Cycle 204km: Anfractuous Audax. 7h45 (inc. time stopped 17min). Brisk, HR140(168), ascent 2120m
51.5km Chalfont St Giles -> Benson ______ 29.2km/h _ HR136(163) asc. 434m
39.7km Benson -> Wantage ____________ 28.9km/h _ HR143(166) asc. 459m
52.1km Wantage -> Pangbourne ________ 28.4km/h _ HR141(165) asc. 483m
60.4km Pangbourne -> Chalfont St Giles __ 24.5km/h _ HR140(168) asc. 770m
After last night’s late night, a 6am alarm call was a rude awakening, although I ended up arriving at the HQ in Chalfont St Giles with more than enough time to spare. I had a couple of coffees and said hello to Swarmcatcher and Mattc from the YACF forum. whilst making sure my new (to me) Etrex HCx GPS was working (I was using the route from the Audax Calendar page, chopped into three sections to make it fit into the memory OK), and then we had a bit of banter outside the hall before the off. Paul the organiser warned us about some dodgy road surfaces before we left.
I quickly settled into a group of faster riders. The road surfaces were poor around here and I was occasionally crashing though potholes, which wasn’t doing my nerves any good. There was a bit of drizzle from the overcast skies. I got onto the front to share the pacemaking a couple of times, mainly so I could see what I had to avoid up ahead! I had the routesheet alongside my GPS and this proved useful at a turning for Green Common Lane where it didn’t seem to know that the lane existed! Once through this lane, I grew to like the occasional reassuring beep from it, letting me know that a waypoint or turning was approaching.
My bike was making a strange creaking sound fom either the headset or bottom bracket when I was climbing out of the saddle and I made a mental note to check every bolt for tightness later. Although they were keen to be charging along (almost too fast for me!), the group thinned out over the climbs and only five or six of us were together by the time we reached Marlow and our first bit of traffic. Out the far side of the town and up the long drag to Fingest, three of them pushed on. I felt they were going just a little too hard for me and I dropped back to conserve my energy for later. I caught up with them on the next climb to Christmas Common, and rode into Benson at 9:50 with just one other rider. I picked up my sticker from the Waterside Cafe and turned straight around for the next leg.
Somewhere along here my GPS died. It had been showing a low battery for about an hour. Not to worry – I knew the roads, had the route sheet, and stopped in Goring for some fresh AAs. I was pleased to see that as soon as I loaded the new batteries, it picked up the route right away, not waiting to “acquire satellites”. Next we had to negotiate the testing climb out of Streatley. I stuck my bike into bottom gear and ground my way up it, as easily as I could manage. Coming over the top though, I could feel my left quad cramping up a little, a feeling that was to persist for the rest of the day. I knew I’d have to watch it as this was a problem that’d flared up a couple of years ago riding the Poor Student 200km and which had subsequently led to a knee injury and nearly 2 months of inactivity, something I wasn’t keen to repeat.
The next couple of legs of the ride passed without too much bother. I bounced the Wantage control at 11:15, picked up a wheel-sucker in a Newbury RC top on the stretch from Lambourne to Winterbourne and stopped for a re-fill of bottles and to buy something to supplement the malt loaf in my back pocket at the Londis in Hermitage. A couple of lads were just exiting the shop and I got a “nice bike mate” from one of them ;-). It started to get rather hilly around here – the “Berkshire alps” were looming. I was getting hot on the ascents, but as it was still overcast I didn’t feel warm enough to take my arm warmers off. I’d noticed that my bike had stopped creaking – whatever it was had evidently “bedded in”! I dropped down into Pangbourne for the last control, picking up my sticker from the counter in the cafe (1:11pm). The guy behind the counter said “you’re early” as I picked it up! I smiled back.
The last stage back to Chalfont St Giles was super-hilly, starting with the interminable climb out of Pangbourne and continuing with some nasty lanes though Bix and onwards. I passed two weddings along here. At the second the photographer was trying to take some pictures of the bridesmaids, and struggling with the poor light. There was a nasty climb out of Fawley Bottom, and then an even nastier one up Colstrope Lane straight after. At the bottom of Colestrop Lane I caught up with a couple of old boys out for a Saturday afternoon jaunt. I passed them easily at the bottom. They asked me where I was going and I said I’d already done 170km. They seemed suitably impressed. My speed was short lived though. As the road reared upwards for the final 100m and with their lower gears and fresher legs they re-passed me. Fearful of doing further damage to my left quad (and worried I might pull my arms out of their sockets as I struggled to turn 36×25!) I walked the last 100m, oops. I must’ve taken a different route to them over the top as I never caught them again.
Thankfully the last part of the route was not as extreme. The Saturday afternoon traffic through Marlow was as bad as ever, with drivers deciding to change direction without signalling at the last possible moment, and sometimes after the last possible moment(!). I passed a rider from the 100km event on the far side of Marlow. She was standing, looking at her route sheet, slightly puzzled, but heading in the right direction.
The final stretch crossing over the M40 was as busy as ever and once again I met a couple of unfriendly drivers in Welder’s Lane (as I always seem to when travelling down here at the end of the Severn Across 400km too). One of them passed a bit too close and splashed mud up my leg. I was happy to roll into the village hall HQ at 3:45pm. I had a few cups of tea and ate a doughnut, had a chat to Paul and watched the band for that night’s concert unload their instruments before pedalling back to the car and driving home.
This was my last long ride before I tackle in the infamous Dartmoor Devil. Althought the Devil is only 106km, it has a fearsome reputation for hills, so I reckon today’s ride was good training for it!
Kona Ironman World championships
I got back in time to get showered and changed just as the first triathletes were hitting the water. I spent the rest of the evening watching the race unfold, streamed live over the internet, and chatting in the tritalk chat room whilst I drank a succession of beers. The mens race was very exciting with Chris McCormack being caught by Andreas Raelert in the closing stages of the marathon, but hanging on and then sprinting away with a couple of miles remaining. The Australian guy I’ve been following on Twitter, Pete Jacobs, finished 9th after serving a 4 minute penalty on the bike. He’d run the fastest marathon, 2:41, which is incredibly impressive. It was disappointing that Chrissie Wellington didn’t start as she had ‘flu, but Julie Dibens put up a great fight for the brits, leading on the bike for a long time but eventually fading to 3rd on the run. I turned in for bed at 2am.