The roar of the Dragon

Map reference: The Dragon Ride, Gran Fondo, 229k, 3,600m elevation

Carbs and caffeine: ‘Human Race’ fodder of salted potatoes, jaffa cakes and jelly babies, plus a few bits of cake from my back pocket

As with our dry run two weeks ago, I’m not sure how I can describe a 10-hour ride and make it interesting. As I think about it now, there are a series of snapshots in my head, interspersed with hours of just plain pedalling, watching the kilometres tick by on my Garmin, sometimes fast and sometimes, going up hill, at an achingly slow pace.

The thing that was very different from my experience of the Medio last year, was it was a very lonely ride. The Medio was a big challenge to me at the time – and at 153k with plenty of climbing, still nothing to sniff at – but there are more riders and much more chatting. This time I struggled to find anyone to talk to, or more importantly anyone to draft.

As any cyclists will know, drafting (riding close to a rider in front) can save you 20 per cent of your energy. Get it right and you can feel like you are freewheeling, especially at pace. Usually the deal is you draft for a bit and then take your turn at the front. If you are lucky enough to be part of a larger group, a peloton, you can achieve amazing speeds this way. I don’t know whether it was because I was in the first group to start, or whether the crowd is just thinner for the full distance, but this time I found very few suitable candidates to attach myself too.

There was a triathlon group at the beginning, but they were going too slowly, so after a brief chat I moved on. And there were a couple of blokes in black who were happy to have me hanging on for a bit, but dropped me on a big hill. And so it went on until the first stop after two and a half hours. After that the pack thinned out still further and I mostly rode alone, sometimes not even in sight of another cyclist. I upped my search for a companion as I rode along the uplands after Penderyn, where even on a low-wind day, there is a gale in your face. I spoke to a young guy who was cycling alone and who had an odd pedal stroke. I had hoped I could tag along with him, but he was clearly struggling with an injured knee, taped up with lines of elastoplast. He had forgotten his painkillers. Luckily, I had overpacked my own stash and was able to hand him a strip of 8 Ibruprofen. He was very grateful, and being able to help gave me a lift too, but I had to move on.

The only other successful drafting came on the A4067 as we headed back up to the A40. I had a bit of a surge and could sense someone hanging on behind. For several kilometres I was shadowed until I began to slow, and then a lovely chap came round me, thanked me for my tow and offered me his back wheel for the A40. We chatted enough for me to point out my father’s house as we were passing (we both waved) and we kept together to the next feed stop, after Trecastle. And that was the extent of my human interaction. I did try to draft one woman, but she became strangely irate. As we moved together round a man, she asked me what I was doing. I said I was hanging onto her back wheel because I was flagging. She sort of tutted and carried on for a while and then suddenly sat up and stopped pedalling. I had no choice but to pass her, but it was very odd behaviour. The underside of her flapping race number revealed that she was riding alone, and frankly with that kind of behaviour it was hardly surprising.

Amid the hours of grind there were some memorable little scenes of the gorgeous Welsh countryside, unbelievably bathed in sunshine the whole way round.

There were occasional clusters of families cheering us on, or the odd person just stopping whatever they were doing to wave. It all helps, it really does. The food stops were amazing. I spent 40 minutes at three stops, which was too long. I was flapping. Undecided whether I needed to pee or not; whether I wanted food or just water. Last year I was much more efficient, probably because I was having more fun.

The most picturesque scene was a bride heading to church on a horse, holding a yellow parasol above her head. She looked lovely, I ducked under the camera as I went by. I hope I didn’t ruin her pictures.

Unnervingly, I also passed an ambulance team nursing a motorbiker on the road, holding his neck and talking to him. There was bicycle on the road too. I felt very unsettled for a while after that. The roads are so twisty-turny in places and it’s a temptation to all road users to push the limits. I found myself shuffling uncomfortably on the bike as I hoped that the crash scene looked worse than it was.

I had a pretty clear map in my head of the route. We did the Devil’s Elbow between stops two and three, so fairly early on. I knew it was the steepest climb, but I also knew I could do it. It hurt, but I got up. It felt good, knowing that the worst ‘half’ was over. The Hill With No Name, very familiar to me, felt harder than normal as it came late in the ride.

