Big Red Randonnee 2006 – Ridden

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 ’anorak’ 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 ‘gear’ 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 🙂

Big Red Randonnee

Less than a week to go now before my third attempt at the ‘Hearts First Randonnée Challenge‘. You may remember I did it in 2004 with my brother, as part of my recovery from a broken shoulder, then again in 2005 because I had enjoyed it so much in 2004, and now I’m all set to do it again this year.

I’m whippet thin through mile after mile of tough training, and I’m up for it. Last year I was 14th rider home, and although I know it’s not a race, I wanna be up there with the leaders this time.

The event is organised by the British Heart Foundation The British Heart Foundation (BHF) who are the leading UK charity fighting heart and circulatory disease – the UK’s biggest killer. The BHF funds research, education and life-saving equipment and helps heart patients return to a full and active way of life. They rely on donations to continue their vital work.

So me and the BHF are doin’ all the hard work 🙂 , and all I’d like you to do is to sponsor me. You can do it online at my page on the BHF website. Thanks in advance, wish me good luck, and I wish you good karma.

In the blink of an eye again

In the blink of an eye, two months in France gone, all our tomorrows turned to yesterdays, all rides ridden, time to pack and leave. Where did it all go? Two months seemed like such a long time at the start, even halfway through there was no need to panic, and then, in a puff of blue smoke, gone!

Our two months at Noisetieres in the Limousin had been fantastic. When we arrived, it was tail-end winter, when we left it was full-blown spring, even early summer. I found so many trails to ride, and whole areas where I need to go back to for further exploration. I reckon I’d be hard pushed to ride them all ever, and some of them so sweet (wipes tear from eye).

We left on Friday afternoon about 4pm, the weather was warm and sunny, I wore t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. We drove North at a leisurely pace, past the Monts de Blond and the Ambazacs where I’d ridden in rain and shine, then on up towards Orleans. We stopped for coffee about 100k before Chartes, and it was freezing! OK, slight exaggeration, but it was so much colder that a frantic rummage through the bags to find warm clothes was in order. By the time we reached Chartes, and booked into our overnight accommodation, we were looking for the heating switch.

Next day, onward to Boulogne, the clouds rolled in, and it started to rain. A fitting end to our stay in France really, but it didn’t make the driving any easier. As we rolled off the ferry at Dover I couldn’t take anymore, I handed over driving duties to Carla while I drowned my sorrows in a can of French supermarket beer.