year when I was on a work jolly down south. She has an EJ/LCFN wristband: ‘nuff said. In two weeks time, Zuzie leaves these shores to start a new life in New Zealand: hey, what a way to leave the mother continent? If you get to read this Zuzie, I want you on the final miles on the LCFN journey across Australia next year. Brisbane to Adelaide: you’ve proved that you can do 1200 miles in your sleep… 😉
But back to the big man for a minute….
“Football is nothing without fans”. The words of the immortal Jock Stein. Mouldy just proved that that’s true. Four hundred Celtic fans turned up at the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon to welcome Mouldy’s cyclists because he made it so. In the sacred place where their heroes made history, so did Mouldy’s cyclists. They opened it up to the fans because of Mouldy. No other reason. Mouldy got to stand on the same ledge where Caesar stood fifty years ago to the day, and he lifted a replica cup to the multitudes who’d made the pilgrimage. Let that sink in for a minute.
Mouldy made all of that possible. The journey of thirty people’s lives suddenly became the journey of four hundred: for they were there to witness their own flesh and blood conquering everything that Europe could throw at them. Respect doesn’t even come close to describing what I feel for those guys.
And see next week, Mouldy’s gonna have to come home and go back to the day job. Bhoy, is that gonna be hard…
A lot of my friends, especially the Inverness contingent, don’t quite get that I ‘get’ the whole Celtic thing. I get it big style. You don’t surround yourself with the most warm, charitable people in the world without understanding what it is that makes them tic (see what I did there?)
And in a sense, while I had a wee tear in my eye watching the Rachel’s Facebook live (all twenty five minutes of it) video of the team cycling into the stadium, I could never have imagined myself celebrating as they did. I’m Inverness. Respect yes. Deep respect yes. But that’s as far as it goes. I yearn for the day when Scottish football has been cleansed of corruption and I can start going again.
And so to matters LCFN…
I’m sad because the nation was led to believe by Corrie that neuroblastoma could be cured by six weeks of outpatient appointments: and then came wee Bradley Lowery.
Bradley first appeared on my radar when Sunderland played host to Everton about six months ago and Bradley was the home mascot. That night, Everton presented a cheque for £200K for Bradley’s fighting fund.
But neuroblastoma makes its own rules. It’s a family lottery ticket, and I don’t mean that to sound harsh. Sadly, excruciatingly sadly, the images of Jermaine Defoe leading Bradley out at Wembley, then carrying him out at the final game of the season at the Stadium of Light, will remain the defining public lights of Bradley’s fight with the disease. I hope when it’s over that someone remembers what Jermaine Defoe meant to the wee man.
My quest, as ever, is to go where I’ve never been before, metaphorically if not geographically.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: the prevailing wind in the west of Scotland is a right b*****d. Well last Saturday, I set out to keep this run of thirty milers going but despite it being warm and sunny, the wind was something else. As always on these occasions, I headed out west, straight into it, then bagged masel’ a wee detour this side of Irvine to gain some respite and a couple of extra miles. That brought me out into Perceton (pronounced Perce tun, as opposed to Pierce tun which is what the locals call it – another story) and not half a mile from where my Ross stays (note – I should say Ross n Stacey but I’ll leave Stacey out of this: this is a Ross story…)
Where Ross stays, there’s a 1.25 mile rectangular circuit with roundabouts at each corner. And it’s well sheltered which is what took me there. After one lap, I thought to myself “hmm, I could do a few of these, get out of the wind then leg it home on a tail gale”. So one lap became two, two became three and so on: Not really pushing it, just burning fuel like a plane ahead of an emergency landing.
Cue the 9th lap: right, “I’ve got enough miles in the bank, let’s give this one some welly”.
Got home, uploaded the data to Strava then made a segment out of those four roundabouts. Think Monaco. Think Montreal. Think Melbourne. Think street circuit. Mark my words, once the fast guys get a sniff of what I’ve done, this will become a blue riband segment. But for now it’s mine and it’s named after ma boy: The Tour De Taffy: one mile of pure pain.
So I posted 4m22s, screenshotted it and sent it to Ross…
“But I haven’t got a bike”.
Understand one thing: Ross is a Taylor and he’s a former Scottish drug free bodybuilding champion. He’s 27, I’m 64. You think I’m competitive? You ain’t seen Ross.
Ninety minutes later, he’s back on… “4m17s, round ye, old man”.
Music to my ears.
He’d blagged a bike and did one searing lap: I was 22 miles and nine laps into mine. Game on…
Sunday morning, the rain was coming. It was cold (6C) and by the time I got over to Irvine, it was already hosing down. But as it was early and my legs were fresh (???) I was going for this. It’s an uphill start with a downhill finish, which basically means you can wreck your legs on the first half then hope to hang on in the second half: oh, and if a motor appears from your right on any of the four roundabouts, you’re fucked. You basically have to hit each roundabout at 20mph: any slowing down and it’s Goodnight Vienna…
I tried as best I could to hit the rolling start with the Garmin just clicking over a minute so I could judge the pace. Next time, I’ll make sure that average speed it on the display cos that’s the ultimate guide. But this was a rookie attempt so just fucking go for it. By halfway, at the top of the course, the legs were still feeling remarkably good so as long as I could get round the last corner without traffic, I thought “hmm, this is in the bag”. So I buried masel’.
Ross is gonna beat my time. No doubt. I’m expecting a three thirty five fae the wee man but I haven’t touched the big chain ring yet. That’s my turbo and DRS rolled into one. This one’s gonna roll all summer: a teacher, he’ll be finishing for the holidays soon and I fully expect him out there every day, testing, testing, and burning those legs. You only get one shot at this circuit, then you’ve gotta come back themorra.
There’s no prize for winning the Tour De Taffy.
But there was for being jubilant in Lisbon…
The Big Cup!