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Tour of Pembrokeshire Prologue 2018

You would be forgiven for thinking that I don’t ride a bike anymore. Let’s face it, I practically don’t. As my health has gotten worse, I have been less and less able to ride a bike… I’ve barely even been even to use the spin bike.  That wasn’t going to stop Matt and I doing this year’s Tour of Pembrokeshire Prologue ride however.  What, miss a good excuse for a weekend in Pembrokeshire, with bikes, and beaches, and all?  Not likely!  


Which is sort of the point I’d like to make in this blog, and part of the reason the Tour of Pembrokeshire – i.e. the actual event in May – is such a great event.  Unlike most sportives it takes place on a Saturday which means you have the change to spend a whole weekend in one of the most beautiful parts of the country I know, without that mad rush for home to be ready for work on Monday..  Even if you don’t want to ride the sportive, and your other half/friends/family do. it’s not like there’s not plenty of other things to do in that neck of the woods – more of which later.  

But let’s re-wind a little, to the morning of Friday 26th January, when we were due to be at Crug Glas, the official event HQ, first thing.  When you’re aiming for bacon butties at 8:30am, and it’s a 3+ hr journey, sleeping through your alarm clock and not realising how many times you’re hit snooze until around 5:15 is NOT a good start!  You’d be amazed how quickly you can get your act together, kit/clothes on, and bikes into an already mostly packed car when you have to!  

OK, so getting there in time for the bacon was never going to happen…and as we got closer, and I dozed while Matt drove, and rain intermittently kept us company, it was looking like getting there in time to ride at 9:00 was also not only unlikely, but unattractive!  I pinged Peter (organiser extraordinaire) to warn him, in a fingers crossed tone, that I might not make it but I was on my way.  A quick check of the schedule for the day informed me that we were actually due to head out at 9:30am, and for all that the weather was looking unappealing, I did actually kinda want to ride the bike, just to prove I still could. Back to crossing those fingers…

By the time we arrived, the weather had brightened up considerably.  I left Matt parking the car outside the hotel proper and sorting bikes, since we were staying the night and the Cowshed car park was full, and nipped in to let Peter know we’d made it and would be riding, and to please not leave without us. Just as I walked in to the back of the briefing, where he was reading out who would be riding in which group, he read out my name – spotted me, and pointed me out to everyone.  Comedy timing..thanks Peter!. ūüėČ  Having had issues in previous years with losing riders en route, and with the Prologue getting more and more popular every year, we were all organised into groups of roughly 5 riders to 1 official Tour rider, roughly by ability, and by route (25 or 40 miles) with the emphasis being very much on keeping those groups together.  Not that those groups couldn’t end up riding together – but G is for group, and you should never leave your wing man, right?


Our group was to consist of Tour stalwart Griff, Matt and I, and three others (names escape me right now, I’m rubbish with names!), all very happy with 25 miles being the wise choice to make around here – what with it being early and the year, and it being more than a tad lumpy here!  Having checked in, and had a quick chat with Peter, there was just enough time in hand for me to rejoin Matt, for us to put every layer of kit on we owned, and to take the bikes over to rejoin our group.  Did I mention that it may well have been brighter, and it was, but it sure as hell wasn’t warm?!  And it was a tad breezy on top of that…isn’t it always?  S/s base layer, l/s winter jersey, bib winter tights, winter jacket, gilet, long finger gloves and, Matt’s leg warmers over the top of my tights.  More kind of as a precaution than anything – I tend to get cold and then stay cold – and they’d be easy to take off if necessary.  Matt, clearly being of questionable sanity, wore baggy shorts as usual…! You can take the boy off the MTB but you can’t take the MTB out of the boy… ūüėČ


So there we were, all ready to go and, after Matt played Good Samaritan and helped some lad who was borrowing a bike put pedals on it, we headed off into the wilderness.  Last year, on leaving Crug Glas and heading towards the coast, you’d never have even know there was a coast to head towards…  Today, in chilly winter sunshine, under brightening skies, there was the deep blue sea stretching away towards the horizon…which was enough to put a smile on even my slightly nervous face.  It felt a bit weird being on my bike after so long…but it also felt good.  I have been missing it, and I’m looking forward to the days when one day I’m able to get back into, and onto, it properly.  

I hadn’t had chance to look at the route really, but we’d established that there were two or three big climbs to be done – one out of Solva, and two at Newgale – one on the way out and one of the way back.  Which was bound to mean more than three – Pembrokeshire tends to either up or down, there’s precious little flat stuff around here!  We headed out towards St David’s, where we skirted the main town centre to head out along the coast road east.  It was a shame not to see the Cathedral…but I also know going to see the Cathedral involves a country lane detour and one of two possible killer and not short enough climbs to climb up past it, so I really wasn’t complaining!

Being on the bike very quickly got painful.  Which was bad, unsurprisingly.  But good, in that it reminded me why I’ve not been able to ride a bike for months, and helped me feel a little less guilty/cross with myself about that.  Silver linings I guess.  Which are hard to cling on to as, as the ride progressed, it got worse and worse….

Anyway, enough of my pity party, back to the road and the ride.  The coast road is rolling, with some steeper drags, and as it happens, not a lot of traffic and what there was was very courteous and respectful.  Being able to look right and right out to sea helped distract from some of the drag, and also from the fact that the first climb of the day, out of the very pretty village of Solva was coming up.  Our group stretched a little from time to time, as the climbs spread us out, with me not quite last, and the descents did the same, with me not quite, but sometimes, first ūüėČ  


The descent into Solva is a bit wiggly, and I wasn’t best positioned to get the most of it. Neither was I really in any rush to get to the unavoidable climb ahead.  Back in the day the route didn’t come this way, but my drive down did, and every time I drove up or down it I used to muse that I was really glad I didn’t have to ride up it.  Well these days it does, and having done it before on last year’s Tour I did at least know it was doable.  I also knew how hard it is if you’re me.  And as we left the very  picturesque and colourful village and started the climb upwards, the gradient cut in pretty much straight away, the group spread out, and it was time to sit back, engage crawler gear, and just concentrate on plodding my way up.  Matt decided out of the saddle was the way to go and disappeared into the distance.  Some considerable time, and pain, later, I finally met up with him and the rest of the group, bar one, at the next suitable regrouping point.  I was ever so glad for the bar one, as it meant we didn’t head off straight away, and I got to get my breath and composure back again!

With the group back together again, in more ways than one, we set off again.  A few more miles of draggy saw us to Newgale, for yet another lovely descent to be followed by a climb!  As you arrive and start descending the whole coastline opens up in front of you and the beach stretches out ahead of you, beckoning.  Don’t get too distracted by it though, there’s a really really nasty hairpin wiggle on the way down, which would be bad even if the road surface was good, and it isn’t, so it’s even worse!  Think of slowing down as an excuse to look at the view? ūüėČ  Once at the bottom the road heads along the beach, divided from the sea by piles of grey stone,  which block out the view until you start to leave the beach towards the other end.  Rather than carrying on up the main road climb, which was on last year’s Tour, we turned right to continue further along the beach, and climb away from the coast that way instead.  No rush though, we slowed down somewhat to enjoy the view, listen to the waves, and have my camera tell me it was full and refuse to take photos of those stunning views! (not amused…turns out later that the memory card had popped out a little – it wasn’t full at all *grrr*).

It turned out to be a nicer climb than t’other one in some ways.  Longer, but more gradual, sort of stepped, with occasional steeper bits.  Matt kept me company this time, which made things feel a little easier.  Had he been with me up Solva I’d have been tempted to ask him for a helping hand, something I virtually never do or permit…now that he was with me, I found it easier not to need one. Perverse I know…  And..then…climb done…or so I thought.  Turns out there as another similar one shortly afterwards, after the left turn inland, which no-one seemed to have thought to mention…told you there were bound to be more than three climbs!   Ouch!

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Somewhere around here, where the 25 mile route was to split from the 40, the other female member of our party was struck down by the puncture fairy.  We all pulled over in a convenient gateway, where a Tour marshal and his extremely cute small child happened to waiting, and various manly MAMILs helped get the job done, using a surprising number of different bike pumps.  Meanwhile I enjoyed the chance for a break, out of the wind, to enjoy the sunshine and be glad we only had 10 miles or so left to go.  Having said that, Peter’s routes have often proven to be somewhat longer than expected, so I was mentally aiming at it being more like 27 miles than 25, so as to not be annoyed if that happened! Praemonitus, praemunitus…or something like that anyway.

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Time to head back then.  Which involved looping us back round, down the much more enjoyable decent to Newgale from the other side, and more beach loveliness.  It took a while to warm up again after the break, but retracing our steps back up that wiggly hill out of Newgale was bl**dy hard work, relentless, and seemed to go on for ever. It warmed me up though!  Every time you thought you’d reached the top, you hadn’t, and the photographer, who’d been popping up en route all morning, was predictably sat half way up after one of the worst stretches to capture the moment for posterity.  I may have smiled.  Or gurned… Once again Matt kept me company, once again it hurt like f*ck, once again we both made it to the top eventually.  

