Third time lucky? So it would appear, as the Great Weston Ride was finally blessed with some pretty decent weather. Yep, I know I don’t usually do repeats, but the GWR is on my doorstep, it’s quite a laugh, and it’s not too long…so this was the third year in a row for me, and also for GB come to think of it. Others may come and go – George in 2010, Gary in 2011 & 2012, and the BW this year…but we’re stalwarts :).
Not only are we consistent, we’re also mad, in that we meet in the Square, ride in, do the main event, and ride home again. Because we’re well ‘ard…or something. Mostly it’s because it would take nearly as long to load up a car and drive there, park and unload. Partially it’s because there’s something quite smugly satisfying about rocking up on the bike all nonchalant like, riding 56 miles, and then still having the energy to ride home again. Showing off, us? Gary opted out of our early start, having stayed up late to watch people hit each other… I gather the wrong person won too, so maybe he should have given it a miss *grin*.
So 6:30am, or thereabouts as you can see, saw me arrive in the Square, where the BW was in the process of being deposited by his clearly very tolerant Dad, and where GB rocked up shortly. It was a tad chilly – and I was glad to be dressed in my most flexible options – leg/arm warmers, gilet, toe covers – all greatly appreciated at that time in the morning. GB hates the cold, so what he was doing with his legs out is beyond me! I reckon he was expecting Gary and was playing the one-upmanship game with the hardy northerner…
Apparently, to add to this obvious insanity, it was necessary to travel to our destination not by the most direct means possible, but via hills and superfluous miles – as you can see. Something to do with GB having been on holiday and some trip to the Pyrenees that he’s doing requiring the ascending of more hills in preparation. *sigh*. So how did we start the day? By going up Shipham Hill of course! No records broken today, I didn’t even try, I just let the boys head for the summit and plodded my way up after them. Not that far behind them, to be fair…and I suppose it’s one way to warm up, right? On to Langford where the mushroom farm was being particularly smelly, before climbing up out of Wrington past the Walled Garden. GB took pity on us and decided that we didn’t need to add Belmont Hill to the mix, so we got to have fun going down Brockley Combe before taking the more direct, and slower thanks to the cycle path, route to the Long Ashton park and ride just outside Bristol from where the ride starts.
Cycling time: 1:21:25 hrs
Distance: 22.17 miles
Avs: 16.3 mph.
Right. Registration time. It’s a good start venue as it’s a park and ride. You park and you ride! It also has toilets, and plenty of room for 650 riders to gather and faff and queue… More women than usual as for a change there was a queue for the ladies. So I nipped into the disabled loo since I figured the chances are that there would likely be considerably less demand for that!
I made my way to the desk, found my name on the list to tick off and was handed my bike number (580), two short but just long enough cable ties, and a free bar which, miraculously, was one of the ones I can actually eat. It’s also one of the ones that would leave GB in anaphylactic shock, so I got two – ‘rah! I saw Darren, one of the organisers, to chat to briefly, before heading back to the bike. I also finally met @gazwagon (who blogs here) – also only briefly, but about time too! We didn’t see Gary, but then he was planning to be there a bit after us anyway, so that wasn’t a big surprise. GB and I joined the informal rider queue, having inexplicably misplaced the BW, and admired bikes, kit, and the fact that the sky was actually hinting at being something other than grey.
Around 8:00am we all moved forward to the start, from where we were let free in batches, after a quick briefing on the signs and so on. A bit like homing pigeons. If Weston-super-Mare is your home. Which it isn’t, so ok, not like pigeons at all ;). I’m running short on analogies – sorry!
Considering that last year by this stage we were already soaked to the skin, I think it’s safe to say that we were ahead of the game. Look – see that blue stuff? Unprecedented! We headed off, once we got past the first two unfortunately timed sets off traffic lights, and the route went along Long Ashton, through an unusually quiet Barrow Gurney, along the A38 briefly, and then through Winford. It may have been getting warmer, but it still wasn’t warm enough. We formed a little impromptu group and teamed up against the wind that was bound to be against us.
Chew Valley Lake was looking lovely, all reflective water and wide open skies, though we were going fast enough that there wasn’t that much time for aesthetic appreciation. It wasn’t as much of a slog as it sometimes is, but the road surfaces around there are like two day old porridge, and equally unpleasant. You can feel yourself ploughing through it, the momentum sucked from you…ick. Then there’s the stretch of the A368 – through Compton Martin, Ubley, and Blagdon – which is surprisingly lumpy, with a couple of drags up that are longer and steeper than you’re expecting somehow. How do I always forget that? It’s not like these roads are new to me after all! They do say the brain blocks out painful memories… I did what I usually do – which is to do the best for the bits I can do (downs and flats) and as best as I can for the rest. The driver of an unnecessarily large Mitsubishi in Blagdon decided leaving the corner shop and getting home regardless of our presence was the way to go and nearly took out several of us. We may have shouted at him. Purely to warn each other of his presence you understand. I’m sure he was very repentant… I was particularly impressed when, a good 200m down the road, he then turned right… Patience is a virtue he was clearly lacking! *sigh*.
