Henley Hilly 100

Another ride around this friendly little audax, based out of Sonning Common. It’s a good test of my climbing legs before next month’s Dartmoor Devil, and is usually blessed with good weather (in 2012 I was struggling to hold on to the bars with sweaty hands!). The weather forecast in the week was not looking so great though which put a few riders off – only 40 of 60 entries took the start – but despite a bit of a hard headwind at times, we stayed dry.

I rode over to make a +100-mile day of it, and after a few chats over tea and buns at the village hall HQ, we were off. I rode out with Andy Watt, with whom I’d shared a house in Cowley many years ago, before either of us had heard of Audax, and Graham Hindle. I’d not seen Graham for many years – we often used to bump into each other at Palmer Park velodrome where his daughters rode, and he occasionally did the odd road race or two, like me. He’d spent the last few years earning mega-bucks in banking and was decked out from head to foot in Assos gear. His bike, a Parlee with SRM cranks, was pretty special too.

We kept a good pace to the Chinnor halfway checkpoint, Andy leading on the climbs and Graham and me taking a turn on the flatter stuff. After a quick refill of bottles, Graham said he was starting to tire, so Andy and I took our turns on the front to the next steep climb back up to Stokenchurch where we dropped Graham for good. It was starting to warm up now and Andy stopped to take off his knee warmers where I trundled on. He was going well, and I was sure he’d catch me up soon, but I never saw him until the finish, although I’d started to press on over the last couple of hills, realising that a sub-4 hour finish was on the cards.

I stopped the clock back at the village hall at 3h55, a new PB for me. Andy rolled in a few minutes later. We had a bit of a chat over some more mugs of tea and then it was time to roll home. We waved to Graham coming in on the last section as we were leaving.

I crawled home, although I was pretty happy with that ride. Hopefully a sign that I’ll be going well on the Devil. 172km under my wheels. Link to Strava ride HERE