One of these days the sky’s gonna break…

…but until it does, there’s still time to ride in the beautiful sunshine :)

outside Heaphy's

Looks like Alan and I must have been pretty desperate for good coffee though – look at us go! ;)

Cycling time: 1:36
Distance: 28.8 miles
Avg: 17.8 mph
ODO: 8906.6 miles

resting steeds

As the sportive season rolls on, the Exmoor Beauty is next.  I’m hoping it goes well…fingers crossed, wish me luck, etc.  It’s a big ‘un….but I’ll explain that later…

You see I’d write more; but I have places to be & people to see.  I’m attempting to have a life ;)

 More letters from the sky soon enough ;)

Give up yourself unto the moment


See this?  Ok, it’s not an official Col sign. But it’ll do me :)  This year’s mental century block had nothing on my enduring Draycott Steep block.  I’ve never made it up.  Ever.  And I’ve been riding a while now.  To be fair I’ve not tried that many times.  Two or three maybe, and I’ve always had to stop and walk, even if that was sometimes wet road/traffic induced.  Nonetheless I’ve never done it.  And, due to my dismal prior performance, I wasn’t entirely sure I ever would/could, which is why I’ve been avoiding it.  But Alan and I have been meaning to try it again for a while.  It was supposed to be today.  But last night, with the possibility that he’d have a hangover (he didn’t) and that I’d have earache (I did) I was half expecting us to change our minds about attempting it today.  Well we didn’t.

It didn’t necessarily feel like a wise decision.  It felt even less wise when, after we stopped post warm-up loop to stash gilets, I coughed my guts up again – this cold is taking a while to clear!  But I did want to do it.  Or at least try to.  We have a habit of doing hills well together, though not actually together as it were.  I don’t know if I’d ever summon up the motivation to try it on my own.  And I know I wouldn’t want to try it following the usual race snake suspects, who’d be leaving me in their depressing wake.  So I guess it was kind of now or never?

Steep behind

The time was now.  It seemed as good a time as any.  You’d be hard pushed to find a better day to do it too.  OK, so we were in pre-sunshine mist.  But it was dry.  The road was re-surfaced a while back.  It was warm enough.  And barring the odd considerate vehicle, it was quiet.  There was no pressure.  And…?  Yep, I made it up.  All the way up.  In one go.  It’s long and it’s steep and it’s long and it’s steep!  I’d say it nearly killed me, but that would be a tad unnecessarily over-dramatic.  It wasn’t quite that bad, but it was bl**dy hard work.  Alan had had to take a break near the end of the steepest bit, heart rate you know, but that was probably because he didn’t know the worst was nearly over whereas I did, so I could push on knowing that.  To be fair, I just thought he was waiting for me!  The higher we got, the sunnier it got, in serendipitously symbolic fashion.  And after quite a while, for the first time ever, I conquered Draycott Steep.  See this smiley face?  Well, ok, you can’t, but even now I’m still mad happy about it :D

And we didn’t leave it at that which, had I been feeling truly rubbish at the top, had been mooted as an option.  But since the sun was out, and the worst was done, it seemed rude not to bathe in the glory for a while.  So we went across the top of the Mendips to Burrington Combe, so I could enjoy a good down.  And then up through Rowberrow so I could enjoy going down Shipham Hill.  I nailed the ups, and I nailed the downs.  It turned out to be a pretty awesome ride :)

Cycling time: 1:52
Distance: 26.8 miles
Avg: 14.3 mph
ODO: 8877.8 miles

OK, so since Alan had had to stop, and the Steep took his zing away for the rest of the ride, he probably doesn’t agree with me.  But I had a great ride, and I couldn’t have done it without him.  Thanks mate!  We sat in the sunny Square for coffee and cake afterwards, and I did my best not to crow too much.  Although I skipped the coffee and went with the more celebratory instead.  Well, it is my day off ;)  Woo hoo – I made it up Draycott Steep!!!


Guide Dogs Tour of Berkshire 2015

Another Sunday, another sportive.  Which is the story of my life this month, and I’m not complaining :)

This time it was the Guide Dogs Tour of Berkshire, running for its second year.  It’s not a huge event, and it’s about raising money for the charity, not laying on an imitation Etape for Mamils.  It is also one I haven’t done before, somewhere I rarely ride, and there’s a lot to be said for novelty value.  I also knew that it was only 77 miles max, the forecast was good, and it had a whole heap less climbing than last week’s Cotswold Spring Classic.  What’s not to love?

So, with kit lessons learnt from the Cotswold’s sauna experience, I headed off down various motorways to HQ wearing considerably less layers than usual.  HQ was, unsurprisingly, at the HQ of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association near Reading.  Which would have been easier to get to if “they” hadn’t closed a railway bridge a couple of miles down the road for re-surfacing, thus confusing both my TomTom and I.  Cue a confusing and circuitous detour…  But I was there pretty much as planned, around 8:00am, and parked up in the walled garden staff car park.  All very pretty, just like the house and grounds itself.  It was all fairly low-key, but very sportive.  Portable toilets, tent to sign up in, various catering outlets, all set out on the lawn.

Guide Dogs HQ

Even though the instructions had insisted on photo id, as did the desk itself, nobody checked.  I do wish people wouldn’t do that, I only have my passport, and I always feel a bit nervous lugging it around and then leaving it in the car – those things cost serious money to replace!  Anyway I was duly handed my bag with my official numbers and various small goodies, which I took back to the car, so as to faff.  Just as well I hadn’t gone over there, all ready, with the bike, as I’d still have had to go back to the car to leave it there…

registration seat post number

First off – the bike number.  I’m not a fan of seat post numbers.  They just don’t work with my bike/saddle bag combo, as you can see.  And the “don’t bend” instructions for the timing tag on it had me a bit worried, but hey, there wasn’t much I could do about it.  The helmet number was easy, though I’d rather not have bothered, but felt I ought to.  I continued to potter in the sunshine, debating what layers I had and which to actually wear.  The trick was to have enough space in the saddle bag and pockets to stash anything I might have to take off, without compromising on the other stuff I had to carry – food, drink tablets, etc.  But I reckon I had it covered, and although warm was due, it wasn’t quite here, though the potential was definitely in the air.

Since kit recitals are becoming my thing, today’s tally was as follows: toe covers, shoes, socks, lightweight tights, s/s bamboo base layer, merino s/s jersey, arm warmers, gilet, and winter collar.  See, wasn’t that interesting?

