Land’s End to John o’Groats – The Start

At 6am it’s already 19 degrees. The heatwave is making the air crackle even just after dawn. Land’s End is deserted. There’s no reason to be there at this time in the morning. No reason, that is, unless you’ve got 9 days to cycle 1000 miles to reach John o’Groats.

IMG_0700Here’s where it starts for four of us (Lucy, Jonathan, Steve and I). Photos, the iconic signpost, a glance westward towards America, then it’s time to clip in and start pedaling north-east.

The heatwave has meant a change of plan. Up at 4.30am, in time to meet at 6am and get some miles in before the day gets too hot. It means the road to Penzance is utterly deserted. Even in Britain’s most southerly town there’s barely a soul about.

Today is about lanes, rural B-roads, ferries (two, the King Harry and the Bodinnick, to take us over the unbridged estuaries of South Cornwall) and most of all about hills. None too steep, none too long, but unrelenting, incessant hills. Every summit is closely followed by a descent, a bridge and then, inevitably, a climb back up the other side.

IMG_0713By the end of the day we’ve climbed more than 12.000 vertical feet. The constant climbing makes it our toughest day on the whole “End-to-End” ride from Land’s End to John o’Groats. It won’t be the remoteness of Land’s End, the fish and chips lunch in Fowey or the beauty of Dartmoor late in the day that makes this day live long in the memory, it will be the never-ending hills.

Day 1: Land’s End to Okehampton: 109 miles; 12260 vertical ft of ascent