On leaving Gatwick.......
By this time the sun was up because of our various delays so we sailed along being able to see all around us for the first time. Unfortunately Reg's chain came off at the bottom of Turner's Hill and his ensuing jumping around and misbehaving meant I walked the last bit. CC had managed to put it back on but he was clicky and irritable for a few miles afterwards. At this point it was all quiet country roads and was stunning scenery when you're used to the tarmac and concrete boredom of London. There was a lot of wildlife but, unfortunately, much of it was squashed and a bit gross on the road.
CC and I kept a steady but fairly good pace throughout and remained in about the middle of the pack. We had time to chat and giggle about bottoms enveloped in lycra as we went but were starting to get a bit tired. Then the signs for Ditchling began to appear.
Ditchling. Everyone tells you it's crap and they're not wrong. We stopped before it and could set off when we wanted. Knowing I'd probably have to walk it CC and I set off early. CC was a machine and powered up but my knee went click about 20 yards in. Even walking was difficult but I walked a bit, cycled a bit, walked a bit, cycled a bit and then walked the end. A lot of people did the same and I was never made to feel ashamed. CC went all the way and I was almost more proud of her than she was.
Every person was welcomed to the top like an old friend and a particular cheer was made for the last lady up. She was a newbie but had nearly made it until her chain snapped. We worried it was a problem but, of course, several boys gathered round with multitools and had her ready to go in no time.
A teenager went up and down the hill three times while we waited for the last man but I've been assured he's a freak of nature and a fabulous cyclist so I'm not too insulted
At this stage it was hot enough for me to strip to my shorts and it was in blazing sunshine that we swept down to the sea. There were fields of purple, yellow and green, poppies everywhere and then, suddenly, cars. It felt bizarre to be back in a town. There were traffic lights for the first time in hours and they were on a hill that made stopping a hazardous venture.
We pedalled down to the beachfront feeling victorious (and a little emotional in my case) before devouring a fry-up that helped replace the sleep we'd lost. We then climbed onto the train and headed back.
Why are people so narky about taking bikes on trains? It's permitted, get over it. I take time to research when I can take my bikes on trains an I obey the rules so a big raspberry in your direction. It felt utterly surreal to be heading back in the morning after cycling all night but even the disgruntled mumblings of train passengers didn't bother me as I floated in a deliriously happy cloud of exhaustion and smug.