These days, since I’m doing less events, my tendency is to look to do events that I haven’t done before. But always, there are exceptions to the rule, and the Great Weston Ride is always one of those. It’s local, it’s one of the few times I actually use the bike in a “green” fashion, as my mode of transport to get to where I need to be to do what I’m going to do and then get home again, and it’s run by lovely friendly folk. On that basis, it would be rude not to, right? In fact this year’s ride made it five years in a row for both myself and GB. Practically a tradition
So, 6:00am on Sunday morning, and I was the first at Shute Shelve for a change, to be joined shortly by GB and then Clayton. The weather was already looking promising, and my decision to leave the waterproof at home seemed to have been wise. Our esteemed leader GB, aka the one who knows the many and various ways in and out of Bristol thanks to his commuting, once more led us on our way to event HQ at Long Ashton Park and Ride. Initially there was some mist/low cloud around but it blew away quickly, and my arm warmers and gilet were soon feeling a tad superfluous. There wasn’t much chance to do much about that though, what with quiet roads, and a reasonable pace, and no excuses to stop. It was just beautiful out though, talk about a great way to start the day I could probably find a route in by myself now if I had to, but the turning for the cycle path that it usually involves still took me a bit by surprise. Luckily we had to stop to let a runner take her course, so I was able to stash my layers away – result! GB takes us in a slightly different way every year, variety being the spice of life ‘n all, but we still get to where we have to be. Having said that, although the country lanes used today are great, when it came to being offered the option of going via Belmont Hill as well, I baulked, and Clayton and I left him to it, choosing instead to take the more direct main road route! I don’t care if it has been re-surfaced and is really nice…! Hills, moi?
Cycling time: 1:15
Distance: 19.6 miles
Avg: 15.5 mph
ODO: 5746.8 miles
HQ didn’t feel as busy as some years, but since I gather more people did the event than ever before, maybe we were just earlier than everyone else? On the upside, this meant precious little queuing for the toilets. However the mechanics were still pretty busy. I was hoping to get them to have a look at my gearing, as having had a spacer fitted to the new cassette on Friday the gears had been a bit clicky on the way in. Even after I’d parked my bike with them, queued for registration and gone back again, they were still chocka though, so I decided I could live with it! Registration itself was easy enough, if you’d paid attention to the signs which told you which surname-alphabetised queue you should be in – which I had. Maybe they were too high up for people to see, or just behind them when they got to the queue bit? Either way there was a bit of confusion, and also occasionally people reaching the front of a queue to be told that they should be in “their” queue instead and having to start over… Not me. I reached the front, and was given my number – 903 – two cable ties, an emergency contact card, and a free 9bar. Job done.
There’s something about blue skies and sunshine and milling around multi-coloured lycra – it just looks nice. Especially with all the flowers and landscaping around. There were a few familiar faces around too, unsurprisingly what with it being so local. We didn’t hang around to chat much though, instead the three of us headed off towards the start where, as it turns out, we were also in the third group. Good things come in threes? Talking of familiar faces, Andy Cook (of Andy Cook Cycling fame) was there, splitting the riders into groups, and ride organiser Darren was the one giving the rider briefings to each group away – and it was nice to have a brief chat to both of them – hi guys!
Following our briefing, with all the usual highlights, including warnings about the road surfaces (it’s Somerset – they’re all rubbish!) and the descent of Westbury Hill, we were on our way, heading back out the way we’d just come in – another reason GB had chosen his route in, he hates to repeat himself on a ride! It was clear that GB was still well on form, and Clayton likewise, as they frequently drew away from me. This wasn’t helped by occasional traffic, traffic lights, and the main road stretch up the A38 after Barrow Gurney where overtaking other riders was tricky and we got a bit separated. This just left me having to kick ar*e to catch the pair of them on the downs or flats as best I could. Which mostly I managed, what with the next bit being mostly my kind of road, essentially flat and fast! So I did my usual job of annoying various proud male riders by hurtling past them and making them have to catch up to reassert their male superiority. And then doing it again. Not at all amusing. Much
After crossing Chew Valley Lake and waving at the family waiting there, presumably to wave at Dad and not us, the roads started to include up bits, which unsurprisingly split us up again. The road along through Blagdon is a bit draggy, and I was no better at hills today than I ever am. Possibly even worse! Having said that, although they were ahead of me, after a while that gap seemed to settle down to a fairly constant length, probably because the ups came with nice downs. It was getting hot now, and I was getting hot and bothered, and I was more than ready to stop and top up my bottles at the water stop at the bottom of Burrington Combe, where it always is. However, other than a small sign further down saying that there was going to be a stop, there was no indication as to where it actually was – one of those big upstanding flag things would have been useful, and a lot of people missed it. Including GB and Clayton, who I’d half been expecting to find waiting for me there.
