Oh dear, lost already as I left the directions to the starting point at home. Then I remember that there is an alternative car park by Billericay station so head off there and, hey presto, just around the corner is Lake Meadows, the starting point.
Unload the bike from the car and head-off to register and discover that a clicking noise from the rear wheel, which had appeared on Saturday, has got worse. As I get close to the registration tent, the clicking has turned into a rattle. Just I was beginning to wonder if the bike would make it, I suddenly realise the cause of the problem – the rear wheel reflector was loose. Soon it is the ex-rear wheel reflector! Then it’s registration and 10 minutes to the off.
One of the organisers announces that the portaloos have not arrived to which someone replies, “What’s the guys address, we’ll go visit him and leave our calling cards in his front garden!” With no toilets on route several people, including me, head back to the public toilets on the other side of the park.
Finally, we are called to the starting line, giving a final good luck message and it’s off we go!
There is the inevitable bunching to get out of the park and nice curb to drop down which could damage a few wheels if not noticed. And finally on to the road. Like all sponsored events, the ride gets off to a slow start due to bunching, but that’s ok as it gives the legs a chance to warm up. After a short while on a main road it’s off onto country lanes which is rather nice. Only problem was though that I have to keep braking as two people in front are riding side by side chatting away and seeming determined not to let anyone past! Finally get past them and into my stride and am going at about the same pace as five or six others. Until we get to a hill that is and then my normal style prevails – I am rubbish at going up hill but love opening it up downhill. So everyone passes me going up and I pass them going down. I don’t know why, but one of the things I remember about the very early part of the ride is being overtaken by someone going up hill, who was standing in the pedals, and her friend shouting from behind “gears Gillian”. I think that will be my uphill mantra from now on!
The route is extremely well marshalled with not only the usual pointing to turn right or left, but also a shout of “all clear” so we knew it was safe to turn without having to slow down. Also, lots of water along the way which, as the morning warmed up will be very welcome if I run out of my own drink.
Stop at the half way point for a 10 minute stretch and am very pleased to see I have covered something like 20 miles in just over an hour and a half. I don’t expect to do so well on the second half as the legs are starting to feel tired. But that was before the wonderful down hills. Going down one I reach 38mph which is a great buzz before I started wondering what will happen if I hit a pothole! Luckily it was a quite country road, long and straight, so I stay in the middle of the road as most potholes seem to avoid the centre-line.
About 10 miles to go and I am going up hill with a right turn at the top. I slow down and nearly topple off the bike – I didn’t realise my legs had got that tired! Luckily there was someone from the Essex Roads Cycling Club chatting to one of the marshals and he rides along with me chatting for about quite a bit of the remainder of the way which made things easier until my legs got their second wind.
We come to a railway crossing which was closed to let a train pass. And there seemed to be most of the others I have seen at some point along the way. Either they have had a long wait or I have caught them up.
Then it is off for the last few miles along country roads before hitting the main roads in Billericay and a hill which nearly finishes me off. I catch up with someone who I had been passing earlier in the ride and who had then passed me before I stopped for a break. We ride together and chat as we cover the final mile or so to the finish. But man, why did there have to be a hill right at the end of the course!
We finally ride back into Lake Meadows. I am pretty tired by now but full of the normal emotion that I feel when I finish events like these.
Just time for a sports recovery drink (warm milkshake type – yeuk!) and well earned bacon roll (yum) then it was off back home for the rest of Sunday.
I did have one final surprise though as when I checked by bike computer at the end it said:
Distance: 38.6 miles
Time: 2 hours 38 minutes
Average speed: 14.8 mph
Which was not only the furthest I had cycled since taking it up again earlier this year but also the fasted average speed. Could have been the downhills and almost certainly partly due to the company from the guy from Essex Roads. Also, as a result of the bunching early on and having to use the brakes a lot, I had changed my riding position and was resting my hands on the top of the brake levers more than usual, so was lower down. But no matter what, two new personal bests which I was very proud off!
Can’t wait for the London – Southend ride.