I missed the horn for the start as I was queuing for the toilets.  Btw, life is so much easier without bib tights ;)  As I headed to join the start queue in my turn, it turns out there wasn’t a queue if you were doing the “Epic” route and I was ushered straight through.  I was off, just like that!  The lack of waiting and a briefing was a tad disconcerting, I’m a creature of habit after all ;)

rolling up hill into the wind

Right then.  Here I go again, on my own, as ever.  But I was up for that.  A Sunday spent riding my bike in the sun?  Oh alright then ;)  Mind you, as it turns out, it was a pretty linear loop – mostly out to the west, mostly back to the east – and it was pretty darn windy!  A wheel or two to hide behind would have been bl**dy lovely.  When you’re doing your best and still only doing 9mph, you sometimes lose the will to live!  Luckily, if you can put it like that, the first half was mostly head wind, with the second half being mostly tail wind, as you’d expect.  And although there was, according to Strava, more climbing than I thought, it was mostly a case of ups and downs rather than distinct climbs and descents.  Rolling maybe.  Or Andalucian “flat” ;)  Mind you, the bigger climbs were all in the first half really, and gee, I really love slogging up hill into a killer headwind, it’s just the icing on the cake! ;)

thatched cottage posh property

That wind kept things pretty chilly, despite the wall-to-wall sunshine.  The winter collar might only have lasted for the first 20 minutes, but my gilet stayed on until around 11:30am which is probably round about when I turned to face the other way, surprise surprise, and my arm warmers came off shortly after that.  The sunshine did make it all very pretty out there though.  Cultivated fields, thatched cottages, elegant country houses.  It being Berkshire it felt a little less countryfied than the Cotswolds had, there were lots of little villages to cycle through, interspersed with rolling fields, woodlands.  All sort of well-behaved.  England’s green and pleasant land or something.  And somehow the miles just ticked by…

second food stop swallowfield pack

There were three food stops.  One around 25 miles ish, which I passed on, one around 50ish I think where I did stop, and a drinks one at about 68 miles which I also decided against, it being too near the finish for me.  They were a little makeshift – a van and tables in a lay-by, with fizzy coke, water, cake and jelly beans, and sadly no toilets.  Mind you the staff were friendly, the coke was good; add a few bananas and flapjacks and, of course, a portable toilet, and they’d have pretty much hit my mark.

tree lined stately

I was doing my best to push it a bit for a change.  Especially on the flat with the wind behind me ;)  I knew it wasn’t too massive a challenge, and I was fair flying from time to time, and feeling pretty good with it.  It’s odd how the time goes though.  By the time I got in, I wouldn’t have wanted to do 100 miles, I felt like I was done.  But then if I’d known I was going to do 100 miles I’d have paced myself differently, physically and mentally?  It felt longer than some though, maybe because it was a lot of all the same for 5 hours?  Or maybe I’m just getting bored of spending so much time with myself ;)  I did enjoy it though, which is the main thing.  It went pretty well too :)

finish line

I rolled over the finish line, camera in mouth to avoid dropping it, and took up residence on the manicured lawn with the traditional can of fizzy orange, to watch the other riders come in for a while and get my breath back.  And catch a few more rays of course ;)  I couldn’t stay there all day though, so I re-established verticality, popped into the toilets, and de-faffed before heading home.  It had clearly been a pretty long day, as having hit the M4 rumble strip a couple of times, my eyes just weren’t going to stay open any longer, so I had to take a break at Chievely Services for a nap before heading on my way home again!  I think I need to remember to eat when I get in too – that might well help.

Cycling time: 5:00
Distance: 77.6 miles
Avg: 15.5 mph
ODO: 8851 miles

It’s not a high falutin’ sportive.  It’s a modest well-run well-meaning event.  There were around 250 riders, and not including the money raised by individual riders, they’ve already raised over £1500 for the charity.  It was well sign-posted, though the odd repeater sign might have been nice, and the wind had played havoc with a couple of the signs – which the friendly marshals were busy fixing as I went past.  With the variety of routes on offer, 41.5km/84km/125km, it’d be a good event for the sportive novice, and with the relative flatness it’d also be a great route to try and do really fast as a group.  According to the results on-line 99 riders did the Epic Route, and I was 50th.  11 of us were female.  I was the fourth one of those, beaten by 3 Seniors but first in my V40 Category.  I’ll take that ;)

Santini Cotswold Spring Classic 2015

Oops, I’m behind again.  Three rides behind.  But since two of them were cake related coffee runs with Alan, and I’m a busy bunny with a stinking cold, I’ll stick to just telling you about the sportive I think.  In this case, as the title makes obvious, the Santini Cotswold Spring Classic.  Which, having gotten my Cotswold’s sportives all muddled up in my head, it turns out I’ve not done since 2011, rather than more recently.  What can I say, I’ve done a few sportives now, occasionally they all blur into one…  At least I could look back through this blog and refresh my memory.  On the other hand I’m not sure that helped.  I did it with Guy, it was long and hilly, he danced up the hills, and I walked up them!  Oh good.  *gulp*.

Ah well, too late now, or something.  I’d signed up, had nowhere else to be, no-one to see, it was Easter Monday, and the weather forecast was good.  And walking up a hill is not the worst thing in the world.  Worse things happen at sea.  Etc…

The Cotswold Spring Classic HQ is at Cirencester College, and the car park opened at 7:00am.   I left a little later than whichever route planner suggested I should so I could play beat the TomTom, which is always a good game.  As I headed up the M5, the sun was coming up, and the street lights were going out one by one as I went past them, which was a little spooky ;)   Having duly won the TomTom race, I arrived at the car park just after 7:00am, one of the first to do so, with the proximity thus garnered putting me a just a short walk from registration in the main school hall.   Sunny it may have been, but it was a bit nippy out there.  Mind you, it was still very early for a Bank Holiday morning!  There was a short queue for the few portable toilets outside but, having read the pre-ride pdf, I knew there were some inside so I nipped in to use those instead first.  My pre-ride email had also told me I was rider 740, so I found my registration desk, signed my life away, and was given my map, bike number with timing tag on the reverse & two cable ties, and a couple of edible things.


Back to the car for much faffing.  What on earth to wear?  The forecast had said 14C, sunny, no wind.  Apparently it had leapt up to 18C overnight which I was unaware of, but it was already feeling like warmer than had seemed likely.  But…  Oh dear.  Decisions, decisions.  I didn’t have summer kit with me.  And it was only a forecast?  After a few trips to and fro killing time and wondering, I did the best I could.  I left the base layer and winter collar in the car, and took the shoe covers off.  Which left winter bib tights, toe covers, long sleeve warm jersey, versatile winter jacket, head Buff, and mitts, with gilet and over gloves in the saddle bag just in case.  And that was that.  Nowt more to be done.  Except to ride back to the start line again and queue up of course.

start queue rider briefing

Start times for the mid (100km) and long (160km) routes were from 8:00am and even having done that to-ing and fro-ing I was still near the front.  I then had a disagreement with the Garmin as to whether I not I should be allowed to do the activity I’d downloaded for once, or whether it would go on strike.  It went on strike.  So, this having happened before, I stepped out of the queue, reset the darn thing, and decided to settle on just recording what I did.  I’d wanted to have the route so as to be warned when the hills were coming, but hey, if it wasn’t to be…


So I was away, post rider briefing, in the third of the groups of 50 or so riders being let away at two minute intervals.  At which point the Garmin told me I was actually doing the route, by beeping route instructions at me slightly too late for me to ever actually do them.  There was no way I was going pressing any buttons though, either to stop that, or to see if it was actually working – I wasn’t going to risk it throwing a strop again!  So I left it to its own devices, figuring if I did get lost it might come in useful anyway, and headed off into the just slightly chilly Cotswolds.

colourful start tree lined church

I’d done my research.  Well, kinda.  I’d sort of looked at the route profile anyway.  So I knew that the first few miles, out through Cirencester and then beyond, were ok, then the hills would start.  A fairly hilly 15 miles in fact.  And they were hilly.  And I was not warmed up.  There were two really big climbs.  But…I wasn’t walking.  Yes they were steep.  And frequently also long.  But I seemed to be grinding up them in survivable style.  I even sort of enjoyed one of them ;)  A good start.  Not that this stopped me worrying…as if I was going to do the long route, which was still up in the air, the majority of the climbing would come in the last 40 miles!  Which seems a little unfair but does mean that the organisers can run two events for two audiences.  It’s an early season event so anyone looking for a reasonable ride can do the 100km.  Anyone looking for a real challenge can do the longer route.  Which was I?