Ah well, just me then. All rehydrated, it was time to climb the Combe again. Man, it was hard work! With the climbing, and the sunshine, and the muggy heat, and the complete lack of refreshing breeze…it’s fair to say I wasn’t beating any records, other than possibly for the amount of liquid sweated out – I was literally dripping! Any and all shade was welcome. Being overtaken by the Tor 2000 posse on the final steep bit, complete with a cheery “go on Jen” tossed over their shoulders, was less so… *grrr*. You don’t have to make it look so easy you know guys!
Still, I made it up, and was all set to be spending the rest of the ride on my own when lo, and behold, there at the usual spot, were Clayton and GB waiting for me. Fab And much appreciated. There was also a decent cooling breeze. OK, so that was about to turn into a headwind, but right then, it was bl**dy lovely! Having slogged my way up, and suffered for my art, I was rewarded not only with company, but also the lovely on top of the world, under the skies, roads on the top of the Mendips that are the reason I usually go up there. I also got to do one of my favourite stretches my favourite way, as I was allowed to lead the way as fast as I liked for a bit, until we joined the road to Priddy. Now that was fun
One final little kick out of Priddy, and it was time to go down. Westbury wasn’t actually as bad as Darren had made it sound, and it was the kind of downhill fun that you only get when you’re a bit familiar with the road so you know what’s coming and can take your line accordingly. It’s always a shame to have to stop for the A371, but stop you must as it’s a busy road! It, like other similar junctions, was marshalled, and although they’re not there to stop traffic (though the odd one did ;)), they do have a line of sight you don’t. Duly and safely shepherded across, it was time for a little more down, at which point my camera somehow vibrated its way out of my top tube bag, and had to be retrieved, somewhat the worse for wear but as it would turn out, still functional. OK, so the flap that holds everything in (battery, memory card) has now been replaced by duct tape, but it still works, and hey, that’s why I take photos with my camera and not with my phone! Trashing a camera is one thing, trashing my entire life is quite another!
Onto very familiar roads now, across to Wedmore and out to the second food stop at Hugh Sexey’s School. GB led the way like a machine. I’d have taken a turn, honest, but it was hard enough hanging onto his rear wheel! The food stop was lovely as ever. Lots and lots of homemade cakes, and also bacon rolls, for those that fancied splashing a little cash, and free squash and water for those that needed to splash themselves and fill up their bottles! It was also quite quiet, as the majority of today’s riders were still behind us, a rarity on a sportive for me!
There were less than 20 miles to go now. Off down the long long straight road from Mark to Highbridge, into that growing headwind, taking turns more now. Then into Burnham-on-Sea to see the sea, and to play with all the traffic also keen on being at the sunny seaside. Once that was, blessedly, behind us, the last 12 miles or so were much quieter, as well as being flat, and that wind was even occasionally behind us, which made for some very pleasant riding. Then it was unavoidably, but briefly, onto the A370 before trying out the lovely new road surface in Uphill and then into Weston Super Mare onto the final straight along the seafront. We were kind of sprinting down it, and we so nearly made it, only to be thwarted within 10 metres of the finish by a set of traffic lights! Typical *grin*. We stood and waited. The welcoming committee stood and watched us waiting. And then finally the lights were green, and we were, somewhat ruefully, over that finish line and collecting our medals to the sound of applause and cow bells
Cycling time: 3:25
Distance: 56.0 miles
Avg: 16.3 mph
ODO: 5802.8 miles
When it comes to rounding off a ride, luckily Clayton and I be of one blood, and so he headed for the bar to buy us both a well-earned pint of probably the best cold lager in the world ever, while the more sensible GB stuck to something of the soft fizzy variety. We all had a token for free food, and I don’t usually indulge, but that which was on offer from Field & Flower was a big cut above the usual. Clayton took the burger route, I had a chicken wrap with salsa & natural yoghurt, and it was proper good! Not good for my IBS, but hey, what the h*ll We sat in the sun, ate and drank, and watched other riders come and go, including Gary who arrived after us and took photos of us, before eventually making a trip to the portable toilets in order to be able to ride home again!
The ride home was slower, and in order to not repeat anything, included going over Bleadon Hill in a totally gratuitous fashion. Ah well, it’s good for me right? GB got so far ahead at one point that I started to worry that actually he’d been knocked into a hedge by one of the cars going the other way and I’d missed him altogether! But no, there he was, patiently waiting again, polishing his halo Clayton peeled off at the relevant point, leaving us to potter home past the Webbington as usual. Great Weston Ride done – again
Cycling time: 0:42
Distance: 10.4 miles
Avg: 14.6 mph
ODO: 5813.2 miles
Not the fastest GWR ever; I think it was just a bit too hot for me. By the way, when I grow up, I want to be GB…but I don’t think I’ll ever be on that kind of form! Still, maybe we weren’t really pushing it, which may be why it didn’t feel as much like hard work as in some previous years. I think we did pretty well all things considered. More importantly it was just as enjoyable as ever and just as well run. Here’s to another day spent riding the bike in the sun in good company – hard to beat