Tag Archives: wiltshire

Evans Ride It Wiltshire Downs 2016

Welcome to my last sportive of the season…

I’m very tempted to just write “Had shit day, went home”.  But such paucity of words does not a blog make.  Even if it is a fairly accurate and concise of how my day panned out…   So here goes.

I was having a bad patch.  For whatever reason*.  Still, as usual, I wasn’t going to use that as an excuse not to go and do what I’d said I was going to do.  Besides the main reason I was doing this weekend’s sportive – the Evans Ride It Wiltshire Downs – was because I did it last year, enjoyed it, and really wanted to do the long route this time around.  So I wasn’t going to bail, now was I? 

Things were not in my favour however.  Maybe an eagle had dropped a tortoise somewhere.  Or the goat’s entrails had revealed gastro-enteritis.  Not only was I suffering in a big way, but the weather was not great.  In fact it was feckin’ freezing out there…just as it had been all week.  I knew I was going to need a lot of layers.  I wasn’t sure that was going to be enough.  I wasn’t sure my painkillers were going to be enough.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be enough.  Having had some truly hideous times on the bike of late, I’d reached a stage where I was almost scared to go and ride the bike.  Why go there again?

But going I was.  And I wasn’t going on my own.  For what, due to the apparent cancellation of the Wiggle Bitter Beast, would turn out to be my last sportive of the season, I had company.  Yep, I dragged Matt along again.  Mostly in the hope that he would drag me around! ūüėČ  Plus misery loves company, right?  It also loves not having to drive too far…and HQ this time around was at Wiltshire College, nr Lacock, which turned out to be not much more than an hours drive from home.  Driving was a good excuse for not having to talk too much; I wasn’t really holding it together, and talking when you’re that close to tears is tricky.  Still, it was an easy journey, as was finding the college, at the end of a very long drive.  Having been here before helped, and we were marshalled to park up on the gravelly, somewhat muddy, car park much the same as last time around.  

I didn’t want to get out of the car.  What and leave my warm cosy safe little box?  But I did.  Kinda.  Only to discover it was just as cold as I thought it was, and that standing up didn’t feel good.  Matt gave me a hug, partially to warm me up, partially because I clearly wasn’t feeling great, at which point I promptly burst into tears.  Go me…or something.  

2-registration-desks 3-earlier-riders-queuing

After a little while I got it together, and managed to MTFU for a bit.  Time to go and try and do what we were actually here for.  Which meant starting by registering.  We decided to walk over there and then come back to faff, and the walk around to the hall demonstrated what I already pretty much knew.  It was COLD!  And not nice.  The toilets however were both warm and nice, and inside, and alongside what looked like a common room.  I was half tempted to stay in there and play pool all day instead…!  However…  The queue for registration was pretty non-existent, probably because we were running pretty late for our nominal start slot.  We both signed up, and were presented with our High5 bottle packed with goodies, for having booked our places early, and also a High5 race pack for the day.  Another good reason for not riding to registration – we’d only have had to go back to the car to stash stuff anyway!  So, duly equipped with timing chips and numbers and the like we made our way back to the car to faff.  

4-me-pre-ride 5-wallabies

Matt took pity on me and made me sit in the car while he reassembled the bikes.  I decided that I wasn’t wearing enough and swopped the odd lighter layer for more heavy duty ones in the meantime.  At some point he disappeared off to answer a call of nature…only to be confronted by kangaroos!  Ok, so they could have been wallabies but that’s none the less bizarre…the best you usually bump into on such trips is the odd curious cow!  How mad is that?  And it made us both smile, which was definitely an improvement and perked me up a bit.

So, with even Matt wrapped up in what passes for his idea of warm clothing, and everything all sorted, there was no putting it off any longer.  Time to revisit the common room, rue leaving it once again, and join the queue for the start.  Such as it was, since most were out and under way already.  However I reckon this was better than having to stand around in the cold and queue anyway.  A small group of us gathered at the starting gate to be briefed about the signage, warned it wasn’t a race, and the like.  And then we were off…out into the cold, bright, and breezy.  *gulp*.

