The fastest way back home

One week.  Four rides.  It’s probably time I put metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper right?

Square steed

So I’ve ridden with Guy & Rob, with Alan with hills, and without, and also with Steve.  At times like these it is better not to be just with my imperfect self, just in case, even if I don’t say so, so the company has been both great and much appreciated.  I am extremely lucky to have my cycling mates.  And we’ve been lucky too, as there has been sunshine on both the hills and the Levels; our timing has been immaculate.  Along the way there has been coffee, cake, a Cornish pasty and lots of fizzy orange.  Liquids for me, solids for others of course…the moon may be inconstant but some things are not.

Some of it has gone great.  Some of it hasn’t.  Sometimes it’s felt like one but Strava says it was the other.  Sometimes it’s been both, one after the other, and great has turned into it just being time to get home as quickly as possible.  But however it’s been, it’s all been good really.  Because out there is good :)

cake Alan looking pasty

Yes I should have been writing about it all.  It’s what I do after all, no?  But in addition to it being the school holidays, working, and other things that might possibly count as having a life, thanks to the current analgesia regime, I also end up spending rather more time than I would like asleep.  What the mob call my non-optional naps 😉  On the days that I make it out bed in time for there to be enough time left in the day for there to be time to have a nap that is…   It isn’t ideal, but then the alternative doesn’t exactly appeal either…them’s the breaks.  So there hasn’t been much time left for writing…I’m sure you’ll forgive me, right?  But tonight there is some time and tonight I have written.  Job done :)

taking Alan up the Gorge

Cycling time: 7:32
Distance: 123.6 miles
ODO: 10727.7 miles

In other news, Rapha have had their annual sale on.  And I hankered a little…but there wasn’t anything I really needed or wanted, and besides my budget restrained me.  But it also inspired me, and thanks to a jammy ebay best offer buy, I have the new mitts I might have gone for if I could have gone there.  I have finally replaced the mystical perfect pair I had years ago that tore and couldn’t be replaced like-for-like because they’d gone out of stock.  Still not cheap as mitts go, and they won’t stay this colour for long, but they fit like a glove (yes, I know, terrible, but they do!), and man, they are SO comfortable!  Let’s call it retail therapy 😀

new gloves


Just be who you are

life's a Maltese beach

Oops, it’s been a while.  Partly because we went on holiday for a week.  Mind you we’ve been back for a week now so that excuse is probably wearing a little thin.   This week’s excuse is rather more predictable/boring.  I’m mid pain patch.  Again.  And yes they are getting more often and yes they are getting worse.  So I’m on the shiny pills and as of this afternoon I’m also on the shiny patches.  It’s fun being me 😉  However this state of affairs is not conducive to clarity of thought, and stringing a sentence together takes concentration, so if this blog fails to be eloquent don’t blame me.  It was either this or leave it even longer before I wrote anything!

I have managed to ride a bit during this period of radio silence though.  Once before I went, twice since I got back, and then a coffee run today with Alan.  Riding involves less mental effort than writing does 😉  I’m never sure how time off is going to affect my cycling.  Will a rest have been a good or bad thing?  Alan reckons you don’t lose form that quickly, but that you do lose form mentally.  Which is kind of another way of saying that when you’ve had a break for whatever reason, and also if you’re feeling rubbish, your PMA goes AWOL.

I’m pleased to say that although I may have no confidence in my ability to ride a bike at the moment, my performance out there seems to indicate that I still can.  Which is good to know, and if it wasn’t for Strava I wouldn’t know, I’d just presume I was performing as badly as I felt I was.  There’s a lot to be said for Strava…it’s not just about segments 😉  So I’ve done some hills, and apparently done them well by my standards.  I’ve done some fast and flat too.  OK so I bailed on doing the hills we had planned for today, on the basis that it would literally hurt too much, but at least doing the coffee run fast probably had some training benefit, right?  Even if it didn’t, at least I still rode the bike.  I can only do what I can, and be who I am, and I’m not going to beat myself up for that :)

Cycling time: 1:36
Distance: 28.8 miles
Avg: 18.0 mph
ODO: 10604.1 miles

Eye'll be watching you

 

 


Great Weston Ride 2015

I could tell you about the ride I did with Alan on Wednesday that didn’t go according to plan because rain stopped play.  I could also tell you about the solitary seaside loop I did yesterday.  But you don’t want to know about those.  You want to know about the Great Weston Ride that I did last Sunday, right?  Which is by way of being a rhetorical question, because I’m going to tell you about it regardless of your response.  Every English woman must do her duty 😉

Right then.  Welcome to the Great Weston Ride.  My sixth I believe.  And since it was also its sixth, that means I’ve done ’em all.  It is by way of being a tradition, which has several elements to it, though not all of them were present this time around.

First of all, for starters, we, whoever we are, ride from our various homes to the start.  This is usually Guy, sometimes Clayton, and always me.  Sadly Guy was unable to join us this year, having worn himself out on yet another long audax the day before.  When shall we three meet again?  Next year maybe?  So then there were two.  Clayton and I met a little before 7:00am at Shute Shelve, as ever, and headed off, minus our usual guiding light…which probably explains why, in the absence of his commuting expertise, we managed to get somewhat lost and turn an 18 mile route into a 22 mile route.  But hey, the roads were quiet, it was dry and mild, and we still got to where we had to be in time, mainly because that little before 7:00am had given us a little leeway!

alphabet queue registration

And where did we have to be?  Why Long Ashton Park & Ride of course.  For the second element, the main course, the main event, the GWR itself.  I think in previous years we’ve aimed to get there earlier, this time around it was already busy, full of riders and families and cars and bikes.  Alan was due to meet us there, but as there was as yet no sign of him, we headed off to sign in.  On my way I bumped into Andy and his mates James and Lee, who’d also done the Ride Like A Pro the day before, which was nice – always good to see a friendly face or three!  The alphabetised queues for registration were clearly marked, but for some reason mine seemed to be the longest, and queuing took quite a while.  Clayton had it much easier!  As I stood there on my own, slowly shuffling forwards, one of the guys popped over to say that if I was riding on my own I was more than welcome to join them, though I seriously doubt I’d have been able to keep up with ’em.  Luckily, thanks to the company I was already keeping, I didn’t need to find that out for sure!  It was a very nice gesture though – thanks guys :)

Finally it was my turn at the front, and I was given my number, two (rather short) cable ties, and a card with contact details, told to help myself to free 9Bars, and sent on my way.  I found my way back to Clayton, fiddled the number on to the bike, and joined the queue for the Ladies – which just goes to show that there were quite a lot of women riders for a change :)  By the time I emerged again we still hadn’t located Alan, who was failing to answer his ‘phone, but luckily I spotted him loitering with intent, and hailed him over.  Voice like a parade ground sergeant me 😉  Right then, back to being three, if not the same three as usual, right?