We regrouped, headed back along the main coast road for a bit, where we stretched, and regrouped as usual, and then checked the map and route ahead to make sure we weren’t going to get lost.  One right turn later and we were on to virgin territory.  Which did involve us getting a tad lost, or at least not entirely convinced we were in the right place and/or going in the right direction a couple of times.  Maps and gadgets were consulted but, with only a few miles to go, it wasn’t too stressful an affair. I was pretty sure I could see Crug Glas in the distance anyway, which helped.  Somewhere in amongst those wiggly lanes was a fair killer of a hill, which took the last of what little was left in my legs and then some.  Except it can’t have been a hill because there were only three hills today right?  Sure felt like a hill to me…  By now I was definitely in “I need to go home” mode.  Stick a fork in me and call me done.  Too much ouchy on many fronts, but hey at least we were all still together, and I was warm enough, right?  It was definitely a relief to find ourselves on the road back to Crug Glas, and a welcome surprise to discover, upon turning into the drive back up to the hotel, that the route had indeed been 25 miles or thereabouts!  Result! The work part of the Prologue was over and we’d suffered but survived. That’ll do me ūüôā

Right then.  Time to park the bikes up outside the hotel and, with a little time to spare, head inside, have a shower, and freshen up.  The faster/longer groups probably weren’t far behind us to be honest, race snakes one and all, but luckily lunch was set for a fixed time, not for when everyone was back!  Here’s the photo that a nice lady took of us, to prove that we survived.


Being off the bike, my body and soul stopped having to hold it together, and lost it fairly monumentally.  I thought it hurt on the bike but holy crap, did it ever hurt now!  Unbelievable sort of mind-numbing amounts of pain…  Luckily I carry a fair arsenal of analgesia, but it took me quite a while to get on top of it, get it together, have a shower, and put on civvies.  Which, as I said before,  made me feel rather better about not having been on the bike for quite a while – because this is how it feels when I do, so I’ve not been being lazy, I’ve been being sensible, so there!  Still…  Ho hum, hopefully I’ll get back to it eventually. Put me back on my bike!

Wrapped up in comfortable warm clothes, we headed back over to the Cowshed for the eat, drink, meet & greet part of the event.  Catering for both this and the Tour is always good, and today was no exception.  It’s a two part buffet.  Jacket potatoes and/or wraps, filled with whatever you want – pulled pork in my case, or various other options.  To which you can then go and add salad, pasta, cheese, whatever floats your boat.  It was very tasty and very necessary. Even I ate most of my wrap!  I could have eaten it all I suppose, but then where would I have put the sticky treacle pudding & custard?  Yes yes, I know I shouldn’t, but I did. I figured I’d earnt it, and bl**dy lovely it was too! ūüôā 

We chatted to our group, who’d we’d ended up sitting with, and also to a few others, over food and the odd pint of rehydration therapy. Andrew Mathias then gave us a motivational talk about his circumnavigation of the UK coast, which was really interesting, and mad, if you consider he’d not been riding a bike for all that long.  I’d call it the folly of youth (cos I’m a grumpy old woman), but since he was doing it for a very good cause – the Paul Sartori Foundation – I won’t. Especially as he raised ¬£5,403.04 for them!  Quite surprisingly, given the ride, good food, and a warm darkened room, Matt even managed to pretty much stay awake!


So that covers the Prologue. But as I mentioned before, the Tour of Pembrokeshire is about far more than one long very challenging sportive ūüėČ  It’s a weekend in Pembrokeshire for both riders and their families, to stay and enjoy the whole area.  After all it can be a long way to travel for just one day, so why not make the journey even more worth while?  When it comes to staying around St Davids, there are plenty of places to stay locally, up to and including Crug Glas itself (which is amazing!), and you can also book a space for a tent, caravan or motorhome on site if that’s more your thing.  And when it comes to activities, the Tour of Pembrokeshire has teamed up with Preseli Venture for coasteering and sea-kayaking or surfing and Falcon Boats for wildlife boat trips.  It’s not all about the bike you know ūüėČ

You and yours could join the guys at Preseli Venture for a full or half day of family friendly coastal adventure. Try coasteering, sea kayaking, and surfing – it’s your chance to see this beautiful coastline from a whole new perspective! You can enjoy a hot local lunch while you’re there, and even stay in their 5 star eco lodge which sleeps up to 40 people. It includes a private lodge bar with music, pool table, outside seating, cosy lounge and lovely bedrooms, with a range of different sized rooms.  Hardly slumming it! ūüôā

If that sounds a little bit too active for you, how about taking a trip with Falcon Boats for the wildlife trip of a lifetime around the Pembrokeshire islands? Discover the RSPB reserve of Ramsay Island, head out to Grassholm to see gannets, and maybe porpoises, whales & dolphins, or North Bishop to see the shearwaters and puffin colony. Seeing a whale in the wild is on my bucket list, so I may have to give it a try – how cool would that be??

Back to the Tour, which is where I’ll be on May. This year’s Tour has four routes – opening up the stunning scenery and roads of Pembrokeshire to everyone, whether you want to do 25, 50, 75 or 100 miles.  The Tour of Pembrokeshire really is one of THE best sportives you can do.  Quiet country roads, with challenging climbs, swooping descents, amazing scenery and the sea all around.  It’s why I keep coming back for more, year after year.  Sadly it’s looking like I may only be up to the 25 mile route this year but…with free parking, amazing feed stations, delicious free post-ride food, free hot tubs and showers on site, free beer (if you do the right routes!) and live music around the course and at the finish, what more could you or I ask for? I’ll be there, wearing my very fetching Tour of Pembrokeshire Castelli Women’s Team Jersey in the hope it makes me look like I know what I’m doing.   See you there?

*official photos – i.e. the good ones with ToP marks ‘n all are used by permission from the Tour of Pembrokeshire and are ¬©huwfairclough. 

Great Weston Ride 2017

A little while ago I did the Maratona dles Dolomites again. It did not go according to plan. And maybe I’ll write about that at some point, and put some photos up, or something. Or maybe I won’t. Suffice to say I couldn’t do what I wanted to because I was in far too much pain, and even my natural stubbornness can only get me so far… 

…but let’s move on, shall we?  On to this year’s Great Weston Ride which was, as this year continues on trend, a repeat.  In fact this year’s edition would be its 8th.  And my 8th too.  It’s traditional. Apparently I’m part of the furniture now ūüėČ


So the event is a given, but the cast varies year on year.  Originally this was due to be Matt and I, with Alan, and it was billed as an easy have a nice day out, remember you’re riding with me and I’m crap, kind of a ride.  However some time not so long before the ride it turned out that James would be riding with us.  Young whipper snapper, whippet, race snake James…  Alan reassured me that this would make no difference, and things would proceed according to plan…

…which did not get off to a great start.  After the usual early start, Matt and I headed off to rendezvous with the lads in order to ride to the start as usual.  I’d assumed that we were meeting at the normal place, and hadn’t twigged that we weren’t.  (Never assume, it makes an ASS out of U and ME…right?)  So unsurprisingly they weren’t where we were when we were supposed to be, a little later than we’d intended on being there.  Too much faffing as ever…  And having presumed that, being all of 5 minutes late, we weren’t actually coming at all, Alan and James had headed off already.  Marvellous…  However a quick phone call ascertained the wheres and wherefores and whereabouts, and eventually we managed to join up on the road from Winscombe to Sandford.  Let’s get this show on the road then shall we?

Alan had mapped out a route, and plugged it into his gadget, so unlike in previous years, we managed to make it to HQ at Long Ashton Park and Ride without getting lost.  Well, if you don’t count the bit where Matt went flying on ahead on a downhill and missed the right turning onto the cycle path that we were supposed to take, and had to be hunted down ūüėČ  Other than that it was a fairly uneventful and pretty sociable ride.  As we rode through into Long Ashton, along with a fair few others, a great many other riders were going the other way, already on their way out.  It’s a good thing there wasn’t much traffic around to annoy at that time of the morning ūüôā

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The weather was passable, albeit rather more breezy than I’d have liked. We parked up outside the car park block building, and did the usual.  Which in my case involved rather a lot of queuing to get to use the Ladies.  This ride, being one for charity and of a length and format that makes it more open and welcome to all than your average sportive, attracts a mixed bunch of riders and has a better gender balance than usual too.  So 3 toilets (if you include the disabled one) and a lot of women in layers of kit and bib shorts?  Queuing ensued…  

That done, and it was time to go and register.  Organiser Darren was already on the front line, briefing batches of riders before letting them loose.  I found my queue, to sign the usual bit of paper, be presented with my bike number and cable ties, and told to help myself to 9Bars.  There was a bit of confusion with regards to Matt’s registration but we got that sorted, and picked up extra cable ties as we were at it.  Well they were skinny little ones, and I know from experience that those won’t go around my handlebars, but Matt informed me that if you string them together, it’s doable.  Not something I’ve tried before, but hey, it worked, even it did look a bit haphazard.  

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Alan and James were raring to go, and chomping at the bit which, I’m sorry to say, did not make me move any faster.  There was my bike to be loaded up and checked, another quick trip to the facilities and then finally, much to their relief, we were all joining the next batch to be briefed.  Darren can probably give that briefing in his sleep by now!  It didn’t take too long before we were set on our way, and everyone was hurtling off.  Which always makes me laugh, because all of 100 metres up the road, the traffic lights always grind everyone to a halt *grin*.  The second set do the same…  We managed to get split up a bit.  Alan must have got away and through the lights before they changed, and James wasn’t initially with us either.  

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We turned left to go through Long Ashton, rather than go straight on.  The standard and original route has been maintained through the years but there are several additional loops on the way that you can take should you wish, to add miles or metres climbed, or both.  Or neither if you’re me, because I’m all about tradition, remember?  Besides, what with my form and health being as it is these days, pushing it in any way is pretty much out of the question.  I know the basic route, I mostly like it, and knowing what I have to deal with helps me cope with it.  It’s a ride that breaks into nice chunks, and that makes it mentally and physically more manageable somehow?