7-this-is-not-a-race 8-rider-briefing

A lot of the ride is a bit of a blur.  It’s safe to say that I was a bit distracted.  And the first 45 minutes of any ride is never good, since it takes me that long to warm up and warming up of any sort seemed unlikely today.  But it was pretty out there, and the first few miles were fairly flat and I was riding the bike in good company, and hey…  So when the first route split came at 7.5 miles in, for the Fun route, and Matt presumed we weren’t taking it, he wasn’t wrong.  Although a little bit of me did wonder if I’d come to regret that…  The idea of doing this event again had been to come back and do the Long route having been unable to do so last year, and that was still currently the plan.  It’s only 80 miles after all, with the Medium route being 62 and the Short being 36, and t’s a beautiful part of the world to cycle around.  I wanted to see more of it. 

9-route-split 10-cross-keys

Things started to be somewhat less flat.  Not what you’d call massively hilly, it’s not that kind of route, but enough for me to feel it.  And not to be feeling it.  Poor Matt was having to nurse me along as my pain levels were increasing, my temperature level wasn’t, and conversation and scenery were not proving sufficiently distracting.  And when we reached the next route split, not much further down the road, where we really should have turned right, to head for being Long or at least Medium, there was no presuming.  I really wanted to.  I really did.  But…  So we pulled over to talk and think about it.  And cry, if you’re me.  Yes, again.  Partially because it hurt, and partially because I hated having to admit defeat, but it was feeling like I really didn’t have much choice.  Man it was frustrating!  We chatted it through, and map gazed.  Decided we couldn’t just go and lurk in the Cross Keys pub opposite, which probably wasn’t open anyway.  And figured out there actually were other options open to us, as there were bits where we could rejoin other routes if we took the Short route and things turned out to feel better than expected, which helped me feel a bit better about bailing, and ruining Matt’s ride plans.  So, having once again pulled myself together, we headed off to be Short.  

11-matt-and-a-hill-ahead 13-see-the-downs

Even doing the Short route, I’ve ridden around here enough for a lot of it to be fairly familiar, and even though there were hills, and they hurt, I got up them, and with the sun now shining, blue skies above, and the Wiltshire Downs spreading out around us, it really was pretty.  Oh to be a bit warmer though…the wind really wasn’t helping, and I don’t know what more I could have been wearing but what I was wearing just wasn’t enough.  Mind you, a lot of that seems to have been just me, Matt wasn’t suffering half as much, which is one of the wonderful side effects of being in pain – my body is too busy coping with other things to get warm, or something.

14-its-a-food-stop 15-and-theres-food

I can’t remember where the food stop was, mileage wise, but it was very welcome whenever and whereever it was.  It was at some convenient village hall, with the usual variety of food/drink outside and one toilet inside.  One toilet and a very long queue…  However also inside, off the hall, was a small kitchen, where tea/coffee making facilities were available.  Manna from heaven!  I may be a bit of a coffee snob, but today the idea of a cup of hot instant coffee was positively appealing ūüėČ  So Matt made coffee whilst I found a place to sit on the floor against a wall, and then there we sat.  Hot “coffee”, the next dose of pills, a gel…all things that were likely to be restorative.  Although I decided to give the toilet a miss,; I just couldn’t face standing in that queue, or to be fair undressing and exposing any more of me to more cold.

16-reviewer-at-work 19-rider-support

Matt was feeling a lot more chipper than me.  And warmer.  In fact, after some debate, this lady ceased to protest too much and gave in to his generous offer that I wear his cycling top over all my kit.  God knows how he was warm enough for that to even be possible, and I seriously doubt it was a good look for me, but it turned out to be a really good idea.  We set off again, and slowly things started to feel better.  I stopped being freezing.  The pills started to do their thing.  The sun shone, and having decided to stick to the Short route, I started to cheer up.  Knowing you’re heading for home does a lot of the PMA too, and I started to feel like I might actually complete this route at least!  The routes had joined up at some point, and we could have opted to do some of the Medium/Long route but…some days it’s just better to quit while you’re behind ūüėČ    

25-a-bit-too-busy-here 23-pretty-church 26-autumnal-colours 20-still-going-left

So there were more long open roads under open skies, with stunning views, which were just as lovely as I remember them.  More climbing, which like labour, I have blotted out.  Pretty churches.  Autumnal colours in the fields and the woods and the leaves on and under trees.  We stopped from time to time, just to give me the odd break to breathe a bit.  And it was lovely really.  Sadly.  If only…  What was also lovely was the final descent of Bowden Hill towards the end.  After a long gradual climb up through country estate feeling territory, it’s a lovely fast drop, with bends and, if you’ve done it before which I have, it can be SO much fun.  You do have to be a bit careful – there was the odd car around, and quite a few sunny Sunday walkers around too.  But we hurtled off nonetheless, and I finally found a tiny bit of mojo and remembered why riding a bike can be so much fun.  And it was fun for quite a while, as it goes on for a bit!  

