The alarm clock went on at 3:15, same time as for the Hailsham 400 and same time as for the 3Down 300, but anyway I can't get used to wake up so early. Even if that Friday I went to bed quite early.
The 400K experience has proved I was not going to be able to finish 600 without sleep, so my strategy to finish the 600 was based in two main points. The first was making sure I started without sleep deficit and to accomplish that I made sure that every day on that week I had slept at least 8 hours. The second point was to plan a stop to sleep on the route. The right moment/place appeared to be at km 345, a service by the M4 in Magor. The problem was that on that very same weekend there was a rugby final in Cardiff (which is "close" to Magor) and it was imposible to book any room on any hotel, motel or bed & breakfast in the area. Never mind, lets get a sleeping bag and hope that you'll be able to find a place to sleep. I'm so easy...
4:15 meeting Pete at his place.
5:15 arriving Midhurst.
My bike is the one on the ground
First thing I realized, out of the 35 cyclists I'm the one with more stuff on the bicycle.
Heavy loaded bicycle
Bag on the handlebar, bag on the back and the sleeping bag in a plastic bar, just in case it starts to rain. Apparently Peter was carrying the same stuff as for the 200K, and the same the rest. There is something I should be doing wrong.
6:00 it starts right away the Midhurst 600. My second ride organized by David "El Supremo" Hudson.
Very soon we were in New Alresford. And it was not needed that Pete asked me (he actually asked me) if I recognized the village. We visit it in the 300 and the 400. This time we didn't stop.
Soon enough we were in East Stratton. A beautiful village that we also visited at the 300 and/or (I don't remember) the 400.
Found on the internet, I can't take pictures as good as this one
It was clear we were riding on known roads, but that didn't stop us from getting lost.
The instruction was: "3.7 L no $ (down short hill & round R bend)". I'm riding on the front, followed by Pete. Here comes a road on the left, but it is a bit early according to my computer we didn't ride 3.7km just yet. Lets keep riding. The kilometer 3.7 went and we couldn't see any other road on the left. Lets keep riding a bit more. Nothing.
Ok, lets check with my mobile (which for me is like cheating but just a little bit). And obviously we missed the turn. We must turn back. At that moment I realized there is a third rider with us. He asked me if I were Javier. I said yes and he says he had read my blog (I also publish my riding reports at yacf.co.uk) he said he thought so because of my accent (which proves once again that my accent does not improve). His name is Daniel, and he is Sicilian. We ride together all the way back, in total 4 km. We take the right turn. Daniel in front, I second him and Pete closes the group.
Suddenly I hear Pete calling me. He has stopped. I stop aswel. Daniel didn't hear him and disappeared in the distance. I get to where Pete was and found out his left pedal is broken.
This doesn't look good. With only 60k in the route we managed to get lost and to get a serious mechanical breakdown. It seems the 600 will be entertained.
The pedal breakdown does not prevent us from continuing. The pedal gets out of the crank very easily, it remains attached to the shoe but if Pete pedal being careful no to slip off the pedal we can continue. He can't stand on the bike and we have 540K ahead, this is going to be hard for him.
Luckily the wind blows in our favor which makes us ride easily to the first contro. A control signed in the route sheet as "El Supremo feed" and that means food, drinks, chairs and unbeatable service.
Km 96 and my brevet card is stamped at 10:33. The cyclists at the control told us that at Marlborough there is a bike shop. Great! Marlborough is very close and it is on the route.
I thought I was rare Daniel was not at the control, he must be riding very fast.
Just before we get on the bikes again I ask Pete to take a picture of me. He took two.
That plastic bag is the sleeping bag
This one is much better, mainly because I'm far
On our way to Marlborough Pete realizes he forgot his helmet at the control. It is three or four kilometers so I asked him if he wanted to get back to get it. He refused the offer, he'll recover it at the next control marked as "El Supremo feed". At least he is wearing a cap...
We arrived to Marlborough and found out there was open market day. We lost some time trying to find the bike shop (Bertie Maffoon's Bicycle Co) it was not precisely on the high street.
That sleeping bag that shines in every picture
Sadly we found out they couldn't help us. Pete's pedal is not the most common one and they don't have anything similar.
We consider getting off the route to visit another bike shop but Pete refused to lose more time. He said it was going to be difficult the other store carried those pedals.
We get on the bikes and very soon we arrived to Cirencester. Km 146, it's 13:33, we stopped at the Tesco, lunch time. I take the opportunity to eat one of the pasta salad portions I was carrying.
