Fortune favours the brave and today I was brave. Or stupid. I always think of the New Zealand film 'Once were Warriors' on days like today as I was one once though the days of me smashing out 75 miles on a Wednesday and the same on a Sunday with Team Concept out of Specialized Bristol have long since gone and in many respects I do not miss it as at times, as fit as I was, it was aimless. What was I training for ? Life perhaps or just a love of cycling.
So, when the chance to ride Bristol (my former home) to Exminster (my home) arrives every now and again I take the chance with both hands and given this was the first one of the year, I feel that on the whole it went well. Fast Tuesday's and before that a few decent shifts on the bike building up some mileage paid off and back home after 95.6 miles banked I can reflect on the days events.
Leaving my parents front door in North Bristol at 7am was fine if a little fresh. The route, Southbound, out through South Bristol into Long Ashton, Nailsea, Yatton etal went well and as usual the early morning city traffic was hellish but I rode smart. The roads down to Cheddar went well and then on from Cheddar onto a mist laden Mendip levels was nice and the weather was fantastic with no wind present and by about 8.40am as I passed Cheddar on my left the sun was coming up to take the nip off the toes. I do dislike the fast decent into the top end of Cheddar one of those exposed steep roads where the wind can catch the rider - hence riding smart. Turning right, Glastonbury Tor to my left was lit up like a beacon. Beautiful. These roads are deceptive. They are flat on the whole, but the 'Somerset' levels to my mind is in three stages and not pan flat. A few nice hills, the climb out of Low Ham into High Ham is huge but perfectly doable. Despite having a Garmin on the bike I often refer to a paper map in my pocket and so far so good. I steamed through to Langport and down to Ilminster passing multiple Somerset hamlets and villages. Beautiful. Exiting Ilminster was the first test, a huge unexpected head wind on the busy road to Chard pushed me back, but I rode smart, spinning up and using power to stay in zone's 1 & 2. Once into Chard, 64 miles in at 4 hours 40 I realised I had dropped a clanger. Getting out of Chard was and is a nightmare. I have / had never realised Chard is at the bottom of a huge valley as cant say I go there often and whilst I tried to cut across country as best I could by peeling left to get off the A30 to get to Honiton the back way it came to be that I was riding hills I had not expected. I had thought the Blackdowns were further west having ridden them before (Corfe hill; Taunton), but I ended up on the cusp of the eastern tip and likely the steepest parts I could have encountered. Cat 4 climb after cat 4 climb. I went from 64 miles in 4.45 approx to 73 ish miles in 6 hours. I basically lost 1 hour 20 odd to 12 miles of frankly hellish hills with gradients that were 22-26% perhaps even steeper going up and back down and then straight back up. I kid you not, it was like riding up and down walls. Bonkers. In moderation I can climb slowly but this was steep as shit and no fun as it was so steep coming down the triceps and shoulders were beginning to suffer. Chard, Cricket St. Thomas, Noel Edmonds, Mr. Blobby - you can poke it as far as I am concerned. The decent into Honiton was mayhem too, steep as f**k but I was glad to see the bunting on the main road and ride through knowing I was back into my chartered territory. South Glos, Avon, North Somerset, Somerset, Dorset, East Devon, Devon. I had scheduled a cheeky Costa coffee in Honiton, but due to losing time I carried on, turned left and went up Tesco hill, the steep climb to Sidmouth, but turned right into Ottery St. Mary, a lovely East Devon post card town preceeded by yet another brutal 22% decent (into Ottery) where the local butcher kindly gave me a top up on my water. Ottery 'felt' around the corner from home but it was still a plod back towards the Exeter road and finally, I managed to get on the fast Rockbeare road and go into a time trial mode holding tempo in zone 3 (18 mph for 15 minutes at the tail end of today's ride into a head wind shows the old endurance magic still there) before passing Cranbrook (strange place, middle of nowhere) and into a very busy Exeter via Sowton and then onto my front door. Typically, it was blowing a gale in Devon. Standard.
Overall 95.6 miles in 6 hours 56 moving time (quicker next time) with 6,129 feet climbed. 6 full bottles of water, 2 bananas, one energy bar and 4 energy gels consumed to tick along. Likely the most I have climbed since August 2012. On the whole I enjoyed the journey and the first 4.40 was immense and what I enjoy. To lose excess time climbing unexpected hills not great but when you are racing yourself, you just want to get home, as far as it seems at time. I used power and HR to my advantage today and considering the distance the use of zones was valid and the bulk of the workload was in zone 1 and zone 2, (pictures below) recovery and endurance with a little bit of everything else. I felt disappointed in myself at times, but try and keep it in perspective as I hit 45 last week and irrespective of age, unless you are a pro paid to ride 7 hours a day week in week out, 25% hills 70 miles in are gonna hurt.
In perspective today due to the aforementioned hills I think a disc brake road bike would have been ideal ?!?! I suspect I took 6 months off the life of my Zipp wheels, but hey ho such is life. They go well on the flat and going up. My Trek Madone was flawless and is truly a great bike. If Carling made road bikes and all that. In stack and reach terms it is an endurance road bike. In performance terms it is simply incredible. Stiff, light, fast, strong. Pick 4.
Finally, walking in the door to my awesome partner with a huge cold Milkshake in her hand was just great, as was coming home to Bella, the worlds greatest puppy.