sunday lunch country house

Ok, so the first chunk of hills were behind me, and I knew the next 30 miles would be a lot easier.  The scenery was lovely, especially in the sunshine.  Well it is The Cotswolds after all!  Chocolate box villages, cute cottages, country piles, all glowing yellow in the sunshine.  With flowers and trees and green countryside.  All very pleasant, all getting warmer and warmer…and I really don’t like too hot.  So by the time we got to the first foodstop at Performance Cycles HQ (event partners & also mechanical support) at Paulton, around 35 miles in, it was time to take action.  Well, once I’d negotiated the cattle grid to get in…which was easier said than done with riders coming in and out.  I cheated and walked the bike through the side gate next to it!  I topped up my bottles, grabbed half a banana, and queued for quite a while for the toilets – 2 portable toilets and one urinal cubicle was not cutting it.  It was however the best place to do the obvious as well as taking off the jersey from underneath the jacket.  Sure, I’d have like to have lost the jacket, but my storage options were limited.  The jersey fitted into the saddlebag, displacing the gilet and overgloves into pockets, and that was all I could do really.  That and pull the jacket sleeves up a bit, and unzip the vents it has.  I did say it’s versatile ;)

first food stop country pile yellow smiley rider

Time to head off again, all the time debating my options with myself.  As I understood it the route split was at around 70 mile, at which point we’d be nearly back at HQ, so it would be a choice between 72 miles or 100.  I really wanted to do the 100 miles, having failed to do so at The Lionheart, and I was feeling the need to have that first 100 miles of the season under my belt, before I got a real mental block about it.  But I still really didn’t know what was going to happen.  Sometimes these things are, as we know, out of my control.  In the meantime I was feeling pretty good.  I was eating regularly – testing out Clif bars and bloks – and I was drinking my Nuun as I sweated my way around the countryside.  The weather was gorgeous, and so far it was all pretty much working.

riders behind on hill riders ahead on hill dual carriageway

Somewhat to my surprise the route split actually came at 60 miles, a little while after things had started going up in the world a little more often, and before I’d decided what to do.  And it just felt too early to go home.  So as it happens I didn’t even think about it, I just took the long route right turn.  It was in fact a non-decision.  So, for better or worse, I was going to get that 100 miles done.  Which, although I knew a whole heap of hills were coming, was quite motivating.  PMA!

second food stop  smiley climbing rider town on hill

They weren’t lying about the climbing though.  OMG and holey moley!  There were lots and lots of big long steep hills.  Hard work, especially being so warm.  And I had a way to go…  So I broke it all down into chunks to deal with.  40 miles to go.  Last 6 miles flat.  So that’s 34 miles really.  More than two hours of ups, less than three.  With as much up as down, presumably.  I took a break every hour, just to kick back a little, eat and drink, and recalibrate, and the second food stop broke things up too.  I chatted to the photographers lurking on hills – nice to see you again Phil.  Twice!  I grinned, or gurned, at other riders, depending on the gradient.  And I enjoyed the downhills of course.  It all worked out.  And I didn’t walk.  A great many others did which, as ever, always makes me want to keep going that bit further…although walking might sometimes have been quicker!  And those last 6 miles back along the main road to Cirencester were pretty flat, as promised :)  I was pretty close to bonking about two miles from the end…hot and tired I guess…but it seemed a bit late to eat anything.  Luckily I made it in and over the finish line without losing it completely.  First century of the year done, with around 7000 feet of climbing!

Cycling time: 7:15
Distance: 100.5 miles
Avg: 13.9 mph
ODO: 8773.4 miles

a sign of course flowery cottage cotswold stone

Having done the ride on my own, and with the mob being away, it was a little bit of a downer to have no-one to ring and be proud of myself to.  But hey, I’m a big girl, right?  I can pat myself on the back ;)  And of course it was all worth it, because the goody bag included not only a voucher for free hot food, a well-earned medal, and a cycling cap but also an Easter Egg!  A Cadbury Creme Egg Easter Egg – my favourite.  ‘Rah! :)   And I could also have had gluten free pasta bake but it was taking so long to sort the gluten free pasta for me and another rider, that I realised I was running the risk of falling asleep sat waiting for it, even having had a can of full fat coke, which I didn’t like but probably needed.  So having had a chat to Andy Kirk, who’d sorted my place, I headed back to the car to load up and go home.  I’d have had a shower first, the option was there, but I decided I’d rather sort myself out chez moi.  Well, there was cold beer in my fridge ;)

not all hills

It was a very good day out on the bike.  Sunny, scenic, well-organised, and a real challenge, that I think I rose to.  I am still a happy bunny about it.  Not the Easter Bunny though ;)  Disappointingly I was slower than I thought, as according to the results I was further down the pack than usual.  But hey, on the upside there were far more girls than usual too, which was great to see – around 10% on the long route and more like 25% on the medium route – which is very rare.  It wasn’t all great out there today though.  There were some pretty grotty lanes out there, a couple of dodgy descents, and some interesting patch resurfacing which was leaving the puncture-stricken parked up left and right, if not centre.  I didn’t enjoy the two stretches on the A419 much either, as it had far too much holiday traffic on it, and didn’t compare well with the quieter scenic country lanes, even if it was faster and flatter!  But let’s face it, where do we get good roads over here these days anyway?  Overall it’s a really good event.  And it only cost £28…  Just saying ;)

very goody bag finalists medal

These are the contents of my head

Alan and I had a plan to ride today.  But the forecast was lousy overall, and ever worse for later in the day, and we don’t really do early.  He bailed.  However I did want to ride, as the prospect of a third home workout in a row was not appealing.  But left to my own devices, as I was, the chances were I would bail too.  So I pinged Chris, who happens to be on holiday this week, and as he’d bailed on his long ride plan for the same reasons, we made a Plan B.  OK, so it meant an earlier start, but I’ve been sleeping rather a lot later and actually welcomed an excuse to set the alarm.  Which would explain why last night I couldn’t get to sleep for feckin’ ages and didn’t get half enough shut eye.  Whoever Murphy was, he has a lot to answer for!

So I wasn’t precisely grumpy this morning, but I definitely wasn’t perky.  Not after my first coffee, nor even after the second coffee when Chris arrived around 9:30am.  I was yawny.  Which is not an adjective, but will have to do because it’s what you’re getting and I can’t think of a legitimate alternative that I prefer ;)

So, where to go?  Well considering the continuing considerable wind, the sensible thing to do from a motivational point of view was to head out into it so it would be behind us on the way back.  With the odd hill because always flat is not good from a training point of view.  And since the wind was from the west, we decided to do a seaside loop, starting with Shipham Hill.  Who’s stupid idea was that anyway?  Ah yes, that would be mine.  Still, at least I was warm by the time I reached the top.  Not warmed up, but warm ;)  And with that under my belt, I was set for the rest, which turned out to be a little flatter than planned, in a make up the route as you go along way.  birthday belt

Some rides are just good rides.  Unexpectedly for the most part.  Chris did enquire at some point if, due to the way I was pushing on, it was one of those days.  Nope.  And I wasn’t, even if it seemed that way.  It’s just that sometimes your legs have it and sometimes they don’t and today they did.  So why was it so good?  Good question.

