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Wessex 100

I started the week at a conference in Harrogate, sitting in seminars and eating at hotels. Not a good start to 100-mile ride. I returned on the Friday night with the tail end of a cold and no fuel in the car. I woke up feeling better on the Saturday and the garage was selling diesel there go the excuses.


I went down to Salisbury for the 7 am start for the 6-hour ride. Lots of riders were already there and at 7.10 on the dot! off we went. Well, I had not expected to dawdle and we got off as a group of about 50 or so rolling along at a steady 20mph. Three miles down the road and we (everyone else that is) had raised the speed to the middle twenties – not a problem when you are sheltering in the group. Suddenly a rise and I thought “100 miles to go, slow down, make it a steady effort”. As the whole of the rest of the group honked up the hill I had a sudden decision to make; a level but hard effort on my own or go with the group. So off I went. I later found out that at the intersection of the 50 and 100 mile routes a few of the fast riders had gone the wrong way for a few miles – more of this later.


This continued for 25 miles, then I dropped off the back on a hill. I soon caught another rider but he couldn’t work with me. We kept seeing tantalising glimpses of the tail end Charlie of the leading group but after 5 miles no more. Then suddenly a rider came by said “smile please” and took a flash photo. He was one of three of the fast riders who took the wrong turn. The accelerated away with two of us in tow. We were soon back with the group and that’s how it stayed until the halfway point. At this point my computer shewed an average of over 21mph.


There were refreshments in the school hall; there was also a polished parquet floor! And a lot of riders doing waddling duck impressions as they fetched their tea and slabs of cake.

As I sat there and reviewed my progress it dawned on me that I kept going off the back on the hills and the big hills were still to come. So, if I set off early I could wind up the big hills and then when the group caught me I could sit in behind. You don’t get to my age without some low cunning. So off I pedalled, speeding up down the hill from the school, waving at the marshals and stopping at some temporary roadwork’s traffic lights. Then right at the marshalled turn and then an innocuous left into Combe Hill or some such picturesque name. This climbed upwards, I went down through the gears, honking on the pedals, pulling hard up on the pedals as well as pushing down, finally the zig zagging. I only did this twice it was like being sideways on track banking. Then a short metalled driveway – I got off and walked a hundred yards. Now I was worried, somewhere up ahead was Brassknocker hill, which is the steepest on the ride.


Anyway at the top off I went again, I was completely blown and stuffing my reserve chocolate down my throat for all I was worth. Small groups of riders kept coming by me but I couldn’t catch their wheels. Two came up and I stayed with them for a mile or so and then came another hill and off I went on my own again. It was long but not difficult hill – normally. Suddenly at 60 miles it dawned on me that I had already been up (well walked up) Brassknocker Hill. There were no more hills to worry about. At about this time I spent another 20 miles on the back of a group. Somewhere in Hanging Langford (I think this is where we were) the tall rider I had been using as a windbreak slowed right down on a hill and got off gasping for air. I continued for another two miles but by now the group was accelerating on the hills and off the back I went for a lonely 20 miles back to Salisbury.


I was overtaken by a rider in Harrods kit and we both had to stop at a junction (he had nearly become a Volvo bonnet mascot) “What time did you start ” he said. “Seven” I replied “and you”. “Eight, this is a good training ride for me” as he accelerated away. “Well done” I said keeping my real feelings to myself.


I finally rolled into Salisbury with 102 miles on my computer and 5 hours 33 minutes on the clock.


If you can, try one of these Bike Events rides. I am going to try to do them all next year. Especially the Norwich one as, as far as I know there are no hills in 50-mile radius. In the meantime I need to loose weight, work on the hill climbing and join a few more club runs.

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