I don’t know if it was the longest day, but it certainly wasn’t a short one…as it started at a very early and dark 5:00am. 35 minutes later I was on my way, heading off into the sunrise.
The further I went the lighter the sky became. As I approached the M5 junction a fox streaked across the road in front of me, a flash of black keeping low to the ground. And as I reached the M4/M5 junction the street lights were going off around me in oddly random fashion, and the sun was a molten ball rising ahead…in to which I was to drive, hiding behind the aptly named sun visor, for the rest of the journey. .
I’d managed to acquire a cheap Thermos travel mug on Saturday so was drinking coffee as I went, but it’s somewhat tricky to eat muesli on the move. So as planned I pulled into whichever services at around 6:30am where I duly ate breakfast and used the nearly deserted facilities. Another hour on and Tim the TomTom had me at my destination – Dorney Lakes – where the lakes were still and the lycra was massing. By the time I was registered, toileted, and had sufficiently faffed around, I was underway at around 8:30ish at a guess. Bright and early morning sunny it may have been, but it sure wasn’t warm yet, and it was nice to have a flat run along the lakes to warm up a bit!
So off we went. I say we, it was fairly quickly just me. I overtook a few people and got stuck behind some for a while but I have to do a sportive at my pace or it just doesn’t work, so I overtook them and headed off into my own space. That was pretty much it, barring the odd exception, for the rest of the ride, as the tale will tell.
The first hour or so was pretty flat, and I didn’t hit bottom gear until 45 minutes in. To be fair this was not the hilliest of sportives – there was plenty of fast flat very enjoyable stuff – but there were quite a few hills, the Chiltern Hills to be precise, and they were mostly of the long slow drag variety. Which is good as I can do those. Slowly but surely that is. The first big hill of the day was just before the 40km food stop – steep at the bottom and then a drag – and that steep bit was the steepest bit of the day. However there was one long steep hill somewhere in the middle somewhere where I had to take a breather… Still, no walking, that’ll do me.
It was a very colourful ride. Green everywhere, Green Field, Green Common, the Green Man pun. Early bluebells, periwinkles, blossom galore. Copious quantities of butterflies. A white and black windmill. Panoramic views. In homage to the area – there were some lovely How Now Brown Cows. And the roads were littered with the corpses of very colourful peasants. Sorry, make that pheasants. You see if the numerous sportscars around had their way I think the former would more likely be true. I was keeping a mental tally of them as you do. Porsches were 10 a penny, I bumped into the same Z4 at least twice, the Caterham 7 was a highlight, as was the 3 wheeler Morgan, and the little convoy of frog-eyed sprites put a smile on my face. I was somewhat taken aback by the lack of Aston Martins, having seen my fair share of Bentleys during the day, but Marlow High Street supplied a Vantage to fill in the gap. Ok, ok, not that interesting, but when you have 8 hours of mental time to fill it’s amazing where the brain goes. Harking back to the colourful theme, the Rainbow Inn looked distinctly tempting…
As the sun came out and temperatures rose, the denizens of affluent Buckinghamshire took to the roads. And the streets. And the parks. And every single pub garden going. BTW, unless you rate an 11/10 on the physical fitness front and have already acquired a suntan, please keep your pasty flesh under wraps…*grin*. It got warm. Very warm. All my spare layers were stuffed in the saddle bag, and I was down as far as I could go. The breeze that turned up in the afternoon was actually a relief because of its cooling effect – who knew I’d ever be grateful for wind? Well, as you could tell on the few occasions when I had to stop, it really wasn’t enough that much of a wind. Yes I stopped occasionally, for food, battery changing, call of nature, fly release, helmet bug check. As you do.
Back to ride details for a little while. The 90km/180km split was in Marlow – 1st time around – and not long after that someone had moved a sign. Something to do with rival event politics. They managed to get a marshal ahead and warn at least myself and two other guys who I’d met also cycling off into the uncertain distance. Their GPS wasn’t helping…but once given a detour to get us back on track, we stuck together until that happened. It was very sweet of them to let me tag along – being as they’re both Ironmen! I kept up really well, but once we were back on track, and found the 60km food stop just up the road, they were off. And that was that. Back to me again. In fact the next 120km was just me. I saw more non-event cyclists than those cycling with me, and on the odd occasion when one of “mine” came past it came as a bit of a shock!
Which is where my main gripe comes in. If I’m going to be on my own for 4 hours and have already been “lost” once, I don’t want to just think I’m on the right route, I want to know! There weren’t enough signs, no repeaters, several junctions not marked at all… Plus there a couple of daft bits – like taking you up to a roundabout and then back to turn left, and then there was a daft dog leg bit near the end which had you do a loop and then rejoin the route again that was confusing, badly marked and gratuitous. I don’t want to have to try and read marker pen scrawled notes on a sign, especially 20km from the end when I’m hot, tired, and bothered. I got lost doing that loop too and there was bad language used, to accompany my bizarre urge to burst into tears and throw a tantrum. I retraced my steps and sorted it out, and I think my temper probably helped fuel me for a while! GB would not have liked this – there was a lot of route retracing here and there especially to get back to base – which was however good in this case as the familiarity helps you know that you’re going the right way! Or are you? Maybe you’re lost and going in ever decreasing, or worse still increasing, circles? 😉
There were plenty of friendly food stops – although I never saw the 90km one – and they had water, and drinks and maxfuel food. But what I wouldn’t have done for a nice plain fresh banana… I can only eat so many energy bars. Actually it always amazes me what you can do on very little. I did the whole thing on drinks and 2 Torq bars. That ain’t a lot. I’ve just a doughnut to compensate *grin*.
It was a lovely ride. Let’s face it, I got to ride a bike in gorgeous scenery, in the sun, for the best part of 8 hours, without a care in the world. Well, apart from worrying about where I was of course. That can’t be bad, right? That’s the kind of day you dream about when the sun comes out. 😀
Cycling time: 7:23:46
Distance: 112.07 miles
Avs: 15.1 mph
ODO: 7835 miles
I got in to find everything being packed away, and precious few souls left around so I grabbed a diet coke and my t-shirt, and headed for the car, missing someone to share that post-ride euphoria with but happy enough nonetheless. And hey, it’s easier to change clothes when there’s no-one left around to watch you. That just left me with another 2 hours Reading services espresso fueled drive down the M4, once more into the sun, to get me home. I guess I followed the sun all day 🙂 A long day indeed…
My official time is 7:55:53, which means over 8 hours I stopped for about 1/2 hour. I was 72 out of 90 on the long route – I knew there weren’t many of us out there – which ain’t great 🙁 I was 3rd of the 3 women in my class – although 64 seconds faster and I’d have been 2nd – and there were only 4 women altogether. The first woman was only half an hour so faster than me so maybe that’s positive. Top time overall was 3:22. I have no idea how people do that. Ah well, at least I didn’t take 9:46…and I did have a very lovely ride 🙂
PS: to the red/black/white garbed p*ll*ck on the matching tri-bike who had to pass everyone in the bottle neck of people, bikers, cars and bikes at the Bull & Butcher – you do not need push past me, weave through the cars, and rudely cuss at some poor biker lady crossing the road for not moving out of your way fast enough even if you “have got 108 miles to do”. People like you give cyclists a bad name and if your bike had had your number on it (too much drag for you?) I reckon you should have been disqualified. If her biker friends had, as they were briefly tempted to do, chased you down and hit you I would have been neither surprised, nor condemnatory!