36 hours without sleep would be okay if I was riding my bicycle, but instead I was stood in the road waving glow-sticks in the air like a demented aircraft Marshall. I took time off work to volunteer at the Thirsk Control of the London-Edinburgh-London Randonnée, helping up to 1000 cyclists find their way safely into the school grounds during the night.
I signed up with Lynn and Aiden Hedley’s team at the Thirsk site because it was the easiest to get to from Stockton-on-Tees. I couldn’t offer a full week, but booked myself a couple of days off so that I could see the riders pass through on their way northbound. Sunday 28th July arrived and after the morning service at church, followed by serving tea and coffee, it was time to drive down to Thirsk and pitch the tent. My son was coming to help out too, and we planned to camp one night.
It was time for the safety and site briefings, so all 50 volunteers gathered in the school restaurant. We were also issued with our distinctive red t-shirts and lanyards. After this we had a series of training courses on everything from control booking in, bed booking, bag drop handling, sandman roles and marshal duties.
After the training everyone busied about gathering blankets, preparing food, making arrangements and… as the time grew close for the riders to reach us we started to head outside to wave and cheer. I headed all the way out to the main road and stood looking into the distance for the silhouette of a rider in the distance.
After an hour waiting and looking down the road, the first group of five riders appeared! It was 7:33pm, they had left London at 5:30am, this means they had taken just over 14 hours to get the 400km from London the Thirsk – really amazing. And they all looked so fresh.
We expected a little gap after these chaps, so I headed in to talk to them. Anco de Jong from the Netherlands was enjoying the soup and pasta and looking remarkably fresh. I asked what his sleep plan was, and he replied that he’d be trying to get back to Thirsk southbound for midnight Monday, have a couple of hours sleep and then carry on.
Heading back outside I met another rider swooping in to Thirsk
A beautiful evening in Thirsk
I cheered and waved at riders for the next couple of hours until it started to get so dark I was having difficulty seeing riders down the road, and I realised I needed some form of torch, so dashed back into the control to look for lighting. Lynn gave me a couple of glow sticks, and I asked my son if he’d like to come and join in the waving and cheering – which he did. On the way back out we noticed this fully-faired recumbent.
Now my son and I were in the dark of the night, and with Beth the three of us danced up and down waving glowing sticks in the air so that arriving riders would know where the entrance to the control was.
But as the night drew on, and we reached midnight, I decided to take Edward back and tuck him up in the tent. We grabbed some sandwiches and I said goodnight to him. On the way out I noticed that a companion from previous rides had reached Thirsk – Mike, sometimes known as “bikey-mikey”.
2am… Constant stream of cyclists arriving at Thirsk! Excellent!
3am and the river of cyclists arriving at Thirsk northbound continues. I’ve been stood in the road waving light sticks like a maniac so they can identify the entrance to the control easily. Had an interesting chat with the Police. Turns out I’m not doing anything illegal. Wow.
4am. The riders coming into Thirsk now have been riding for 22hrs. Pity the first thing they see is my face. Hahahahahahbwahahbwahahaha!
4:45am… The sun has risen and there is no longer a need for a loony waving glow sticks around. Coffee and then onto control duties. It has been wonderful seeing all the happy smiling faces of the cyclists northbound.
In the midst of this, Tim Taylor arrived, shortly followed by Andrew Wills arrival, both looking as happy as always and clearly enjoying every minute of the event. I finished checking-in and as it was approaching lunchtime, knocked off to find Edward and get the tent packed away.
It was mid afternoon when Edward and I were finished packing up and about to leave. Riders were still in the restaurant, catching up on some rest before taking on the next section to Barnard Castle.
So we had finished. Outside was a lovely day. And it is my Birthday, what a great way to party. Lynn and the team had bought me a cake – in the midst of all the confusion of the control, they had found time to buy a cake and get a card signed – truely amazing people and I’m thoroughly proud to have worked for them on the Thirsk Control of LEL. I’ll be back in 2017, God Willing, and next time I’ll be riding.
[EDIT: I heard that Anco de Jong arrived back in London, completing LEL, at 10:55pm on Tuesday 30th July 2013. An absolutely amazing ride. Of course, we remember that this is not a race, it is an audax]
[EDIT 2: LEL 2017 is live!]