Let’s make a little detour here.  Although the GWR is, as we have established, a tradition, this year’s route could be different.  I say could be, not would be, because although the usual 56 mile route remained, the organisers (hi Darren!) had added three optional little detours to it to add both miles and hills.  I’d like to say I was dying to try them out, chomping at the bit, etc…but you know what?  I’m essentially lazy *grin*.  However if I wasn’t local and didn’t know all the extra bits already I probably would have done.  Or not 😉  My real excuse du jour?  Tradition is tradition, tradition is not to be messed with, and the traditional route is 56 miles :)

start line rider briefing

Right then.  Route decided upon.  Time to join the groups lining up for the start.  The two motorcycle medics were watching on as Darren gave us our rider briefing, showed us the signage, and told us to be careful going down the hill after Priddy.  After six years he can probably recite it in his sleep 😉  So, forewarned and forearmed, off we went.  I know better than to hurtle off though, you always get instantly stopped by the traffic lights at the entrance and then another set after that before you get to head off through Long Ashton – and this year was no exception :)

Wasn’t I here yesterday?  Ah yes, so I was.  Déja vù!  This time we may have been going a little slower though – it’s not a race, right?  The road through Long Ashton rolls a bit, has lots of parked cars, and a seriously dubious road surface.  However the section afterwards is lovely fast and flat, so we got to overtake a fair few, which is always fun.  Which is also something that happened on and off  all day.  This is more of a charity ride than a sportive, there’s no timing, and there’s a whole range of riders out there to enjoy the day out, not just the usual race snakes and testosterone fuelled pelotons.  Which apart from meaning I can overtake folk also means it’s got a really nice friendly atmosphere.  People chat en passant, families wait by the side of the road to cheer on their rider(s); it’s all quite refreshing :)

Where to go from here?  Through Barrow Gurney where we stopped briefly to stash layers and lost Clayton who was ahead and didn’t realise we were no longer behind him, and out t’other side.   Then up to the traffic lights and then up, literally, the A38, briefly.  Not briefly enough really as it’s a fast road, and the traffic using it desperately has to be somewhere else and has to go past you at speed to get there.  OK, so we weren’t on it for long at all, distance wise, but the drag up made it take longer than it would have done otherwise, overtaking slower riders was tricky, and it was nice to turn left off it and head east through Winford.  Admittedly this was also nice because I knew the next section, all bar a couple of little ups, was downhill and fun, and it was and it was :)

Chew Valley 1 Chew Valley 2

I appear to have forgotten to mention that despite the relative warmth and sunshine, it was still really windy out there.  When isn’t it these days?  And of course it was a headwind.  *sigh*.  This became even more apparently heading south across the valley and past Chew Valley Lake.  Pretty yes, but pretty hard work!  Somewhere around here we passed Clayton waiting by a gate, and stopped to pick him up – he’d thought he was following Alan the entire time, even though his ‘Alan’ had different kit and a different bike! 😉

first water stop

Time to head for the big climb of the day.  I’m not a fan of the stretch of the road going from Compton Martin to Blagdon.  It’s more up than down, with a couple of nasty draggy ups, and that slow sort of big grain porridgy road surface.  Having said that, I’ve definitely struggled more with it on other rides than I did today.  Although we split up from time to time, going up inevitably, we re-grouped on the downs and flats, i.e. the bits I can do! 😉  Those weren’t the ups of the day though.  Nah.  Today’s big climb was Burrington Combe, not to be tackled however until we’d stopped at the water stop at the bottom and had a bit of a regroup and refresh first.  I wasn’t in any rush to get up it, and when it came to it, I didn’t rush getting up it either – unlike Alan and Clayton who left me in their wakes so as to wait for me at the top.  I still got to overtake some though, and I quite enjoyed pottering up there again.  I might have been faster without the wind all day, and without the day before’s miles in my legs, but I was feeling ok, and that was fine by me :)

cattle grid Burrington Combe

Big climb done.  Time to play with the wind across the top of the Mendips, and have a bit of fun doing some speed.  I like it up there, even today when it got a bit cloudy and drizzled briefly :)  I also like the descent to Westbury sub Mendip.  Well, I usually do.  I like it less when surrounded by lots of other riders who don’t know it as well as I do.  It’s fairly steep, narrow in places, wiggly…and there’s often traffic of the motor vehicle variety going both up and down.  Which it’s another good reason, if one were needed, why it was good that the earlier drizzle was only brief and didn’t turn into rain – it’s proper ‘oribble in the wet!  I’ve been known to kick ass going down here on a good day, but not today.  Today I actually practiced some restraint.  Which is just as well as near the bottom on a narrow wiggly section, at speed, we had to squeak past a Land Rover coming the other way.  There’s no way we’d have been able to stop…just as well we didn’t have to!

we stop for traffic lights

After a bit more restrained fun we reached the junction at the bottom where the marshal duly assisted us all across the main road when it was safe to do so.  A bit more down brought us to Rodney Stoke where, later in the day, various fête type things were due to be happening and we’d been asked to roll through it in neutralised zone fashion.  We were there well in advance of those but we still did as we were told, before heading across the flat back country lanes to Cocklake.  We do what we’re told you know.  We even stopped for traffic lights ‘n everything 😉

cakes cup cakes

We were fairly motivated by now, because the infamous food stop is at Wedmore, just a couple of miles down the road.  And it was just as good as ever.  Free coffee/tea/squash, and with a large range of cakes on offer, as well as bacon rolls.  Not free but not expensive either, and although I don’t do eating, Alan and Clayton do.  A large slice of sticky chocolate cake and a generous bacon roll respectively, both of which were apparently lovely :)  The only fly in the ointment was the wasp that wouldn’t leave my squash alone!  So I dumped both and headed to the school toilets, which always make me giggle because they’re ickle for ickle people *grin*.

grill tent bacon roll time

We couldn’t stand around eating all day though.  Time to get going, with 18 miles or so to go and no big hills.  As we headed down the ‘mother-in-law’ road from Wedmore to Highbridge (so-called because it goes on and on…) the sun came properly back out again too.  Well the sun should always shine at the seaside right?  Which, with Highbridge, Burnham-on-Sea, and Weston-super-Mare ahead of us, is where the rest of the ride was.  Burnham wasn’t as busy as usual which was a blessing.  As we passed what passes for the pier, a large group of ladies and daughters applauded me.  Yes, just me, I was a way back from the boys at this point trying to take photos.  I think it was a female solidarity thing – and very smile inducing it was too :)  By now the wind, which had been more southerly than westerly, could have been expected to be behind us and helpful and blissful and….nah, don’t be daft…it had veered around to be properly westerly and no use to man nor beast!  T’was ever the way…*grin*.

