A week ago, in preparation for Le Jog, I sat in Daffyd Garricks’s bicycle strewn front room, discussing linguistics with his girlfriend Jeanne. She was translating the words ‘Le Métier’ from the title of a cycling book on Daffyd Garrick’s coffee table. “It means a job. No, it actually means a craft or a skill. I don’t know. There isn’t really an English equivalent.”
On our first real day of cycling these words are ringing in my ears. On some days cycling is a craft; full of precision, flair and élan. On others, it is akin to manual labour – carrying barrels about a factory, ferrying bricks up a ladder. Today is one of those days.
We leave our hotel at 0930 and make our way with ease down the five miles to John O’ Groats, stopping briefly for a photo before taking to the road, one I should add, we have already cycled 20 miles simply to make it to the start. The weather which had begun in glorious summer transcends into relentless whopping winds and showers which are blown into our face at rates of 40mph throughout the day. By lunchtime we are feeling the strain of carrying 7kg of possessions on our bikes up the unforgiving hills accompanied by the Scottish bluster. There are countless sore joints. We cover 65.48 miles at an average speed of 10mph with a total riding time of 6 hours and 4 minutes.
We arrive exhausted at our hostel at 1730 having ridden the entirety of the day in what feels like a 9 to 5 shift. What a way to make a living. The train has been beautiful – sparse rocky outcrops giving way to winding undulating hills and gorgeous hillside lagoons, but we have paid for it.
We eat an oven pizza, do a jigsaw puzzle (4 pieces are missing) and steel ourselves for tomorrow. It turns out Froome is in a yellow jersey. We can only imagine what this feels like. We’ll do the highlands again tomorrow.