29-happy-matt 30-finish-line

And then that was it.  Back on to the college estate, back over the plentiful speed bumps, and back over the Finish line, feeling a lot better than I had done going the other way, all of a few hours earlier.  Job done…albeit badly.  

Cycling time: 2:40
Distance: 36.6 miles
Avs: 13.7 mph

Ah well.  Ho hum.  Etc.  Another one best consigned to the history books and best forgotten.  It probably doesn’t feel like I’ve written much about the actual ride but let’s face it – it was only 36 miles, and took but a couple of hours – so there wasn’t much actual ride to write about, right?  If you want more ride stuff, then it’s a nice area, the route is nice but with rather too many fairly main road sections, and the signs were small, hard to spot sometimes, and there weren’t enough of them either.  Is that better?  

So that was my (our) day, and that was the ride, and clearly it wasn’t a good day at the office.  But it could have been worse.  I could have been doing it on my own.  It could have rained.  Very few events involve kangaroos.  And I did get round which, all things considered, is a minor achievement of sorts.  One day I’ll do that blasted LONG route!! *grin*.27-me-a-little-more-cheerful

*In case you were wondering, we’ve worked out why things had gone quite so pear shaped…  The latest brand of my patches and I weren’t getting on…some form of skin reaction to them seems to have meant that I wasn’t absorbing their yummy goodness.  So for about two weeks I wasn’t getting the pain relief that clearly I do actually require…which clearly wasn’t great.  On the upside at least I know I do really need them, right? ūüėČ

Black Legend 2016

On to the next sportive. ¬†Which was a little while ago, so some of the details may be a little hazy now, not helped by the fact that I failed to make copious notes afterwards.This time around I’m talking about The Black Legend Sportive, run by Purple Patch Running. ¬†Which seemed a bit odd¬†to me. ¬†A running club organising a cycling event? ¬†Weird. ¬†Still, that didn’t mean it wasn’t going to be a good event, right? ¬†It was off to a good start by being based in Hungerford, which is not a long way away from me. ¬†HQ was at the John O‚ÄôGaunt School in Hungerford, which is just a 10 minute drive from Jct 14 on the M4, and thus easy for me to get to.

registration start-line-riders

I rocked up sometime after registration opened¬†to discover a small car park that was half empty, and didn’t seem to be filling up fast. ¬†I started to get the feeling that this was going to be a small event… ¬†But hey, good¬†things come in small packages or something. ¬†Registration was in the school hall, once cleated shoes had¬†been removed, where the tumbleweed was metaphorically blowing around… ¬†Still, not having to queue is a good thing, right? ¬†My entry envelope included a bike number, helmet number, and 2 cable ties. ¬†But no timing chip…as timing today would turn out to be a manual affair. ¬†Not that there’s anything wrong with that but still, it was a bit unexpected.

rider-briefing out-on-to-the-downs

I didn’t have to queue for long at the start either. ¬†I think there were only six or so of us who arrived at roughly the same time to be briefed and sent on our way, as riders had been being let go in dribs and drabs for quite some time before I’d done enough faffing to consider myself ready to go. ¬†During which I discovered that my iPod shuffle had somehow managed to completely run out of charge, even though I’d charged it the day before, so I was going to have to do the whole ride with just my thoughts for company. ¬†Marvellous. ¬†I had three route choices today, the Epic 80, the Standard 65, or a Short 45 miles. ¬†Given that it was only a week since my last sportive, which¬†hadn’t gone well, I was already thinking¬†that taking it easy might be wise. ¬†Lack of musical accompaniment wasn’t going to make the long route any more likely…!