Burnham on Sea

We stuck together for the last flat section, took turns at the front, and dragged our average speed up a bit while enjoying the sunshine.  Past the 10 miles to go sign, the 5 miles to go…up the A38, through Uphill, and then we were on the final stretch down the main seafront to the Finish on the lawns there.  There was a lovely reception awaiting us as we crossed the line, complete with applause and cowbells, and smiley faced girls handing out medals and food tokens.  Told you it was friendly, right?  Once again the Great Weston Ride was done :)

Cycling time: 3:42
Distance: 55.9 miles
Avg: 15.1 mph
ODO: 10493.3 miles

Alan Clayton

Time for some R’n’R then.  Those food tokens entitled you to a free burger/sausage/falafel wrap from The Cowshed.  But who eats first?  Priorities…!  Clayton disappeared like a shot towards the beer tent as I had a brief chat to Darren, and I joined him just in time to be presented with a pint of cold lager – bliss :)  Alan went off in search of their food, and I made some small boy’s day by giving him my token and thus a free burger.  Positive karma has to be a good thing :)  We all sat on the lawn in the sun, played the debrief game, and drank that positively lovely lager, surrounded by lots of others doing the same.  The boys had a couple of pints or three, I stuck to just 1 and 1/2 before we headed off for the ride home, even given considerable peer pressure!…

just rewards

…which I possibly paid for.  This was the final element, dessert presumably, aka riding back home again.  Damn that tradition stuff!  OK, so it was only 10 miles back for me, and actually this probably had more to do with two days’ riding in a row and not having eaten enough, but I felt properly and increasingly weird on the way back.  I’m very glad it wasn’t any further!  I was very pleased to get home, get off the bike, and spend some serious sofa time so as to get it together enough to have a shower.  I know, girly lightweight 😉  Still, two lovely days out on the bike…there are definitely worse ways to spend a weekend :)

 

 


Ride Like A Pro 2015

Ride Like A Pro sepia support

After a quick evening spin on Thursday, and a rest day on Friday, my cycling weekend had arrived.  I did the Jaguar Ride Like A Pro last year, and I have to admit I hadn’t seriously been considering doing it again, but when they got in touch and asked if I’d like to do it again?  Well, I’m a sucker for an invitation.  To be honest, I did mentally debate it for a while, what with the Great Weston Ride the following day, but this year’s Ride Like A Pro was only due to be 48 miles, and I’ve ridden two days in a row before, and did I mention they invited me?  Yeah, done deal :)  I signed on the dotted line, aka the on-line registration form, and the die was cast.

Of course the fact that I didn’t have to be in Bristol until 10:00am was definitely in its favour.  So all I had to do this Saturday was get up at a reasonable hour, sling on summer kit because the weather was nice, throw (well, not literally) the bike in the back of the car and head North.  Result :)

Which brought me to Hartwell Bristol Jaguar, somewhat nervous, but under sunny skies, all according to plan on Saturday.  Why nervous?  Well although I did enjoy it last year, keeping up with the race snakes was hard work and, not helped by a gear cable failure, I ended up limping home with just James for company.  Would it be the same again?  As I parked up and started to sort stuff, the sheer amount of high quality gear being unloaded and paraded around didn’t make me feel any more confident.  However I had been told they were hoping to have three ability groups – fast, medium, slow – and rather than be daft enough to opt for the fast group this year, I had every intention of being slow and not pushing it, especially with Sunday in mind.  I was doing my best to keep the nerves at bay.

me want

I went inside the showroom – I mentioned it was a Jaguar ride right? – and admired the cars in passing on my way to use the facilities.  I then chatted to Jack who’d invited me, and familiar face Ride Leader Pete who led us/me last year, while signing the relevant paperwork.  Time to get properly ready then and hope it would all go according to plan.  Whilst faffing I got chatting to another rider about the route and the day and where we’d come from and the like.  A little while later, whilst waiting for the rider briefing, he popped up again and said…if I was from Axbridge, and cycling…was I in fact the Cycling Mayor?  Well…yes…as it happens…I was.  Am.  Whatever 😉  Aw shucks, someone who reads this.  How cool is that? :)

ready for briefing

Time for the ‘tick every health & safety box’ rider briefing then.  Which Jack did very well, to be fair.  My heart sank somewhat when it became apparent that the plan was for us all to be one group for the whole ride.  Oh dear… Resolved though I was to do my best I had visions of me just fading slowly into the background…and I found myself thanking my lucky stars that I’d downloaded the GPS route, even if my Garmin isn’t all that good at those.  At least I would be able to get around on my own without getting lost!

photo op

So, after some obligatory photos with the Team Sky Jag, it was time to head off.  It took us quite a while to get out of Bristol, what with traffic lights, traffic, and the like.  And being one big group, which tended to get a little bit strung out as a result, I think it’s fair to say we didn’t make some of the rather impatient motorists like us any more than they had done before!  On the upside this meant we were all pootling along at a more than tolerable speed.  I wasn’t deluded enough to think that this would last but it was nice to have some time and space to warm up in.

Which took care of the first five miles or so I think.  And took us out by the Long Ashton Park & Ride and out towards Nailsea which, on Sunday, would cause a certain amount of déja vù.  Now that we were out of the big bad city, the group speed started to go up, as expected.  I decided the best thing to do was to try and stay near the front so I had a way to drop back if necessary.  However the roads through Wraxall and beyond were more rolling than anything else and dropping on the ups didn’t seem to be a problem.  I even had chatting company for a while which was nice.  It was definitely going better than the same time last year when I definitely remember struggling more.  Actually I think this year’s group were overall a little slower…even if they’d hate to hear me say it…but you won’t hear me complaining!

It was nice out there though.  Pretty.  Sunshine, colourful lycra, Somerset countryside, what’s not to love?  Mind you, I knew it wasn’t going to stay flat and easy all the way around.  As we passed through the land of my father, through a surprisingly quiet Yatton, and on to Congresbury I knew that the first up of the day was ahead, and there was no way I’d be maintaining my place in the pack for that!

