Yesterday I rode the annual Brickhills Challenge, a local sportive in aid of charity. Challenge by name and challenge by nature it was this year for sure.
The weather forecast for the day wasn’t good and unfortunately it was pretty accurate. I left home about 7:45am and arrived at the start before the opening of the 8:30 – 9:30 start slot. The rain started just as I left home and it was a dark and dismal and very apprehensive drive. I went off in the third wave of 15 riders, ‘waves’ leaving at two minute intervals. On the second corner after the start which was a roundabout I heard somebody near the back of the group go down behind me on the wet road. I glanced over my shoulder and I could see a couple of people on the floor but a few more had stopped so us at the front of the group carried on our sweet way.
The first two or three miles were through a housing development with plenty of bends and roundabouts and the poor lighting wasn’t helped by light reduction from the buildings and overhanging landscaping trees. It really was very dismal to say the least. The first climb was more of a long drag up from Aspley Guise station then a drop down into the village centre and then another climb, steeper this time up a narrow lane and a long descent followed onto the Woburn Sands to Woburn road. We turned right from there and another steady climb up and then down into Woburn Sands.
Now was the time to start getting apprehensive about the next climb. It was a ride of about 2 miles into a headwind and rain. I had dispensed with my wind jacket/rain cape by now as it was filling out with the wind and felt like it was slowing me down.
The climb I was getting apprehensive about was Church Road up from Bow Brickhill. Its only about half a mile long but it is very steep and a couple of sections touch 20% gradient. At least it was out of the way early as it came after about ten miles and was actually only about two hundred metres from the start as we had done a big loop of around 10 miles to get there! By now it had all but stopped raining at least. The route then went along through the trees in the middle of one of Woburn Golf Club courses, then dropping down, turning right then up past the main entrance to the club.
Next followed a long descent of about a mile or so and then a loop around, up another climb, round and back through Woburn and up the descent I had just come down from near the golf club.
The next loop took us through Little Brickhill and a drop down and then a long tough ride into the wind out to and around Drayton Parslow then back up the climb of Galley Lane and into Great Brickhill. A long narrow lane descent from there past Stockgrove Park almost spelt disaster for me. I was descending at a good rate down a narrow dark and wet lane. I went into a sweeping narrow left hand bend that unknown to me really tightened up the further you got into it. I just about managed to stay on the tarmac on the right side of the road. I dare not apply my brakes as I would have gone straight down in the leaf covered wet road for sure but fortunately there was nothing coming the other way, that is until I was about 100 yards past the bend. Had I applied my brakes and gone down I think I would have still been laying in the middle of the road just as the car came round the bend.
There then followed another climb and then descent onto the main road at Heath and Reach. A sharp left took me up a very narrow lane and it was so little used that there was grass growing in the middle of the road! This eventually took me to the outskirts of Leighton Buzzard and a couple more short sharp climbs seem to have been found on the way into the town centre.
On exiting Leighton Buzzard (I always think that name sound like some old Shakespearian actor ?) another little climb took us onward and down to another narrow, pot holed road for a couple of miles with mud in the middle of the road in places too. On exiting this lane there occurred what I think is a cruel stroke by the organiser. We had to turn left down Ivy Lane and down to the Three Locks pub on the Grand Union Canal and loop round a little triangle and back up Ivy Lane again past our entry point of a few minutes earlier. The climb up Ivy Lane from the Three Locks is long and arduous with widely varying gradients and almost flattens out at the top into a long drag of a mile or so into Great Brickhill again. From Great Brickhill a climb up and then a descent followed by a climb up again into Little Brickhill. By now the climbing was almost done, just the rise up through golf course again and then down the speedy hazardous 20% Church Road descent and on a couple of hundred metres to the finish.
On completion a welcoming cup of tea and cakes were much appreciated. I found I had done the ride about 5 minutes slower than my last time in 2010. But given the weather and persistent head wind I wasn’t too bothered. One thing did bother me though. My Garmin was only showing I had climbed about 350 metres (1150ft) when It should have been around 850m (2800ft) at least. I had noticed during my travels that the gradients were not showing correctly and at times neither was my speed. I thought it may have been due to the barometric pressure due to the weather conditions as the Garmin uses barometric pressure to calculate altitude. Fortunately today I have found that both the Garmin Connect site and Strava do have a facility for correction elevation discrepancies from known geographic data. Phew, thats a relief !!!