The mood is good, the wind keeps blowing in our favor and we passed by Brockhampton which I know I marked its name in the route sheet but now I don't remember why.
This is one of the roads nice, quiet and flat
At the kilometer 174 we found out that the post is collected at 5:45 in Winchcombe. It would have been better to remember why I marked Brockhampton.
Just after that "info control" the instruction was (the bold was in the original) "R (Gambles La) Very very steep" and it was true...
Pete getting ready to ride down a 25%
A 25% not less, It also fits my description of "very very steep".
When my computer said it was km 200 I mentioned it to Pete. 1/3rd of the route, but I'm not sure if he got my comment.
At km 215 we had another control. We had to get a ticket. Our intention was not to stop too much so I went into a super and bought a kinder bueno and right away we continued our route. It's getting cold and the wind blows hard and sometimes on our faces, the sky turned dark grey, at my Google Buzz I declared myself tired.
Still being that stage only 56km and the next control a "El Supremo feed" was a great incentive. El Supremo had said he was going to have English Muffins, that sounded great.
At the route sheet I have Hildersley marked, I think it is because it was a nice village but I don't remember any more. I need to improve my on the route notes...
On our way to the control we started to see cyclists riding in the opposite direction. It seems we will have to take this road back, and that was bad news. The steep was slightly favorable and the wind was mainly in our tail. Too bad to ride in the opposite direction.
We arrived the control at 20:27, we were at km 271. Not bad, we are three hours and a half ahead the time limit, we have 74km until next control in Magor, just were we wanted to sleep.
El Supremo kept his promise and recently toasted English Muffins where waiting for us. He also had toasted with melted cheese. I almost cried!! An Pete got his helmet back!!
Before we set off we got ready for the night and the rain. I put on arm warmers, leg warmers, gore-tex sockets, a shirt, gloves and the rain coat, turn on the lights and started to cycle in the darkness, the rain and the wind on our faces.
To ride 74 km when you already have 271 in your legs, its night, rains and the wind blows agains you is not the best of cycling, but not sure why I wasn't feeling too bad, in fact I was at the edge of the enjoyment. In my mind I was seeing myself lying in the floor at a caffe in Magor and asking Pete to take a picture to upload it at the blog before falling sleep for tree or four hours and somehow that made me happy.
We saw Daniel, he was cycling in the opposite direction, still had to get to the control. That's weird, what is he doing behind us?
The conditions were not good and the easiest way of describing it is looking to our times. More than 4 hours to ride 74km, less than 18.5 km/h average speed!!
We finally got to Magor service area, it was still raining and we followed the only light we saw. It was a petrol station!!!!!
Why the admiration marks?
Well that was an ordinary petrol station. It had a small shop where you could even order a coffe, but there is NO WAY YOU COULD SLEEP THERE.
AND OUT SIDE IS COLD AND RAINING...
Hey, this is more than a positive mind can cope. What were we going to do? keep going? I was really tired and on these conditions we would move too slowly. Try to find somewhere to sleep on the street? didn't sound like a tempting plan either.
Pete's mind was clearer than mine, as always, because it was him the one that said "There must be a restaurant in this service area, there are no cyclists here". And I think the mentioned that two or three times before I realized he was right. Those service areas usually have a restaurant or coffe shop and it was true there were no cyclist there.
I got into the petrol station store and asked the guy that was behind the counter. Because he answered I knew he had understood me but I had no clue what he said. I realized we were in Wales.
I asked again but this time gesturing and he answered again gesturing and pointing in one direction. I took note of the direction he was point out, said good night and left the store without understanding a word. I have the impression that not all was my fault.
I told Pete there is a restaurante and it is in that direction, the direction that was pointed to me.
And to that direction we set off...
And there was a restaurant there...
And there were cyclists there, around 20 I guessed
As soon as we entered I analyzed the situation. This looks much better. I ordered a glass of hot milk to get the ticked I needed to prove I was there. It's 1:41. Got muesli from my bags and had it with the milk. Got my sleeping bag and went to an area of the restaurant that was close, the chairs on the tables, I lay in the floor and got in the sleeping bag. All very quickly, very efficient...
"What is this?"
This sleeping bag is VERY small. It is one of my daughters' sleeping bag. 345 kilometers carrying a sleeping bag just to find it only covered up to my chest.