Right then, time for the up from Churchill to Shipham.  And actually I got overtaken by far fewer riders than I was expecting.  Which just goes to show that overall we were slower than last year 😉  It’s not the worst climb in the world, pretty gradual, with a steep kick out of Shipham, and then a lovely down which means you can then get quite a long way up the next kick to get to the top before the descent…

Which is where we met the Wiggle Mendips Sportive riders, who were coming down from Charterhouse to merge with us at the bottom by the Lillypool Cafe before going up to go down Shipham Hill.  Of course having far more momentum on my side than them, I shot past them many of them who, not realising I wasn’t on their ride, were a tad bemused about me cruising up the hill past them like that.  Very funny :)  After inevitably slowing down a bit for the last bit of the final up my favourite descent awaited me, complete with rabbits to chase and overtake.  And I had a blast going down – much much fun.  Especially as this year my gear cable didn’t snap on the way down! *grin*  Since we were heading for our café stop at Edelweiss at the bottom of Cheddar Gorge I didn’t even have to slow down at the junction where I normally turn right, and knowing those roads well, I had lots more fun hurtling past lots of less cognisant riders to get to where everyone was gathering.  As I neared the bottom of the Gorge, a Wiggle rider pulled up next to me to give me kudos on my descent.  Apparently he’d been pedal to the metal trying to catch me all the way down and hadn’t manage to narrow the distance between us at all.  Tee hee hee :D.

support car

Time for coffee.  Well it would have been, and was for many, but actually I fancied fizzy orange.  And I definitely couldn’t face the cakes, bacon rolls, etc that others were eating.  Not before Cheddar Gorge!  The café staff were a tad overwhelmed by us all, so service got a bit chaotic.  And £2 for a small bottle of fizzy Fanta seemed a tad much but hey, it went down at the same speed I’d just gone down 😉  There were also drinks and bars and things in the back of the support car too, as well as the opportunity to have your photo taken with it – all of which I let pass me by.  I was just wondering when would be a good time to head off before everyone else so that they could catch me up later!  After some time spent chatting to others in the sunshine I decided the time had come.  It turned out that several others had already headed off, so I told the Ride Leaders I’d be doing the same, and one of the others joined me too.

Gorge 1 Gorge 2 Gorge 3

Hello Cheddar Gorge.  Again 😉  I’d like to thank the Wiggle Mendips Sportive for all their riders who were doing the same as it meant that, unusually, I actually overtook lots of people on the way up!  Go me!  Somewhat amusingly somewhere in the wiggly bits, on the side of the road, was Phil of SportivePhoto fame…  I said hi, pointed out that I wasn’t one of his so he didn’t need to immortalise me, but he did anyway – and having seen the result on Twitter later, I think I need to buy that off him!  He did make me laugh though :)  And I even overtook some of “our” riders as we neared the top – the shallow the gradient the faster I go, and it’s not like I don’t know the climb, right?  Shame Strava doesn’t think I went up there at all…

Near the top I caught up with the rider I’d left the bottom with, and also picked up one I’d overtaken, and so as three Pro musketeers we headed off over the Mendips without waiting for the rest of the group to catch us.  I had my reservations about this, mainly because I didn’t want to get lost, but we figured that between us and our various gadgets, we could probably find our way back.  Which we did, with the odd little wiggle where we weren’t quite sure about things.  I was a bit cautious about the West Harptree descent, not wanting another puncture.  Chew Valley Lake was as pretty as ever, and the country lanes afterwards just sort of rolled by.  Having done the ride before definitely helped, as sometimes I could remember the way, and also because it was all vaguely familiar, so it didn’t feel as long or as hard as last year, even including the couple of ups after Chew Magna.  Luckily the guys waited for me to catch up after each one!  The fast group caught us up on an up towards the end, but nowhere as soon as I’d expected, and then left us in their dust to head back into Bristol, followed by one of us.  My remaining companion Andy, as he turned out to be, stuck with me however, which I was most grateful for; it is nice to ride in chatty company.  He even waited when we got separated by traffic lights on the way back into Bristol on the basis that we’d done the last 20 miles together, we should do the last 200 yards that way too!  And then there we were, back admiring posh cars, and picking up our goody bags.  I’m pretty sure we were far from the last in too :)

I think there around 40 or so other riders on the ride, but I’m pleased to announce that I was the fastest woman today.  I was also the slowest woman.  Yes, I was the token woman! 😉  Not that I really noticed.  I was Riding Like a Pro which, as I’ve said before, in my situation would make me Lance Armstrong, so I was just another bloke out there 😉  I really enjoyed the ride, even more so than last year.  To be fair, the Ride Like A Pro supported ride bit only really worked for the first half of the ride, but at least after that, however splintered we all were, there was still a support car somewhere behind us.  However the route is nice, the weather was good, there was a really friendly atmosphere all round, and I definitely feel like I held my own.  A good ride for sure.  Maybe they’ll invite me back next year? :)

Cycling time: 3:03
Distance: 48.5 miles
Avg: 15.9 mph
ODO: 10363.5 miles


I got bills

alan on burrington combeThanks to work, some time out, and a pain patch, it’s been hard enough finding time to ride the bike, let alone write about riding it.  But ride it I have.  Three times unsurprisingly 😉

cows pink bales

Once up easier than usual hills with Alan, once round the flats on my own fighting the infernal eternal wind, and one fast coffee run with, yes, Alan again.  Well he needed cake 😉

Cycling time: 5:20
Distance: 85.7 miles
ODO: 10285.6 miles

And it’s been good out there.  Thanks to Mr SprocketandSpanners, aka Andy, both my wheels are true again, which has to help, right?  My legs are feeling on it.  I’ve even hit the zone from time to time, including going up Burrington Combe, which has to be a first.  Here’s hoping I’m still feeling the love this weekend as on Saturday I’ll be Riding Like a Pro, and on Sunday it’s the Great Weston Ride.  That should top the mileage up nicely :)

alan and his cake


Bike Bath 2015

I was asked to review Bike Bath last year but for some reason that I now forget, I couldn’t.  So this year I decided I would put it on the calendar and make sure I did it.  It seemed like I should.

Which is why, on Sunday morning, I was driving down half the course I would ride later, to get to Bath.  It being around an hour away, it wasn’t the earliest of starts, which is always good, and the sun was shining which is always better.  HQ is at Bath Recreation Ground in the centre of the city (I think it’s a city right?), but in order to promote cycling and reduce congestion, we were advised to park at the free Park and Ride facility on Newbridge Road.  Not that I knew where that was, but I presumed my satnav would get me there which indeed it did.  Unsurprisingly I was parked up next to a fair few doing exactly the same thing.

The forecast was for mild and not too windy, so there wasn’t too much faffing to do on the kit front, other than donning some arm warmers because it was still a tad chilly.  I was pleased to discover the car park was free, though the bus into town if you use it is not.  The toilets however, were not free, but I was pleased to discover I did actually have a 20p piece.  In fact I think you could say I was relieved 😉

Time to see if I could find my way into town.  Sorry, city 😉  I’d looked at the map supplied beforehand, and did so again, before heading off.  I was hoping to follow someone in but all the cyclists who had been around had suddenly vanished!  Luckily I do know Bath a bit and although I completely failed to take the right route in, I just followed the A4 until I knew where I was, found a sign pointing, presumably, to where I needed to be, and with no trouble at all other than a little traffic dodging, I was at HQ.

