This time last year snow had delayed this ride, although a couple of hardy souls actually rode, and completed it. Amongst them was Don Black, who very sadly passed away recently. A true gentleman and extraordinary randonneur, Don was the absolute antithesis of the all-the-gear-no-idea riders one sees a lot of these days, looking like he was riding to the shops but capable of tremendous distances. He also organised many great rides, and he will be sadly missed.
Back to the ride. The weather today was excellent. There was a stiff breeze but blue skies and the sun made an appearance, as did my legs! I chatted to Steve from Saddleworth Clarion before the ride, soon to be an audax movie star, and resplendent on his shiny new carbon audax bike!
Some 70-odd riders started and the first two controls come at around 35 miles and 65 miles – and they are small cafes so the trick is to get there near the front. So I set off quickly and picked my way to the front in the first 5 miles or so, and found myself riding with a chap on a Cervelo S2 with aero wheels – there were plenty of best bikes out but I was still on my winter hack. Cervelo guy was rapid. A wrong turn by me saw him open a few hundred metres on me and I struggled to get back on until he went wrong in Middlewich. I led him into the first control where I enjoyed a bacon butty and cup of tea (for £2 – bargain!) but he checked in and then set off – I never saw him again for the rest of the day.
It had been mostly downhill so far so I set off for the next section which was mostly uphill to Chirk – no real hills to speak of, but rolling countryside. Again I put down a quick pace because if you are late to the cafe in Chirk you can be held up for over half an hour just waiting. I caught most riders including a group at the front who I just rode through and off the front. With about 10 miles to Chirk they caught me – one minute I was alone, the next I looked back and there was a group of Seamons and Glossop Kinder Velo riders there. I went to the front and pushed hard. If you ride a bike you will understand that every so often you get into a groove that is unexplainable. Your mind and body simply gels and you almost effortlessly fly along. It doesn’t happen very often but when it does it’s hard to explain, and you just go with it. There was a burn within my legs but it felt good. My mind was completely focused on pedalling, and the miles just ticked down quickly. I could see the shadow of the guy behind me so I assumed everyone was there. As we approached Chirk he apologised for not taking a turn on the front because he was hanging on. I looked round and it was only him there.
After beans and egg on toast in Chirk I set off again – a bit slower now. The moment had passed and try as I might I couldn’t get the same rhythm back. The guy from Seamons had set off before me but I passed him – meeting him again at the final control at the Ice Cream Farm, which was ridiculously busy. He set off before me again and I eventually caught him and then we rode the last 15 miles through and off to the end at Poynton.
Ride stats : 129miles in 7hrs 22mins at 17.6mph average. 4,848ft ascent, 5,157kcals energy used. Average HR 137bpm