up-a-green-tunnel-hill caution-steep-hill

Not that I had to make that call¬†straight away. ¬†All of the routes covered the same first 25 miles to start with so there was no rush to decide. ¬†We headed off and I was very shortly out there on my own, which¬†was how things pretty much stayed all day. ¬†Off out through the affluent area of Hungerford, past a great many lovely properties I’ll never be able to afford. ¬†I went through the village of Inkpen, which made me think of Inkheart, and Inkwings. ¬†After a nasty hill five miles in, I turned left in the village of Faccombe to go up another hill, which made me giggle (think about it…). ¬†Did I mention it was just me and my thoughts? ¬†They do go weird places when unaccompanied and undistracted… ūüėČ ¬†And yes, that was two killer hills in the first 10 miles. ¬†No fair! ¬†It was chilly and grey which may sound unattractive but actually made it easier to follow the route and (very large) signs than the recent early morning dappled sunshine on events has done. ¬†Besides I had my layers pretty much spot on today, having been very keen that I not be cold, so I was a fairly happy bunny with things the way¬†they were.

selfie-pair country-pile

Having gone up there were some lovely views, and I actually passed another couple of riders who’d stopped at the top to take selfies and photos of the landscape, which was novel. ¬†Not the photos – the riders! ¬†I took my photos en route, as ever, but stopped playing David Bailey in time for the steep and rather technical descent. ¬†Things flattened out after this, and also started brightening up nicely. ¬†Things were looking up, but not up ūüėČ

first-food-stop-well-labelled the-swan-inn

The first food stop came at 25 miles in, the car park of the Swan Inn¬†in Great Shefford where the landlord was very kindly letting his (very swish) facilities be used. ¬†I kinda wished I could have stayed there, it looked like a lovely place, and the thought of sitting in its beer garden in the sun with a cold beer…? ¬†Ah well, maybe another time. ¬†The lady manning the food stop was friendly and chatty and probably bored witless after standing there for hours more or less on her own. ¬†Initially it was just me there, and even when joined by the top of the hill two and a whippet who could probably do the long route twice over in the time it was going to take us three to do the Standard route, it was never what you’d call busy! ¬†And yes, I’d pretty much decided to do the Standard route. ¬†I had places to be later, and no desire to push any boundaries today. ¬†Anyway, the food stop was pretty well stocked (and labelled!) and I discovered that today mini scotch eggs were what I wanted, which wouldn’t be what I’d normally opt for but hey, they tasted good, and I’d been told to make sure I ate properly for a change. ¬†So I sat down, chatted a bit, ate those, and kicked back a bit. ¬†Sometimes it’s just nice to sit still in the sunshine.

mini-scotch-egg route-split

I headed back out again on my own. ¬†And headed into more familiar territory. ¬†I’ve done a fair few sportives around here, and have a couple ahead too. ¬†It’s a beautiful area, even more so under blue skies. ¬†But that wasn’t enough to make me change my mind. ¬†I still turned left 5 miles later at the route split. ¬†Right then. ¬†15 miles to get to the next food stop. ¬†And those miles¬†weren’t flat! ¬†There were another couple of big hills between me and that, but the descents were better this time, and I was loving being out in the sunshine not feeling too terrible and just being me and my bike. ¬†More cute cottages, more well behaved countryside. ¬†All good. ¬†There may even have been some stashing of layers and rolling up of sleeves ūüėČ

10 second-food-stop-emptiness

The next food stop was as quiet¬†as the first, set in a little car park in front of a pretty church, complete with a little toilet block – always good. ¬†Once more, me and some¬†mini scotch eggs took a breather sat on a curb in the sun. ¬†I certainly wasn’t feeling as bad as the last sportive but I was still aware that pacing myself and taking it just that little bit easier than I might want to was the way to go.

second-food-stop-food second-food-stop-church

By my reckoning I only had around 20 miles to go, which seemed doable. ¬†Which it was, being¬†more of the same. ¬†Scenic. ¬†Rivers to cross, and canals. ¬†A couple of fairly big climbs. ¬†Including the kicker that is on the White Horse Challenge and that somehow I always forget, I think maybe my memory blocks it out! ¬†And as I turned a corner there it was in front of me again…dagnamit! ¬†It’s long, gets steeper, and wiggles… ¬†Still, I got up it,¬†¬†Again ūüôā ¬†To be let out to play on top of the world for a while, amongst¬†fields of gold, playing tag with the range of awesome cars doing the Classic Harvest Tour, who I¬†crossed paths with several times.

rolling-golden-hills classic-harvest-tour

They were having fun, I was having fun, although I probably admired their cars more than they admired my bike ūüėČ ¬†Before long we were back in Wiltshire, where the rich people were still living, and I was still being somewhat envious. ¬†Can’t afford their cars, can’t afford their houses neither! *grin*.