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So, out through Long Ashton, and then under the A370 to take the rat run that is Barrow Gurney.  Except it isn’t so much these days, now that the South Bristol link road has been completed.  And, presumably in honour of the reduced through traffic flow, the route through has been resurfaced, and smoothed, and landscaped, and ok, there are still the obligatory speed bumps and traffic calming bits, but it was much nicer to cycle through than before.  Unlike the unavoidable drag up the A38 afterwards which was as unpleasant as always but is at least blessedly fairly short!  As the miles passes, what with traffic, of the two and four wheel variety, different riding styles, the need to change layers, faff or whatever, four regularly became two x two, and James and Alan got plenty of restorative rest waiting for us to catch them up and for us all to head off together again.  

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The next bit of the ride is my favourite bit of the whole thing.  Turn left, and head towards Chew Magna.  The road rolls a little bit, in a generally climbing way, before you get to hurtle along, downhill ish, flying past lots of other people and having whole heaps of fun.  And this year was no exception.  I still loved it ūüôā  All good things come to an end, and turning right at the roundabout here marked the end of the fly past, and set us heading South towards the Mendips.  What with the weather being currently fairly nice, quite a lot of people were taking the advantage of the lay-by where the route crossed the Chew Valley Lake to stop and/or regroup, and quite a few supporting families were cheering on their athletes as they arrived.  As we were currently pretty much together, we carried on past them.  

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The big challenge on today’s route is Burrington Combe, and to get there involves one of my least favourite patches of road from West Harptree, through Ubley and Blagdon.  It’s draggy, includes a fair few ups, and has one of those momentum sucking road surfaces.  Having said that, although I was having to do hills my way, i.e. at no speed at all as pushing hurts, it all went better than usual, and better than expected.  Provided I take it easy at such points, I seem to manage to plod my way up hills fairly successfully, and it went surprisingly well.  Matt stuck with me, while the boys did their thing, and before long we were all gathered together at the first stop at the bottom of the Combe.  This is a liquid & mechanical support stop only, but if you wanted anything else, including facilities that are rather more salubrious than the public toilets outside, then the Burrington Inn had it all.  Quite a few people were clearly planning on a longer stop than us, with friends and family joining them for refreshments inside and out.  James held on to my bike while I topped up my bottles and nipped inside to “freshen up”.  I’d have loved to purchase some fizzy orange, or some such, but there was quite a queue and I didn’t fancy joining it.  Such indulgence would have to wait until later…  

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I rejoined the boys, and the conversation headed off in a techy direction, with much discussion of gears and ratios and the like, so rather than fall asleep standing there, I took my leave and got myself a small head start. We’d agreed to meet up at the Two Trees junction at the top, and they were bound to get there before me however much of a lead I got, so it seemed to make sense.  And I enjoyed it.  Yes, Alan and James went past like I was treading water, and yes Matt caught me.  But I did good by my standards if not Strava’s.  I like Burrington Combe.  It’s my kind of long slow climb, and I didn’t even spend the entire time in bottom gear.  My oval chain rings come into their own on climbs like this and somehow make the whole thing feel smoother and more constant.  Even the last kicker of an up after the cattle grid at the top, which isn’t the end even if you really wish it was, wasn’t too bad.  Well, ok, it hurt, and made things hurt, but that’s nothing new and the legs thought it was ok ūüôā Having accepted how things are these days means I can just take a little of the pressure off myself and just get on with doing it?

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As planned, after life had flattened out into a longer drag, James and Alan were waiting for us.  Time to eat, drink, discuss how the ‘race’ had gone (James won, quelle surprise), and then time to go and do a little of what I do best.  Yep, plenty of down and flat and flying across the top, almost chain gang stylee, doing what I can to make for what I can’t, and I definitely held my own and did my fair share.  The wind was fairly challenging up on the top here, which is often the case, and it did make some of it rather more of slog than we would have liked.  It was also rather damp up here, and with the damp and the wind and the elevation, it was distinctly chilly.  I’m not sure whether it was actually raining or whether we were just riding through a cloud though!

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Having been on top of the world for a while, it was time to head for the Levels.  We reached the junction with the main road, where the loop that takes in Cheddar Gorge had riders joining us from the right, and turned left to head for Priddy.  There’s a nasty narrow little steep kick out the village here, and just for once, and possibly the only time today, I was proper feeling it, and from behind Alan and James I got myself out of the saddle and kicked my way up and past them both…which came as a bit of surprise to everyone, including me.  Go me!  Sometimes #thisgirlcan *grin*.  


Time to roll a little down some little country lanes to get us to the big descent, down Westbury Hill, or the Quarry Hill as it’s sometimes known around here.  Today was a day for being careful, what with it being damp under rubber, frequently gravelly and bendy, with plenty of riders around, and the possibility of vehicular traffic in either direction.  This didn’t mean a degree of controlled fun couldn’t be had, and having passed a more sensible Alan, I followed Matt down the hill.  At some point a car came the other way, and I can’t remember whether I was ahead of Matt at the time, or just didn’t notice from behind, but his life got a bit squirrely on a bend as we passed it, which was a bit hairy apparently!  Almost too close for comfort… Luckily that was all it was, and we all had our own version of fun getting to the bottom,  to the junction with the main road to Wells.  As ever, there were marshals making sure we all stopped there, and advising us of approaching traffic if necessary, which was much appreciated.  We regrouped briefly, before crossing over safely and finishing the last bit of the descent down into Rodney Stoke.  I managed not to drop & total my camera here this time around too!

Time for a bit of Level pegging.  Which came with an unexpected amusement factor.  The car not so far in front of us had realised she wasn’t going to be going anywhere fast, what with all the cyclists around, and overtaking being a tad tricky hereabouts, so she’d let her dog out the back to run along behind her slow progress.  Which is, I suppose, one way of walking the dog!  We overtook her, having a chat as we passed, obviously, because if we hadn’t I wouldn’t know what was going on, now would I?  It was fairly fast progress, and fairly sociable too, as we stuck together in a chatty group all the way along to the little kick up to Cocklake, from where we turned left to Wedmore.  

Wedmore was, as ever, a little tricky to negotiate.  Traffic, parked cars, cyclists, motorists with very important places to be, and the ever-present risk of being doored by someone not paying attention en route to the local gallery/boutique/pub…  SMIDSY…  I’m always careful here, and we were careful here today.  Having turned right, and with that main flashpoint behind us, it was time to head out into the countryside again, and head for the next stop, the proper food stop, at Hugh Sexey school in Blackford.  

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Which was, as usual, a sm√∂rg√•sbord.  Free drinks, of the hot and cold variety.  A wide range of cakes on sale inside, with bacon buttes on sale outside too.  Time to take a well-earned break then…  I topped up my bottles, and debated the merits of cake before deciding not to risk it – my insides were feeling delicate enough as it was on the pain front, and eating something that upset my IBS would definitely not help.  I grabbed some free squash though, I’m getting far better at hydrating these days.  While Matt joined the rather long queue for bacon butties, I nipped inside to use the dinky facilities, which always makes me smile.  Well, it is a First School, so everything is a little bit smaller scale…or seems that way anyway.  I took Matt’s place in the queue for a little while so that he could do the same, and once he was back I headed back out into the throng…where I found Alan and James chomping at the bit again, ready to head off.  Apparently they’d decided to do the next bit on their own and have a bit of a race to the finish.  And we were too slow for them, and wouldn’t mind being left to our own devices, would we?  Hm.  I may have been a bit under-amused.  Well, after all the promises that this was not what would happen?  I could have told you it would, but I’d chosen to believe the hype.  (More fool me, n’est-ce-pas?)  Rather than express my opinion on the subject vocally, I chose to wave them on their way, whilst taking a pew on the lawn near our stationed steeds, and waiting for Matt to rejoin me instead.  Well it’s not like I blamed them, but I did think we’d been doing ok, and I’d seemed to have been on the front for a fair bit of the group riding…*sulk*.


So off they went, and back he came.  Given that it was indeed now just us two, we decided to chill out a bit…but not too much, because that would mean chilling out literally not figuratively, and although it was definitely brightening up now, it still wasn’t precisely warm.  So time to head off again then, with about 20 miles or so to go, and not much by way of lumps to deal with in those, which is always good!  The next stretch is a little bit rolling before hitting the flat straight bits around Mark.  Once more a little detour took us off the main, and very boring Mark to Highbridge road, which remains an improvement on the original route.  It avoids traffic and is far prettier.  Well it’s proper Levels and if you’re going to come and ride around here, that should be done ūüôā  Although this bit is flat and fast and I was feeling pretty good, Matt wasn’t doing so well.  I’d turn round to check he was behind me, and he wouldn’t be…so I’d wait for him to catch up and we’d be together again and then…we wouldn’t.  We arrived in Highbridge, and discovered that he’d had a slow puncture for a while, and riding on that lack of tyre pressure had a lot to answer for! We pulled off just before the traffic lights on the little railway bridge into town, and I took it easy while he very efficiently changed the inner tube and got everything back up to pressure and back up to speed!