Claud the Butler

There was an event village set up, toilet blocks, tents, stands, all the usual, with the addition of the fabulous Claud the Butler.  I decided to go and register before I indulged my high quality coffee addiction.  Which luckily didn’t take long.  A nice smiley lady told me where to sign, gave me my number and bike tags, and stuck a timing tag on the LHS of my helmet.  Time for my short black Americano, a trip to the toilet block, and a quick break on the steps to watch everything happening.

registration getting ready to go

Things were all fairly informal, so I just kinda got myself together, grabbed the bike off the rack where I’d stashed it earlier, and joined the latest group gathering by the start arch.  The group ahead of us was just leaving so almost straight away we shuffled forwards for our rider briefing, that came with more of a sense of humour than usual, which was nice.  And then a little after 8:00am I was on my way.

rider briefing

Sometimes local rides fill me with dread.  Really, these roads, again?  And sometimes I look forward to them because I know what I’m in for and I know I can do it.  Today was one of the latter.  Not that I’d ridden all of it before but still, a case of familiarity not breeding contempt 😉

In fact the first hour or so provided the greatest novelty.  Cycling through Bath in vaguely cyclocross fashion through pedestrianised streets, the wrong way up roads, down cycle lanes, along cycle paths by the river, along a lot of cycle path in fact, including most novel of all – the Two Tunnels.  Which was kinda scary!  Two sections of the Somerset & Dorset railway have been turned into shared-use path, although at this time of morning there was only the odd walker/jogger to share them with.  The tunnels are both downlit at regular intervals in oddly catacomb style so you can actually see where you’re going, but the darkness around you and the sunglasses balanced down your nose do lead to a slightly unstable feeling.  The first section wasn’t that long, but the second section seemed to go on forever and I was quite glad to emerge blinking into the sunlight, in front of the obligatory photographer to capture the moment.  As I thought, sunglasses on the end of your nose is not a good look 😉

There was a brief hiatus shortly afterwards where the signage said both straight on and left up and backwards.  Logic dictated that anything other than straight on would just take you back, so presumably that was meant for one of the shorter routes.  Straight on then, to infinity and beyond!  Well to Somerset anyway. Time to go uphill then, and there were a few ups to climb out of Bath.  Nothing too drastic though, just the gradual scenic variety really, followed by lots of country lane riding.  I’m sure I should have been taking photos but I was busy warming up and looking around, and generally getting on with it!  Oh, and we have great village names around here – Norton St Phillip, Buckland Dinham, and Great Elm to name a few.

first food stop

We were getting into familiar territory now, especially when we got to Mells.  Shortly afterwards came the first foodstop at Chilcompton.  The food was plentiful, with sandwiches, pies, bananas, and more, and Cawston Press fizzy juice drinks but it was a bit chaotic as there were no bike stands, so trusted steeds were just strewn all over the gravel car park, mine included.  I nipped inside the hall for a quick comfort break, took off the arm warmers, grabbed the usual half a banana and headed off again.

country lanes leafy

I think this route might become my favourite way to climb the Mendips, though sadly I live in completely the wrong place for it to be useful.  Yes it’s essentially up, it goes on for quite a while, and some bits are steeper than others, but it just doesn’t really feel as bad as it should. And it’s pretty!  Plus all that up brings you to the top of the Mendips, and across to Priddy, from where you get to go down again.  Whoopee!  Oddly I’ve been up Deerleap loads of times, but never down it.  And I’m not sure I’d repeat the experience. Not with a classic car rally coming up it at the same time for sure!  Given a guaranteed lack of traffic I think it’d be a lot of fun though, and it still wasn’t horrible, but it being narrow, steep and/or wiggly in places, it definitely called for a degree of respect.  Mind you, once that bit was done, the flying section onwards through Wookey Hole and to the outskirts of Wells was much fun :)

about to go down Deerleap

Time to head to Wedmore, down a road I use at least once a week, but which somehow seemed more fun today.  Well it was still sunny, and I knew it was pretty flat!  In fact there was around 12 miles of flat, pretty Somerset roads, attractive villages and the like.  I reminded myself that just because they’re a bit like wallpaper to me these days, people do actually come here on holiday, and it’s actually very lovely!  I have to say though that having done a lot of sportives in the South West lately, Somerset really does some have the worst roads around – I found myself feeling a bit embarrassed for my county!

Wedmore heading for the Gorge

Anyway. Enough with the reflective and flat and scenic, time to go up the iconic!  Yep, Cheddar Gorge loomed ahead of us.  Believe me, it’s much nicer in the sunshine, and that we were still blessed with.  My Garmin refuses to believe I went up it in the prescribed fashion so I have no idea whether it went well or not, but it felt like it did.  It does help the PMA when you overtake people on the way up!  For those of you who don’t know the Gorge, here it is in pictures. No Horseshoe Bend though – that involves concentration and hands on the handlebars! :)

Gorge 1 Gorge 2 Gorge 3

Gorge 5 Gorge 6 Gorge 7

Gorge 8 Gorge 9 end of the Gorge

It was starting to get a little less pleasant by the time I reached the top – clouding over and with some wind.  Mind you, that’s often the case on the top of the Mendips, I should be used to it by now, and the cloud was still fairly patchy.  Having made it up once more I knew I was going to get one of my favourite downs shortly – down West Harptree Hill.  Which I was duly enjoying until I hit a bl**dy great pothole halfway down…  No, I didn’t fall off, but it rapidly became clear that somewhere there ought to be air there wasn’t.  I was, in so far as I could be, grateful to discover that it was at least only one tyre afflicted, and that it was the front tyre at that.  So I took myself off to the side of the road and set about getting it sorted.  Something I can do, I’m just not very fast at it.  Still, I was sat on dry grass, sheltered, in a patch of sunshine, so hey, needs must.  I was pleasantly surprised when most of the riders going past me checked to see if I was ok too – which is a good place to mention that this is one of the friendliest rides I’ve been on lately.  Lots of etiquette, and lots of friendly chatting in passing too – makes a nice change!

As I sat there the silver mechanic support van came up past me, which may have been co-incidence, or maybe someone arrived at the foodstop a little further on and told them about me, who knows?  They turned around a little way up, came back down, and pulled up next to me to check that I was ok and had everything I needed, which I was and I did, so I didn’t need their assistance.  However having had a brief chat it was good to know that they were going to head back to the foodstop and that there would be a track pump waiting for me when I got there.  My little pump is pretty darn good, but getting properly back up to pressure would be good, and save me bouncing around for the rest of the ride.

hipster mechanicJob done, I headed down the rest of the hill a little more carefully, and then flew along to West Harptree proper where the foodstop was.  And yes, there was a track pump, in fact an entire tool kit, complete with a hipster mechanic to pump my tyre up for me.  Result!  The food stop had a little less food, not that I needed any, but the Cawston Press fizzy rhubarb was fab!  I also topped up my bottle with water and was rather thrilled to discover they also had Nuun tablets – my usual poison – so I wouldn’t even have to use the ones I’d brought with me – bonus!