Never mind I'm so tired that I just want to sleep. I told Pete were I was laying, he was still eating something at the restaurant and talking with other cyclists. I falled sleep in less than a minute.
And I now realize that I was so focussed on getting to sleep as soon as possible that I forgot to ask Pete to take a picture of me on my sleeping bag. It's a pity because I think it would look great here.
I woke up startled, Pete was calling me. I had slept only three hours but I don't feel too bad.
A quick wash and I changed my clothes. Now I'm wearing the Pakefte maillot, the one to be used in special moments and I was going to beat my own distance record.
This is not from the route but it will help you to get the idea
I saw Dainel and asked him what had happened the day before. He told me they got lost (we are not the only ones) and they had lost a lot of time to get to the route again.
Peter came saying we had to move on. I thought we were going to have breakfast but as I saw he wanted to depart as soon as possible I ate a muffing and one my energy bars, put my rain coat on, still wet, and set off.
It was daylight outside, the air is damp but it has stopped raining, which was great.
At the first roundabout, 200 meters on the route, we got the wrong exit and when we got to an unexpected roundabout we had to check (cheat) with the mobile again.
Lets turn back.
When we went into the route again I saw it was 5 in the morning, next stage was 95 kilometers and we barely could say we had breakfast.
At the beginning we were riding in a valley, a really flat road. The sky had no clouds, "it's going to be hot today" I thought.
Very quickly we got to the A48 and we stayed there for many kilometers. We were riding easily, talking about Paris-Bres-Paris and bicycle parts. About wheels. What is better 23 or 25. Continental or any other brand. The only moment I knew anything about what were talking about was when I said I had Continental 4 Seasons and I had had no a single flat tire in my brevets. Too much level for me. I just pretended I knew what it was about and tried to learn as much as possible, but you know what, I have forgotten everything.
We passed a small construction, I think it was a bus stop, and I saw a cyclist sitting inside eating. I wondered if he had slept there.
The A48 is a boring road, going up and down. At least there was not traffic at those morning hours.
It was 6:36 when we got to Lydney were we learnt the pharmacy is named "Lloyds". Another "info control" done.
A48 for 24 additional kilometers. It really felt so long...
But we got to one instruction that said: "Long tough climb, take it easy". Again the bold was in the original.
According to the route sheet it was 2.7 kilometers. "That's not long" I thought.
We stopped before the climb to take off of some unneeded clothes. Two cyclists passed us. One of them was is the cyclist I don't know her name from the 400, she said hello as she passed us. Pete finished before me and set off first. A girl riding a white horse also passed while I was stopped. I took my time, changed gloves and put black lenses on my glasses. When I started it was a good pace; lets pass those 2.7 kilometers.
Upss, it seems this is not that easy, lets change gear.
There is the girl riding the white horse. I passed them, but I was pedaling standing on the bike.
There is Pete. He is walking. Even though he had learnt to stand on the bike with that lose pedal he can't push hard enough to climb this hill. I passed him.
Uhmm this is really hard, let me put the easiest gear.
There are the other two cyclists. They are walking too.
I have the temptation of putting my foot on the ground, it's not worth the effort, we still have 200km to go, but I passed. I don't like putting my foot on the ground when I ride.
I couldn't reach the two cyclists. As soon as the road easies they get on their bikes and now the are faster than me.
That looks like the end of the climb. Not sure how but I finished the climb and took note that 2.7 can be really long, specially if you have 400k in your legs are the hill looks like this one.
Once on the top of Birdlip hill the wind became more violent and clouds starter to appear everywhere. The sky went dark and before we could realized it started to pour water. We soaked in no time, barely had time to put on our rain coats. It was only a few kilometers, around 15, but they pounded us, left us frozen and soaked.
When we arrived to Cirencester I realized we were at the Tesco in the km 146. Pete suggested having breakfast at McDonals, the famous american food restaurant chain, but I remembered there was a restaurant at Tesco and suggested to go there. Pete agreed.
And it was great he agreed. They had English breakfast, which probably, only probably, is not the most the most recommended meal in the sportive nutrition manuals, but it was really appealing to me, at that specific time and moment. A piece of chocolate cake and a portion of pasta salad and there you go, the perfect breakfast.
"Powerful breakfast", graphic definition
It's 10:40 in the morning we are at km 450. Thanks to the breakfast and the heat at the restaurant I stopped shivering.
When we started again the storm had gone, the sun was even shinning a little bit, just a little bit. Anyway I don't trust the weather so I put back white lenses, winter gloves, leg warmeers, etc, etc. No storm will catch me unprepared.
