lunes, 10 de mayo de 2021

Back to Hop Gardens 200

 Proper, non-flat ride (

Not the fastest of the rides. It could look strange considering Julian and I always ride at a decent pace and are fairly efficient with our stops. But yesterday there were other factors.

Let’s start pointing out this event has a lot of controls, both info and free controls. That forces you to stop either to take note of the answer to to buy something at a shop, petrol station or coffee shop. From memory, I think we had 10 controls, an average of one every 20kms!

We also had a fair bit of cross and headwinds for most of the day.  True, the last 60 kms the wind was mostly tail wind, and that was very welcome, but you know 60km of mostly tailwind does never compensate for the 140 initial kilometres mostly cross and headwinds.

Then you had that Julian’s garmin stopped working very early in the ride. That made me responsible for navigating the route. I still claim I am great navigating routes but I’ll have to admit I got it wrong in more than one turn. Fair to say Julian never complained, I’m starting to suspect he even enjoyed the extra distance. 

And finally we got the visit of The Puncture Fairy. First me, then Julian, then Julian again, then me again, then Julian again, then a group that included the rider that lent Julian an inner tube so we felt compelled to stop with them. Each stop was taking us longer as we were being more and more careful inspecting the tyres. It turns out it was not only us. At the end we were told several riders had reported punctures. Weird because the roads weren’t that bad. But, hey, at least we got a good training refresher on how to repair a puncture.

Now, if we were that slow you might ask yourself how come that I got a PR for most of the segments in the route.

There is an explanation for it.

I rode the Hop Gardens exactly 6 years ago, in 2015 ( 8 weeks after I had broken my left femur. With 48 kilometres in my legs as previous training. The Hop Gardens was my first classification brevet in my attempt to ride Paris-Brest-Paris 2015. At the time I wrote the report only in Spanish ( but, long story short, that was a very, very hard ride for me. Probably the hardest ride I've ever done. Had to put the step down and walk three times (me, the one that, unlike some of my Saturday Gang mates, won’t name and shame, didn’t have to walk up the Angliru in the many times I have climbed it). It took me almost 13 hours to finish the ride and that was with only stopping for one hour and a half. That was almost 11 hours and a half sitting on the saddle as I didn’t have the strength to stand on the bike for long. My Brooks saddle got so deformed after that ride because I was compensating heavily with my right leg that I had to scratch it. My moving speed averaged 18.6 km/h, finished with 32 minutes to spare and I was very, very tired by the end.

That is why yesterday I couldn’t care less about our speed. For me it was all about enjoying the ride. Every so often I’d recognise a bit of the road, a climb and I’d remember how hard it was six years ago. Nothing compared to yesterday, I was fresh at the start, legs felt strong all day, I was riding with Julian, weather wasn’t too bad, Kent was showing at its best. 

Was there (just another) control? Relax and take your time. Head wind in the flat section? Hands on the drops and find your rhythm. You have just missed a turn? Put a smile and blame the Garmin, that always works. Another puncture!!??!! That’s a welcomed pee stop, an opportunity to have a chat, to have a laugh. After all, we are definitely going to be faster than I was 6 years ago and my Strava is going to be full of PRs (129, I counted them). That is the right metric to measure the quality of a ride, isn’t it?

Pd. The competitive side in me has just realised that if I ride the 600 I rode 6 years ago 10 weeks after I broke my leg I am likely to get even more PRs in a single ride. Something to consider.

The ride in Strava: 

Take Care

Javier Arias Gonzalez

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