One good turn...
Early doors sees us leaving Bristol to join the other 1400 participants of this now widely acclaimed – and somewhat notorious – ride in Somerset and Wiltshire. It is my third visit to the ride in Longleat, a stunning Elizabethan stately home and its 4,000 acre grounds which host the start/finish and also a wonderful dose of stunning scenery as you make your way up the first climb.
We opt for the 100km route, last year saw snow and rain – this year is due for rain, wind and hail, not to mention the considerable acclivity of the day. (Yes, I am aware of Rule #5!) After bidding farewell to Counts, Sirs, Marquesses, Earls, Dukes, Ladies, Gentlemen of Trek Bicycles and our friends at Bay Cycles we set off through the grounds and take in the sights along the way.
It’s cold, but only for a few moments before we reach a beautiful climb out of the grounds that takes our breath away physically and metaphorically.
The road is stricken with punctured comrades from shale washed into the road, I think the term is ‘Busman’s holiday’ - I offer mechanical assistance and donate my only CO2 canister to their cause. There will be no more stopping today, unless it is for cake or coffee, or both.
The number of rolling, stunning and gruelling climbs is unclear to me – but what is clear, is that the anticipation of the WI cake Yapp Wines version of Service Course, is easily enough to drag me up the ludicrously steep Alfred’s Tower (pretty sure I saw 19% on a GPS elevation). Twice in fact, the second time to pick up my wife and a gel packet dropped by a straggler.
Winding around the narrow muddy lanes up and over rolling hills through historic villages past Hugh Sexey School in Bruton we see some sideways winds, sideways hale stones, some fast descents and a much needed stop for a mocha, soft speciality cheese, a vegan flapjack, a small glass of red wine, more speciality cheese and a bap. Just before beating it up the last stiff climb of the day. A combination best avoided in future.
It always amazes me that someone will give up their Sunday afternoon to marshal an event and give encouragement to people riding their bikes. One such person assured us that the last climb of the day was not far away and that it wasn’t that hard. Her optimism and encouragement –although entirely fraudulent – reminded me of Conor’s mantra ‘This is good for me’, so we pushed on through the final few kilometres battling howling crosswinds and were rewarded with applause and medals from children and posh looking dogs after an entirely pointless sprint to the finish.. Living the dream.
I finished my free vegetarian chilli and can of cold pelegrino in the finishers marquee chatting to muddy faced, gaunt looking weekend warriors. It looked like everyone had fun – by fun I mean suffering of course.
Back again next year for the century.