First some stats from my GPS – Distance Ridden 96 miles (same as last year). Max speed 33.5mph (half a mph slower than last year). Moving time 09:14 (that’s two minutes faster than last year!). Moving average 10.3mph (same as last year). Stopped 1hr 33mins (thats a full 6mins less than last year). Overall average 8.8mph (same as last year).
Now the â€™anorakâ€™ stuff. I rode a standard Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Hardtail. I ran a worn out Specialized Rockster 2.2 on the back @ 40psi, and a worn out Hutchinson Python on the front @ 40psi. I set my Fox RL 80mm forks soft with a slightly quicker than normal rebound so that they would soak up the smaller bumps and save my wrists. I carried 2 spare tubes, a small allen key tool, a Blackburn mini pump, a gillet, a chewy bar, and a bottle with â€˜gearâ€™ in it. I fitted a bloody great bugle horn on my bike, you know, the type with a squeezy rubber ball, it was used a lot. Walkers seem to like it. 😉
Here’s how it went…
The heavy rain overnight had left the going very wet with huge puddles, but I splashed on, and the brisk tailwind meant that I made good progress. On the descent into Queen Elizabeth Country Park it started to rain, just light rain at first, I thought I would make it to the checkpoint without stopping to ‘cape up’. I was wrong, by the time I reached the car park I was cold and wet. I stopped for a cup of tea, and some toast at the team bus (my van). Ten minutes later the rain had stopped, so with warm dry gloves, skull cap, and cape on I was off. It took a good while to warm up again.
By South Harting my back brake sounded awful, and didn’t work no more. The EBC green pads that were less than a month old had worn out, and it was metal to metal (I won’t be buying anymore of those). I called ahead on race radio (moby) to tell the team manager (wife). I rode on, with just a front brake and the natural berms in the descents to slow me down 🙂 By the time I arrived at the A24 road crossing near Washington she had some new pads waiting for me. This was the halfway point, I was well ahead of schedule, and feeling good. A complete change of kit, a brew, and a fettle of the bike and I was totally refurbished and on my way.
Things started to go wrong. The howling tailwind became a nasty gusting crosswind, riding at speed became very difficult. As time went on it seemed to get worse and worse. By Itford Farm I was seriously thinking of retiring as I felt it may be unsafe to go on. I stopped for a brew and studied the map trying to work out how much more exposed crosswind sections there would be. I continued.
The next twenty miles were not a lot of fun really, but I had taken on the challenge, and wanted to see it through. The worst bit was the last 5 miles. What is normally a victory glide along the top of the downs before whooping down into Eastbourne turned into a frightening crawl just trying to stay moving and upright. Even turning downwind for the final descent was scarey as the wind was shoving so hard.
I was glad to arrive at the finish, what a wild ride. I found out later that the TA had measured the wind as 55mph at one of the checkpoints!!! Later still I was astounded to find that I had completed the route two minutes faster than last year!
Thanks to everyone who sponsored me, and special thanks to my wife for looking after me, I couldn’t do it without her 🙂