The roads in this part of the route were really quiet and we felt, at least I felt, a certain lethargy. We are riding very slow, aournd 15km/h. I'm all the time doing mental calculations. Averages, ETAs, all sort of calculations to try to distract my brain (when I should have been focussed on following the route sheet). One of those calculations told me we are too slow. At this speed anything unexpected can left us out of the time. We need to speed up a bit.
I told Pete my theory. I suggested we should be riding at least at 20km/h to save some time. I think he agreed, in fact he lived up the pace a bit, but not really that much. I guessed he was tired, I was feeling all right so I set myself at his pace.
Suddenly I realized my front wheel has a flat tire (no more "no-flat tires on my brevets"). I shouted to warn Pete but he couldn't hear me. Very quickly I started to change the inner tube. Surprisingly I was very quick. I remembered the Wheelers had kind of competition timing flat tire amendments. It's a shame I have no witnesses or I didn't time myself because I was pretty fast. In fact when I reached Pete at the next turn where he was waiting for me he told me he thought I was taking off my rain coat. One of this days I'm going to be asked to join McClaren (in the Spanish version I used Ferrari, after all Fernando Alonso is also from Asturias)
At km 476 we learnt the pub in Calne is "Bug & Spider". No pints, an energy bar for me a gel for Pete.
We are now riding a bit faster still when we arrived to the control at Burbage, the last "El Supremo feed" we we only 28 ahead of the time limit. Too tight!
The control at Burbage was at the same place of one of the controls in the 400
This picture is from the Hailsham 400 but it looked the same at the 600
And as at that time El Supremo had beans on a toast ready for us.
This picture is also from the Hailsham 400 but it also looked the same at the 600
I also ate the last portion of pasta salad, my bicycle is going to be lighter from now on.
"only" 92km in two stages to go. This is started to sound easy.
Very soon we joined a third rider, Peter. We were riding at a good pace, the wind was favorable, Pete does most of the talking. He has a friend in Galicia, a place in the north of Spain and when he was young he used to compete and one of the races was climbing Birdlip hill (does long 2.7 km ring a bel?).
I feel great. In the hills I keep my pace and left my colleagues behind, we re-group at the top. At the top of one of those mini-climbs the instruction was "R @ T" (right at T) I reached the point, read "R @ T" and did "L @ T" (left at T) and keept climbing up the road. When they called me I had already done half of the climb. I was great physically but I can't say I was really focussed following the route sheet.
Next village was New Alresford, again. It was the fourth time we passed by New Alresford in three brevets. This is the same picture I used for the 300 and 400 but, hey, by chance we were half a dozen cyclists there and the scene was very similar to the one in the picture.
This is how the Tesco Express at New Alresford looks like at any brevet
We had saved some time in the last stage and now we were an hour and a half ahead of the time limit, but we didn't want to stop for long time. There were only 37 km to go, the sooner we started the sooner we would finish. Following the philosophy of "you have beaten you body so give it whatever it asks for" I ended up drinking half a pint of mile and a few jellys; weird asks by body has.
The last kilometers were a triumphal march. We partnered with Peter and Paul and the four of us rode a good pace in favorable roads. We knew we were finishing so the kilometers flew away. The closer we were to Midhurst the more agile our pace was (as agile as it can be when you have 600k in your legs), there was not sprint at the end but we finished as champions.
At the entrance of Midhurst there were other cyclists and we stopped there to chat with them. Pete told them that was my first 600 and one of them assured me if I had finished that 600 I would have no problem to finish the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200, I'm not really that convinced.
Very close there was a petrol station and there we went to get our last receipt. It's 20:33 and once again I gave my body what it was asking for...
These are the numbers:
- Kilometers: 609.47 (at yacf.co.uk someone said it was 6322m climbing)
- Total time: 38 hours 33 minutes
- Time riding: 29 hours 54 minutes 10 seconds
- Time stopped: 8 hours 38 minutes 50 seconds (3 of them sleeping)
- Average speed: 20.38 km/h
- Max speed: 58.20 km/h
- Avg. heart rate: 103 ppm (106ppm in Saturday's 22:36:37, 98ppm on Sunday's 16:15:15)
- Max heart rate: 180 ppm (climbing Birdlip hill ...)
- Calories consumed: 12.114 Kcal
- My bicycle has 5.678 km
- This is the 40th time I ride a road bike in my life
Javier Arias González