It was a challenge by name and challenge by nature! I had known the weather forecast for Sunday for about a week ahead, but knowing how forecasts can change from day to day I lived in hope that it would change, but it didn’t!
I woke Sunday morning and it was dry outside, gloomy but dry.. I allowed myself to hope for a while. However as soon as I stepped outside around 7:45am it started to rain. I had prepared my clothes the night before to cater for most eventualities so I loaded the bike and my kit in the car and set off about 8:20am for the drive to the venue at Dunchurch near to Coventry.
On arrival it was still raining and looked set for the day. I sat in the car for a while and had a drink. It was around 9:15 am and walked up to check in and duly signed in and collected my ‘goodie bag’. It consisted of an oatmeal bar, a tee-shirt, a nd one or two other little goodies. It was a cheap event really so not much in the way of support or back up. I did take the banana that was offered and wandered back to the car to prepare myself and my bike.
I got the bike out and assembled it, just needed to slip the front wheel in, it fits in the car just right as long as I remove that. Then I prepared myself. bib type cycling shorts, thermal tee-shirt, Full length bib tights, Long sleeve cycling jersey, a pair of socks, cycling shoes and overshoes. On top of this a lightweight ‘waterproof’ ‘ish cycling jacket. In one back pocket I placed my phone, wallet, car key, map of the route and a ten ound note, all enclosed in a zip loc polythene bag. In the other pocket I put two energy bars and an energy gel. I knew there were no feed stations so had to be self sufficient. I wore a cycling cap under my helmet (a) for warmth and (b) so that peak would deflect the rain off my glasses.
At the appointed time of 10:00 am everybody set off. It was a fairly ad-hoc kind of start, no mass set off, just groups and individuals. The start time period was between 10:00 and 10:30 so I guess it eased congestion on the roads.
It took a while to get warmed through once I was underway, but soon got into a rhythm. I was riding on my own and I did a have a group of about 4 guys ahead of me, all from the Kenilworth club and riding in a train. I guess I could have made the effort and joined on the back but I decided to conserve my energy and go at a comfortable speed for me. They slowly drew out of sight but did catch up with another guy for a while and sat on his wheel for a bit, which was useful as we were going into headwind and I don’t think he knew I was there so I didn’t take my turn. Soon the first hill came along and I rode past him on the ascent and left him behind and I was on my own on the road. My next encounter was with a group of women who I had seen creep off from the start about 10 minutes before start time. They were all stopped by the road in a gateway to a field. I saw 4 bikes and 3 women so I guessed a call of nature was being answered ?
As you can see the profile of the route is pretty much all up and down. When the first steep climb came along after about 15 miles (The categorised steeper climbs are marked by the vertical grey bars) I was doing fine until I tried to change onto the largest sprocket at the rear and I don’t know what happened first but the chain came off the chain ring at the front and at the same time jumped down between the large sprocket and spokes and locked solid. I stopped and managed to wrench the chain out and got it back in place and started off from a standing start on a 20% climb! However, every revolution of the chain was producing a clunk and jump from the chain. I got to the top of the hill like this but had to stop to take some remedial action. I found two links were locked solid together and would not flex. Fortunately I had a mini toolkit with me and had a chain splitter in it. I managed to push the offending rivet from both directions and open a little gap, enough to loosen it off again and it was just right. I was had been passed by a few riders while all this was going on over about 10 – 15 minutes I guess. I really don’t know as I was just intent on getting going again. It was still pouring with rain and the wind was blowing across the top of the hill. Not a good place to hang around. The three ladies re-appeared just as I was getting going again and we had a bit of a chat and off I went again.
About this time I lost functionality on my Garmin as the route I downloaded from the rides web site was not too accurate and the course didn’t follow the road too well so it kept clearing itself down. Therefore I no longer had a forecast of my estimated finish time nor could I see the route. I kept resetting it and starting over but ech time we came to divergence between route and actuality it cleared itself down again. Fortunately the route was waymarked so I could get myself around. It all just added more to misery of the ride with the weather and everything. But it also made me more determined to get on with the job in hand.
The next steep climb came along after a while and I had latched onto a group of another 3 riders just before that, or rather they latched on to me and were sitting on my wheel. At the start of the climb one of them came past me pushing a big gear but I adopted my usual hill climbing posture of a lower gear and just twiddling away at a steady rhythm and fairly soon passed him and a few others during the climb. I assume the big gear guy waited at the top for his buddies because I never saw them again.
The next point of note was the divergence between the 60k route and the 100k route. I have to say I was tempted to take the 60k route as it was such a foul day and I had batted into a headwind as well for all of the outward trip so far but I stayed fast and took the 100k turn. I did wonder if I had gone off course after a while as I never saw another soul for ages. But I stopped at the top of another climb to extract an energy bar from my back pocket and a rider came past and called out to ask if I was OK. I told him I was just refuelling. Moving off again and at the bottom of a downhill stretch I saw the Kenilworth club guys stopped and repairing a puncture. I rode on and to the half way point at a cafe. I just called in to make sure there wasn’t a check point there and got on again so as not to get cold. After unwrapping another energy bar to eat as I went, I was on my way.
This is when things turned slightly in my favour as my by now wearying legs were given the assistance of a tail wind from the south west most of the time. It wasnt much help going up hills but meant that I could get up a bit of speed on the flats. The climbs just kept coming. It was on one of the earlier ones after the cafe stop that I was caught and passed by the Kenilworth boys again, but I kept them pretty much in sight and I caught and passed a couple of them who were obviously not feeling so good by now. Their buddies waited at the top for them and then they latched on the back of them on the downhill side and were off again but still in my sight most of the time. The same routine was repeated another couple of times until I then caught and passed one of them who was stationary and forcing an energy gel down. His buddies this time came back to him and I left them behind and never saw them again until after I had finished. I passed another couple of riders in the last 10 – 15 miles but those miles just dragged on and on and some kind route planner had included a couple of long drags toward the end just to round things off. Eventually I got to the finish and checked in and collected my certificate for completing the ride.
I was offered a hot drink of tea or coffee but said I would go and change from my wet clothes and come back later. On my way out and back to the car I saw the Kenilworth boys rolling in. Once back at my car I went through the precarious business of getting changed from wet clothes, drying and getting into nice dry clothes in public car park!
My clothes were absolutely soaked through and when I chucked them all into a plastic bag I was surprised just how much they weighed wet. When I took my shoes and socks off the water just poured out. It seems they were waterproof from the wrong direction! It was nice to get into the car and just drive to the HQ and get my cuppa. As I was going in I saw the ‘big gear guy’ from earlier rolling in the gate alone, I don’t know what had happened to his buddies. I have to say that I wouldnt recognise a lot of the people I passed because I didn’t usually look back once I passed them, just a passing word of encouragement as I went by and eyes on the road, keeping my head down to keep the rain from my eyes, sheltered under the peak of my cap.
It had been a tough day, a very wet and windy one but a very rewarding one for me to have completed. I am sure it would have been a very nice ride on a nice summers day, maybe will bear that in mind next year! My legs are still aching a bit today (Monday). Guess what, next week I am doing another ride. This time around the Brickhills not too far away from me. The course is only about 52 miles but has plenty of climbs in it. The race blurb says around 4000ft of climbing altogether. That will be it for this year then. Will just do some easy rides until after Christmas and then start thinking about next years rides and challenges.