So after riding yesterday I went for a walk around St Peter Port and popped down to my former employer Ian Brown’s Cycle Shop. Unfortunately I missed Ian, but caught up with Paul Brehaut to get the low down on the local scene and a guided tour of the shop. It was great to see how much it has changed and it is without doubt one of best shops I’ve been to in terms of location and setup.
That night I caught up with my old buddy Dave Hubert who was letting me crash at his pad and what was supposed to be a few quiet ones turned out to be a full on session with double Glenmorangie chasers. The weather was picking up as a big Atlantic front approached and we were soaked through by the time we walked home from the pub. Up early the next morning to get the ferry to Herm for the race. So early that most places were still closed, so with a slightly heavy head, I managed to find the newsagent on the Bridge open and bought a few packets of crisps. This was mistake one. Should have bought more food.
Still off to Herm, nice smooth crossing, chance to catch up with a few friends from back in the day, but lots of new faces that I didn’t recognise at all. Good 45 minutes to preride the course, which worked out at about 20 minutes a lap. It took in all the classic elements, except the harbour hill climb, which was replaced by some new downhill sections developed for the Island Games and then a grassy climb back up to the Manor crossroads. The race went okay. I wasn’t ever going to stand much chance against the guys at the front of the field, because they’re used to doing these short course events and you adapt to the short sharp climbs.
I know it took me a year or so to get properly used to riding in the UK for hours at a time after being used to races that just lasted an hour or so. After four laps of the five lap race my steady pace meant that I was clawing a few places back slowly, but then on the final climb, I hit the wall and just ran out of energy. Too much Breda in the pub last night, the energy bars that had mysteriously disappeared from the Camelbak and the fact I’m almost out of energy drink led me to conclude that if I pushed on for the final lap, then I was going to completely bury myself. Just as I was contemplating this suicidal endeavour, race leader Rob Smart (who I used to play rugby with) came past and lapped me, which kind of helped me decide that I could gracefully concede defeat and bow out.
So I had a little time to take a few photos and then we all headed off to the Mermaid Tavern for a hearty lunch. Now I swear that on the boat on the way over in the morning the announcement had been that we were getting the ferry back from the Rosaire Steps at 3.30pm. So after lunch I went off to have a bit of an explore (checking out some of the megalithic monuments and tombs) and had a bit of a snooze in the shelter and in the sun. Get back to the Mermaid at about five past three to find my bike’s the only one left lined up outside the pub. Think that’s odd, they must have just all set off. Ride past the harbour and onto Rosaire. Can’t see any big group of riders or the boat, but then it’s a little hidden from sight until you completely get there.
Arrive to find no big group of mountain bikers. Not a soul. And no boat. Now Herm isn’t very big. There are only two ways on and off it by boat and I’ve been passed both of them. Reality starts to kick in. Either they’re all playing a fantastic practical joke or… That’s the only Ferry off the island today and there’s a great big storm coming in later today with force 8 or 9 winds and the chances are that there will be no way off the Island at all tomorrow and maybe only with luck on Tuesday. Just as I am contemplating having to spend the next few days on Herm a flash of yellow catches my eye.
It’s a bloke in yellow oil skins at the bottom of the steps. I lean the bike up against the wall and wander down the steps and shout:
He looks around
“Have you seen where all the cyclists went?”
“Yeah, they went on the boat about 10 minutes ago”
You’re joking! I really am screwed now. Then just as I was giving up, a little fishing boat comes into view. It’s sporting GU markings, so there’s an outside chance… I shout:
“You’re not going back to St Peter Port are you?”
He responds with a nod. So I promptly follow up with a cheeky,
“Any chance of a lift?”
His cheery positive response is the best news I’ve heard in a long time. Fortunately he’s picking up some people who’ve been ormering and have taken advantage of the spring tide to reach some normally inaccessible spots. It’s pure chance that I’m in the right place at the right time and I’m able to grab a lift back to Guernsey. The little boat takes a bit of a pounding on the crossing back, but the fact there are big shipping vessels taking shelter in the lee of the Island is indicative, that it’s going to get a lot worse tonight. Back on dry land the reality of my close escape becomes apparent. That was a serious bit of luck, but I’m going to need more of it if I’m going to be able to get my flight in the morning back to Manchester…