Myself (left) and Andy at the back
Had a really manic week last week. Wednesday I flew out to the Black Forest in Germany and pretty much ate my own body weight in meat and twice as much again in cheese. Nice place though, must have been some really good riding around in the hills but unfortunately we had no bikes to test the tracks with. I had been entered into a race in the Black Forest on the Sunday but had to fly back for the L2B. Saturday, I flew back into Manchester at lunchtime, and after a bit of a moment at the long term parking where they couldn't find my van keys and then being blocked in by 6 other cars, I drove home, threw my bike in and then cruised the 240 miles to Brighton to drop my van off. Mike kindly came and picked me and my bike up and we headed back up to London arriving just before midnight. Basically, on Saturday I drove 486 miles and flew 716 miles. On top of that we had to get up at 4.30am which would give us 4 hours sleep. Perfect for the 70 miles of riding the next day!
Andy on the Downs...
Sunday morning dawned and so did the realisation that I was so tired I had not even noticed that the air bed I slept on wasn't pumped up. Quick bowl of cereal and a few glasses of water and we (Andy, Mike, Michelle, my friend Richy and myself cruised to the start line as a gentle warm up). We managed to get away in the 4th group, which meant a lot of traffic ahead. In fact twice as much as last year as we got away in the second group then. It always amazes me that when 30,000 bikes hit the route, there's always people who think it's fine to ride like there's nobody else on the route. Flipping move to the left! Unfortunately we lost about 10 minutes through London and this was enough to mean we didn't break the time from last year.
The rest of the ride was pretty standard really, conditions were perfect again with a slight tailwind and occasional sunshine, and having an extra player in the group (Andy) meant it was easier taking turns up front. Mike I think was paying the price for not riding so much, and didn't do as much up front as we would have liked, but sure he'll sort it out for the next challenge! The other thing was that Andy was on his TT bike. He'd be setting the pace and then drop down on to his aero bars and it was like he was changing up a gear.
Andy on the TT bike
The final climb was a lot easier than last year, I took it steady on the build up, and cruised up it ok. Wasn't out of breath or anything, but half way up I got hit my cramp! Tried to ride through it but in the end had to jump off the bike and stretch. Got back on again, blasted to the top and it hit again just before the peak. Pretty gutted to be honest, as I think I wound down too much on the approach to conserve energy. In fact that may have been why I cramped. Lost probably another 5 minutes from this. The ride down was way quicker than last year, and clocked a mighty 48.3 mph. Another 1.7 mph and would have broken the magic 50 barrier!
Me trying to shake the cramp out at the top of Ditchling Beacon
We crossed the line in 2 hours 53 minutes and 53 seconds, but without the traffic and 'better leg management' could have easily broken 2:40. Don't think we're going to do the ride again, it's getting to the point now where the earlier you can get to the start line is having more affect than actually training for the event. Richy crossed the line soon after and came in at about 3 hours 20 minutes. Somehow he even managed to go the wrong way on one part of it...
Pictures courtesy of Mikey 'Slipstream' Gwynn above! All taken at about 20 mph...
Congratulations to everybody who completed the ride, and condolences to the family and friends of the poor chap who died whilst attempting the last climb. The organisers wisely took the decision to stop people from cycling up in the end and made them walk.