It sounded okay, 100 miles round the beautiful Cotswold
countryside, easy enough for someone who rides a bike and who regularly
clocks up 80+ miles on a Sunday ride! Well my goodness this
was much, much harder than I had anticipated and actually I think
harder than the ride in July in the Dolomites!!
I did a recce of the course on Saturday in torrential rain and high winds and I must admit that seeing the rivers of water cascading down the road and the extremely large puddles at the bottom of some of the descents did nothing for my confidence levels. However, Sunday dawned sunny and somewhat warmer, my spirits rose accordingly and we set off in fine fettle.
The first part of the route was great, mostly flat roads gave the legs a good warm up before the first climb which tested the lungs and got us all into the climbing groove. The next two category climbs went okay; Tysoe at about 1.5 miles long and nearly 200 metres was the hardest so far with about 100 meters at 18%!
By the time we reached the first feed stop the nerves had settled down a bit but I knew that I wouldn't be entirely happy until I had got the Sudely climb over and done with! We were deep in the Cotswolds now and the roads are never flat, you are always going up or down and it always feels more up than down!!! After a serious descent into Winchcombe and a quick refreshment stop we were ready to tackle 'that hill'!
Col du Sudley started off fairly gently but soon tested the legs with a 1.5 mile stretch of between 17% & 18%, definitely an out of the saddle effort here, many walkers on this one! However, other than having to stop to draw breath I managed it without any walking involved, for which I was mightily relieved!!
So now there were only two more category climbs ... Snowshill first (1.5 miles/300 meters), harder than I expected but that could have been because the legs were now getting tired, another stop to allow the lungs to recover but again accomplished without walking, so now just one to go.
With quite a lot more climbing before the last feed stop the legs and back were definitely starting to complain, as the last feed station was actually half a mile off the route (involving another climb!) we decided not to visit and just had our own stop at the roadside to take on water, energy gels and bars.
Approaching the last category climb we did a time check and decided that as we were now extremely tired and getting slower by the minute we would take the official diversion and miss out the Larkstoke climb. This proved to be a very sensible decision as unbeknown to us there was a lot more climbing to be done before we reached the finish, in fact at this point even small inclines were assuming much greater proportions and were becoming great mountains to our tired legs!
A swift downhill finish took us over the finish line in 8 hours 35 mins, not anywhere near what our initial target had been but a finish nevertheless. A hot cup of tea and post ride route discussion completed what was a very satisfying day.
I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to Gail and Lisa for their support and encouragement and in particular to Lisa who was with me every step of the way and rode really well providing inspiration for me to get up those climbs, without her it would have been so very much harder.
I am extremely touched at how generous my friends and colleagues have been in support of my efforts to raise some funds for the Shakespeare Hospice and I am very, very grateful to you all.
For those of you who like data ....
7hrs 56mins riding time
8hrs 35mins total time
12.6 mph average speed
2034 metres of climbing
Hardest climb was Sudely Castle approx 4 miles long about 300 metres of climbing with about 1.5 miles at 17%-18%