Tag Archives: cheddar gorge

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 of 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

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’m a survivor

Today was an ACG ride.  A very well attended ACG ride.  Though our numbers were a somewhat movable feast, there were, for the most part, around 12 of us.  Guy led us on a merry dance around the Levels to Fenny Castle for coffee.  And then off up and down the Mendips for those that fancied such antics.

I’d really like to have joined them for that latter part.  Cycling me is feeling pretty good at the moment and although I know I still ill compare with my peers going up hills, I also know that I will get up them and that I am getting up them better than I have been.  However it was not to be.  There were indications early on that ups and me were not going to be friends today.  But on the flat after that, hey, I can do that, and I did, and I enjoyed it.  I’ve not been out with the ACG in quite a while, and catching up with everyone, be it on the bike or over coffee, was lovely.  But while they were all drinking coffee to wash down cake, I had to use mine to wash down shiny pills.

Chris on Cheddar Gorge

So I decided that I would go up Old Bristol Hill with them, see how it went and then make a call for the rest of the route.  I think it’s safe to say this did not go well.  It went well from a Strava point of view to be fair, which is weird, but from a pain perspective?  Really not so much so.  Doing more of the same was clearly going to be neither a good idea, nor pleasant.  So it was time to bail.  Chris very kindly volunteered to join me, or escort me, or just generally make sure I got home in one piece.  Which I/we did, because by then it was mostly a case of fighting the killer headwind on the flat along the top and then trying not to let it take us by surprise on the way down the Gorge.  I wasn’t entirely all together though, and I’m not sure how well I’d have done without the company.  Gratitude be due 🙂

Apologies to all for bailing.  It’s really not my thing.  Mea culpa, but I didn’t really have a choice. Hey, I was still out for a couple of hours, I made it up a big hill, the sun came out, the hills were green, the sky was blue, and the flowers were not all yellow.  It was very pretty out there and once again, I’m a survivor 🙂

Cycling time: 2:13
Distance: 33.3 miles
Avg: 15.1 mph
ODO: 9294.2 miles



It’s a cold wind blowing

Things kept happening today to gradually squeeze my available time…but just for once, there was enough time left in the space in-between to also squeeze in a ride.  Which is good because however many valid reasons there have been for not riding, they still feel just a little bit like excuses, and my riding PMA is suffering enough without that lurking suspicion that I’m also sabotaging myself.  However many workouts I do, and I do, and last night’s was awesome, it’s not the same as being out there.  Both my head and body need that reality check.

fields of gold

See that sky?  Those fields of gold?  That was actually today.  Appearances can be deceptive though, as it was about 20°C cooler than it looks!  However I was fairly toasty and warm in my ensemble of many layers, and I wanted to see if it was as gorgeous on top of the Mendips as it was below.  Not until I’d properly warmed up though, so I took a circuitous route around to Burrington Combe rather than heading up Shipham Hill.  As I made my way through the narrow country lanes, thanks to the low sunshine, I was frequently blinded by the light, and was more than a little concerned that any traffic coming up behind me might be likewise.  The shaded Combe was somewhat of a relief on that front, if not others.  As I braved the cattle grid, and passed by the Rock of Ages, all around me the grass was still deep and crisp and even, the first frost of the winter still lingering in the shadows.  I made my way up, somewhat slower than I thought as it turns out, but then I wasn’t pushing it (as if!), and I did get a bit mentally distracted along the way trying to figure out the rest of my route among other things, which was not conducive to focus and speed.  And besides, it felt pretty good, and what’s the rush?

The point was to be riding, and to be enjoying it, and I was, and I did.  Once I’d made it, up on top of the world it was as beautiful as I’d hoped it would be.  The skies were clear and so was my head.  I actually remembered to look around me, to enjoy the views, the flock of starlings being harassed by seagulls.  It was really lovely 🙂  I still hadn’t quite figured out where to go next, but there was a rather chilly wind, and as my toes were considering severing communication with the rest of my body, I decided to zoom around the top for a bit and then head down Cheddar Gorge…so that’s just what I did.  Fast.  Not quite as fast as when I have others to chase, but very nearly.  And it was just as much fun :D.  My current goal is to beat my best time down there.  It’s good to have goals, right?  And better still to have achievable goals.  Well I think I can do it anyway.  Hopefully soon 🙂

Cycling time: 2:06
Distance: 30.5 miles
Avg: 14.4 mph
ODO: 7236.4 miles

Oh, and since one of today’s unexpected tasks was taking the newest addition to the vets, here’s one for Rob.  He just loves kittens 😉

sleeping kitten