Cheese leaves us all toasted…

Map reference: 81k, 1,000m climbing, Cobham, Cranleigh, Rudgwick, Newdigate

Carbs and Caffeine: The Milk Churn, Rudgwick, bookhams.com

First ride after Spain for me, and the whole Spain (chain) gang were there plus Caroline and Lou (who had been on her own trip to South Africa). I knew Caroline was feeling a little flakey so told her that I would be driving to her house and leaving from there. This did the trick. She was forced out of bed and was ready by the time I got there, although she was clearly feeling a bit under par. A good effort from both of us.

It was odd to be back in the winter clothes, and funny to note that nearly everyone was wearing Castelli Gabba cycling jackets. Luckily they come in various colours. Mine is red and I love it so much that the first thing I do when I get home is zip it up and put it through a 15 minute wash. So far it looks as good as new. It really does seem to be the best jacket for British weather, water resistant and warm, and they keep the wind out too.

With all our winter kit on, and riding in a wind that picked up as time went on, our 80k felt long. Caroline was pushing through the pain, hindered by her saddle which kept lowering itself. No moaning from her – impressive. It’s never nice when your kit lets you down (literally in this case).

It was noted that Rach B was back in knickers. We had talked her out of her pants on holiday (no sniggering at the back there, it’s a serious issue for cyclists), but her favourite merinos were back in place. Maybe it was for warmth… she wouldn’t say.

Meanwhile Rach H was climbing ‘like a mountain goat’, according to Bealesy. This is the first praise ever uttered by him, in the four or five years I have ridden with him. The Spanish sun must have got to him. Not to take away from the fact that Rach was climbing really strongly. I’ll have to find out what she had for breakfast.

We were all ready for the caffeine stop at the Milk Churn. I’ve been there a few times now. It does the best cheese on toast ever. I really do mean that. Even Bealesy was digging into Jen’s double portion, and he normally just nibbles on a biscuit. But every time I push off afterwards, I remember that cheese is not cycling food, or at least not in any quantity. The wind had picked up and I was very glad that I didn’t have to cycle all the way back into London. I felt a mixture of guilt and relief as Caroline and I turned off, leaving the others with another 45 minutes to push through. Mind you they’ve banked 110k, which can be no bad thing as summer rides approach. I’ll have to get in some secret training to keep up.

Note to self: Dragon Ride will be hell unless you get some more rides in

Distracted, but roughly on target

Map reference: lots of Surrey rides, principally around Leith Hill with Jacqui, Jen and new cycling bud, Caroline

Caffeine and Carbs: Peaslake village stores peaslakevillagestores.com, and the Dabbling Duck, Shere, thedabblingduck.uk.com

Yes, I’ve still been out pedalling three times a week and on the turbo most other days, but I am struggling to find time to write these rides up. This year I’ve cycled 2,355km with an elevation gain of nearly 30,000m, according to Strava, and that doesn’t count the gym sessions.

In these weeks running up to the Dragon ride, my rides have been falling into a bit of a pattern. On Thursdays I ride a ‘Ten-Hills’ route with Jen. I don’t have school pickup until 4.30pm so we usually add an extra flip round Box Hill and maybe some other local hills to try to get an elevation of around 2,100m, in around 115k. The Dragon ride is 2,900m elevation and 230k, so this puts us comfortably in range with the climbing. Jen keeps muttering about the distance but neither of us has 10 hours spare to ride the full distance. A couple of weeks ago I was fighting a virus and the route felt terribly hard. I gave myself the weekend completely off – tried to laze about as much as possible. Last Thursday I felt better but we just did the basic hills ride and I went out with Caroline the next day to complete a full 2,900m climbing across the two days. That’s good enough. I’ve been very worried about a friend with a sick baby and that has also knocked my focus off – it’s hard to excited about training for a silly sportive when good friends are holding their tiny baby in a hospital unit.

Jacqui is building up her rides too, and I generally see her on Tuesdays. We have a favourite loop around Peaslake which allows us to stop at The Dabbling Duck for a bit on our way back. It’s a lovely place for lunch, although we just tend to have soup or a toasted teacake. One day I will drive there to actually eat some proper food.

Caroline is an old school friend who I have hooked up with after a 30-year gap. She’s very fit, being a pilates instructor, but has been off her bike with house renovation busy-ness until recently. We have been on two rides. I have been pushing her a bit, because I know she will just suck it up, so she found herself doing 1,200m climbing over 75k with me last week. She’s on a pretty ordinary bike, so I wasn’t surprised to learn she had to have a little lie down when she got home.

