Friday, 4 June 2010

Tour of Wessex (Day3)

Miles cycled this year: 2541
In 156 Hours burning 90707 Kcal climbing 91210ft
Most miles in a week (so far) : 160 (but watch this space)
Weight 67.1Kg 17.5% fat

The Tour of Wessex is a three day event, 325 miles in three consecutive days. I have done all three days in its first and second year. Denise asked me if I could give it a rest the next year as she wasn’t keen on being on her own waiting for me to come back another three days in a row.

In this its fifth year I thought I’d do the one day, and as a couple of others I knew were doing a day, Monday it was. The plan was to ride Saturday and Sunday as normal, and then throw in a 105 mile hilly ride to finish it off

Saturday started wet, really rather wet. I waited in and rode towards the café to join the club run as they left Burnham to go back to Taunton. The rain had eased, and as I rode towards Burnham, two riders came towards me. I turned and asked where the others were, they were apparently it! We rode into Bridgwater and I turned east out though the villages on the south side of the Poldens, north over the Polden ridge, over the Levels and looped back home. 2hrs in total.

Sunday was a gentle morning with the Bridgwater cycle club a spiral of a route stopping just outside Wedmore at Sweet’s Café. 3hrs in total.

Monday was up early, and drive to Somerton. I’d forgotten the £10 I needed for the timing chip, but was able to borrow it off of Nigel, whom I planned to ride the route with. 8.30 and we were off. As far as I could tell one mighty great group. I was in the first 100 to start anyway. Some quick sorting of slower riders falling back as the route started on a shallow incline and we were off. I sat in, in a group of this size there is no need to share the work. It was a moderate pace, but every tight corner is like a caterpillar as the front riders slow a little, the riders to the rear bunch up. The slowing ripples back in the group in the corner, as you enter the corner you slow, then accelerate to close back up with the riders in front. Nothing to bad, but over time very wearing.

As we approached the first real hill of the day at Enmore the front of the group slowed, riders at the front spreading across the road. There were cars behind. We shouted to the front of the group to warn the front riders of the cars behind waiting to pass. No movement at the front. Now this irritated me, the organisers had asked us to behave on the road, and as a club we have had complaints about inconsiderate riding. I shouted to the front riders that they should pair up and keep to the left, no movement, but an anonymous shout enquiring “Are you a copper or something?”. “No” I said “but I am local and will have to deal with these people when you lot piss off home”. That was the end of that conservation, although later I did have a rider tell me he agreed with me. Anyway the hill pretty much sorted it out as riders tailed off. I was one of those riders.

We regrouped in part on the descent and meet the second deviation from the advertised route of the day, the first being the feed station being off the route and up another hill! As we approached the second hill a number of riders stopped to relieve themselves. I stopped to remove my knee warmers, and that was the last I saw of the group.

I’d last seen Nigel and Darren as we left Bridgwater, I thought they weren’t far behind. Nigel’s handlebars broke part was round so that was it for him. They got back to the start and went home early.

Onwards on my solitary way back down off the Quantocks to join the A39 at Washford and the Bank Holiday traffic heading for Minehead. I hate this piece of road, its busy, narrow and usually into a headwind. Today there was a slight tailwind. I felt fine so pushed on a 20mph+, through Minehead towards Porlock, then inland and towards the third and hardest climb to Dunkery.

There was now a small group on, some had caught me, and others we had caught. We chatted though the lanes, looking at the highest point in Somerset that we were about to climb. There’s a tight turn left, into the trees and then it starts. I’ve ridden it before, it’s steep holding maybe 16% in places, its largely straight, and it goes on and it hurts. Normally I’m fine, riding past others, but the speed of approach had done for me. I had a tight pain in my thighs, and a pain in my lower back. Near the top I past a rider who had stopped and that was it. I pulled over and stopped. I rested for a minute whilst my legs calmed, then I rode on. I haven’t stopped like this on a hill for, for, I don’t remember when I last stopped on a hill, except the couple of times I came to a halt due to wheel spin on gravel and leaves and the lack of forward movement left me falling sideways.

After 67.7 miles I had enough. This wasn’t fun. I was riding east along the top of Exmoor having climbed the forth climb of the day. I was encouraged by how I felt, and the fact that as it steepened I held the riders in front at the same distance, but they were gone when I crested the climb. I was alone, head wind, steady climbs and feeling off. A rider caught me, we rode together for a few miles, a hill and he was gone, I couldn‘t hold him. The long descent off Exmoor, 40mph+ and a new group of six formed.

One hill left, Cothelstone, a hard climb on its own, without the previous four. We chatted, we climbed each in our own world of will power over gravity and lower back and leg pain. I was second of the group to the top, finally I had out climbed someone! We waited for the others, and stopped again at the feed for water and Jaffa cakes. Home run and I felt stonger, the others were tiring. We rode together chatting a little, a little humour (I thought this was the Levels). I was on very familiar territory. We took turns to ride on the front, but waiting on the inclines for the weaker riders. This is what I love about these rides, the camaraderie, I don’t know their names, and wouldn’t recognise them, but we worked together and shared for an hour or two the desire to finish, and I was willing to give what I had to help us finish together.

Tour of Wessex Day 3: 104 miles, 6hrs21m, 7200ft of climbing. Finished 100th out of 357 finishers.

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