We arrive at Penzance at dusk. The starting line is still 20 miles away and we have to find a place to camp. Getting on our bikes after a 8 hour train ride, we whoop and shout out joyfully. Freedom of the open road, the direction of a map, the single simple goal of achievement. On our way to Lands End, the size of the task ahead hits me. We haven’t even arrived at the starting line yet, but the first hill has us huffing and puffing. Dave's new gear set makes ominous uncomfortable noises. The chain and teeth are not yet friends, and as they fight to get along they groan. My chain and teeth have been lazy friends too long. On the easy flats of London, untried and untested, their relationship held up well. The strain of this steep uphill sees them parting company forcefully. They are not showing the dedication to each other I had hoped. How will our trio hold up? My bike skips a few gears and I welcome the excuse to come off my bike. I had, of course, raced up the first five meters of the mile long hill in a frenzy of excitement, and so the others were still behind me, waiting to go past. Too busy to laugh at my disaster, they chugged on up the hill. Damn that stinking tank engine who set the bar so high. I can’t even see the top of this slope in the dark.
By the time I'm up, night has descended fully. The last lampposts are behind us, the tree tunnels twist and dive ahead. We have two working lights and one working bike between the three of us. My attitude approaching this task was one of severe naivety. My bike riding technique, honed around the stop and start of city riding from traffic light to busy road, was unaccustomed to long spells of non-stop pedalling. The ego boosts from scowling at pink tassel hung bikes can't be relied on here to kick start the adrenaline. There is no granny carting a kilo of fair trade loofas down the pavement on a penny farthing for me to pace myself against.