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Not that speed is something you can really do in Highbridge, or on the roads out though Burnham-on-Sea and out to Berrow.  Too much traffic and too many obstacles, though the views of the beach and the Severn river at Burnham somewhat make up for this.  It was still a relief when we finally got to stop playing with the traffic and turn right, off the main road, and hit the quieter lanes that head towards Lympsham, with about 10 miles to go, as a very lovely sign confirmed.  It is nice to count down ūüôā  Well, ok, it was sort of quieter.  After a nice quiet straight patch, we joined the road that takes tourists to and from their caravan sites around Brean.  It’s narrow and wiggly and the surface is atrocious, so sticking to the LHS to let cars past often isn’t an option…not if you want to stay on your bike, and/or avoid pinch punctures.  We were as courteous as possible however, and waved cars past when we could, and went as fast as we could in between times so as not to be too much of a hindrance.  Traffic can’t go that fast around here thanks to those roads either, so it worked out just about ok.  

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The miles were ticking by now, and I was still feeling perky.  Even having been re-inflated Matt was flagging a bit, but we really didn’t have far to go now.  Down the lovely straight bit alongside the railway line, with the sun pretty much shining now.  Then the usual wait to turn left onto the fairly busy A370 before the detour through Uphill to get us to the final finishing straight along Weston Super Mare’s sea front.  It wasn’t so much of a sprint this year, though we did try.  It’s not easy with the number of traffic lights along here that have a tendency to stop play!  And then there we were, pulling off the road, onto the lawns, going over the Finish Line pretty much together, and another Great Weston Ride was done ūüôā

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We were presented with our medals which, if they fitted my frame, could have been nicely fitted to the front of my bike, such was their design this year.  I grabbed a bottle of water too, and had a quick chat with Darren who was lurking around keeping everything under control.  I also got to meet rider No 1 – which is a privilege he has due to the sheer amount of money he has raised over the years for the Great Weston Ride’s charity – Prostate Cancer UK.  Chatting done, we headed off in search of Alan and James, who were to be found taking it easy on the grass not far from the bar, clearly having been there for ever.  Well they’d already had their free food and the odd pint…and having gotten in that bit earlier (a considerable bit clearly…), they hadn’t had to queue much for either.  The queue for the bar was, luckily, not insurmountable.  The same cannot be said for the food queue…which we ended up leaving until considerably later.  Better to be sat chilling with your mates and drinking the odd cold one that standing up on your own for hours doing neither right?  Sadly all they had left by way of lager was Fosters…ick!…but needs must.  Don’t worry, it won’t be becoming a habit!  Matt had to resort to drinking cider…which really isn’t his thing either.

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So there we sat, and chatted, and debriefed.  At some point later on food was finally acquired and consumed and very nice it was too.  More lager (if you can call it that) was consumed.  And after a while Alan and James headed off back to his place a couple of miles down the road where James was parked.  And a while after that I prevailed upon eldest to come and pick us up, since riding home had never really been on the cards, and staying on the lawns in the sun for an extra pint really was ūüôā 

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Great Weston ride 2018 done.  How was it?  As lovely as ever really.  Sure we were slow.  And things were sometimes fairly painful.  But that’s normal these days, and Matt’s support and my drugs get me through that.  All that not withstanding, it went well, and we had a good day out.  It might have been a different case had it not brightened up in time for the apr√®s ride to be so nice.  And the queues at the food stop and at the end weren’t great, with the latter being way beyond not great.  But that’s the kind of feedback they take on board every year and every year it gets a little bit better.  Since I really enjoy it, and I’m part of the furniture, barring unforeseen circumstances, it’s safe to assume I’ll be back there in 2019.  Maybe even 2020. I reckon 10 times in a row would be pretty cool ūüôā


You stole the sun from my heart


Sometime between 2:00am on Tuesday morning and 8:30am – unless it was the large noise I heard during the evening and presumed was Cassie the cat causing chaos as customary – someone broke into our locked garage, and stole two bikes.  My Cinelli.  My “new” bike (in that it’s newer than t’other one, I’d still had it for a few years), my “summer” bike (old one got relegated to winter, new one saved, mostly, for summer), my bestest bike which I loved to bits.  They also stole my partner Matt’s new Mekk bike which he’d had all of two weeks and ridden once and which lived here, which I feel really bad about and oddly responsible for ūüôĀ

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So the “thieves” (there are so many other words I’d like to use here) broke into our locked garage.  It’s still not clear how they managed to break in – maybe they used the hockey stick they brought and left behind, maybe they didn’t – but how they did it is academic now.  Clearly they got in.  And being in my garage is like being in my house, since there’s an interconnecting door between the two which wasn’t locked.  Luckily they didn’t come through…but it’s just scarey, and creepy, knowing that they could have done.  While Tash and I were asleep upstairs.  *shudder*.  They just came into the garage, and they just took our two carbon bikes.  They didn’t take anything else.  Nothing.  None of the other bikes.  None of my power tools.  Nothing.  Just our beautiful steeds.  Which makes one tend towards the conclusion that my house was deliberately targeted, which is enough to make your skin scrawl…  

Setting out on the school run, discovering the garage door open, and then the bikes missing, was not nice.  Quite a shock.  Literally.  The whole stunned, shaky, crying, thing.  It took a little longer to hit Tash, but it still did.  Not nice all round… ūüôĀ  Once we’d calmed down sufficiently I made the inevitable round of phone calls. The police came, and were friendly and compassionate and helpful, and did their best but…  No witnesses.  No forensics on the abandoned hockey stick that “they” left behind.  (On the upside the CSI guy was lovely, and when she expressed an interest, took Tash’s fingerprints for her, and she now has the world’s coolest bookmark).  There’s nothing the police can do really, other than keep a look out for it if they recover any bikes.  Then the insurance company’s garage people came out and made the house secure again, and after a survey tomorrow, a new lock is probably in the works.  Being boring and sensible as I tend to be, it looks like the bikes and garage door were probably all variously insured.  There will be the usual hoops to jump through, there are a great many forms to fill in, we probably won’t get what feels like enough money, and I won’t believe that that part of it is sorted until there is actually money in the bank.  But if you look at it like that, no-one was hurt, and with any luck there will be replacement bikes, and hey, never mind, sh*t happens, ho hum.

But it doesn’t feel very ho hum.  It feels weird.  Matt came down on a flying visit last night to be with us, and look after me, and one of the bikes was his after all.  He’s sad too.  And angry.  And all those things.  It’s a really good thing he did, because I was pretty shaky when I didn’t have work to distract me, and because reactions are a funny thing.  For example I had to resort to drinking too much white wine last night to make me go to sleep.  I didn’t expect that, but I guess your brain works in weird ways.  Emotional vs intellectual.  I felt this serious need to stay awake all night.  I think it’s because this house is my place that I fought hard to keep.  It’s mine.  It’s home to me and mine.   My Englishwoman’s castle.  It’s my safe place that now doesn’t feel safe.  In an odd way it felt like I needed to stay awake because while I was awake we were still safe, and going to sleep might mean bad things happening again, and what might happen next?  Intellectually I knew/know the house is secure, so it’s ridiculous.  But then I thought it was secure before so…is it?

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So there’s that.  Which ain’t great as things go.  And then there’s the sadness.  They stole my beautiful bike.  I loved that bike.  I don’t really want another bike.  I never have.  Sure, it was getting older, and needed things replaced, and was usually covered in mud, but it was still all the bike I ever wanted.  I’ve never wanted to replace it.  It was built to fit me, light and agile, cornered like a dream, and we’ve done a great many mostly happy miles together, in some amazing places.  Yes, it’s just a bike.  But it was my bike, and I was/am pretty attached to it.  I’m really really upset about it, when I’m stupid enough to let myself think about it.  Totally gutted.  It may be daft to cry about a bike…but hey, we all know I’m daft.  

But it’s done now.  I’ve put our sad stolen bike story everywhere.  It’s on my Facebook – thanks for all kind comments and the shares everyone.  It’s on my Twitter – thanks for all the retweets, especially to Matt Stephens and Cyclosport – the news is spreading and I’ve now been retweeted 48 times!  And now, predictably, it’s on here.  I really don’t expect to ever see either of our bikes again but if there’s even a slim chance…the more people that know about it the better.  So if you happen to be offered a cheap bike for sale in the pub, see a bike lurking in a rhyn somewhere, visit a local car boot sale…and come across one of ours, please do let me know.  This weekend, though the horses may have bolted, we’re going to be locking the stable door (and overusing an idiom) – by putting every security precaution, reinforcement, lock and alarm on my house and garage that we can.  I’m not having this happen again.  In the meantime, I need a glass of white wine, and a decent night’s sleep (fat chance!).  My poor bike ūüôĀ    


Great Weston Ride 2016

The Great Weston Ride is a tradition. ¬†Sure, some of the variables, and the players, change year on year. ¬†But apparently my attendance is a constant. ¬†2016 was the 7th GWR and, just as with the previous 6, I was there. ¬†Which apparently makes me unique. ¬†Go me. ¬†Like we didn’t know that I’m “unique”, and probably “special” and other such terms ūüėČ

This time my merry band, we three, were myself, Alan, and Clayton. ¬†Well, that’s how things started out… ¬† Anyway Clayton, having moved away and no longer being quite as local, rocked up to park his car at my place around 6:20 ish. ¬†And after very little faffing – yes that can be done – we headed up the road to meet Alan at Shute Shelve. ¬†It was grey, but humid, and though the arm warmers, knee warmers and base layer were to stay¬†on a while, the gilet came off there and then. ¬†In that today’s event is usually a ride of three halves, the first half is the ride into Bristol, to the Long Ashton Park ‘n Ride. ¬†Last year, without¬†Guy¬†to guide us, Clayton and I got lost, and added a good few miles to the route in. ¬†This year, thanks to Strava, I pointed Alan at the route we took in 2014, when we didn’t get lost, and he downloaded it. ¬†So it was a sociable, uneventful, ¬†20 miles or so that got us to HQ on schedule or thereabouts. ¬†And not getting lost was a huge improvement! ¬†We were still there well before the 8:00am start so, though not the first there, that’ll do right?