canal prosperous-hungerford

Did you know there’s even a village called Prosperous? ¬†It didn’t surprise me…but it did make me giggle *grin*. ¬†Well I presume it’s a village, not just a adjective used to describe¬†Hungerford, which is kinda what the signpost made it look like ūüėČ ¬†The miles counted down, as I passed from ¬†Wiltshire and back into West Berkshire, and very shortly I was back at HQ, and rolling under the Finish Arch with a complete lack of fanfare, bells, or whistles. ¬†Ah well, at least it was purple ūüėČ ¬†Two ladies were sat watching over the finish line, probably a fairly thankless task, and one of them gave me my medal, while the other noted my admission to having bailed to the short route¬†(though that doesn’t seem to have made it as far as the official times list). ¬†There you go. ¬†Black Legend done.

Cycling time: 4:36
Official time: 5:11
Distance: 65.9 miles
Avs: 14.3 mph

finish-line black-legend-medal

Usually when I write about a sportive I use “we” rather more often than today. ¬†But it was definitely an “I” day. ¬†99.9% of all the cyclists I saw today were not on this sportive, just out on Sunday rides with their teams/groups/whatever. ¬†It turns out that only around 60 riders took part. ¬†Which would explain a lot. ¬†The lack of atmosphere for starters. ¬†I pushed my bike over to the main school entrance and parked up, so as to go to the toilets and try and purchase something cold and fizzy. ¬†Which I did – well kinda. ¬†It was the only can of such on offer – coke I think – and it wasn’t cold either. ¬†But hey, at this point beggars couldn’t be choosers, it was better than nothing. ¬†As I sat outside on the steps drinking it, and checking in with the world, there was just one other rider loitering around, who came over for a chat. ¬†He’d done the whole route and still had a reasonable ride home ahead of him¬†– so chapeau to you Andy! ¬†We both agreed that today, though pleasant enough, had been somewhat lacking. ¬†However scenic, I don’t think I’d do it again. ¬†I can ride around pretty places completely on my own, and time myself, any time…and there are other events around here that are better. ¬†Harsh maybe, but true.

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

White Horse Challenge 2015

I’m getting used to the 5:15am alarm. ¬†To¬†leaving as the sun is rising. ¬†As I drove over Winscombe Hill, a deer and I shared space for a little while, before it vanished into a hedge and I carried on my way. ¬†Near Banwell tiny lambs were gambolling around in the fields. ¬†And, unlike the night before, it wasn’t raining. ¬†All of which seemed fairly auspicious as these things go.

Right then,¬†White Horse Challenge,¬†here I come. ¬†As ever, I beat the satnav to Shrivenham, arriving¬†early enough to get a parking space on the field behind HQ. ¬†Which was good because I knew there was going to be a whole heap of faffing this morning, and that takes time. ¬†I have gotten my kit wrong far too many times lately, so had been obsessively checking the weather forecast for days, and had brought a whole variety of kit options with me. ¬†First off though, registration, on the basis that walking over there and back would show me how cold and windy it really was out there. ¬†Plus, it being earlyish, there wasn’t as yet too much of a queue for the four portable toilets outside, so I thought I’d take advantage of that.


Registration was easy. ¬†I signed alongside my name, my timing sticker was stuck on my helmet, and I was left with just my bike number to sort. ¬†I passed on the free coffee, grabbed a map and two cable ties, and headed back to the car. ¬†Being outside had¬†demonstrated that it was indeed cold and breezy but, on balance, not quite as cold as it was last week. ¬†Well, probably not. ¬†So, what to wear? ¬†Ooh, decisions decisions. ¬†I mentally ran through my options, and what I’ve been wearing out there lately and, here we go, from the bottom up; toe covers, winter bib tights, s/s bamboo base later, s/s summer jersey, l/s winter jersey, lightweight gilet, winter collar, mitts, over gloves. ¬†I was really hoping that I would have gotten it right this time…

Time to get going then. ¬†My steed and I headed back across the field, where I joined a much longer queue for the toilets again. ¬†When I emerged and headed for the start, I found Gary waiting for me without even having to look for him. ¬†Yes, just for once I was doing a sportive in company. ¬†Ooh, the novelty! ¬†We’d had a chat beforehand and agreed that if either of us was as crap as we thought we were, and we ended up not being able to ride together, that neither of us would get grumpy about it, which sounded like a plan.

ready to go

Time to go and put that plan into action then.  Riders were leaving one by one as they wished, no bunched starts here, so we duly rolled over the timing mats together and headed out into the chilly Wiltshire countryside.