In the gym, after turbo sessions I have been doing lunges. They seem to be making my legs stronger, and I try to follow up with the stretchy-core stuff that we all know we should be doing.

All in all, apart from the fact that I would like to be about 5lb lighter, I feel reasonable prepared. Jen is much faster than me up hill being a featherweight, but as long as I don’t compare myself with her, I think I am good to go. With three weeks to go, I’d better be.

Note to Baby Lucas: get well soon gorgeous boy, we are all thinking of you.

 

 

 

Two stops and race to the finish

Map reference: 110k, brushing Gatwick, Horsham and Billingshurst

Carbs and caffeine: Chalk Hills Bakery, 75 Bell Street, Reigate, RH2 7AN, chalkhillsbakery.com, Reigate, and Milk Churn, Kiln House, Lynwick Street, Rudgwick, milkchurn.co.uk

My friend Keith has volunteered to pick up the mantle of getting me fit while helping me map my local rides. Bealesy started the job but he is now off running his holidays in Spain and Italy and I’m still struggling to piece together the roads of Surrey, Kent and Sussex. They are beautiful counties and under-appreciated by people haring through on the main roads. Luckily this leaves some beautiful peaceful routes for the cyclists, sharing with runners, riders and walkers… and just the odd white van trying to make time on an unlikely shortcut.

The weather was not quite as billed so were both in our rain tops, and my back got filthy as I still haven’t fitted my mudguards. We had a quick coffee stop at Chalk Hills Bakery. Another time I’d love to try their pastries which looked delicious. The breads are all homemade… one to revisit in the car, I think, so I can stock up.

We pedalled on through indifferent weather but the afore-mentioned pretty roads and vistas. It was just beginning to feel like a long ride when we came to the Milk Churn for our lunch stop. I chose donker bread for my cheese on toast. To the uninitiated (I had to ask, so include me in that set) it is an especially dark wholemeal bread. It was perfect. Not enormous, just the right size as ride food, with the delicious local Charmer cheese oozing over the sides. I will be finding an excuse to go back there soon. There is a brewery and a car showroom on site, so this could easily be a family outing.

By now, with our two stops, we were pushing my time window a little and we had to charge home as quickly as possible. I chewed a few jelly babies (regular reader will know these are my emergency fuel) as we charged down the side of the A24. Keith was taking the brunt of the wind and I tucked in behind as best I could. The kilometres clicked by and the clock ticked faster, but I got home just in time. I had to drive rather than walk to pick up my daughter, but frankly my legs were jelly and I was quite relieved to have the excuse.

Keith peeled off at a garage for fuel – riding fuel to get himself home that is. I’m betting it was a milkshake. See, the funny little things you get to know about a person when you ride with them for a while.

Note to self: Mudguards… come on, make time to fit them

 

Elementary rules of mapping

Map reference: 200k over two days, loop towards Gatwick and more south-westerly route past Dunsfold looping back through Cranleigh

Carbs and caffeine: Maison du Velo, Lesbourne Road, Reigate, RH2 7JS, maisonduvelo.cc and The Dorking Deli, 37 West St, Dorking RH4 1BU, thedorkingdeli.co.uk

And she’s off. Yes, finally I’m getting into my stride again after the Christmas and house move hiatus. I’m making the most of Bealesy (bespoke-vel0.co.uk) before he heads off to Spain and Italy to lead his trips. I know at least three parties who are going with him so he’s a busy chap. But not too busy to plan rides so that I am left with a variety of Garmin maps to explore on my own. I appreciate your efforts Bealesy.

As I’ve been pedalling around following his wheel, I have been thinking about a naming convention on my new Garmin, librarian style. In the end I have plumped for distance/compass direction, then a place name. So these two rides are 100 SE Gatwick and 100 SW Dunsfold. I know it’s totally OTT… it’s the sub-editor in me. Or maybe I’m a frustrated librarian after all. There’s a lot of time to think about these things over a 100k ride.