second food stop

Right then. With around 60 miles to go, I only had 20 miles ahead.  By the way it’s amazing how much easier 80 miles is to deal with mentally than 100.  Weird, no?  Of course it definitely helped that the weather was nice, the hills weren’t bad, and my legs just seemed to have it in them today.  And the rest of my body too.  I was having another good day at the office :)

chew valley lake

The final 20 miles took us past the very pretty Chew Valley Lake, and then back to Bath along country lanes, without too much up or down.  Sadly the weather deteriorated.  Black clouds were gathering all around, and I was really hoping that, doing a fair speed, I might get back in before they got to me in a big way.  Which I sort of did.  It did rain for the last hour or so, but since it was still fairly mild, and it wasn’t too heavy, it was tolerable.  It did stop me taking photos though, which was a shame.  After quite a while of not knowing where I was, we popped out at Saltford, and suddenly I knew, and we were turning right onto the Bristol-Bath Railway Path to head, damply, back into Bath.  At least the rain meant, once more, we weren’t sharing it with many other users.  The damp and straight and flat did get a little tedious, well, mostly the damp to be fair, but it didn’t really take that long to get back into Bath, get confused once again by road signs, albeit in a different place, manage not to fall into the river cycling alongside it, and to negotiate Bath’s now busier streets to get back to HQ again.

finish line

Rolling under the Finish arch we were all welcomed in over the tannoy by name and with time, as various staff/volunteers presented us with our medals and sent us off over to the event village again.  The rain managed to clear up for a bit as I parked the bike and then wandered around a bit trying to figure out what to do.  There was free hot food available, but I wasn’t really in the mood.  There was a Bath Ales bar doing a roaring trade, but I was driving.  So I grabbed a bottle of water, sat by my bike, and checked my phone instead.  And then the rain started again.

Right then, enough already.  Time to head back to the car.  Which turned out to be 3 miles of the wettest riding I’ve ever done.  Everytime you wondered if it could get any worse, and if you could get any wetter, the heavens would inform you that yes it could, and yes you could!  I got to the car, opened the boot, and climbed straight in!

sheltering in the boot

And it didn’t stop.  I changed into dry clothes.  And waited.  And it didn’t stop.  Eventually I managed to get the bike into the car without getting out, and the nice rider who’d just arrived at his car next to me shut my boot for me, so I could clamber over into the driver seat and head home without getting soaking wet again!  I gather it brightened up later and the whole event ended in glorious sunshine…*sulk* 😉

Still, I had a really good ride.  Well, apart from the drenching 😉  I enjoyed the route.  I had it going on, in so far as I ever do.  It was well organised, low key and most and best of all, it was very friendly.  It was definitely a nice day out on the bike :)

Cycling time: 5:10
Distance: 78.8 miles
Avg: 15.3mph
ODO: 10197.9 miles

Bike Bath medal


It takes three to Tango

a sign of things to come

Hey, don’t blame me, the title was Guy‘s idea not mine.  But there it was, so here it is. Gift horse, mouth, etc.  Bear with me…all will become clear. 😉

Of course it works on many levels.  I am, of course, three rides behind.  Which, incidentally, since clearly we’re counting things, makes four rides this week in total, which is pretty cool in my book.  Well, not cool, it’s been quite warm really :)

I’ve ridden in the evening, with Chris, with ups and kick-ass downs.  I’ve ridden in the afternoon, with Alan, in heat, and humidity, yet still with wind.  And I’ve ridden in the morning, with Guy and George, with sun and wind and hills and a brand new coffee stop.  Where there were three of us and three of these.  See, it makes sense now, no? 😉  Three rides then; and I’ve really enjoyed all of them.  Riding in weather like this feels like being holiday, and reminds me of all the foreign holiday riding I’ve done, which is just lovely.  Result 😀

three to Tango

Cycling time: 5:17
Distance: 82.2 miles
ODO: 10113.6 miles


Clif Bar nutrition

Clif samples

A little while ago I was lucky enough to be sent some Clif nutrition goodies to try out.  Having met Mr Clif bar on my training camp, where he’d become familiar with my tedious nutritional requirements, he reckoned they’d do me nicely.  Clif Bar’s philosophy means that they use wholesome ingredients in all their products, and that all their food is free of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.  Since not eating enough on sportives is something I have been known to do, trying out new stuff that might work seemed like a good idea.  So I spent April and May doing my sportives powered, mostly, by Clif.  With the odd flapjack and banana thrown in of course 😉

So, let’s break this down into the four different products.  In, as it happens, my order of preference.

builders_ChocolatePeanutButter

Clif Builders
These come in three flavours – Chocolate, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Peanut Butter.  Each bar has 20g of protein and is supposed to be eaten post-workout.  I had the Chocolate Peanut Butter ones, and I have to say I wasn’t mad keen on them – but then eating post ride is something I’m notoriously bad at, and after a sportive all I generally want to eat is something savoury – enough with the sweet already!  As a result I don’t have much to compare them to.  They’re a good size, quite dense, chewy, and fairly chocolately, if that helps?  Having said that, coming home from one long sportive driving down a long motorway, realising I was running on empty, one of these did get me back up and going and safely home again!

clifbar_whiteChocMaca

Clif Bars
I tried the White Chocolate Macadamia and Oatmeal Raisin Walnut flavours (also come in Chocolate Chip, Blueberry Crisp, Crunchy Peanut Butter and Chocolate Almond Fudge).  These bars are made with organic rolled oats, and are not unlike the flapjacks I usually eat on that basis – and are ok for me as I’m ok with oat gluten.  Unlike my flapjacks however they have a whole heap of other ingredients which elevate them above those.  Apparently this mix of whole grains, protein and fibre, means each bar contains B6 and B12 which contributes to the normal release of energy for use in the body.  That’s all a bit techy for me…  However they do taste good!  Not too sweet.  Not dry.  Easy to chew.  They’re a good size for my back pocket and also my top tube bag (some bars are too long and thin), plus they don’t crumble all over the place either!  I certainly didn’t “bonk” on the rides I used them, and I’d definitely buy more, and not just to try the other flavours 😉

Gel_Citrus

Clif Shot Gels
Thanks to the training camp and my samples, I think I’ve tried every flavour these come in – Double Espresso (100mg caffeine), Citrus (25mg caffeine), Razz, and Chocolate.  Unlike my usual gels these are shorter and squarer and they come with a special designed “Litter Leash™ Packaging” that means you can tear the top, drink/eat the gel, and the  top stays attached to the packet to be tucked back inside, before the whole thing goes into your back pocket to be disposed of later.  Very clever – and that bit less litter on the road is a good thing!  When it came to actually using them, they always come as a bit of a surprise.  There are I am expecting a sort of runny jam, and these are more like a thick custard.  I’d describe it better if I could – but I can’t!  Initially I found the Espresso flavour a bit bitter but I’m used to it now and I especially like the Citrus one.  Clearly I’m a bit of a sucker for caffeine in gels… 😉  The gels, whichever flavour, definitely do the trick.  Having left it a little too late on one particular ride, and with miles and hills to go, I took one and I could really feel it cut in as needed!

