Cycle 204km/8h19 (inc. 41min stopped), brisk, HR140(169), ascent 2150m
A hard day out on the road. It started well enough, with some post-PBP chat over a cup of tea or two at the community centre in Chalfont St Peter. At 8am prompt, we wheeled off out into the country lanes and a group of 15 or so riders quickly formed at the head of affairs. Matt Scholes was here, on a Cannondale tandem with his new wife, and they soon set a blistering pace that noone seemed keen to follow. I bridged across to the them up the long climb out of Marlow and that was the last we were to see of the Martin Lucas-led group behind for some time. The tandem was not even all that slow up the climbs here – they were making good work of them, although I eventually pulled away at the top of the long ascent to Christmas Common. On the headwind ride into Benson I passed a rider who’d clearly started ahead of the crowd, and at the Waterfront Cafe there were three more who’d departed early.
I bounced through here, collecting my sticker, and then out through North and South Stoke and on to the stiff climb out of Streatley, made seemingly no easier by my fitment of a 34-tooth inner ring last night. On the fast descent into Compton I picked up a rear wheel puncture and freewheeled into the entrance of a church yard. I quickly had the wheel out, but couldn’t immediately see the object that’d caused the deflation so I ran my fingers around the inside of the tyre in the usual fashion. Big Mistake! There was a very sharp flint poking through the tyre and I cut three of my fingers straight through. Instantly there was blood everywhere. What to do? I couldn’t fix my puncture until I stemmed the flow, but it was so extreme.
While I had my hand over my head (to lower the blood pressure in my hand and lessen the bleeding, although this had the downside that the blood then ran down my arm) a man pulled up at the church in his car. He hopped out to ask if I was OK and I asked him if he’d be able to get me some plasters from the local shop (if there was one). He drove off. While he was gone, Matt and his wife turned up and asked if I was OK. I explained that I was and that someone had gone to get me some help. The chap returned about 10 minutes later with some kitchen roll and plasters – what a saint! We managed to get everything cleaned up and I was able to put my glove back on over the plasters to be able to finish fixing the puncture. I thanked him greatly (offered to pay for the plasters but he wouldn’t accept anything from me) and rode off – Martin Lucas’s group had recently passed by and after some moments of doubt that I’d be able to finish the ride, I chased after them, into the wind. I’d spent at least 25 minutes stuck at the side of the road.
I was quickly through the next control, collecting my sticker and then back out into the headwind for the long climb of Lambourn Down. The tandem was nowhere to be seen ahead – they must’ve had quite a lead by now. I was happy to be back out on the road and although my fingers were throbbing I was gladdened by a few rays of sunshine in the greyness. After Lambourn there was quite a bit of tailwind so I took it easy and worked my way through some more of my malt loaf and squash. I stopped to refill my bottles with Lucozade and water from the Londis in Hermitage, ready to tackle the last hilly kilometres back to Chalfont.
This last bit of the ride is peppered with short (and sometimes quite long) steep climbs. It’s hard work after you’ve been on the road for 5 hours. I didn’t waste much time at the cafe stop in Pangbourne, although there was another rider from the earlier faster group having a break here. I eventually caught up with the tandem duo at the top of another tricky climb, near Fawler. They were busy fixing a puncture so I stopped for a quick chat and then I was off to tackle Colestrope Lane. Having a slightly lower gear than last year I still ended up walking a bit of it, just not quite as much as last time!
I struggled a bit with the traffic and aggressive/dozy drivers through Marlow and Bourne End before finally rolling down the hill back into Chalfont St Peter. The tandem duo rolled in about 20 minutes after me, they’d done very well to tackle such a hilly route so quickly.
After I’d washed, and re-taped my fingers I spent the evening and half the night watching the internet coverage of the Ironman World Championships from Kona, a few beers in hand. Both men’s and women’s races went right down to the line. Chrissie Wellington produced a particularly amazing display. Following a bike crash in training a couple of weeks ago she looked to be right out of contention after the swim and bike legs, but ran right back there, chasing down the leaders for the win, and in turn being chased by Miranda Carfree. I was also pleased to see Pete Jacobs run himself into 2nd place in the men’s race. Matt Molloy, who I know from age group racing in the UK, did a storming job in the 40-44 age group, finishing 9th in his age group with 9:13.