Start registration

First things first – the toilets of course! ¬†There were the usual inside the building ones, and some extra portable toilets outside. ¬†I opted for inside, before heading outside to registration. ¬†Which was a bit confusing. ¬†When it was busy, I imagine it made sense. ¬†Find the queue that led from your surname letter and follow it all the way to the desks. ¬†Except there weren’t any queues, and there were no letters on the desks, and quite a few of us queued our way to the front in what we hoped was the right place only to be told we needed to move one queue to the left or right! ¬†Still, the free coffee being given away to those waiting near the front by¬†Truestart helped ease my suffering somewhat ūüėČ ¬†Once finally in the right place, I was given my bike number and cable ties, and a free¬†9Bar, and sent happily on my way.

rider groups explaining signage

There were a lot of riders milling around, and I was trying to keep an eye out for James, who might have been joining us, but I never did see him – not before, during, or after! ¬†I did however bump into organiser Darren, which was nice since by now we’re practically mates ūüėČ ¬†We had a bit of a chat, before he headed off to the front line to do his duty, and I headed back to Alan and Clayton for a little more faffing. ¬†Well Clayton’s front mech was playing up…or something like that anyway. ¬†I’m not that techy remember? ¬†The queues for the mechanics were fairly long though, so he decided to leave it in the hands of the gods and see what happened en route…

always stopped by traffic lights barrow gurney lights

We joined the massing hordes and slowly shuffled our way towards the start line, a process that was gradually sorted into more organised batches. ¬†Eventually it was our turn to reach the front line, after the photographer had immortalised Clayton and I, to be given one of Darren’s briefings – which he can probably recite in his sleep by now. ¬†We were warned about the narrow gravelly road after Priddy, and the nasty gravelly descent to Westbury,¬†reminded that it wasn’t a race (a warning without which no¬†sportive would be complete), and let go on our way. ¬†There’s never any point hurtling off though, though some people do, as there are two sets of traffic lights, that will inevitably be red at the wrong time, to negotiate before you can get going on your way proper.

drag up the A38 Chew Valley Lake

There are lots of options to the route these days. ¬†You can add various loops – all or none of them as you wish, to add more miles, more climbing, or both. ¬†Blue signs for extras, yellow for basic. ¬†Being a traditionalist and having always done the basic route, as it was, so shall it¬†always be, and none of those extra options were for me. ¬†So instead of heading straight on and straight up, we were for the lanes of Long Ashton and beyond to Barrow Gurney. ¬†Retracing our steps from¬†the way in, as it happens, but that didn’t last too long. ¬†Cycling through the narrow traffic calmed Barrow Gurney rat run is far more fun than driving through it and luckily when our slowly stretching out batch went through it, there weren’t too many cars there to wish we weren’t there…

dragging from Ubley time for the first food stop

It was still grey, and humid, and threatening a little damp, but I was warm. ¬†A little too warm. ¬†So before we hit the A38 we stopped so that I could stash knee warmers and arm warmers away, which was a huge improvement. ¬†Mind you it didn’t make the slow slog up that A38 any more pleasant, but it’s pretty unavoidable and it didn’t take too long. ¬†A bit longer than usual though, as the traffic meant there was no over-taking slower cyclists and it was just a long linear orderly queue slowly progressing up the road until we could escape by turning left!

water only cars queuing for the Combe

After a bit of dragging up in steps, which slowed me at least down a bit, came the lovely long flying section towards Chew Magna that I enjoy every year. ¬†In fact I probably enjoy it even more because I know it’s there so I can make sure to do it properly fast, I know where I can overtake people, and I know that it goes on a while;¬†so I know that the people I’ve overtaken aren’t going to be laughing their arses off¬†when 30 seconds later if the road goes up and they go straight back past me! ūüėČ ¬†All good things come to an end though, and there’s a little bit of up and down to do to get out the other side and down the long straight past the very pretty Chew Valley Lake. ¬†Man it’s pretty around here. ¬†It’s so easy to be blas√© about it when you live here, and it’s worth taking time to remember that I live in a very lovely part of the world. ¬†You should come and do the Great Weston Ride and see for yourself ūüėČ

starting Burrington Combe near the top of the Combe

Right. ¬†Past the lakes, and the ducks, and the people feeding the ducks. ¬†Time for one of my least favourite parts of the ride – the draggy section along the A368 from West Harptree to…well we’ll get to that in a minute. ¬†This bit is slow. ¬†Sure, there are some nice down bits in it, but there are a lot of up bits. ¬†And they’re draggy, the road surface is that thick porridgy stuff, there’s traffic, and they go on a while. ¬†Nowt for it but to sit back and get on with it. ¬†Plod, plod, plod…in the grey, and occasional drizzle… ¬†Clayton was struggling a bit behind me, I wasn’t flying, and Alan was having lots of fun getting behind us both on the down bits, and then hurtling past us, out of the saddle, and making it look easy on the ups, so as to wait for us somewhere convenient after whichever¬†up it was was over. ¬†Well he was having fun, it was making me laugh, and hey, the miles passed…

murky Mendips ready to descend

Which brings us to where we were going to…Burrington Combe. ¬†Which is today’s big climb. ¬†Turn left off the A368, and there’s barely time before it starts for a sigh of relief. ¬†Or to catch your breath. ¬†Well, there kinda is, because the first refreshment stop is at the bottom. ¬†This stop seems to vary year on year. ¬†Judging by the moaning of other riders around me, they were expecting a food stop. ¬†To be fair,¬†it is only a refreshment stop, and it is only 20 miles in, so a full on food stop really¬†isn’t required anyway. ¬†I thought I remembered there being more in previous years…but my memory isn’t what it was (and it was never good), I’ve done a lot of events that kinda blur into one, and it’s been pointed out to me that I’m wrong about that. ¬†This time there were just two barrels of water – there wasn’t even energy drink, though I think there had been earlier, judging by the tubs in the rubbish bin next to them. ¬†Since all I need is water, and I don’t eat anyway, I wasn’t bothered…but that’s really not the point is it?

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Having got off the bike, I realised my balance had gone again (I’m starting to be more aware of the signs these days) and I was feeling a bit woozy/weird again. ¬†Not great. ¬†Time for this break to be a little longer than usual. ¬† Toilet facilities were available, by arrangement, in the¬†Burrington Inn, and when I headed off to use them, I realised they were also open and serving tea, coffee, and the like to a couple of riders as I walked past. ¬†Which I would have known if I’d paid clearer attention to the pre-ride information. ¬†So as I walked back I joined them. ¬†No fizzy orange…but they did have Appletiser, and I figured that would do. ¬†Fizzy sugary re-hydrating goodness ūüôā

Truestart lady bacon roll posse

I slowly wove my way back through all the riders milling around to rejoin Clayton and Alan…and it turned out Clayton had had it. ¬†After the ride in, and the extra 20 miles now done on top of that, he was well past his longest ride to date post knee surgery, and not having a good time of it. ¬†We spent a little time figuring out the flattest easiest route he could take back to my place and then he’d gone…leaving Alan and I to head off up the Combe together. ¬†I’ve no idea how many times Alan and I have cycled up here together, but it’s a lot! ¬†According to Strava, I’ve been up it 34 times myself, and I was cycling up it well before Strava came along.

me at second food stop not in a car on the motorway

But I like it. ¬†It’s long. ¬†It’s pretty. ¬†It’s got harder bits and easier bits. ¬†Even though I wasn’t feeling top notch, I was happy to pootle along my way and enjoy it. ¬†In fact it actually felt really good, even if Alan still had to wait for me at the top ūüėČ ¬†Sadly the top of the Mendips was not at its best today. ¬†In fact it was pretty much in a cloud. ¬†Grey, drizzly, a tad chilly, and devoid of the usual views. ¬†Not somewhere we wanted to hang around much, and definitely not a day for adding the next extra section in. ¬†Which, if you were interested, took you across to Charterhouse, down Shipham Hill and back up Cheddar Gorge. ¬†Probably lovely, especially if you don’t have Cheddar Gorge on your doorstep, and want to challenge yourself a bit. ¬†But tradition, remember?

getting sunnier Burnham on Sea

So instead we hurtled across the flattish top to Priddy. ¬†I realised I was heading for that falling asleep on the bike thing again, so I warned Alan, and told him to talk to me to keep me focussed and awake. ¬†He made some sarky comment about wasn’t it normally me that does all the talking… ¬†I think we’ll have to agree to disagree here… ūüėČ ¬†So we chatted, and pedalled, and got to Priddy where the nasty gravelly¬†road out the other side¬†was exactly as forewarned, and also a bit tricky as it includes a nasty short, steep, and narrow up. ¬†Tricky because it’s steep and unexpected, and trickier to negotiate when there are a few riders around, of varying abilities, all trying to get up it at the same time. ¬†Alan and I got out of the saddle, and pushed¬†up around them all – politely I hasten to add – just to get it out of the way.