A little while ago, after a good start to the year and post-training camp, I was feeling good.  Like maybe I could.  And then with this latest flare-up, I’d definitely started to feel less good.  Like I couldn’t.  And the longer the weather was keeping me off the bike too, the worse that “I can’t” feeling was getting.  Even if the reasons I couldn’t weren’t/aren’t my fault, it still put a serious dent in my PMA.  So getting out there, and discovering that those miles are still in my legs and actually I still can was just fantastic.  A real boost.  I felt good, and I had a blast.  Even up the hills we did do.  And especially when that wind was finally behind us *grin*.  Yep, definitely a good ride :)

Cycling time: 1:58
Distance: 30 miles
Avg: 15.2 mph
ODO: 8615 miles

According to Strava, when it comes to going uphill, I’m putting in the best times I’ve done in over a year, and I’m still getting better.  Which is great!  I may have started off the day a little less than cheerful, but I’ve been a shiny happy person ever since :D

Talking of shiny things, it would appear my birthday gifts all had a certain theme.  Hence the belt above, from the mob.  And the earrings that my folks bought me from Cycling Jewellery.  Both of which I may have had a hand in choosing ;)

birthday earrings


Spoke unto the wheel


Ok, so I’m a bit behind.  But I’ve been a bit busy.  And I had a birthday.  Excuses, excuses ;)

But I have been riding, though not as much as I’d like.  Still, 600 miles for March ain’t bad, right? :D

I did a seaside loop last Wednesday, handily combining riding the bike with catching up with my fellow Cyclosport writer and friend Sean who was in Weston-super-Mare for work.  Coffee at the New Castle in Kewstoke it was then.  And a few miles and a few hills :)sand bay view

Cycling time: 1:59
Distance: 30.4 miles
Avg: 15.3 mph
ODO: 8553.7 miles

And as all birthdays should involve riding the bike, and for once the weather pretty much agreed with me, on Friday I did a coffee run with Chris.  Coffee at Sweets then.  With a few miles and virtually no hills ;)

birthday drinks bling kitty

Cycling time: 1:53
Distance: 31.3 miles
Avg: 16.6 mph
ODO: 8585 miles

Sadly however this Sunday’s ACG ride didn’t happen.  On the basis that if I’m going to lead a ride, it’s probably not all that responsible to lead one into gale force winds and rain.  It would have been not just unpleasant but also quite possibly dangerous.  As the other riders bailed one by one, it became clear that everyone else agreed, so I called it off.  Which came as quite a relief to my Dad, who was over to ride with us before our celebratory Sunday lunch at the The Oakhouse.  And I can’t say as I was too disappointed either, as I hate wind!  Sometimes you just can’t ride :)

Clif samples

In the meantime my next sportive – the Cotswold Spring Classic – is on Easter Monday.  And maybe I’ll get out this week, if the wind stops blowing a hoolie that is!  Today the postman bought me a whole heap of Clif goodies to test and review, so it looks like Monday’s ride will be well-fuelled for a change ;)  And the pain is still lurking, which is a bit of a worry, but I also have some new shiny pills that kinda work and a few days to get it under control.  Result! :)

The Lionheart 2015

OK, enough with the warm sunny riding, it’s time for a British sportive ;)  In this case, The Lionheart.  Again.  My fourth, since you can’t really count the one that got snowed out, and the forecast was for dry, chilly, and not much wind.  Good start.  And having done three rides since my training camp, which had gone pretty well, I was actually sort of looking forward to it.  To seeing how I would get on, more than the ride itself, if that makes any sense.  I wanted to know if training camps actually work.  I was all set for it.  Ready to ride 100 miles again.

Well, until Saturday night that is.  When the pain made an unwanted, though if I’d thought about it a probably predictable, return.  I was really hoping it was just the start of a flare-up, and that it wouldn’t hit full stride for a while…all I needed was 24 hours right?  *fingers crossed* ‘n all that.  Unsurprisingly I did not sleep well.  But I was up at 5:00am with the alarm, still not feeling too bad, and thinking I might get away with it.  I’d done most of my faffing the night before, so after the usual coffee and cereal, with some ibuprofen thrown in for good measure, I loaded myself and many layers into the car, and enjoyed the hour’s drive to HQ at Longleat.

Thanks to the pre-entry pack, there’s no need to register on the day for this one.  Having said that, it could have been more informative.  Although it came with a whole heap of rider number stickers, and the essential timing chip, that was pretty much it and all the actual event information was on-line as a pdf.  I’d read it.  Some hadn’t.  I knew that I was supposed to be there an hour before my entry time, and where there was.  That the 100 milers would be leaving before the 100 kmers.  And that entry times would be sent out the Tuesday before the event.  Well if they were, I didn’t get mine.  I did however remember this fact, and checked the entry list on-line, which said that my start time was 8:04am.  All of which meant I arrived at around 7:00am, and was marshalled onto the parking on the grass by the event village.

But before we carry on – back to that entry pack.  The timing chip is great.  Stick it on to the LHS of the helmet – job done.  I don’t mind a handlebar number, not that I’m likely to be buying any of the photos that that is mostly used for, and kudos for supplying little cable ties for it too.  I quite like the fact that the two distances got different colours for this – red for long, green for short.  But the rest of those stickers?  Sticker for helmet.  Sticker to go around the seat post – which never works with my saddle bag.  And a number to be pinned on your back too, though with no pins with which to do so.  Which I duly affixed to my jacket because the instructions said I “must”.  But what with all the layers, the chances were that this would probably be covered up half the time anyway, so what was the point?  I think there may have been some number overkill going on…

event village

Right, back to the paddock.  First things first, the toilets of course, before the inevitable queues grew, which they did later on.  There were no women only cubicles, unlike last year, but at this point neither this nor queues was an issue, which was good.  Then it was back to the car to find some cash, having spotted that Claud the Butler was once again present.  I don’t usually do pre-ride coffee, but I’ll make an exception for very good coffee, which is what they do.  Plus I kinda know them by now and it’s nice to see a familiar face on days like this.  Talking of which, as I was standing in the short queue for my short americano, Rob turned up.  I’d forgotten he was doing it – I frequently have a brain like a sieve – and not only was it good to see him, but this was a familiar face that then agreed to ride with me for a bit too – bonus!

start bunch start queue

Back to the car for proper faffing.  It was pretty chilly and it wasn’t due to really warm up, but there was a lot of climbing ahead, and if the sun did come out…ooh, what to wear?  I made various decisions and crossed my fingers they’d be the right ones.  Just as we were making our way to the start line, I had second thoughts about my tyre pressures and decided to actually do something about it rather than leaving it.  Just as well – they were both well down, though I’ve no idea why, and they’ve only been pumped up a week!  Rubber inflated, we set off on a little 10 minute ride through the arboretum to get to the start line.  Which was a bit weird.  Human Race have taken The Lionheart over and clearly made some changes.  The Start (and Finish) line is on the main drive now – but facing the house.  It’s a lot easier to line riders up here than wiggling them around the house, and this also means they don’t get in the way of arriving traffic or departing riders.  But the little ride is a bit of an awkward way to get them there.  Anyway, Rob and I were lucky.  As we arrived at the start, going past the queue of 100km riders on the right (maybe they hadn’t read the pdf?) we were ushered straight into the back of the next group of 100 milers to be briefed and let go, so we didn’t have to hang around in the cold getting even colder.  In fact looking at the results, we were off at 8:04am precisely!

