I soon I stepped out of the car I started to meet not only people I have ridden with but also a couple of Wheelers, Gavin and Sarah. What a great surprise. Gavin was going to ride it with his brother and nephew going for the full value and Sarah was riding with her friend (I missed his name). I thought riding full value was too slow for me so I decided to ride with Sarah and her friend.
Problem was that one minute before the start, when we were all lining up waiting for the go. A rider let me know that I had missed one screw in the back rack. It took me a while to sort it out and when I finally was ready to go everyone was already gone. So I decided to push it to see if I was able to catch with Sarah and her friend.
I rode the first hour fairly hard (252w NP, IF 0.87), I passed a lot of riders but no sign of them. At km 47 I arrived to the first control and they were there. I quickly got a ticket as prove of pass and since they were about to go I kept my stop short so I could join them.
The problem was I needed a pee stop so as soon as we left the village and I could found a suitable place I let them go again. When I finished my business jumped back on the bike and pushed it again to try to catch with them.
It turned out they were not riding that slow and it took me longer than expected to caught them. By the time I did they were riding with a third rider, a Dulwich Paragon. And just a minute after I caught up with them my rear mudguard got broken and I had to stop to fix it. There I go pushing it again trying to catch up with the trio that was riding in front of me.
It was not until km75 when I finally joined them. First at the back trying to get my breath back and them taking the occasional turn on the front. At km 100 we made it to the second control.
The trio decided to sit down at the cafe and eat something but I didn't want to stop for long so after a couple of minutes I was back on the bike.
A rider that was also departing at the same time joined me and soon enough, without even saying a word we found ourselves taking turns and riding at a decent pace.
It didn't last very long though. In one of the turns I was at the front, I realized it's been a while since the other rider has passed to take his turn and looked back just to find out he was not there. He had disappear, not sure what happened to him.
There I found myself alone and without a clear plan to follow. But that lasted only a few seconds because very quickly I did some calculations and figured that finishing the ride before 15:30 would be a good objective. I "only" needed to keep an average speed of 26km/h (including stops) challenging because I was already paying for the efforts in the first half but possible if I managed to pace myself correctly.
If you are riding alone everything is easier if you have an objective in mind. All my thoughts were focused towards the goal. How am I eating? Am I going too fast/slow? Isn't this head wind a bit stronger now? Get in the drops to be a bit more aero?
The last 10k before the third control (km 150) I struggled quite a bit (NP 190w, IF 0.65), finishing before 15:30 was still possible but now looked more challenging. At the control I met another rider, chatted with him for a minute and saw him depart while I was drinking my chocolate milk. Ate, drank and tried to recover for 10 minutes and back on the road again.
In the first 10k after that control I was still struggling (now I see in the profile those kms were mostly uphill) but slowly I started to feel better and better (now I see in the profile those kms were mostly downhill) and before I know I was 30km from the finish and again passing lots of riders.
I have to mention that I was surprised I was passing those riders. They didn't look fast or fit enough to be that far ahead into the ride. I also passed the rider that I had met at the third control. Legs appeared to have recovered a bit, it looked as I could finish before 15:30 and I was feeling great on the bike.
Suddenly I passed through a village I recognized that bit of the road. I was now in the road that was the final stretch of the Flatlands 600 and part of the final stretch of LEL2013. And that was relevant because I realized exactly what I had in front of me. A series of ups and downs that prevents you from sustaining any kind of rithm and kills your legs.
It didn't matter to me. Surprisingly I was feeling great and attacked every up on my big chainring and kept pushing it downhill.
My brevet card was stamped at the final control at 15:23. To my surprise I was told I was the first one finishing the ride. All those riders I was passing and those that were already at the final control were riding the short version of the ride (100km). I was very surprised because almost 8 hours to finish a mostly flat 200k is not riding that fast, in any case I was happy with the effort I had done.
The final control was well catered. Had a vegetable soup, a ham and cheese sandwich, a couple of glasses of milk. Talked a bit with the riders that were hanging around. Sarah, her friend and the Dulwich rider arrived around and I extended my stay to catch up with them before I called it a day and headed home with a smile in my face.
This is the ride in Strava
Javier Arias González