I can feel tears welling up. My sunglasses are in my jersey pocket so there’s no way I’m going to hide this. I drift backwards from Jo’s side. I look at the trees, and my stem, and my feet turning the pedals, and back at the trees. I wipe away a tear with a filthy, snotty mitt. I am utterly exhausted. It’s suddenly hit me that I’ve decided to pack. The shear scale of what is left of this endeavour has overwhelmed me like a wave and I’m too tired to keep my head above the water. Doing the sums I know it’s possible to complete the audax in the time allowed but chances are when we get back to Hailsham it will be too late to get a train home. The thought of having to turn around in order to ride the extra 35 kilometres home is more than I want to think about. I really don’t want to pack though. It’s my first 600 and it would complete a Super Randonneur series for the season. More than that though I don’t want to let Jo down. He didn’t enter the audax, he’s just come along for fun, well, maybe not fun, we did a pinky swear about trying something really stupid next year so this is a test, and it’s a test I sense I may be about to fail. I’m the one that is supposed to be able to do this. Jo has never ridden more than 200km and it was my idea to ride 600 and I said it would be OK. I can reconcile myself to bailing on the audax but to not ride 600 kilometres? I can’t stop, not now, not this far in, giving up is out of the question. I reckon we’ve ridden about 540 kilometres so far and it must be about another sixty to home from here. We’re near Petersfield and if I can get there then I can get to Midhurst and if I can get there then I can get to Petworth and if I can get there then I can get to Storrington and if I can get there I can get to Steyning and if I can get there I can get to Shoreham and if we can get there we can have a pint by the river and we can say we did it. We can say we rode to Wales and back and we will have ridden 600 kilometres, further and for longer than either of us have ever ridden. It’s been ridiculous and it’s been brilliant and it’s not quite over. I ride back up to Jo and tell him the new plan hoping he doesn’t notice the emotion cracking my voice.