Saturday 4th – 8:20pm
The weekend has finally arrived. In 26 hours I will be in Didcot, embarking on a 60 mile cycle around Oxfordshire. The plan is to head off just before 10am which means we (myself, Anne, Keith, Annie, and a few others) have 4 hours to make the 30 mile mark. On my commutes to and from work I have been averaging about 10 miles/hour so the 2pm cut-off should not be an issue.
Sunday 5th – ‘beginnings’
Before my bike gets one revolution on the course I need to get to the start line which, unfortunately, involves a 6 mile cycle. Kitted out with my CamelBak, a bottle full of SIS electrolyte drink and a small hoarding of nuts, protein bars and waterproof clothing in my panniers I began.
I got to Richmond station with a good 20 mins in hand and the train to Reading was on time. I’ve been to Reading station before and estimated that 9 minutes should be plenty of time to transfer across to the correct platform for my train to Didcot. I hadn’t however compensated for the Richmond train arriving at Reading 5 minutes late – it’s Sunday, the trains are empty – there is no reason for the train to be running late. The Didcot train was 6 platforms away and I managed to reach it as the train pulled in. However I was instructed to go to the front of the train which resulted in a sprint – along with around 7 other cyclists – a good 500 yards down the platform.
I arrived at the event at 9:45, a good 15 minutes behind schedule only to discover that – of our merry group – I was the first to arrive. Typical, the only one who cycled the 4 miles from station to event and I’m first!!
At 10:15 and a quarter of an hour behind schedule, the seven of us headed off. The weather was warm, a little overcast and the country roads were quiet. We stopped every 10 miles or so and for the first 40 miles were clocking around 13 miles an hour – the course was relatively flat, the roads were well made and the short ups always followed long downs.
We passed the ’20 miles to go’ at about 2:40 and had lost a couple of our number so we stopped at the next pub for a quick pint and to wait for our friends. at 3pm, we had about 15 miles to go, a drink in our bellies – the sun was out, the weather was warm – shorts warm – we were laughing. We’d be done by 4pm.
HILLS, HILLS, HILLS, HILLS, HILLS
The fist 40 miles had lulled us into a false sense of security and as the number of ascents ticked up our group got spread out. We lost Matt at the bottom of the second hill and Ann at the top. Annie and her friend disappeared off into the distance which left me chasing Keith for the next 7 miles. I caught up with him Annie and chum at a farm and we kept it together until the final 2 miles.
Relatively speaking the hills in the last 2 miles were nothing in comparison to the 13 miles previous, but 58 miles in and we were bushed. Once again out group were strung out over half a mile.
It took us, give or take around 5 hours 1o mins to complete the route. We were aiming for something between 5 and 5½ so I think the time was pretty respectable. We were not last either, some people had left after us and others had stopped at every pub on the way. While we waited for the rest of our team to arrive – and with the bar tent packed up, we decided to have an ice cream.
The cycle back to Didcot station – post cycle – was ok. I’m not going to lie, it hurt a bit, but I made it. After 2 hours on a train though, I had to walk the best part of my remaining journey as the stiffness had begun to set in. Still, a nice meal, a good nights sleep, pain killers and a bottle of SIS ReGo sorted me right out. The people behind the event, bikeevent.com did a sterling job on the day. The route was well signposted, loads of support (first aid, mechanics, marshals, bike collection vehicle, etc). A great atmosphere all round. I’d recommend them if you are looking for a cheap, endurance cycle – they seem to have an event pretty much every week.