Before long it was time to take the left turn for Burrington Combe, with its water stop at the bottom at Bad Ass Bikes. There was only one water butt there – I think there had been some delay with setting things up, judging by the two loitering slightly concerned looking civilians – but the shop was open and letting riders use their toilets for which several of us were very grateful.
GB was displaying his green credentials on many levels… I guess we were near the front of the pack of riders, as there weren’t that many folk around as yet, and not everyone was stopping either. I stuffed my gilet and arm warmers in the saddle bag, ate some of my fabulous flapjack, and enjoyed the breather. Time to go and climb the Combe again. It had been a while, but I did decide to pretty much pootle up it. Well it’s pretty, the sun was kinda shining, everything was green…and it’s not a race, right?
The rider behind me wasn’t, as it turns out, even one of “us”…and that’s not the standard place to wear a helmet either. It’s not like it was that hot…! I like my helmet on my head, but then I like my brains in my head too. Each to their own…
I told you it was green out there. Well it would be, what with all the bl**dy rain we’ve been having! GB and I were chatting away, passing the time, and also passing riders. ”Could you stop making it look so easy?!” said one of them…. Wow – result! Only that’s what I usually say when people pass me – I’m usually the passee not the passer Quite an ego boost, and another first *grin*. One for the logbook.
Once up on the top of the Mendips it was time to head across them, along the fairly, blissfully, flat. It was, as ever, chillier up there than it had been down below so, since GB expressed in interest in re-clothing his arms, we were on the look out for a stopping opportunity. As regular readers know, they don’t get much better than this:
Look! It’s a sign! And an event sign. It’s a multi-purpose, many box ticking, sign!
Up on the top there, with the scenery rising around you, it’s like being in a bowl of Mendips. It’s also quite sheltered as a result, which is nice. Well, up there is where the wind usually hides so if I can hide from it, I’m on to a winner! However having gone up, and the Mendips being of limited size, there was bound to be a down shortly, and the one we were after was to be found in Priddy. The village green was a quagmire – another great word – lots of churned up mud from whichever event they hadn’t cancelled recently. There are the most amazing views from the top before you go down, which you get. Well, although there are better views on the way down, I’d be holding on to the brakes, not the camera! I’m not that stupid ;).
It’s potentially quite a dangerous descent. It’s bendy, frequently wet, usually gravelly, and has traffic that, unlike the Gorge, is not expecting you to be there. The warning sign at the top was therefore a very good thing for those less familiar with these hills than us. Short and to the point.
I’m not the greatest descender, and was fully expecting to meet GB at the bottom, with him having had to wait for a while. However he got caught in rider traffic so I actually caught up with him. I’m too scared to overtake people descending on roads like those, but just as I was thinking I might be tempted and what a bad idea that might be, some eejot went past me with no warning whatsover and made me jump! Yep – that would be why I don’t, and didn’t, do that. The descent ends at a nasty junction which, like several of the main troublesome junctions, was marshalled. This made crossing the main road and getting on our way again a whole heap easier, and was also done with a smile. A smile goes a long way, as does a thank you I imagine, and we all made a point of thanking him, and the others, on our route. Can’t be much fun to stand around at a road junction all day, right?
We were proper onto my home turf now, flying across the flats towards Wedmore. The “traffic” was becoming a little irritating so we took a quick break to lose them, mostly because my painkillers were 12 minutes overdue and playing catchup is never a good thing. We were in the process of chasing them down again, as you do, when this came the other way. How cute is that? All together now – aw…. They even waved as they went past.
We did catch up with our rabbits, and GB and I ended up taking in turns to lead our acquired peloton for most of the rest of the ride, but more immediately to the food stop at Hugh Sexey’s School in Blackford.
Water etc was outside, inside was the cake and bacon butties. Coffee was free – yay! – but the rest wasn’t, though it was very reasonably priced and by all accounts, yummy. I reckon I must be in need of coffee at the moment because yesterday’s Costa tasted better than usual, and even today’s instant coffee was more than usually drinkable.