playing with the traffic in Burnham my SAS leadout crew

Actually you could avoid the Priddy bit altogether, by taking a right turn earlier on…but I guess it’s included to show off Priddy, or add miles, or something… ¬†Anyway ahead lay the descent we’d also been warned about, down Westbury Hill to Rodney Stoke. ¬†It being a bit damp, and having been warned, we took it really easy down the descent. ¬†Which was a bit annoying because it’s a very nice down, and also because it turns out my brakes were squealing, and now was not a good time to stop and find out why! ¬†Still, braking was kind of essential, as there are bends, and there was traffic of both sorts, and gravel near the bottom, and today caution was a very good thing. ¬†Someone should possibly have mentioned that to the eejot who flew past Alan on the way down, and got dangerously in the way from time to time…

medal presentation arriving at the end

A nice friendly marshal was making sure we all stopped at the bottom of the descent, and didn’t end up playing with the traffic on the A371 (which is the main road from Cheddar to Wells). ¬†Once crossed, the down continues, as did the eejot…who kept stopping and waiting for some reason, and then flying past us inconveniently… ¬†Anyway moving on, we moved on. ¬†On across the distinctly warmer Levels, which are, unsurprisingly flat. ¬†And familiar. ¬†And fast. ¬†And fairly fun, now that I was a bit more awake. ¬†On to Wedmore, dodging roadworks and traffic. ¬†It’s always a bit interesting going through the town, with parked cars, and shoppers, and so forth. ¬†But once out the other side, after a fast flying bit, with some peloton larks, we reached the second food stop at Hugh Sexey’s school. ¬†And if you were disappointed by the first stop, this one is always more than worth waiting for. ¬†There was an amazing range of cakes, as ever, at ¬£2 for a slice + tea/coffee/squash. ¬†There was even gluten free cake! ¬†And outside there were bacon rolls and the like, which I gather were very lovely. ¬†Even I had cake! ¬†Well, I figured the woozy needed feeding to make it go away. ¬†And if that didn’t work, a couple more shots of that free Truestart coffee should do the job ūüėČ ¬†Plenty of time and space to hang out, chill out, eat, drink, and get it together again.

Clayton and I Darren in charge

So. ¬†20 miles to go. ¬†No big hills. ¬†Sun coming out. ¬†There’s only one way to do that, right? ¬†Yep – time to sprint for the finish, in juvenile racing stylee. ¬†Aided and abetted by the SAS team. ¬†No, not that SASthis one…but they were still quite fast! ¬†Fast enough to tag on the back of as we headed out again, towards Mark. ¬†We were kinda hoping that saw us set for the rest of the ride¬†but no such luck, someone lost their bottle. ¬†Sorry, a bottle. ¬†And they all stopped to salvage it and regroup so we had to carry on regardless. ¬†Thanks to long term road works on the Mark Causeway, even the traditional route had a little detour today. ¬†It may have added the odd mile, but it took us around some of the nice flat quiet straight country lanes around here and, was to my mind, an improvement on the usual head down into the wind slog of previous years! ¬†Mind you…there was still a headwind!

We pushed on, trying to keep the speed up, with the odd glance behind to see if the team had caught us yet… ¬†All that racing along in ever improving weather meant I was getting pretty hot¬†now – how novel is that? ¬†Before long we were back onto the usual route and the joys of Highbridge and Burnham on Sea. ¬†Town roads and traffic – not all that appealing, even in the sunshine. ¬†As we waiting at the traffic lights to turn right and along the Burnham sea front, we were rejoined by the SAS team (far far later than expected!), and a fair few others, which meant negotiating the sea front was a bit tricky, as it gets busy, and ‘they’ really don’t seem to like cyclists much around there… ¬†Well, sunshine brings out the tourist…and the sun was out, and so were they. ¬†Lots of us and lots of them was not a great combo.

queuing for yummy food massage crew

The less than fun continued out the other side and northwards until finally, at Berrow, we got to turn off the main road and stop playing with traffic. ¬†I managed to jump onto the SAS band wagon as they set off, but Alan wasn’t so lucky. ¬†I couldn’t bring myself to drop off the back though, and I figured life would bring us back together soon enough. ¬†I do SO¬†love fast group riding, especially when I’m on form enough to hold my own, if not sit on the front . ¬†As we went on, even that group started to fragment a bit – with a faster few heading off and a few off us dropping back – not by much but with an ever growing gap. ¬†I still had enough wheels to chase though. ¬†The wiggles towards Lympsham can be fun, but are less so sometimes…as the SAS guy who was currently with me accidentally overcooked it on a corner, lost his back wheel on some¬†gravel and ended up on’t wrong side of the road, and in the oncoming traffic… ¬†Luckily the only injury was to his pride, and the drivers’ blood pressures…they were less than impressed. ¬†That was close…!

chilling out post ride Alan

Onwards, still in one piece, we started chatting for a bit as, as it happens, he’s one of my readers, and really hadn’t wanted me to see that! ¬†Hi there… ūüėČ ¬†Hey, at least I’m not embarrassing you by name, right? ¬†As we were chatting, Alan came from behind and blasted off into the distance. ¬†Since my current companion needed to rejoin his mates, I left him to it and hurtled off after Alan. ¬†And if it hadn’t been for the pesky junction with the A370 I’d have caught him too! ¬†As it was I was left just racing the clock to get to the Finish as fast as possible. ¬†Up the main road drag, left and through Uphill, out t’otherside, to hurtle along the Weston Super Mare seafront, and, to the sound of cowbells and applause, pull up on to the lawns and go under the Finish arch. ¬†Man I love riding fast! ¬†The sun was shining, I was probably grinning like a loon, and my 7th Great Weston Ride was done.

medals for all

I collected my medal and food token and a much needed bottle of water, and bumped into Darren just the other side, who was waiting to welcome people in and also keep an eye on everything I expect. ¬†We chatted for a bit, and I passed on some feedback, and¬†he made the photographer take my photo too, which I doubt was a good look – what with the whole hot and sweaty thing! ¬†I took my leave, before¬†finding Alan unsurprisingly somewhere near the bar, having already collected his burger. ¬†Just as well he had…the queues later were impressive and probably a tad annoying… ¬†He headed to the bar for the pair of us in gentlemanly fashion and I put the bike and me down on the grass, to chill out in the sunshine for a while. ¬†I’m glad the whole ride wasn’t in weather like what we now had, but for us it had worked out perfectly. ¬†Reasonable to ride in, then lovely to relax in ūüôā

We hung out for a bit, debriefing as you do, and then Matt arrived to join us,¬†eat my free burger (never likely to agree with me, but best not wasted), hang out for while, and then take me home. Yes, I had a lift home. ¬†I know, I know. ¬†Ok so it’s traditional to also ride home afterwards but hey…some traditions have to be broken…especially if you’re me. ¬†I’m trying not to push my boundaries too far, and pace myself (see, I did listen to what of the clinical pain psychologist said). ¬†So rather than risking falling asleep on the bike, to minimise post-ride consequences, and with Matt around for the weekend, I’d decided weeks ago that that part of tradition at least would have to bite the dust. ¬†And with no Clayton now, and Alan only having a couple of miles to go back to Lympsham, I’d have been doing it on my own anyway. ¬†So….after a couple of¬†pints of lager, chatting & laughing in the sun, my bike and I were in the van and we were heading for home. ¬†I¬†pretty much had an absolute blast ūüôā ¬†See you next year Darren?

Cycling time: 3:38
Distance: 56.6 miles
Avs: 15.5 mph

post ride refreshment Me at the Finish

Bike Bath 2016

Getting up early for sportives is¬†a lot easier¬†in what we amusingly call the “summer”. ¬†It may not be hot and balmy, but the sun is up early, and when the alarm goes off, at least it’s not pitch black out there. ¬†This time around my alarm was set for 5:45, but¬†thanks to the (sadly necessary) morphine itch, I woke myself up at 5:20. ¬†Being woken up (sort of) naturally still seemed better than being ripped untimely from the womb of sleep, even if I was born by c-section so should be used to it by now ūüėČ

My usual porridge didn’t appeal, what with it being unusually seasonal out there. ¬†The sunshine implied that maybe a granola bar and coffee would be better, so I went with that. ¬†As I checked the laptop for the weather, whilst consuming the same, ¬†it looked like the forecast was for more of the same! ¬†Dragons to slay, and sunshine to do it in, how cool is that?

HQ for Bike Bath is at Bath Recreation Ground. ¬†Having done it last year I kinda knew the drill – but only kinda, more of which later. ¬†What I did know is that Bath being as it is, all cultural and busy and so forth, the best way to do it, as recommended by the organisers is to head to the Newbridge Park & Ride and take it from there. ¬†So I did. ¬†It’s less than an hour away from me, and it was a very pleasant cross country drive in the sunshine with loud music. ¬†Result, if you’re me ūüėČ ¬†Which got me to the park & ride on schedule. ¬†As an additional bonus, parking is free, as you only pay if you ride. ¬†By which I mean ride the bus, not the bike. ¬†I guess we were all taking Park & Ride a little bit more literally than most! ūüėČ ¬†And there was an ‘us’ – there were a fair few of us doing the same. ¬†Somewhat amusingly the entrance gate to the car park has a height restriction barrier though, so anyone with their bikes on top of their cars couldn’t get in…not ideal I imagine, and considerably less amusing for those it applied to!