BLOKS-STRAW-340x135-HOME

Clif Shot® Bloks™
Now these I absolutely totally love!  Think of a tube of 6 separate jelly cubes – a bit like the ones you used to eat as a kid.  Each energy chew is 33 calories, and they come in four flavours – Mountain Berry, Strawberry, Tropical Punch (25mg caffeine per serving), Black Cherry (50mg caffeine per serving).  On a ride, once I’ve got past the bars/flapjacks stage, these have turned out to be the perfect way to make sure I eat something every twenty minutes, which is so important.  They’re easy to eat, and rather than gels, which give you a hit when you need it, these gave me a more sustained energy level.  I like them so much I went out bought loads last month and I’ve been using them ever since!

clifbloks

Unsurprisingly what you eat on a ride is always going to be a matter of taste.  However I’d definitely recommend the range – especially the Bloks.  None of the products upset my insides, and I definitely felt fuelled throughout my rides – result!


‘S Wonderful

I appear to be behind.  Shock, horror, etcetera, etcetera.  Mind you, isn’t behind where I usually am? 😉

In fact I’m three rides behind again.  It does seem to go in threes like that.  Don’t they say good things come in threes though?  And also to those who wait?  Patience, grasshopper, I’m getting there 😉  So…with no further ado about nothing…here goes.

First off, a recovery coffee run with no coffee, as Alan and I both forgot that Sweets is closed on a Tuesday.  And a Monday, as it happens.  Oops…  Consider yourself forewarned and forearmed, so as not to make the same mistake in your turn 😉

Porlock Weir more gluten free cake

This was followed by a trip to Exmoor to see Gary which miraculously involved very few hills, actual sunshine, compensatory coffee AND cake.  Very nice gluten-free lemon curd cake, in case you’re interested, and ever happen to be passing by Kitnors Tea Room in Bossington, which you shouldn’t, because you should go in – it’s really nice there :)

Both rides were very lovely on the company and weather front, but not so on the PMA or form front.  In fact, here’s me 😉  Actually, given the escapee escapades of Gary’s tortoise that day, he was probably faster than me!  Post Dartmoor Classic and a lot of riding of late and…well…who knows whatever else…I guess I was just tired and somewhat under-motivated…?  For whatever reasons, it just wasn’t quite working last week.  The sun was shining, and there wasn’t much wind, so the spirit was more willing than it might have been, but the flesh just seemed to be running on empty :(

not a slow tortoise

A while back I reached the conclusion that I really needed a break.  So this weekend I went away.  For a weekend away which did not involve a sportive.  Or in fact the bike in any way.  I had a mini-holiday in Bude, Cornwall, with myself.  My bike and I were on a break 😉  And it was totally awesome 😀  Life’s always better at the beach, right?  In addition to whole heaps of wave watching, sunbathing, paddling, reading, relaxing and whatever, it did however involve a fair bit of coastal walking, which my legs are now protesting vigourously.  Well just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean no exercise – that way madness lies!  Besides, I really enjoyed it :)  However, though I may not be able to walk properly right now, it would appear that I can still pedal.  Different muscles I guess.  Which brings us to today’s ride, a Fairyland coffee run with Alan to watch the festival stragglers drifting home, all of whom were looking remarkably clean as it happens.

And I was feeling better out there.  Again with the sunshine, and no wind helping 😉  Maybe the break helped too?  If so, maybe I’ll have to take more of them *grin*.  Sure, I may not have been breaking any records, but it did go better than I’d expected and I actually enjoyed riding the bike, which has to be good for the PMA, right?  Let’s see how the next few rides go…who knows?

Cycling time: 5:18
Distance: 79.1 miles
ODO: 10031.3 miles

(Blimey – the “new” bike has now done over 10,000 miles!!)

P1030139

 

 

 


Dartmoor Classic 2015

One of the many lovely things about the Dartmoor Classic is that that the organisers, the Mid Devon Cycling Club, put up all their guests and sponsors etc. the night before the event, and feed them too.  Which meant that rather than getting up at hideous o’clock to get down in time to register and ride on the day, I could go down to Newton Abbot at my leisure on the Saturday.  So I did.  Being earlier than hotel check-in time I went straight to registration at the racecourse, where there was plenty of parking, and plenty going on.  The event village was up and running, live music was happening outside on the Grandstand, and people were milling around here there and everywhere in the sun.  This did not mean however that there were massive queues, quite the opposite in fact.  I walked straight in, up to the Grande route tables, proved my identity with my passport, and was given my envelope.  Job done.

Registration Event Village

It was all so efficient and took so little time that I didn’t really know what to do with myself next really.  The event village didn’t have anything I could be convinced I needed, so having forgotten to get cash on the way down, and fearing the “minimum spend” card criteria that was probably in place at the catering places on site, I took myself off to the Beefeater next door instead for a pint and some lunch, having also forgotten that eating would be a good idea today.  Guy turned up a while later and, after registering himself, we had a chat for a while before going our separate ways – him to the Premier Inn next door, and me back to the Passage House Hotel a little further away.  Since I still had plenty of time to kill before dinner, after checking in and checking out the envelope and faffing a little, I spent a couple of hours overlooking the River Teign, in the sun, hydrating 😉

river view

After a very pleasant meal with everyone at the Passage Hotel Inn next door, it was time for a relatively early night.  Well…it would have been earlier had my IBS not decided that something in the usually entirely safe (and particularly nice actually) ham egg and chips I’d had was not to be tolerated, and it would be passing Go without imparting any nutritional benefit on the way through.  (TMI? Tough!)  Gee, thanks for that.  Just what I needed.  So finally I was off to bed around 11pm ish, with an alarm set for 5:30am, not off to the greatest start…

Which was not helped by, for whatever reason, me waking up at 3:30am and completely failing to find much further comfort in the arms of Morpheus.  The bed was a little hard, the room was a little warm, the open window meant it was also a little noisy, with the road outside and with other guests coming and going through the very loud fire doors…it just wasn’t happening.  Ho hum.  Who needs sleep anyway, right?

So 5:30am found me already up and drinking bad coffee.  I ate a banana and cereal bar, went through the usual pre-sportive routine, and then got the bike out and set up before riding over to reception to check out. Outside it was definitely not as nice as the day before.  Sadly.  Windier, chillier, cloudier…and the 5 minute ride to HQ made me very glad of my gilet and arm warmers!