We were sat, in the sun, next to a tyre damage stricken rider and his mate, who were patching things up with a gel wrapper between the tyre and damaged tube. Ingenious. They’d run out of tubes, so I donated one to the cause which they then, most unexpectedly, paid me for. Which was lovely, don’t get me wrong. However I do kinda view inner tubes as karma. What goes around comes around. Help others, donate to the cause, and maybe the puncture fairy will pass you by when your turn comes. Yes, I know, I’m daft. And I still salute magpies. Well, it’s not like it does any harm right? *grin*.
Coffee drunk, mini toilets utilised, and it was time to be on our way again with 20 miles or so to go, allegedly. From here on in the route is a little less attractive. There’s the long, goes on forever in unremarkable fashion, road through Mark out to Highbridge. Then the urban wiggle to and through Burnham on Sea which had its fair share of both motorised and pedestrian eejots.
It took a while to get through and out onto quieter country roads again. We passed the BW who had clearly lost the get up and go that had taken him past us when we weren’t looking earlier, but to be fair by then my legs were, if not up to Friday’s standard, feeling up to having a go, and could sense ‘home’, so we weren’t hanging around. Mr Radioshack, who had been part of our wheelsucking acquired peloton for a long time, had apparently mostly been there to keep his Altura mate company. They clearly had some sort of “I’ll meet you at the end” conversation, and he came past, pulled in front and took the lead. Now I, foolishly, half presumed he was finally taking his turn at the front…well, you would, right? That was clearly naive of me. He just pulled away. Now I can, and did, keep up for a while, but when you start averaging 24mph plus and I’m not right on your wheel? Not happening. Woman – know your limits! I had to admit defeat and settle back to my own speed. I’d dropped the others, who weren’t behind me when I finally checked, but they caught me at the next junction, which was a good thing.
At the next T-junction, past the photographer there to catch me over-cooking the corner, there was a 5 miles to go sign. That would be a red rag to an already raging bull. Sprint finish time! I knew the roads and terrain, and I know my legs. That I could do. And I did. I put my foot down, floored it, and motored in. OK, so those are automobile analogies but, in the traffic, I probably couldn’t have gotten there much faster even if I’d had a car. At some point near the end, GB was heard to exclaim that I was awesome. I never did get around to asking him why, the moment had passed, but you know me, any compliment in a storm ;). Another one to add to the list of things to remember when I’m in the doldrums around 2/3 of the way through the next sportive.
As it turns out, in a masterpiece of traffic light timing, we managed to pass Gary within sight of the finish line. He started after us, and I have no idea where he passed us, but I guess we got our own back!
Cycling time: 3:16:10 hrs
Distance: 56.09 miles
Avs: 17.2 mph.
Didn’t we do well? Much faster than the last two times too! Bella is very proud of me We were given our medals by the welcoming committee and a token for the food that wasn’t ready yet. I doubt that they’d have had anything I could have eaten anyway though so I wasn’t bothered. We chilled for a bit, and chatted to Gary, and then Andy when he came in.
It’s just as well Gary started late as I’m not sure I could have cycled with that all day anyway – look how bright it is?! The BW, aka Andy, was less bright, and more camera shy… Luckily his Dad was picking him up, so he was spared having to ride back with us.
Here’s Darren again – very pleased with how it had gone. Having ordered lots of foil blankets just in case, the good weather was presumably down to him, for which we are truly grateful :).
Now if he could do the same next year and also remove the headwind, that would be perfick In the distance the clouds were gathering, and heading our way, so GB and I decided to head home before they reached us. With a wistful glance at the beer tent it was time to retrace our steps a little. Well, if I’d ended up there I’d never have ended up at home. There’d have been a taxi call to home and I’m thinking that might have been less than diplomatic *grin*.
We took it a little, though only a little, easier on the way home. It was surprisingly early for getting home from a sportive, what with the whole getting there and back element being removed from the equation. Practically family friendly. And let’s face it, there are far worse ways to be spending a Sunday lunchtime than riding through the Somerset countryside in the sunshine. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t actually rain non-stop even if it sometimes feel like it!
Cycling time: 0:35:03 hrs
Distance: 9.85 miles
Avs: 16.9 mph.
ODO: 14924 miles
I was home, 88.11 miles later, in time to end up at the pub for a Sunday linner (that would be lunch + dinner in case you were wondering) with my family and my folks, for a very well deserved and totally safe ham egg and chips. Oh, and white wine. Just to wash it down you understand *grin*.
Just in case he doesn’t make it to the official Cyclosport review though since I’ve only just sent my rider reviews in he should, here’s Gaz modelling his medal for your delectation :).
Great Weston Ride 2012, done!