At the risk of going all Brexit, first things first it’s not a randonnee, we’re in England so it’s a cycle ride or even a race! … one of many things that befuddle me with cycling!!!
I had to pack two days before, as had a wedding on the Saturday (not that wise to start a race on the hottest day ever, slightly jaded on the previous days Summer Lightening ale…). Anyway I had to pack:
- Helmet – OK makes sense,
- Padded shorts that do no one any favours,
- Over shorts because no one wants to see that (a courtesy no one else shares in the cycling world),
- A lycra top with pockets in the back (which when you fill, accentuate your curves in the frontal area and make you look like Homer Simpson after a skinfull),
- Clippy cloppy shoes that make sure when you fall, you really hurt yourself,
- Cycling gloves to make sure you get a tan on only the tips of your fingers,
- A saddle bag with tools I have no idea what to do with and an inner tube I’ll give to Jenny to do something with if I get a puncture,
- A front bag full of sweets, food, money, phone and god knows what else; and
- A million other things, a pump (dual action which is good I’m told), a ratio of 10 wine gums per km etc etc etc.
Anyway after a great wedding, I got to wear shorts and play with a light sabre, I had a McDonalds with my sister in law (carb loading) and went to bed, not really sure what was going to happen the next day…
(That’s Hannah in the white jacket, my sister in law. You marry both, not just one, but she does make exceedingly good cakes! She was road testing her outfit for a wedding next weekend and wanted to see how it looked next someone with natural style…)
Anyway, we met at the ferry terminal with a million other people and loaded up. The motley crew for the day who would form our pelaton in an echalon (cycling….):
- Jenny, on her new bike which she didn’t mention at all, all day! I’m doing Ride London with her and she can’t wait!!!
- Simon, he used to be a scrum half, helps coach at rugby and is permanently annoyingly cheerful
- Mark, my long suffering brother in law…
- Grahame, somehow got roped in when he mentioned in passing to Jenny he once owned a bike
- Dan, Jenny’s long suffering husband to be. The more I get to know him the less I think he’s actually deaf
- Pete, I play rugby with, after 10km he realised we were quite slow and escaped (can’t blame him!)
- Ashley, Jenny’s cycling buddy (she didn’t mention that much) who had to stop injured half way which Jenny was very pleased about as she had finally broken him after many years of trying!
Something else for non-cyclists! Dan gave me his pot of Chamois cream to use on the ferry, it turns out double dipping is fine in cycling! I applied liberally and then realised it was minty and definitely cooled the area. What’s wrong with old fashioned vaseline….
We set off and the 100km course is very hilly in ridiculous heat. The main climbs come at about 60ish km and broadly we stuck together stopping every so often to allow Jenny or me to catch up (she was on a new bike you know, she has to learn about it, she wasn’t slow, it was the bike, understand). Good aid stations where we all drank buckets of water and waited for Mark to finish his personal time in the loo…
From a personal perspective, the first 30-40 km were miserable, just a slog. It had nothing to do with having a hangover… once that passed, I seemed to get a bit stronger and did really well up the big climbs etc through to about 70km when my bloomin gears started playing up again and then I was more focused on getting in a gear I could carry on up the hills with and then coast down. The last 15km was horrible, you hit Cowes (the finish), thinking you’re done but no, of course not, you have to go up 2 or 3 steep hills to come back down again and then head back up. I was properly grumpy at this point especially when I angrily shot up one hill using up all my energy to get it done then looked up to see it switch back into another hill. Thank the lord my chain came off as I could legitimately take a breather as I sorted it! But, as the photos below show, beautiful day, beautiful views and a good time had for most of the time!
The only sobering moment for us all was helping a chap, Adrian, when he fell off. It was probably dehydration or heat stroke but cycling along in front of us and he just tipped over to the right and hit the deck. We sprinted up to where he was, got off the bikes. Simon and I rushed to him to check alive and do some first aid remembered from our Scout days, Mark called the ambulance, Jenny stopped his Strava (she really did). I was really proud of our little group as everyone stepped up instantly without thinking, strava jokes aside.
I commit to everyone that from this day forth I will always wear a helmet cycling as his face was a mess but his head was physically fine with his helmet missing chunks. To cut a long story short, he came round, we managed to stabilise him and sort him out, got his wife to come and meet us and the ambulance and left knowing we’d done everything we could.
Anyway, apart from that, I would recommend the ride to anyone looking for a challenging ride to complete. It’s well organised, free, YES FREE, and you get to see some amazing places that you wouldn’t normally see.