The second we started to ride, it started to rain. It was Gavin, a fellow Kingston Wheeler and me. Starting towards the end of the field, forty odd riders. We rode a good pace so we very quickly passed most of them.
The first café stop was at km 67.4 By that time we had been on the bike for around two hours and a half, we had climbed two decent hills and a bunch of tiny climbs all that in heavy rain and wind in the exposed areas. Normally I wouldn't stop so early in the ride but we were soaked and the idea of a hot chocolate was simply too tempting.
At this café is where finally I met Alex in person. He was arriving when we were about to leave and he was of the idea that it was too early to stop so decided to join us. Not for long though; in the first climb he pushed too hard for us so we let him go a bit later we caught him but very soon we drop him. That was the last time we saw him in the route.
It was still raining at times, we still had to climb two decent hills and another bunch of small climbs and we were still facing wind in the exposed sections until we made it to the point 120k where the flat section started.
A flat section, all exposed, all with head wind so I did the silly thing to do. I pushed and pushed trying to keep the same pace. The problem was I only had gasoline until km 140, around that point I blew up. I had nothing in the tank. My pace dropped so rapidly that Gavin knew I was struggling so he moved to the front and set the pace for me. It was hard to keep up with his pace, but he rescued me. I downed a gel and tried to ride as close to him as possible.
We made it to the control (154km) and there we met Chris, the rider that was in the front. We had lunch with him and another rider in blue jersey (I have seen him in several rides, but never got his name). I devoured my pasta salad and a piece of cake I got at the café. By the time I was ready to go Chris and the blue jersey rider were gone. "They are a puncture away" said Gavin.
We rode slowly. Not only we were digesting our food but also we had to cross Flokestone and Dover, cycle lines shared with pedestrians didn't contribute to speed things up. Not to mention two step climbs that waken our lets.
By the time we were descenting onto Deal we saw Chris repairing a puncture on the left. We asked him if he needed help and as he said he was ok we carried on. Anyway the next control was very close and when we were about to leave he showed up.
From that moment we were three riding together. Still riding easy, chatting and enjoying the sun and the tail wind. It was difficult to believe how grim the conditions were in the morning and how nice the afternoon was. In fact when we made it to Macaris Ice Cream Parlour café (km 227) I ordered a white chocolate ice cream. I think I could afford the extra calories.
Around 10 minutes after us arrived another rider (I don't know his name but he was wearing a yellow jacket so he will be the yellow rider). He was ready to go when we were about to leave so the group of three became a group of four.
Fresh we were and started to pedal. Very soon, after 11 hours working my garmin said it was running low in battery. I stopped to plug it to my dynamo and told the others to carry on, I'd catch them up.
Plugged the GPS and started to pedal full speed without pressing the ok button in the GPS. The problem was I made it to a T intersection and that didn't make sense with the route sheet. Pressed ok in the GPS, looked at the map and figured I had to ride back. By the time I was on route I couldn't see them so I pressed on. And pushed, and pushed, and pushed. In one crossroad Gavin was waiting for me and said the other two were about 30 seconds ahead. He jumped on my wheel and I tried to close the gap. You know when you have a group that is so close that you are almost there but they are still so far away that you can't even shout at them and you push and you push and it seems the gap never closes and you are about to give up and you only keep pushing because you hate giving up. That was me.
Looking at the numbers it took me around 16km and 35 minutes to catch them, the last 13 minutes, the bit that did with Gavin in my wheel, I did an average of 250w Not bad for a chopper like me with 240km in the legs. Now, if I had recovered from the first part of the ride all was gone now. Got a wheel, downed a second gel and took it easy from there.
Luckily there were not surges. We were riding very well together, helping each other with the navigation and with the info controls. A bit of a chat here and there and the kilometers were passing
Still there was another point where I was about to crack. Gavin had stopped for some reason so I told the other two I would stop to wait for him. They kept going.
By the time Gavin appeared they were about a minute ahead of us and we were climbing. Gavin passed me, I tried to jump on his wheel but I couldn't make it. He was in the distance and I shouted "they are too far away we won't bridge the gap" but I think he didn't hear me so we kept pushing it a bit. It was the desire to not riding alone at this point what kept me going.
Chris and the rider in yellow should have eased quite a bit because despite all my struggling we eventually caught them. And that was nice, it gave us the opportunity to keep the group together.
And that was all. The ride finishes with a climb and have way through it the rider in yellow increased the pace with Chris on his wheel. I couldn't bother we were about 5k from the finish and was wasted.
We made it to the hq around 20:00 which means a 14 hours ride, including stops (12:13 riding). Not bad considering the weather in the first half.
The ride in Strava
Notes for future editions:
- You don't need to carry your own food in this event, the controls are set that way that you would stop at a café around 8 (km 67.4) for breakfast, around 12:30 (km 154.5) in another café for lunch and around 16:00 (km 227) for a afternoon snack to make it back to the HQ around 20:00.
- Take your lunch at the café at km 154.5. You can get hot food and they were fast serving. It is pointless to delay lunch because the following two sections are too slow and the next control is in a small shop. You won't get another café until km 227 and those 72 km will take you more than three hours.
- Because after the café at km 154.5 the sections are slow (cycle lines, crossing Flokestone and Dover, riding the sea front, sharing part of the ride with pedestrians) take it easy to the next café (km 227) it'll give you the opportunity to digest your launch and recover your legs. From this point you will be able to push it again if your want.
- If you want to take this ride as a training ride all out from the start to the control at km 154.5. Have launch there. Take it easy until control 227 and all out again until the end. It will be plenty.