Now, if last week’s sportive was a ride of two halves, then this week’s was a ride of three thirds. ¬†The first 25 odd miles are fairly flat. ¬†Which is good because it means you get plenty of time to warm up. ¬†There is the odd up, but nothing drastic. ¬†However, all of two miles in, on one of those, and probably also something to do with not being warmed up yet, my insides screamed into painful life. ¬†And I use the word screamed because that’s what I felt like doing. ¬†I was already on the latest pills but it would appear they were wearing off! ¬†It fair took my breath away, and I was out of breath already. ¬†This did not bode well for the rest of the ride, let alone the hills ūüôĀ

royal wootton bassett Broadtown

Still, on with the show, right? ¬†25 miles of scenic flat back country lanes. ¬†Which we did fairly fast as it happens. ¬†I was muddling through, though probably not as conversational as I might sometimes be. ¬†I hadn’t warmed up yet, bits of me were screaming, and it was still pretty cold! ¬†I sat on Gary’s wheel as necessary, and we made our way around to the first climb of the day. ¬†I’ve done the White Horse Challenge several times before, and today familiarity was a good thing. ¬†For some reason it made the whole thing¬†feel like a shorter event because I could break it down into chunks, and I knew all the challenges ahead. ¬†And the first climb of the day – past the White Horse at Broadtown – I have done many times before. ¬†However today, what with the pain, I was kind of dreading it. ¬†I was very worried that going up was going to hurt even more which, unsurprisingly, didn’t appeal. ¬†And I was also annoyed because I’ve been doing pretty good up hills lately and to be sabotaged by my own body seemed unfair.

start of Broadtown

So I was very pleased when it actually went really¬†well. ¬†We’d agreed to meet at the top and yes, initially Gary drew away from me. ¬†But as we got going, and my crawler gear engaged, I got it together, overtook some other riders, and by the time we reached the top I was on it and actually overtook Gary as the road flattened out. ¬†It was, as I commented at the time, a lot better than I expected, which did massive amounts of good stuff for my PMA. ¬†And it hadn’t made the pain worse. ¬†‘Rah!

first food stop

Which brings us to the second third of the ride. ¬†Which started with a technical¬†down hill, some flat and fun, and the first food stop,¬†when I took¬†the next dose of pills, ate half a banana, and popped into the village hall toilets. ¬†We set off, and headed for more hills. ¬†Which in this case would be the¬†A4 past the next White Horse at Cherhill. ¬†It’s a very long gradual climb which is very attractive but, sadly, had a bit too much traffic on it. ¬†Still¬†I was warmed up now, the pills were working, and I was feeling a lot better. ¬†On form even.¬† I¬†actually accidentally left Gary behind me, but I waited for him at a relevant point, and we were back together to go through the stones at Avebury. ¬†Which formed the pattern for a while. ¬†I’d get ahead, then wait, and then we’d try again.

Cherhill Avebury

The stretch from Avebury to Hackpen is fairly rolling and fairly enjoyable, but without many places to stop. ¬†It’s not that wide a road which probably explains why the black Ferrari going past us all apparently nearly took Gary out – they’re wide¬†cars! ¬†It just made me grin when it went past me – I love fast cars ūüôā ¬†Our next rendezvous was just after the right turn for Hackpen Hill, where we took a bit of a breather. ¬†Gary was feeling a tad dizzy, so the maternal in me nagged him into not just eating but also taking a gel. ¬†He did what he was told, though he may have been cussing me under his breath ūüėČ

Hackpen Gaz

I love Hackpen Hill. ¬†It’s pretty, you can see it from miles off, the White Horse is lovely, I know I can do it, and I LOVE the flying stretch to Marlborough that comes afterwards. ¬†Stick followed by carrot. ¬†Overall it’s one of my favourite patches of road. ¬†The hill has hairpins and everything, and it’s steepest at the beginning and then gets easier – the way all hills should be. ¬†And again, it went well,¬†I even overtook people on the way up. ¬†And I waited for Gary at the top, which was handy for taking photos ūüôā