over drive

But we didn’t hurtle off.  The first four miles are around the estate, and mostly uphill.  This is not the nicest way in the world to warm up, and it’s a mistake to push it (not that I could) because it’s too early in the day for that.  So Rob kept me company while we slowly bimbled around, failing to see the lions, and then climbing the long hill out of the estate together, passing comment on the many examples of sartorial elegance around us.  We were cold.  It was cold.  Very cold.  Which didn’t stop many riders wearing shorts.  Or, in the case of one madman, a vest top.  Hypothermia anyone?!  Once at the top we stopped, stashed gilets, and then out into the country lanes we went.  After half an hour of company and tolerance, as I dropped back on a hill, Rob headed off to test out his legs.  Not that I was complaining, we were probably both happier doing our own thing, but it was nice to have some company for a little while :)

second food stop outside second food stop inside

I don’t remember much of the first hour or so.  There were various ups and downs, the ups weren’t bothering me too much, and downs are always good.  It was all a bit sort of unremarkable, probably because it was grey and cloudy and cold and I hadn’t really warmed up?  Life was however starting to get more painful.  Which was not great.  I was due more painkillers at 10:00am so I started counting down to that.  And wondering if 100 miles was in fact going to be doable.  No need to make decisions yet though, so keep riding.  Eat.  Try and think of other things.  Keep pedalling.  The first foodstop, at the 18 mile mark, came and went, as I didn’t stop as it was too soon for me.  We headed west towards familiar territory, and then south.  Life got more scenic, with the pretty that is Evercreech, nice climbs and nice views.  Somewhere after a climb before Bruton I stopped and took those pills, and realised I didn’t have any more with me, and although I had some of the big guns with me, I can only take those and ride when I’m already on them and accustomed.  Otherwise I zonk, and zombies do not ride well.  Hm.

distant tower King Alfred's Tower

Off again, duly mulling things over in my head, and into Bruton for the second (very well stocked) foodstop, 31 miles in, where I did stop.  It was brightening up now, if not warming up, which was nice.  I ate and drank and sat and thought.  And pondered King Alfred’s Tower which was mentally looming 4 miles away, whichever route I was going to do.  I decided I’d give the pills until 11:00, see if/how they worked, and then maybe decide what I was going to do afterwards.  Time to go and climb that hill then.  Another change for this year, and a big improvement, is that this was now a closed road timed hill climb.  Ignore the latter bit, it’s the closed road bit that’s important!  This is a 1.5 mile climb that gets steeper all the way, and is very narrow, so if a car comes the other way and you have to stop, getting going again can be seriously tricky.  Especially if it’s wet which, luckily, today it wasn’t.  So closing the road is a very good thing, but it wasn’t going to stop it being hard work!  Here we go then.  Walkers on the left, riders on the right please.  Whatever the pain was doing, I was going to do my best which, as it turns out, slowly but surely got me to the top again.  ‘Rah!  Of those going up around me, about 95% seemed to end up walking, which was gratifying ;)  It’s one of the climbs where it’s very good knowing you’ve been up it before, because you know it can be done, and you also know where it ends!  As I made it to the top, I have to say I was very pleased indeed as I really had thought that today, all things considered, I might have joined those on the left hand side…


The stretch of flat and fast afterwards was lovely, as we headed towards Stourhead.  In previous years I’m fairly sure I remember the route going through the estate itself, with all the lovely views and prettiness that entails.  Well one of the changes this year, which no doubt pleases the NT grockles but did not please me, was to cut this out and instead go around it by back roads that clearly haven’t seen any road maintenance in quite some time, before bringing us back to the forest bit of Stourhead on the other side.  Which, being forestry proper, is not a nice road.  It never is.  Potholes and dirt and gravel.  Now, if you’ve had all the pretty beforehand, this has been known to seem like a fair trade-off.  But that not being the case, it was just not nice.  OK, so once you’ve climbed out of it, the views are lovely but…

Onwards.  I kept thinking maybe I could do the 100 miles.  It was a Sunday, the sun was shining, I was feeling pretty good mostly; I could do this, right?  And then the knife in my guts would twist again and I’d wonder if I could do the next 100 metres!  Clearly the pills weren’t cutting it…and I didn’t have more.  Mind you, I figured I could probably buy some en route, so this wasn’t overly concerning me, and I wasn’t due anymore for a while anyway.  But I was heading for the route split, so decisions needed to be made.  And it hurt.  It was SO annoying.  Because I was feeling pretty strong otherwise.  I was doing the hills.  I was flying on the flat and holding my own with other riders, and enjoying feeling good on the bike when I did.  But…

third food stop route split signs

After a few miles on main roads, where just like last year (but without the hail) I led a little peloton for a while, we reached the food stop, at 49 miles, at Yapp’s in Mere again.  It’s a nice place, a real sun trap too, and it was great to sit and feel warm for a while.  There was lots on offer to eat and drink, including wine and cheese!  Many people were debating what to do whilst milling around, as this was also where the route splits.  Sadly I’d pretty much decided that it was going to have to be the 100km.  Another 15 miles sounded a lot better than another 50, and a bit of me was wondering if I’d even manage that.  I had a thought though…and headed off to see the ambulance guys, parked up outside.  I expect they’re more used to dealing with dodgy knees and sore bums than they are my kind of problem but they were ever so helpful.  Although all I’d initially asked for was ibuprofen to take a bit later, they actually gave me something stronger that I could take there and then.  I wish I could remember what it was!  Apparently it’s less strong than tramadol, so with less zombie effect, but better than ibuprofen and lasts 6-8 hours.  I may need to get my hands on some of that for future use; something to ask the Doctor about methinks.

riders in Mere ambulance

Deciding to take the shorter route means a long climb out of Mere which I remember hating last year.  It didn’t bother me this year, I even completed some of the slowest over-taking manoeuvres you’ll ever see to get past some other riders ;)  I did know the next bit was lovely and that the rest of it wasn’t going to be too much trouble either, which probably helped.  In fact I really enjoyed the last hour.  The pain receded slowly.  The sun was out and I was flying.  After a little while over-taking lots of people, I picked up another rider, and we took turns to pretty much race back.  Well that’s what it felt like anyway.  There was no need to hold anything back now, so I figured I might as well go all out and get back :)

view from Mere Hill Longleat drive

I’d dropped him, and a few others we acquired, just before the end, as we reached the final sprint down the drive.  I took photos and then decided sprinting would be more fun.  I think he tried to catch me…but I also think I won ;)  I was grinning as I collected my medal, shook his hand, and toddled off to tell the timing man I’d bailed.  He already knew, and by the time I got back to the event village I’d had a text with my official time too!

ready for medals marquee

I hung up my bike, collected my goody bag, and headed for the food tent, ostensibly in search of fizzy orange.  Which had to be 7Up because of that they had none.  But the free hotpot on offer turned out to be vegetarian bean hotpot that was also gluten and dairy free!  Whilst probably not 100% safe, I wasn’t sure what I’d be eating for dinner later, so I figured I’d risk it.  Very nice it was too :)

Whilst eating in my little corner of the marquee I inspected the contents of the goody bag, which weren’t that goody really.  Lots of free samples of things with the odd voucher and a magazine thrown in.  No souvenir tube scarf this year, which was a shame, and another change made for the worse I think.  Especially when you consider that this sportive costs £42.  Yes, £42!  That’s £6 more than last year.  With other similar, and equally well run, events coming in around the £30 mark, I really don’t know what that extra £12 buys you.  There was some email earlier in the year putting the increase down to VAT or some such, but that really doesn’t explain it.  It wasn’t cheap to start with!  Yes it’s a good event, and it’s well run, but I’m afraid I just don’t think that it’s value for money.

