I can’t help but love the group rides that Toria ‘organises’ and leads. Always get a good mix of people, and nearly always someone new to join in. Mostly Kingston Wheelers (bloody great group of people that I’ve met so far), and the odd one like me that hangs on the edges every now and then.
Saturday was no different. 10.am Market Square meet in Kingston. Even the mental group chat gave no clue who might be turning up (or going to the dark side on the ‘other’ ride that didn’t happen! Ahem). As one by one people arrived, I started to think of them in the same terms as SurLaJante does, although at least one already got given a nickname a couple of Wednesdays ago. Electro is the first to roll up, followed by the Mountain Goat and Deutschland. A couple of newbies (to me), SG and finally Sorry I’m Late – SiL. Actually my fault, I rang her to see where we were meeting at 09.50, when she was just exiting Richmond Park. More to my surprise that she actually answered her phone…
The above nicknames are in jest only. Toria calls out roughly where we are heading, Brockham, via Epsom and Headley, Cake stop at Denbies and back via Cobham then Claygate.
I’ve ridden with Toria, Simon, Steph and Mark before, all good wheels to follow, so I don’t have much hesitation in starting off near the front. Kingston, and Portsmouth road isn’t great to ride along as a group, and it’s a lot easier if we are tightly knit. Sadly to start with, we are not. Calls for soft pedalling, or my more strident ‘Slow it down!’ (ironically not for my sake, despite suffering with a really crap cold). We wend our way through the back of Surbiton (SG punctures), Chessington (SG punctures again and calls it a day), a bit of Hook, and then the back of Epsom. The Mountain Goat keeps getting in front of me, muttering about mudguards, then talk turns to what objects we point out on the road. I’m of the opinion you should be able to ride your bike over a flush drain cover/small bump on a straight dry road without wobbling madly to one side screaming ‘drain’ whilst dramatically stabbing your finger at a point several feet behind you. And honestly, your bike will go over it without falling apart. Yes, yes, point taken when flying around the bend before the drag up to Langley Vale, I get to yell over my shoulder ‘DRAIN ON THE INSIDE!’ And then ride the hill a lot easier than I should have done.
Deutschland and the Mountain Goat are a fair bit quicker up hills, and so when the Mountain Goat drops his chain near Headley, I manage to mumble something along the lines of ‘see… next… junction’ whilst trying to breathe. I think he knew what I meant. When he takes off from Headley, I manage to stay with him. Consistantly picking the pace up and up, and I’m very aware that I’m not feeling great, but I love a bit of competition. Thankfully when it starts going downhill, my weight holds a much superior advantage and I descend Pebbles nearly as fast as I can (I’ve come very close to coming off there once!), all the way to the level crossing, where luckily I see the queue of traffic before I slam into it. Gleefully I call to the Mountain Goat as he arrives, and we snake our way to the front, soon to be joined by the rest. Setting off again, the group is more gelled, although I find a few times that us two on the front have gone a bit too fast, and have to constantly remind myself (and the Mountain Goat) to slow down. Electro is never too far behind, but one of the new girls was getting dropped every now and then.
I sympathise, knowing how fecking awful it feels to be the one out the back, not quite being able to stay on wheels and a bit nervy of the boisterous banter that flys around.
On the way to Denbies, Deutschland decides to leave us and head off, leaving me doing a solo sprint for the cafe. Just because I felt like it. Good cake and coffee. A water bottle refill, because I’m discovering I sweat three times as much with a cold, and we hit the climb out the back of Denbies. I bloody hate the climb, and riding a 11 -25 isn’t particularly helpful. Onwards, onwards. I get dropped pretty quick after that, literally feeling the energy drain out of my legs. I have half an energy bar, and within 5 mins, I’m ok. This time.
I’ve figured before that I have to fuel about every 40mins on these rides. And without the Garmin (both mounts are on the cx bikes), I’m riding on feel.
I find myself mostly on the front with either the Mountain Goat, Electro or SiL on the way back, having to slow the pace quite a bit every now and then. But it doesn’t matter. I’m very concious of getting carried away with the pace, and it’s not fair if you’re on the edge of your reserves, like I suspect at least one person is.
I call it a day in Claygate, and head home. Clean the road bike (Trek 5500, running Conti 4000s, and a gorgeously comfy Prologo Nago Evo test saddle), and attempt to get some stuff ready for cx.
Luckily for the Mountain Goat, there wasn’t too much crap getting kicked up from the road, I got more on my face sat behind Electro… princesses and mud an all that 😉
Sunday was a rush to get ready and leave for Abingdon, Dalton Barracks (Wessex League, Round 14), near where I grew up in Oxfordshire. Toria is once again pitting for me, Verity is there, and I’m really happy to be lining up with Caroline CSC Coaching.
A quick sign on, some mild panic and we go and recce a lap after the Novice race. A nice little bendy bit after the tarmac start/finish, onto slightly muddy hardcore, another longer hardcore muddy straight with a big dip, some rocky but flattish stuff, then onto soft squishy mud, quick up and down off camber dips and back and forward, longer grassier section, onto tarmac, back onto more of a rollercoaster up and down section (I love riding this on lap 3 & 4), claggy mud through most of the width of all of the course. Big uphill, rideable at speed, but I run it, ‘jump’ on at the top, down, past the pits, tarmac and tight turns, long straight, mud, hurdles, spiral of doom (riding this is ace!) and onto the finish straight.
I’m much more confidant with Caroline there, more relaxed in the line up and great to follow her through most of the first lap, before I start dropping off. I eventually do most of the race on my own. It’s hot down the far end on the two long straights. But I can get some speed up there. I get lapped by a few, doesn’t matter. Mum and Dad are there cheering me. Chris Macleod talking me into the hurdles. It’s hard, tough, and despite everything, I’m managing to look for better lines, thinking how to plan stuff coming up ahead. Discarding Plan A when someone shouts out their line. Hitting a couple of stakes. Staying upright and forcing the bike over. ‘Come on Elz’ From Fran as she rockets past me in hot pursuit of another rider. Bell lap. One more. Faster on the tarmac, faster up and over the hardcore track, push. Run up that one incline, back on, not clipped in. I can hear my mates shouting me. Push. Pedal harder. Hurdles. Spiral of doom. Tarmac, crank it up faster, faster, sprint. Try not to die.
The four photo’s above are from the lovely Graham Robins – thank you!
Honestly I couldn’t do this without my friends. But I could have done it better without a cold!
Thanks for the first set of pic’s Verity!