Monday’s ride was a little slow with a new cyclist along. After three hours I discovered she had eaten nothing which I think explained why she was totally exhausted. I was horrified… part of the joy of cycling is stuffing your face as you go. Surely she must have seen us: Bealesy, fig biscuits; Jen and me, fruit cake; Rach, Naked bars, we all have our own stuffing style.  I passed some jelly babies to her as we rode on and finally at 80k after a steep climb (I’m beginning to enjoy the hills again) we came to Maison Du Velo. It’s a bike shop with great cake and coffee, and a very warm welcome. Bike parking was inside, which is always reassuring and they showed me some BBB Slimguard Mudguards which I may well purchase as a favour to my cycling friends when I’ve done my product research. It really is rude to spray water all over the person on your wheel.

Tuesday’s ride was much pacier. Alison, who we rode with last week was there and Jane, who I hadn’t met before. Jane, who was clearly a good rider, was feeling a bit below par. It’s funny, you can tell the difference between an unfit rider and one who is just a bit out of sorts. There’s a kind of mystified look on a rider’s face when they just aren’t up to their normal standard. I wear that face quite a lot myself at the moment.

The Dorking Deli is a small place, but very pleasant. I was worried it didn’t have a loo… the others had alfresco-ed on the way but I had baulked at the exposure. Luckily there are facilities as long as you don’t mind going out of the cafe, around the back and boldly walking through a gate marked 37A. It all felt very Sherlock Holmes with his Flat 221B, and even Mrs Hudson would have been impressed with the pristine state of what is effectively an outdoor lavvy. Another impressive Dorking cafe, it’s like the town is the cafe society hub of Surrey.

Note to self: maybe don’t go shopping straight after a ride… those BBQ ribs aren’t normally so tempting

 

 

My first real live reader…

 

 

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Birthday present: premier outing for my new Garmin 810. It’s really easy to use which is relief after all my ‘network’ problems at home. YouTube will tell me how to get the most out of it

Map reference: Bealesy (Bespoke-Velo.co.uk) kindly diverted his Tuesday group my way as I missed a ride yesterday due to child sickness. He picked me up in Epsom and managed to craft an unhilly route round the local Surrey Hills. Clever stuff. 66k, 660m elevation

Carbs and caffeine: Burgandy & Black, St Martin Walk, Dorking, burgandyandblack.net. We only had coffee, but the cake looked good and I shall be going back for homemade soup and bread at £3.50. Bargain

We’ve moved. I’ve still got to get the printer working, transfer our music between computers and get Sonos synced, but we are in and I am back on the bike. I have been out a couple of times with Bealesy, and managed some other little circuits with pals Jacqui and Jen, but unpacking duty has stopped me recording these.

Our intention today was to go for a long endurance ride but, with a delayed start in the freeze, and a slightly slower pace, we restricted ourselves to a leisurely jaunt through the hills of Surrey, remarkably seeing very few actual hills. Of the five of us, there were two riders I didn’t know. I soon discovered one, Alison, was the wife of a clever cartoonist I used to work with at the Evening Standard (Patrickblower.com). I met him recently on the last outing to our favourite pub near our old home. Alison had sent him out for spuds, but he bumped into my family and me and we led him astray. I’m not sure if I apologised, Alison. Sorry. Anyway, he said then I should meet his wife who had caught the cycling bug badly, and I’m really glad I finally have. You would’t think cycling was such a social sport.

More remarkably, Jen mentioned this blog over coffee and the other rider, Trudy, said she had heard of it. Surely some mistake, I thought. But no, she really had. She had been sitting next to a spinning instructor at our mutual sports club and the coach had complained that I had made her sound like a heavy drinking night owl. I had mentioned that she was mainlining Red Bull during a class and had drawn my own conclusions about why that was, perhaps unfairly. Actually, I had thought she was rather fabulous and other-worldly… Anyway, the instructor (I daren’t mention her name as she apparently regularly searches for herself online and that was how she found my comment) showed Trudy my blog. Trudy told me she really enjoyed it and carried on reading.

Most of my readers are people who know me, and I have a fair few around the world who have just ‘found’ me. This was the first time where the two have crossed over. I don’t know who was more chuffed. She, that she had found a real live blogger, or me, that I had found a real live reader. Correction. I was definitely the most chuffed… and very flattered by her comments.

By another strange coincidence, Trudy’s  husband has signed her up for the Etape Du Tour this year… sound familiar, any of my regular readers out there? She asked me for any tips but I was dumbstruck in the face of my doppelganger… I shall have to give it some thought.

Note To Trudy: stay in touch, you have my number