I love this bit

Having said that, the elastic holding us together was starting to stretch now though. ¬†Yes I’d¬†waited at the top, but I then had to go have the fun I’d earnt. ¬†And I really did enjoy myself. ¬†Fast flying downhill? ¬†Of course I did. ¬†But I did leave Gary behind again. ¬†I waited in Marlborough though, as Gary and a small posse that had grown around him arrived, all of whom I’d overtaken on the way down ūüėČ ¬†We headed out of town down Chopping Knife Lane, which is a fab name, and set off into the middle of nowhere, with hilly wooded climbs, pretty villages, and yes, I’d dropped Gary again. ¬†I think I only have one speed. ¬†It’s either the speed I can go at at any given time, or no speed at all, and sadly today it wasn’t Gary’s speed. ¬†As I carried on there were quite a few more hills, including the one that has no name and no White Horse but is probably the worst of the lot! ¬†I went up it with two other riders. ¬†They both ended up walking. ¬†I did not ūüėČ

wooded climb i always forget this one

I reached the food station at Froxfield, about 68 miles in, feeling fairly positive, and did the usual. ¬†I wasn’t that hungry though and actually, looking back, I didn’t eat that much today. ¬†One small flapjack, half a banana, some Clif cubes, and one gel. ¬†And about 1l of Nuun. ¬†I can’t say I felt the lack though, so I guess that’s ok. ¬†Anyway, Gary arrived shortly after I’d emerged from the toilet, and I was pleased to catch up with him again. ¬†Or have him catch up with me I guess ūüėČ

long and yellow second food stop

Which brings us, inevitably, to the third third. ¬†Which was less fun. ¬†I dropped Gary again, and decided to just keep going. ¬†I felt a bit guilty, but the pills were wearing off slowly, it¬†was still cold, and I needed to get this ride¬†over and done with. ¬†I also knew he’d understand. ¬†Mind you there was also a killer head wind, and there were times I missed the chance of a wheel to sit behind! ¬†So off I went.¬† There were more ups, and I knew that the big climb at Uffington was still ahead of me. ¬†There was also lots of long draggy climbing through yellow fields, on long straight roads, straight into the wind, that just seemed to go on and on and on… ¬†Talk about a slog. ¬†My hard earned average speed was ebbing away by the mile, along with my PMA…*sob* ūüėČ

up and trees straight into the wind

Finally, and somewhat later on the route than I expected for some reason, we reached that last hill. ¬†Uffington,¬†aka the Dragon Hill apparently. ¬†Which does have a White Horse, but you never see it! ¬†It’s also a timed hill climb, which always brings forth a wry smile…as if! ¬†On previous rides this has been a pretty busy place, with spectators and the like. ¬†It was quiet today, apart from the obligatory photographer¬†half way up of course, which was actually quite nice; less pressure to perform! ¬†And actually it was fine. ¬†Just another hill. ¬†A big one to be sure but¬†hey,¬†done it before, did it again. ¬†In fact I apparently did it the best I ever have. ¬†Go me! ūüôā

Uffington view

Right. ¬†Enough with all the up stuff. ¬†With only 6 miles of down and flat to go it was time to sprint to the finish. ¬†So I did. ¬†Which was fun, even with that bl**dy wind ūüôā ¬†Finally it was time to cross the finish line, print out my time, and drink fizzy orange while I waited for Gary to join me, which he did a little while later. ¬†I’m pleased to say he was still talking to me. ¬†Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together? ūüėČ ¬†White Horse Challenge done¬†ūüôā


Cycling time: 5:51
Distance: 89.9 miles
Avg: 15.3 mph
ODO: 9092 miles

I’m a bit disappointed with my time; I think it’s actually the slowest I’ve ever done it. ¬†Which is weird because I swear it felt easier. ¬†And I did good up the hills. ¬†I guess what with the wind, and the whole screaming on the inside, and the painkillers, well…none of those are probably conducive. ¬†But disappointment not withstanding, and all things considered, it actually went pretty well. ¬†It’s a nice ride, on a nice route, with lovely scenery, and I got my kit pretty much right! ¬†I had a fairly¬†good day out, and it made a really nice change to do a sportive in company though, even if we didn’t stick together for the entire thing. ¬†I may have to try and persuade more of my friends to join me at more events ūüôā