So, not a great day at the office.  My official time is 5:05, showing that I wasted 40 minutes at foodstops and various other I need to take a break stops.  Without the pain I reckon I’d have had a good one though; I certainly felt like the potential was there.  But it’s hard to focus on the riding when your body is trying to curl itself into foetal position, and you can’t concentrate on anything outside your insides.  Ho hum.  However my average speed is well up on last year’s, in fact Strava says I did most of it better than last year, so I’ll take that as a positive, remember the bits I did enjoy and that I could do, and take that on with me to the next one.  100 miles this time, right? PMA :)

Cycling time: 4:24
Distance: 61.6 miles
Avg: 14.0 mph
ODO: 8523.3 miles

hotpot etc

This road’s been putting miles on my heart

And now, the end is near, and so we face, our final hurdle.  But this time I wasn’t nervous.  Not at all.  This is what I had wanted to do all along.  To climb a mountain.  The Alto de Velefique and Tetica in this case.  So no, I wasn’t nervous, I was excited.  Proper bouncy excited.  Probably irritatingly so.  Not that anyone else seemed to be.  What is it about male cyclists?  They never seem that excited about what they’re about to do, or about what they’ve just done?  Or maybe it’s not a gender thing, it could just as easily be just me who’s daft like that ;)

Today’s challenge was not next door, and the 200km odd round trip was probably a bit beyond us, so we would be being driven there instead of riding there.   It was an earlier start too, but once more, over-sleeping wasn’t an issue, I’d left the balcony door ajar and was awoken by some sort of avian serenade rather too early!  For the first time this week morning dawned grey, chilly and misty, not blue, warm and sunny.  However this was not necessarily a bad thing if we were going to be slogging uphill for hours, especially considering how well I’d been coping with the very hot this week.  What can I say?  I’m not used to it!

Once an essential breakfast was on board, the van was loaded up with bikes and kit, and a hired MPV was loaded up with riders in many layers.  It was a fairly quiet journey as sleepy and possibly nervous riders yawned their way through the drive to the official start.  HQ was 18km from the start of the climb, at a nice café, so we would have some time to wake up and warm up before things really kicked off.  Since the aforementioned café also had facilities, and I felt guilty for using them without paying – everyone else was irrigating the landscape outside – I also grabbed a quick espresso.  Well, caffeine is a proven riding aid, and I do like good coffee :)

take the van in prickly riders

It was brightening up outside, but still pretty chilly, and everyone was donning warmers, gilets, even full gloves, and debating whether more or less was the way to go.  Since we were due to stop before the start, as it were, I figured it wasn’t really too much of an issue since we’d have the chance to rectify any errors either way.  For a change I was actually more than ready to go.  So, shall we ride then?  Please?  I want to go up a mountain!

So off we went.  18km, with the sun rising behind us, cacti growing around us, temperatures rising…  It was a bit hard work keeping up but once again James was keeping us all together, with Margriet at the back and Becky and Hannah were with us too, all four miked up so we could be controlled.  It’s probably a bit like herding sheep.  Or since one of those sheep is me, herding cats ;)  I was pretty much holding my own but it was an odd road.  There were some weird optical illusions going on, probably because of the mountains looming ahead of us.  They were getting bigger as we got closer, as they would.  The road had ups.  And bits that you would have sworn were downs, but didn’t feel like it when you were on them.  Was it hard work or was it just up?  I really must learn to check the Garmin…!  I didn’t mind though, I was going ok, and I knew what was ahead, so if I fell off the back so be it.  Energy conservation is key.  My PMA was in place.  I’ve been up mountains before, I know I can do it, and I wanted to get on with doing it.  Maybe it’s familiarity breeding contempt or something, maybe I should have been more nervous? ;)

suffering van stats to reckon with

It was already hot enough for me to know that I was going to be taking everything non-essential off, but there was just enough breeze and chill around still to mean that I wasn’t quite over-heating as we pushed on.  Besides, sunshine makes for better views, and I like to look at them while I’m pedalling for hours.  As we neared the inevitable “here’s what you’re in for” sign, the van zoomed past us, to wait for us there we presumed.  However it turns out that following cyclists up and down things is not all that good for vans.  After 5 years of impeccable service, “Terrance” as the van is apparently called, was finally having a bad day.  The fans had gone and he’d over-heated.  Here’s hoping this wasn’t an omen for the rest of us!  This did add the odd wrinkle to arrangements however.  Rather than us all head up together as planned, James headed back on his bike to get the MPV, while we were to set off ahead.  He would get the MPV, get back to the van, load it up with whatever was necessary, and then catch us up, while Graham attempted to fix things, or organise a Plan B.

rider names margriet being domestique

So off we went, instantly spreading out.  Margriet realised fluids might be an issue and went back to the van, to domestique her way back past me a while later, jersey laden with bottles of water and the like so we would be able to top up halfway up if necessary.  Which left me happily pootling my way along at the back.  Just because I knew I could (probably) do it, doesn’t mean I thought it was going to be easy.  But honestly it was easier than I thought it would be.  And, even though no-one else in our party believes me, I absolutely loved it.  Even the first 4km of 10/11%…because I knew it was going to get better and I was already doing ok.

still love hairpins rabbit chasing

And it did get better.  Even better.  A total of 14km of wiggles.  Views, breeze, cherry blossom…and just like the Puerto de la Virgen, enough variations in gradient that I could change gear from time to time, and didn’t feel like I was at my limit.  Man, it was fabulous.  And, just for once, and only because he had a cold, I actually overtook someone on the way up.  Sorry Mark!  I’d seen him struggling up ahead for a while, and there may have been a very small element of rabbit chasing ;)

view over there wiggles below

I had a brief breather and top up with Margriet at the halfway mark, whilst small not at all scary dogs from the farm there attempted to scare us away.  Quite amusing really, all bark and no bite, not that I was going to get close enough to test that theory out ;)  And then I was off again.  Happy happy hairpin me :)  In fact I was a bit surprised when, after another 7km, I reached the top.  It hadn’t taken as long as I thought it would, and suddenly there I was, and I don’t think the others had been there long.  It was, apparently, a “good effort” on my behalf ;)  I was a very proud of me bunny.  Time for the obligatory col photo then.  Oh, and there was still snow!  Which is probably because it was still bl**dy freezing up there ;)

woo hoo made it

Mark wasn’t far behind me, and James and the MPV joined us at the top very shortly.  It was too cold for hanging around though, so I put on the odd layer, and headed off ahead of everyone else again.  There was a flat 2km or so along the top before the final climb up to Tetica.  This wasn’t a harder climb, well maybe a little bit, but it definitely got scarier, as we corkscrewed our way around the peak on a narrow tarmac road with precious little between us and a lot of unpleasant down!  And the last 100m up to the hut and aerials there?  On ridged concrete at about 25%.  The sudden increase in effort suddenly left me unable to co-ordinate effort, breathing, and heart rate…and it all felt pretty weird and unpleasant.  I’ll never know if I would have made all the way up that final bit, as Dave ahead of me had lost it and was lying on the ground next to his abandoned bike, so I had to stop so as to not hit anything.  This meant walking the very last bit as I’d have never gotten back on the bike with it being that steep.  But as my heart was considering leaping out of its designated location, I have to admit it worked out quite well really! ;)

