Volume 46 Number 4 Article 6
6.30 am, I was up and breakfasting in the hope that the food would be well down before the cycle event started. Dinny, however, wanted to savour his Sunday morning lie-in and then proceeded to try to eat the whole European Porridge Mountain before we set off in my car to Monmouth. By now the whole of the area around the event headquarters was ‘parked-out’ and we searched the streets for somewhere to dump the car and change. It was now late and as the whole town seemed full of cyclists heading in all directions finding the way back to the HQ was confusing. I eventually got my card timed out of the starting gate and immediately had trouble with my gears. I’d expected this as I’d had to change knackered cables just before setting off and hadn’t had time for the to stretch at home as it had rained, still not an auspicious beginning. Dinny had by now registered and flew past me with a cheery ‘Byyyyyyyyyyeeee!’ as he attempted to break into the Gold Standard for his age group. (What is his age group?)
Soon heading out of town and without having even got into a rhythm the first hill arrived. I was soon being past by everyone but that wasn’t the annoying part, it was the fact that they were talking away and still flying by me as I gasped up the steep, 2 mile long climb. Nice! I was just about to say ‘F… this for a game of soldiers’ when out from the side of the road jumps ‘the paparazzi’ to snap me, belly sagging and face pillar box red, Cheers mate just the sort of record I needed for my album. It would have been nice to get into a group and get some protection from the wind but nobody was travelling that slowly.
So that was the first 750ft of climbing to Trellech Top, the following few miles (km) were reasonably pleasant through wooded farmland as the road generally descended to The Bridge Over the River Wye (cue for a film), near Llandogo. But as the saying goes, ‘what goes Down must go Up’ and sure enough the road steadily got slower but this seemed to be a feature of the day. The drop down into Clearwell (maybe I can visit the caves passed through my mind) and by now I had no idea which direction I was heading or what was coming up. The fact sheet for the ride had local manes for climbs that I couldn’t find on Memory Map and as the map on the website was broadband friendly I couldn’t use it. The sheet for the clocking on and off showed the climbs and I was only up to number 3 and was knackered, only 11 to go. Humph!!! Maybe I could phone a friend when I get to somewhere sensible to wait!
It wasn’t just the steep climbs but there didn’t seem to be any flat ground in between to have a rest a bit like a giant’s fingerprint. Still I was up on the limestone plateau so what next? The answer was soon in coming, back downhill to Lydney on the Severn. The next bit of climbing was absolutely beautiful, a nice gentle alpine gradient through trees along a river with a perfect road surface. This didn’t last as a sharp turn in a village led up a very, very steep hill through Yorkley. Why anyone would live in a place you need to walk up the main street on all fours I’ve no idea. A rider had passed me on the nice bit and I watched as he gradually disappeared into the cumulus level with the top of Everest, not inspiring. I really need to phone a friend but where was I? There was a lot of riding through woods with lots of bluebells, Liz had waxed poetical about bluebells and there did seem to be a lot of them to wax about, but where was the Feed Station as I was just about out of drink. Fortunately, I saw the cameraman on one of the hills and managed to look less like the geriatric I was feeling but being tight I didn’t pay for the photo but downloaded the spoiled image off the website.
I was passed by a tall guy on a long hill but couldn’t manage to increase my speed to stay with him even if he wasn’t flying and suddenly there it was like an oasis in the forest, the Feed Station. There were bedraggled riders everywhere but what was very disturbing was that this was my first visit and we were to stop here twice. That meant that some of these were on their second visit and they’d nearly finished, bastards! I had to ask which direction to set off in and I’m glad I did.
Apparently someone did the same loop twice by heading out of the Feed the wrong way. At least if I did this leg I could stop next time I came back to the Feed Station, that was the plan. The next couple of climbs were absolute swines and I even managed to pass some people walking but even going so slow I was almost growing moss I was still faster than walking. There was a moment of levity as the tall guy came past me again complaining about losing his way by missing an arrow. I got back to the Feed Station and it looked as though they were just about ready to pack up, there wasn’t much food left just a few leaking gel packs and some very watered down drink. The others mingling around looked in a worse state than me, but then they were probably thinking the same about everyone else. This was it, the moment of decision. Do I go on or phone a friend? Oh S..t! I set off on the last part thinking it didn’t matter how long it took I was now going to finish this pig. Tall guy passed me again, guess what, yes he’d got lost again and by now must be over 100 miles, silly bugger.
The last main objective was Symonds Yat Climb and just before I got to it a decent bloke passed me and invited me to shelter from the wind behind him. Unfortunately I didn’t have the legs to stay with him on the gentle slopes so gracefully declined his offer, in between gasps. There it was, the climb, and what a thing to put at the end. The road narrowed to one lane went up very, very, very steeply but had a traffic jam of tourists in cars, walkers and horses, deep joy! There was no way I was stopping for anything and I ploughed upward regardless of what anyone thought. Some of the cyclists were forced to walk as they had nowhere to ride but I’m used to the A65 so I made it to what I thought was the top, error. It went on and on and on. I finally reached the main road heading for home and some riders who’d obviously finished and were getting some extra in by riding home shouted encouragement and said it was all downhill from there. Well if they were fit enough to finish that fast and then ride home they wouldn’t notice all the lumps that dragged the last reserves out of me but then I recognised the descent into Monmouth, Phew! The car behind me had no chance of passing as I flew down the road at 30mph plus around hairpins and blind corners and at last into the finish. Dinny was waiting at the line and offered to get the car while I had a cup of well-earned tea. For the first time we managed to get the correct road and got straight to Jon and Liz’s place for a slap up meal followed by a mile (a mile) walk to the pub, sadists.
Dinny’s Bit (I did ask him to write something)
Well he is from Wales!