Park & Ride entrance signs to HQ

As ever I wasn’t entirely sure what to wear. ¬†It almost looked like you could set off in basic summer kit & base layer and call it quits for the day. ¬†It actually felt pretty warm, by current standards. ¬†Blimey! ¬†But forecasts are frequently less accurate¬†than you’d like, and I have a tendency to get cold so….I decided to add the gilet and arm warmers. ¬†Well, I knew I had space to stash them if I needed to, so it didn’t matter if I had to. ¬†Before I set off I decided to head to the toilets, as you do, which for 20p will even lock behind you. ¬†However for some reason the toilets were alarming ūüėČ ¬†As in there was a very large alarm sounding from the building and 20p pushed through the slot wasn’t stopping that, or locking the door. ¬†I decided to risk it…and luckily all was well… ¬†Which made it time to head for HQ and leave the car park. ¬†This year there was a very clearly signposted route to HQ – black arrows on yellow background – so I managed not to get lost, even if some of the route was a little bit hairy when it came to traffic junctions and so forth. ¬†It was also further than I remember…3.5 miles in about 15 mins.

registration queues Bath Rec

So I’d arrived, on a sunny recreation field. ¬†I parked my bike up on one of the racks and headed for registration in the main tent. ¬†I queued, briefly, at the relevant place for my surname, and then signed my name/life away as usual. ¬†The friendly man behind the desk stuck my timing chip on my helmet, thus saving me from having to take it off and do it myself. ¬†It’s not hard to figure out where to put it anyway, there’s a sticky strip on the LHS there that has clearly been used many, many times! ¬†I was also given my bike number and two short skinny cable ties, which, when I’d found my way back to my bike, made fitting the number to my handlebars really tricky. ¬†And getting to use the toilets was kinda tricky too, what with there only being 4 of them for what was, apparently, around 1000 cyclists on the day. ¬†I was lucky, the queue was relatively short when I made it up there. ¬†Last seen it was growing rapidly….

rider briefing toilet queues

All that done, actually starting was easy.  I headed towards the start line, where groups had been being let go for quite a while.  Long (80 mile) route riders were being given preference, as the short (50 mile) route were supposed to start later.  So I joined a very small group of similar riders, and after a very short & concise briefing, which given the extensive pre-ride instructions was all that was needed, I was on my way at 8:09 am.

long first climb time to climb out of Bath

Now if you’d paid attention to those pre-ride instructions, which I hadn’t until a couple of days beforehand, you’d know¬†that the route for Bike Bath can vary each year. ¬†I did it last year, when the route went through the (oddly exciting) Two Tunnels and around the Mendips. ¬†Which I’d mentally sort of been expecting again¬†– I wasn’t¬†that keen to cycle around my own patch again, but was sort of keen to do the less familiar bits again. ¬†All of which became academic when I discovered the route had changed completely! ¬†See you, told you I didn’t entirely know the drill. ¬†This time we would be heading South, East and around in a route that was to¬†include Salisbury Plain and Lacock. ¬†Well, novelty is good, right? ¬†And to be honest, it didn’t really make any difference, since whatever the route was, I was going to be doing it anyway, right?

pub bunting hill selfie

Off I go then. ¬†Somewhat rudely the first climb, and it was a long hard one at that, came all of a mile in. No fair! ¬†However it was gradual and consistent and not too steep and the sun was shining and crawler gear cut in and hey, happy me, even if I hadn’t warmed up yet ūüôā ¬†It did feel like kinda hard work though, even by my standards. ¬†And after a lovely descent, and halfway up the next fairly similar up all of a couple of miles later, the bike was making a funny noise. ¬†Like something was rubbing a bit maybe, maybe I’d picked up a stick, leaf, whatever… ¬†So I carried on to the top of the hill and on for a little while further until there was somewhere appropriate to stop where I could check it out. ¬†No leaves but, as it turns out, the whole back brake setup had moved so that it was off kilter and the left rear brake was permanently on, whether it was supposed to be or not. ¬†Not massively helpful. ¬†So I straightened things up and set off again, checking from time to time that nothing had re-shifted, and trying to not to veer all over the road as I did so.

long road ahead castle or gatehouse

Luckily I was never going to get lost, not even looking down half the time. ¬†The signage today was the best I’ve seen in a long time – with signs¬†before a junction, on the junction, and afterwards, and also reminders en route. ¬†Which was good, because even with 1000 or so riders taking part over the three routes available, I was riding on my own, and it pretty much stayed that way all day. ¬†It was nice out there though. ¬†The gilet went away fairly soon, after both the morning and I had warmed up a bit. ¬†And it was lovely. ¬†Sunny, blue skies, white clouds, though it was¬†a bit breezy, but when isn’t it?¬† Lots of greenery, pretty villages, posh properties to gawp at, views…as we headed south towards Frome, and then out and around Longleat forest. ¬†There were ups and downs but nothing too drastic, but by after around 20 miles the route turned East, and went properly up again…up Forest Road to Round Hill according to Strava.

first food stop marvellous mechanics

The first food stop was at Sutton Veny, around 28 miles in. ¬†The second was past West Lavington more around the 50 mile mark I think. ¬†Both were at village halls, hence with decent facilities, space to hang out, and they also had a really good range of food & drink. ¬†Cawston Press juices, flapjacks, bananas, jelly beans, bars, something involving beetroot, and even cheese & pickles at the second one! ¬†Being a little less than at my best, lousy at eating generally, and with a tendency for my meds to wooze me out, both times I opted for the Scheckter’s Organic Energy drink on the basis that that way I was less likely to fall asleep on the bike. ¬†Turns out it was pretty tasty too – I may have to find some of that for future use! ¬†Even better, a very friendly helpful mechanic at the first food stop obligingly tightened up the back brake set up for me so I could stop checking it out all the time and go back to checking out the road ahead instead.

second food stop with cheese second food stop crowds

Which, both in between the food stops, and afterwards, was pretty much new to me. ¬†And I liked it. ¬†The middle section was flatter than the first third. ¬†I enjoyed the stretch over¬†Salisbury Plain a great deal – lots of lovely long rolling quiet roads, and wide open landscape. ¬†However for all that the (novel) signs repeatedly warned us, there were sadly no tanks to dodge, and there were no men in uniform either…*sulk* ūüėČ

Salisbury Plain Lacock

After the second food stop came more of the same, including¬†Lacock, cute vintage cars, beautiful bridges, and assorted pretty villages. ¬†Sadly we sort of went through the edge of Lacock¬†rather than through the main picture perfect chocolate box bit… ¬†In amongst all this eye candy there were a couple more long draggy climbs as well, and the inevitable somewhat annoying wind. But I can do climbs like that and I knew it wasn’t far to go, as these things go, to get back to Bath. ¬†Besides, ups come with downs, and some of them were great! ¬†There was one last minute, or is that last mile, proper kicker just before we got back, which was tough on tiring legs. ¬†And then all the pretty that is Bath hove¬†into sight once more, and I was back negotiating the busier roads of the city and heading back to HQ.

vintage car pretty bridge

So. ¬†Bike Bath done. ¬†I rolled over the finish line with a complete lack of ceremony. ¬†There were a couple of people around but little by way of a welcome committee. ¬†I wasn’t quite sure what to do next. ¬†I figured out where I could print out my time, to the left of the finish, but that turned out to be¬†temporarily out of order. ¬†I politely accosted a lad with a medal who was passing me to ask where we went to get those – which was apparently in the tent. ¬†As the place was full of people sitting around in the sun and enjoying themselves, the bike racks were pretty full, so I dumped¬†my bike (carefully) on the grass, before heading for the tent. ¬†Not only did I get my medal, but there was also a range of FREE baguette sandwiches available. ¬†Now bread isn’t really my thing, but I figured posh¬†ham, salad and tomato could be removed from its gluteny grasp easily enough – and I did need some food. ¬†I also figured that it would be rude not to have a pint of Bath Ales, at ¬£2 a pint, to wash it down with, right? ¬†I don’t usually but…it had been a good ride, the sun was shining, and I didn’t have anywhere particular to be particularly soon. ¬†So I spent some time being busy doing nothing, watching the world go by, and topping up my silly tan line marks. ¬†Eventually I was even able to print my time out. ¬†Sitting there and unintentionally eavesdropping on¬†those around me¬†debriefing, it would appear that quite a lot of people had found it quite a challenge…and I was a bit bemused because I really hadn’t, I’d just had a nice Sunday ride in the sun!

riders relaxing afterwards post ride refreshment

Cycling time: 5:00
Official time: 5:28
Distance: 79.3 miles
Avs: 15.9 mph

I couldn’t stay there all day though. ¬†Not and drive home afterwards anyway…! ¬†It was time to head back to the car, which was harder than you’d think since there seemed to be no signage for the return route, and I hadn’t paid quite enough attention on the way in because I’d been relying on the signs… ¬†Inevitably I got mildly lost, but I managed to get myself back to the park ‘n ride without too much delay. ¬†Where the toilets were still alarmed…. ūüėČ ¬†It took no time at all to load the car up again, and head home to chill out with my¬†mob. ¬†All in all, a pretty good Sunday ūüôā

Time print out Bike Bath 2016 Medal

Evans Ride It Wiltshire Downs 2015

Dad's 70th birthday cake

Me oh my, I am such a long way behind. But there’s been so much going on! Riding, working, Dad’s birthday, life…what can I say?

A lot of the two weeks prior to this sportive¬†was spent trying to get my knee better. ¬†Resting more, riding less. ¬†Though probably not quite enough of one and too much of the other. ¬†But hey, I was trying…!