There was a small group of us due to be starting off together (me, Guy, Steve, Rob, and two Alans I think?), if not riding so, and we all gathered slowly near Guy’s car under the Premier Inn.  I took advantage of this to nip to the toilets, and got spotted and told off by some small officious female marshal for having my iPod earphone in one ear.  Apparently I was to take it off, or else.  Or else if I was spotted with it on the route, I would be disqualified and not get a time.  Like I care…!  Oh, and having checked back through the pdf with the regs?  No mention of them not being allowed either, as I thought.  She picked on me later in queue for departure too to make sure it was gone.  Well it wasn’t.  It just wasn’t visible.  And neither was it visible anywhere where I was likely to get caught on the day either 😉  But if you think I’m slogging up hills all day on my own without some background comfort, you have another think coming.  I’m not a slave to daft rules…  It’s always on quietly in my left ear, and has yet to stop me hearing anything important!  She made me cross.  Mostly at the tone she used actually, I don’t recall still being a child…

OK, eventually, after Steve and Alan had turned up and registered, and with several pens of Grande riders already en route, we all squeezed into the next pen ahead of the Medio riders as apparently all Grande riders HAD to be in this pen.  So there we duly were.  We do what we’re told right?  Not that we were going anywhere anytime soon.  I know a rider briefing is a good thing, but this one was interminable…and I’m not sure anyone was paying attention after the first couple of minutes.  Maybe he was just killing time to allow the previous pen to be escorted and set on their way before the lead out car came and did the same for us but hey, play some music or something first and then brief?

queue in front queue behind

I was feeling a bit nervous standing there, as well as post-telling off grumpy, oddly.  Not that I could figure out why, and I did try, but I just was.  Pre-ride banter was up to standard, and it was really nice to catch up with the guys though.  Finally it was our turn to go, with a neutralised start following that car, to keep us all well-behaved through the streets of Newton Abbot, before we were let off the leash a way out of town, past the timing gadgets, ready to get on with it.

My time with the guys lasted longer than the 5 minutes I’d half feared, but the elastic between myself and them snapped after about 20 minutes.  Which came as no surprise, and I’d already said I was ok with that, which I really was and am.  Although in retrospect it probably doesn’t help to start off a very long tough ride already feeling left behind if that makes sense?  Maybe I’d have been better off starting on my own?  We’ll never know…

Right then.  Me again.  This was my fourth time doing the Dartmoor Classic, and I was up for the 107 mile Grande route I was down for. Again. But I started having doubts early on, even though I did have words with myself about mentally shutting up until I’d at least warmed up properly.  Which today wasn’t easy.  It was, as I believe I’ve mentioned, grey, chilly, and rather windy.  Better things were forecast though so…?

40mph as if climbing is hard

5 miles of relatively flat warm up, and we were going through Bovey Tracey and then up onto the Moor with the first climbing of the day.  It’s really one long climb up to Haytor, but comes in sections, which today included a closed road Strava segment timed ascent of Beckaford Hill.  I plodded up the whole thing in my usual fashion, though with rather more rider traffic around me than was sometimes comfortable.  I looked at the views – stunning as to be expected – as crawler gear engaged (I’m always worried it won’t!) and it was all going ok.  Still, my average speed was barely in double figures, the wind up there was killer, and I was still chilly.

haytor Moor rocks

After some time on top of the world fighting that wind, and a lovely descent, it was time for more up (when wasn’t it?).  Several more ups as I recall.  One of which, around Holne Chase I think, is steep and narrow and was once again too busy.  After the left turn at the top, going steeply up past walking riders, with many more doing likewise ahead, one of those decided to try and get back on…failed to do so…and crashed to the floor right in front of me.  OK, so I stopped just in time, and warned the riders climbing behind me, but guess who wasn’t going to be able to get back on either now?  I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to walk on a hill and I was NOT amused!  A short grumpy walk later I was back on my bike and back to slogging up hills into the wind…

intrepid rider blue rider and view

This is going to sound weird.  But I just got bored.  I know all these hills.  I knew
I could and would get up them.  I wasn’t suffering any more than usual.  But I just couldn’t really engage my head with the whole thing.  Or figure out why I was doing it.  With the speed I was averaging, in the wind and the cold, it was starting to look like I’d be out there all day.  And after the walking incident?  I was actually bored riding my bike and I certainly wasn’t enjoying myself, so I decided that on that basis I’d possibly be better off cutting my losses…

Moor up scenic behind

The first food stop, and also the route split, was after the very very long slow windy slog up to Princetown, 33 miles in.  Which on a route like this is not two hours in, it’s three hours in, and was possibly a little late for me on that basis.  Dave, of MDCC and training camp fame, was marshalling at the entry so I had a friendly face to say hi to on the way in.  It was busy but not too crowded, the queues for the toilets were short, and the infamous savoury Homity pie was still plentiful.  Having grabbed some and refilled my bottle, I took myself off to a patch of grass, broadcasting thousand mile stare so that everyone would leave me alone, and ate it whilst checking with myself that I really wanted to do what I thought I was going to.

water food stop

I did.  I really did.  I texted Guy so as he’d know, and after another cheery wave to Dave, I was taking the left turn and taking the Medio Route, with 34 miles to go to get home instead of 74.  So sue me! 😉  This didn’t mean the climbing was all done of course, but it did mean I’d broken the back of it.  Typically by now the sun was coming out, and finally my gilet and arm warmers came off, one by two.  After some Moor draggy ups, the long descent into Moretonhampstead meant that only one big climb was left – downs always mean ups – and this up doesn’t half go on.  But I know it, knew it would pass, and knew that the last 15 miles or so would be a down followed by a long flying finish along the valley, and hey, who knew,  I might even get my average speed up a bit? 😉

heading into the wind long road ahead

After a happy hour or so doing what I do best, I was back at the racecourse and rolling past all the spectators to go under the Finish arch.  I can’t say I was bothering to smile for the photographers, something I failed to do all day, but then I rarely buy the photos anyway 😉  It was just sort of good to have it over and done with.  Smiling on the inside?

Finish line after the ride

I headed inside to get my time, the relevant medal for a slow Medio route, and my goody bag.  It turns out my official time of 5:18:44 narrowly missed the under 5:17 standard for Silver which, in retrospect, is a bit annoying, but I doubt I’d have been able to do anything differently anyway.  Well, ok, I could have not eaten pie.  But it was good pie :)  And talking of good, the goody bag didn’t suck either – a DC kit bag, DC tube scarf, a Yellow Jersey Insurance Ass Saver, and an inner tube.   Nice :)

For all that I didn’t feel the love, it’s still a great event.  Pretty much every key junction is marshalled by friendly folk with fluorescent jackets and red flags.  The signage is good if practically superfluous as a result.  The foodstop is lovely. The scenery is lovely.  The whole thing is well organised, and friendly and helpful.  And it is a real challenge, although possibly less so fourth time around, and that’s my motivational problem not theirs.  However they did have, I think, around 1000 more riders than last year though, and I think that was reflected on the narrow roads and the hills, which wasn’t great, as I’ve said.  Would I recommend it?  Yes, definitely.  Would I do it again?  Hm…ask me again next year.

Cycling time: 5:14 (official time 5:18)
Distance: 67.6 miles
Avg: 12.9 mph
ODO: 9952.3 miles

And PS: where has rider etiquette gone?!

pie