Tetica top wrapped up warm

If it had been cold before, it was proper cold now, even if you used the concrete shack building to shelter from the wind.  Every layer went back on, and then some, which gratifyingly meant that I had now worn every item of cycling kit that I brought on the trip with me.  Small things, small minds ;)  We all chilled out (ha ha!) for a while at the top, because the views were just amazing and hey, how often do you get to be at 2080m up in March without being on skis?!  And I don’t ski.  It was totally awesome.  And we rode up there!  There was some daft wordplay later.  Along the lines of it having been climbatic.  The peak of our achievements this week.  The high point of the week.  Etc ;)

marker plate mark and dave

‘Totally awesome’ are two words that also apply to the descent back down the way we came, after a brief stop near the top to take “that” photo.  The one that shows all the wiggles and the bends and the valley, and how far you came up and how well you did all things considered.  Somewhat pride inspiring.  And good for bragging rights too ;)  There’s nothing like putting that on Facebook while all your mates are at work.  I nearly got disowned by several friends…*grin*.  Due to the chill, one of us had headed down already, but I led the way down ahead of the rest, which mean that I didn’t have an audience if I over-cooked a corner, and could relax into it.  The roads were sooooo quiet – I think we literally saw two cars all day – but you could never be 100% there isn’t something coming the other way…and a couple of times it was just as well there wasn’t.  I did have fun though.  Oh yes.  But then you knew that, right?  No surprises there by now :)

got to get that photo proper wiggly

One by one we rejoined the stricken van, and stuffed our by now superfluous layers away.  Once we were all together again, basking in the sunshine, there was quite some debate as to what to do next.  The plan was for us to ride back to the café, and for James to follow us down.  We would then wait at the café and he would then go back and get Graham or Graham and the van if it could be persuaded to start.  We left them deliberating the finer points of this plan, to have an 18km peloton blast all the way back down the valley.  Because it turns out that it had been up on the way out, so now it was most definitely down.  ‘Rah!  Even better Becky and Hannah led the way, set the pace, and fought any wind since, let’s face it, they need the training more than us, right? ;)  Fast and fun and fabulous :)

Which brings us back to the café.  Where we did indeed wait.  Margriet opted to ride back, as room in whatever transport we might end up in might be at a premium, what with Plan B involving either hire cars or lots of shuttling.  The girls might have had to ride back too, but needed to eat before they did so if they had to.  But, after the rest of the party had had random food, which is what happens when the staff don’t speak English and my Spanish only goes so far, and a lot of us had had very nice cold beer, James turned up…with Graham and a functioning van!  Which meant a very relieved two girls did not also have to ride home, and we could all go back just the way we arrived.  Their faces were a very happy picture.  Result :)  We “met” Margriet on the way back too and drafted her for a while, which as there was a headwind, went down pretty well.  Mind you, I couldn’t go that fast even if lurking behind a van – chapeau!

It was relatively late by the time we got back to the villa.  The van with all the bikes in was a little way behind us, taking it easy, but it turned up just in time for me.  I wanted to get the bike back in the box before I had a shower and got presentable, not after, and it worked perfectly.  Graham took the pedals off for me, not that I couldn’t have done so, and I don’t think the bike has ever gone away so quickly or so easily.  I may be getting the hang of that :)   And now I could take a beer upstairs, pack things away, have that shower, get dressed, and sort of glow happily as I did so.  Woohoo – I made it up another mountain! :D

Cycling time: 3:25
Distance: 42.5 miles
Avg: 12.4 mph
ODO: 8386.7 miles

Dinner was as good as ever, and we were hungry.  Even me!  Well it was the last time we’d have a good excuse for eating like this, so we were making the most of it!  Our last supper, as it were.  Soup, salad, chilli con carne with rice and sweet potato wedges, meringue and fruit and cream cake and if you fancied it, caramel vodka to drizzle over things.  Or just drink of course.  Yum.  I think I may have discovered a new vice ;)  Hey, I’d earned it right?  In fact we’d all earned a few drinks in the evening too, but with early starts to get to various airports the following day, it was a fairly low key affair, and a fairly early night.  All good things must come to an end, and there was some saying of farewells, a small gift for chef extraordinaire Julia, and we were all presented with a poster of the Alto de Velefique and Tetica to commemorate our achievement.  You only get one if you make it up, and we all did :)  Wheels in Wheels training camp – done!

i love this

One week. Six rides. 21hrs. 330miles. 8,200m of climbing :)

I’m a big big girl in a big big world

Right, so we’re all rested and recovered.  It must be time to ride those bikes again, otherwise people will start thinking we were on holiday or something! ;)  Which brings us to Day 6.  A sort of intermediate day, billed as slightly longer but considerable flatter than the previous ride.  Which wouldn’t be difficult.  Note, I am not using the word flat, but flatter…

mechanical off we go again

It all started off well.  Well, unless you were Dave, who fell off negotiating the gravel drive on the way out of the villa, bashed himself and his front brake, and cycled the first few miles without realising there was an actual mechanical reason for it feeling like such hard work ;)  Having your brake permanently on will do that *grin*.  So we stopped, discovered that, and James and him fixed it in a jiffy.  Apparently life was much easier afterwards.  Well, for him anyway ;)

We headed out toward the same way we did for the Bedar climb many days before, but luckily that wasn’t on the agenda today.  It did mean the roads were that bit more familiar, which was nice, I like to know what I’m doing.  Or pretend I know what I’m doing ;)  And it was fairly flat.  Mind you, that was the end of the “flat” though.  After that came the ups.  Whole heaps of undefinable ups, so there was a whole heap of me not entirely keeping up too.  There were various draggy bits, that sort of blurred into one, and then came the first real climb I guess.  Well, by the looks of it on Strava the road goes up for about 5 miles, so that’s a climb, right?  We seemed to have timed our climb of this to coincide with every quarry lorry in the area desperately needing to be somewhere ahead of us, and thundering past to get there.  Considering how much they weigh, you’d think they’d be a cautious bunch, but they were taking no prisoners either up hill or down, however wiggly it was.  Brave or foolish, your call…  While I suppose this could have bothered me, it actually just reminded me of Shipham Hill :)  I resolved myself to plodding along in my normal style at the back, but as the girls were off doing other things today, and I was actually off the back, I was a bit more on my own than usual.  Still, I had yet to get grumpy about it.  And yes, I did use the word yet.  Ooh, the suspense ;)

up I go love wiggles

About 20 odd miles in we took a left turn and headed into the hills.  This is apparently one of James’ favourite patches, and I think it’s a nature reserve of some sort.  Not that I saw any nature really, but it was prettier than some of the other terrain we’d been through.  Now that we were away from the main road, and there were climbs to be done, albeit of a shorter variety, we were allowed to split up and head for the hills our own way.  Fab :)  Now that I did enjoy.  No, honest, I did!  Hairpins, wiggles, a lovely down in the middle before another up.  Fun.  Mind you the motorcyclist who went past me and around the next hairpin with his knee <this> far off the ground may just possibly have been having even more fun than me *grin*.  Not only was I in relatively happy mode having not had to keep up for a while, the views from the top were well worth all the effort.  You could see the Puerto de la Virgen that we’d done the other day and beyond that and considerably higher, the big hill we would be climbing the next day.  Scary!