Ashton Windmill  Alan and his tart

Since the Welsh Raider, when things went a little pear shaped, I’d done a flat easy run with Alan, a flat short loop on my own, another easy run with the ever-patient Alan, and a nice seaside loop with, unsurprisingly, Alan again. ¬†And slowly things had¬†been getting better. ¬†Riding was¬†not pain free but it was improving, and the time required to recover off the bike had been coming down.

Cycling time: 6:32
Distance: 99.2 miles

All of which means it was time for another sportive. ¬†The Evans Ride It Wiltshire Downs, to be precise. ¬†It’s fairly local, which means a shorter drive and more time in bed. ¬†And coming as it did, the day after the clocks went back, that¬†means¬†another hour in bed, and daylight to drive in. ¬†Very handy! ¬†Even better, the forecast was good, and that drive took place in autumn sunshine, something you wouldn’t have predicted considering that it spent all Saturday p*ssing it down…!


HQ was at Wiltshire College, Lacock, at the end of a long, muddy, leaf covered drive, which would turn out to be pretty typical of all the roads for the day. ¬†It may have been dry overhead, but not under wheel! ¬†I parked up in a muddy gravel carpark a little way from registration and decided that I’d get sorted and then register rather than to-ing and fro-ing. ¬†It being October, even with the sun shining, it was pretty darned cold, somewhere around 6¬įC, so it was just a case of putting on all the layers I’d brought with me, loading up the bike and my pockets, and heading off. ¬†There were toilets in a changing room block opposite where the gentlemen were queuing and where I didn’t have to, and as it turns out, there were also more inside by registration. ¬†I registered, and the lady stuck my¬†timing sticker on the right hand side of my helmet which was unusual, it’s usually t’other side. ¬†No bike number, so presumably no photography either, a map, and a High5 race day pack, and I was done. ¬†Since I had no intention of returning to the car to stash anything, I plundered the pack for the useful and discarded the rest.

the long queue to start This is NOT a race

Back outside, and the queue for the start¬†was stretching a long way back, which was a bit disheartening, with the thought of standing around in the cold for ages not appealing. ¬†Still, it turned out not to be too bad in the sunshine, and the other riders around were chatty and sociable and as riders were being let away in fairly big groups, it wasn’t long until we were the next group, with me right at the front of it. ¬†No pressure then! ¬†After the usual rider briefing, a demo of the black on pink arrows, again novel, and a reminder that this was all supposed¬†to be fun, we were off on our way.

Wiltshire College doesn’t half like its speed bumps! ¬†I’m not sure when we stopped being on the estate, presumably when they finally ended! ¬†Somewhat oddly, I seemed to have left my group pretty much behind me, so it felt like it was just me heading out into the Wiltshire countryside. ¬†My camera had somehow run out of batteries, so there’s not a lot of photographic evidence of my day sadly…which is a shame because it was absolutely beautiful out there. ¬†Glorious in fact. ¬†I’ve cycled around this area before, most notably on the White Horse Challenge, but a lot of this route was completely unfamiliar to me, and I’ve never seen the Downs stretched out around me like that before. ¬†Stunning ūüôā

Food stop at The King's Arms Food stop goodies

Having got my layers spot on, after the initial chill had worn off and I’d warmed up, so about an hour then, I was pretty happy out there. ¬†There were a few ups, but nothing too terrible, and most of it seemed to be being fairly flat or rolling. ¬†So, on to mental meanderings and route decisions to mull over. ¬†There were a lot of options, and route splits came one after the other – no front loading this time. ¬†Would it be the Fun route at 15 miles? ¬†Nah, don’t be daft. ¬†Ok then, how about the Short at 34 miles, the Medium at 63 miles, or the Long at 80 miles? ¬†Hm… ¬†No rush to decide though. ¬†The first food stop came at 28 miles in, in a pub car park, where the two outdoor toilets were proving woefully inadequate for the number of people wanting to use them. ¬†I duly queued, and then after grabbing some jelly beans, and taking the odd photo with my phone, headed off again. ¬†The next route split came shortly afterwards, but even though I reckon there were at least three things wrong with me, because I’m lucky like that, I still reckoned the Short route would be too short.

White Horse on the Downs coming into Avebury

I did decide however that, although the longest route appealed, and let’s face it, it was a beautiful day to be out there, it would be unwise to push it. I reckoned I could manage the 60 without making things too much worse, whereas with the 80, with the bigger climbs in the extra miles, I might set my knee’s recovery back quite a way, which seemed like a daft idea. ¬†So when the next split came along shortly afterwards, I took it. ¬†Which meant that I was half done already and on the homewards stretch. ¬†A stretch that took me through more beautiful countryside but back on to more familiar turf. ¬†Not that I’m complaining, I love cycling through Avebury ūüôā ¬†The lack of novelty did make it feel slightly like harder work though somehow, less to distract the brain from the effort being put in? ¬†I guess I was also¬†getting tireder, I’m fairly sure I hadn’t eaten enough, (nothing new there then), and being ill does have a habit of taking it out of you even if you are doing a very good job of ignoring that ūüėČ ¬†Still the scenery continued to keep my spirits up far enough. ¬†Multi-coloured autumn leaves, close cropped fields still golden in the sunshine, blue skies stretching for miles… ¬†Sorry, since I’m short on photos I thought I’d try poetic words instead ūüėČ

riders over the finish line

Towards the end there was a long draggy staged up that went on for a couple of¬†miles. ¬†Hardish work but my kind of climb, and man, the descent afterwards was way more than worth it! ¬†OK, so there were “Caution” signs and there were other riders who were gingerly braking their way down, but I could see all the way down, it wasn’t very bendy, and there wasn’t any traffic coming so….yep, I was the loon hurtling down on the¬†right with a massive grin on my face ūüėČ ¬†A couple of miles after that and I was back negotiating speed bumps, and then crossing the finish line, where I was given another High5 taster pack. ¬†Job done ūüôā ¬†There were lots of happy riders milling around in the sunshine and eating the hot food on sale. ¬†I took a break on a step with a can of fizzy lemon, before making my way back to the car.

Cycling time: 4:04
Distance: 62.2 miles
Avg: 15.3 mph
ODO: 11487.7 miles

High5 taster pack

I may not have done the event justice, but I’d definitely do it again. ¬†In fact I actively want to. ¬†The route is lovely, the scenery is stunning, and it’s not too challenging – so it was perfect for this time of year. ¬†Maybe next year I’ll get to do the long route ūüôā

route map 2 route map 1

If life gives you demons, make a deal

all blue

Increasingly rubbish weather. ¬†Increasingly rubbish me. ¬†It’s getting harder and harder to get out on the bike. ¬†And it’s just as hard to find reasons to do so when I actually can.


Sure, when you’re riding with a mate, or mates, it’s easier. ¬†There’s¬†conscience,¬†company, and frequently coffee. ¬†All good.

But when it’s just you? ¬†Or in this case just me? ¬†Well not having been out this week, my conscience was gnawing away at me. ¬†The weather seemed like it might be tolerable. ¬†Two out of three ain’t bad, right? ¬†But¬†I was having trouble remembering why I should be doing it. ¬†Another couple of hours cycling around familiar and thus contemptible local roads on my own? ¬†Hm…

So, since I have otherwise had a very constructive week and still had some things to do, I decided I would make my ride about getting some of those done, and make up my route around that and as I went along. ¬†An¬†ride that would be both errant and run errands. ¬†Or ride errands ūüėČ

Et voil√†…

Job one: put on my new socks because I wanted to test them out on route.
new DeFeet socks
Job two: post a rented DVD back to Lovefilm.
Job three: ride to George’s and drop off a bag of spare kit for her. Which involved the novelty of riding with a pack¬†on my back, and the discomfort and extra heat that went¬†along with that. ¬†Ick. ¬†Hence that being the first stop en route.
kit delivery
Job four: get some less familiar miles in.  Meander, wiggle, roam, take roads at a whim, and then join up the dots.
Strava route
Job five: pop into Cheddar Cyclestore and buy new cleats for my winter shoes. ¬†I discovered earlier this week that I had clearly harvested those that they originally had at some point earlier this year, and forgotten about it. ¬†I don’t half get through cleats!
Cheddar Cyclestore cleats
Job six:¬†Go home. ¬†There was no job 6. ¬†Just job done. ¬†Out, but not down. ¬†I remain undefeated¬†ūüėČ

Cycling time: 1:56
Distance: 31.8 miles
Avg: 16.4 mph
ODO: 11100.7 miles

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 ūüôā

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 ūüėČ ¬†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 ūüôā

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 ūüėÄ

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 ūüėČ ¬†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 ūüėČ ¬†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 ūüėČ ¬†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¬†ūüôā

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¬†ūüėČ

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā ¬†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 ūüėČ ¬†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 ūüėČ ¬†My real excuse du jour? ¬†Tradition is tradition, tradition is not to be messed with, and the traditional route is 56 miles ūüôā

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 ūüėČ ¬†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 ūüôā

Wasn’t I here yesterday? ¬†Ah yes, so I was. ¬†D√©ja v√Ļ! ¬†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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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! ūüėČ

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! ūüėČ ¬†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 ūüôā

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¬†ūüôā ¬†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 f√™te 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 ūüėČ

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 ūüôā ¬†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 ūüôā ¬†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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā ¬†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 ūüôā ¬†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 ūüėČ ¬†Still, two¬†lovely days out on the bike…there are definitely worse ways to spend a weekend ūüôā