arid view ghost railway

This was not the time to worry about that though.  This was time to take photos, eat and drink, and then enjoy some down time ;)  There was a really lovely stretch afterwards on empty main roads through a valley, past the equally empty high speed railway line.  Well it would be empty; when Spain went bust they couldn’t afford to finish it so there it sits, long, straight, all high tech, all laid out, all tarmac-ed…but minus electricity and tracks.  Man, now that would make an awesome cycle path!

out of the saddle up not the strawberry line

Talking of which, that’s what we were on to next.  The cycle path we joined had apparently been converted from an old railway line which means it’s wide, there’s tarmac, and it’s not too lumpy…apart from where you drop down to the riverbed for a bit and then have to climb a 25% kick to get back up to it again!  That hurt!  Even so, it still kinda put the Strawberry Line to shame.  But it sho’ was hot.  Sheltered, inland, baking sun, again with the over 30ºC…  What with that, the cacti, the arid scenery, and being in the middle of rural nowhere, it felt like I imagine cycling in Arizona must feel like.

riverbed clifs

It was kinda pretty and novel for a while.  But it got hotter.  And the halfway mark came and went and it was still apparently still a way to go to the foodstop.  Oh dear.  And somehow, even though I hadn’t properly registered it, we were going up and up and up.  Well I know that now, at the time it just felt like hard work, and I was proper suffering.  I was slipping behind again and when that path turned into a gravel path I ended up even further behind.  I was hot, bothered, and fed up.  Oh and I hate gravel, even if it’s compacted and not deep.  Dave was actually, and cautiously, behind me, having had his share of gravel today.  At some point along here, for comedic effect, he asked the world if we were nearly there yet.  I believe I said that we f*cking well better be!  Very uncouth of me I know ;)  Sorry!  The others were so far ahead that I nearly lost them altogether when we finally arrived at Lucainena de las Torres, 45 miles in and 10 miles further than I wished it had been, as the roads wiggled through the town to where our lunch stop turned out to be.

MDCC gravel path

It’s a good thing no-one talked to me for a bit, mind you that’s probably because I was radiating seriously grumpy again.  The van, which had arrived before us, what with cycle paths not being designed for vans, was parked up next to the café, and I sat down on a cool marble tree surround next to it and took five to get it together.  Man I was hot.  Cooked.  Over-cooked.  I’d been drinking all day but the speed at which I dispatched today’s can of Fanta implied that I’d not done enough of that.  So I ordered another one, which lasted marginally longer.  I could probably have managed three!

expensive lunch stop

We tried to order some sandwiches for the group but due to some serious language barriers, a shortage of the right kind of bread, and the fact that they saw us coming, we ended up with artisan ham, artisan cheese, large slices of melon, chunks of the wrong kind of bread and also, bizarrely, two roasted poussin on a bed of vegetables, to be shared between all of us.  Well, at least I can eat ham and melon :)  And there wasn’t much left when we’d finished.  But…did you note that word artisan?  I am presuming it must have been, in order to justify the cost!  It worked out at around 20€ each…but hey, it tasted good, we probably ended up taking a much longer break than we would have done otherwise which I more than likely needed, and it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry right?  They may have fleeced the eejots in lycra once, but I doubt they’ll be getting many visits from future camps, so maybe we will all have lived and learned ;)


Somewhere in the midst of all this consumption, I was relieved to learn that we were at the highest point of the ride now though, like I said, I hadn’t realised how much up we’d been doing so it also came as a bit of a surprise.  Still it did imply that the overall trend for the remaining 30 miles would be downwards, and that was encouraging.  Of course there was some more climbing, that was inevitable, and I don’t really remember it in detail, I just remember getting dropped again and being permanently about what felt like half a mile behind everyone else, which was a bit of a lonely place to be.  Sure, Margriet was driving the van behind me, so I was never going to get truly lost or left behind but…  I think (probably wrongly) James had gotten a bit fed up of having to put up with the slowcoach at the rear, so there wasn’t much bringing us all together again either.  By the time they finally stopped and let me catch up, and I mentioned that it might be nice if I didn’t get left out all the time (yes, I had a fairly polite toys out of cot moment), it was a bit late for my PMA.  Still, apparently that was it really for climbing so it wasn’t going to be a problem anymore.  Hm.  I’ve heard that before…  However by now we were back on the road that we came out on so, when told that, I could actually believe it too ;)  For the last 25k we all stuck together, worked a bit more as a team, and by comparison to how I’d been feeling, we almost flew in.  It’s amazing how much difference it makes being in, and being part of, a group.  I did take a stretch with James at the front too, and I don’t think I was holding us back.  Anger is an energy ;)  It was really nice to get back to the villa that way, barring Antas Hill of course, but although I’d perked up a bit, my PMA was still feeling pretty depressed.  But it was over, and better still it was over in plenty of time for us to enjoy the rest of the afternoon :)

us out

Cycling time: 4:46
Distance: 75 miles
Avg: 15.7 mph
ODO: 8344.2 miles

The villa’s landlord was holding his 60th birthday party out by the pool with live music and everything.  We had been told we were more than welcome to join in, but I needed a breather first.  I spent some time with a cold beer and a flapjack on my balcony again, watching the ex-pats’ antics, listening and singing along to the music, before having a shower and putting a frock and sandals on.  It may sound daft, but I felt like I needed to remind myself that I am actually a girl, not just a decidedly average lycra-clad cyclist, and it worked a treat.  I stood in the (very chilly) pool for a while, chatting to the others, which my legs loved.  And then I took them off to the dance floor because, just for me, the band played “Walking in Memphis” again, so I danced and sang my little heart out in the sunshine to that and others, which put my woes and worries well and truly behind me :)

smiley blue me

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

Ah, the joys of a rest day.  Well earned, well deserved, and seriously needed.  Beach, Mojácar Pueblo, market, souvenirs, beer, tapas, time by the pool…and not a pedal or wheel in sight.  It felt almost like a holiday ;)  Oh, and then I had a fab massage by Margriet to round it all off – she’s qualified and multi-talented :)

Still good at the beach coastal views vino in barrels

tapping the barrel market view right to sea

view left to inland beer view very cold pool

sunny afternoon tropical cacti

sangria contador not at all scarey dog

It being Julia’s night off, we had dinner at a restaurant up the road; an interesting walk in the dark away, past barking dogs and very noisy frogs.  The food though good enough, was a bit expensive for me, and I was tired enough that I’d have cheerfully stayed at the villa, and would have preferred to do so, but that would have meant not eating…and I didn’t want to get told off again!  Well, there would be more miles to come, and more hills to climb, right?  Rest and recovery :)