At the third stop, I repacked my food to make it more accessible, as I knew I would likely skip the fourth stop. I dumped a couple of rice cakes I didn’t need. This fiddling ate into my time and I had to skip the last food stop anyway if I was to make it under my 10-hour mark. The last 30k were a beast. I knew it would be but, with the minutes ticking by, I had to really push. Riding alone, I touched 40k/hour on ‘flat’ terrain (obviously nothing is ever totally flat). And there’s a long last hill 20k from home. I knew it was coming, but it really is a horror, coming so late in the day and winding through a built-up area of Neath. Riders puffed and cursed their way up, and finally I found I had a little more pace than many. It’s a terrible thing in human nature that I gained strength by seeing that others were finding it harder than me. Time was now ticking far too fast. I shot along the last 10k, flat sections of motorway mostly, hardly daring to hope that I would make it in time. My efforts paid off, but I had less than three minutes to spare. The timings show I was 17th woman in, and fifth in my age group… although I have my doubts about someone ahead of me called Mike.

The last photographer at the gates of Margam park will have a priceless picture of me as I roared at a car that was blocking my way into the gates. I swerved around it and with a final dizzying surge of adrenaline shot through the line at a, frankly, silly pace for the crowded area. Sorry everyone. It mattered to me more than anything at the time.

Note to Jen: You’re coming with me next year. I need company

More on drafting etiquette here

All hail to the train

Map reference: About 7 hills, Wimbledon to Dorking

Carbs and caffeine: Peaslake Village Stores, sandwich, tea and cake. Picked up delicious smoked cheese for later

This week I have a busy cycling schedule, with three weeks to go to the Dragon Ride. It started yesterday with a plan to do my 10 hills Surrey ride with Jacqui and Jen. I knew it would be a steady pace, so already had it in mind to chop a bit off the end if necessary. All was fine to Peaslake – six hills climbed, no drama. We then stopped to refuel and as we slurped the last of our tea the thunder started. There wasn’t much option to do anything but commit the shorter route to memory (I’m still carrying the map and notes I made last week) and get going. By the time we reached the top of Radnor Road, a very pretty climb straight out of Peaslake, we were soaked and rivers of sandy water were running down the road.

We pedalled on, it was freezing rain and, unbelievably for late May, as we started a long descent, the rain turned to large brutal shots of hail. I was in short bibs and it was really, really painful. I was hunched over my thighs trying to protect them, my vision was obscured by my dark glasses and frankly I yelped all the way down.

We were still in the wilderness and now all three of us shivering, soaked to the skin, with shoes full of water. The weather eased with a tantalising few glances of sunshine, and then, as we hit another descent, another freak hail storm attacked. It was ridiculously painful, and by now my legs were covered in red dots from the icy attack. We ploughed on through Coldharbour and down into Dorking.

Thankfully Jacqui was searching her mind for a solution as we looked at Box Hill in the distance, shrouded in grey. I was thinking for ways of routing around the hills, not to avoid climbing, but because it was noticeably colder up top. But with an hour and a half’s riding in front of us, Jacqui had a more fundamental idea… the train.

So we hopped on at Dorking and shivered our way to Raynes Park. Together we laughed about our predicament and the state we were in, but the child in our heads grizzled. I have seldom been more uncomfortable.

But Jen’s last words, as we parted, were to hope we were going to do the ride again on Thursday, which is the plan. She’s a ray of sunshine, and I do hope she brings more of it with her when we try again tomorrow. I’ll let you know.

Note to self: phone brother and get him in line for tomorrow’s ride. Cake, jelly babies etc etc

Dawn call to ride out…

Map reference: Ten Surrey Hills, 124k with 1,756m climbing

Carbs and Caffeine: Peaslake Village Stores

Up at 5pm on Monday, I decided to get on the Turbo to work off my frustration at the way my back problems have impacted on my training. The back held out so I texted Jen and promised her hills if she would come out with me the next day. She was surprised to be contacted so early but, being the trooper she is, agreed to come. I’ve mentioned Jen before, she’s super fit, rides a heavy, clickety bike… and talks a lot. She has never tested her endurance riding before – although I believe she has some marathons under her belt – so it would be an adventure for her. And even more of an adventure if I didn’t get the route right.

This was my second attempt to follow my basic Garmin on a route I have ridden with a friend. I’ve mentioned my belt and braces attitude before, well this time it was belt and braces with extra safety pins. I poured over the map on Monday, printing out a section in the middle which was very unfamiliar and marking it with google mapped waymarkers. Then I wrote out the whole left-right-left instructions. Finally, I got two large sticky labels and wrote out the route in a point-to-point fashion to be stuck to the back and front of my phone case. Then I nearly forgot to take all of the above, but thankfully remembered at the last minute or I might now be writing this from the safety of a bed at the Priory Mental Hospital.

Anyway, it worked. Jen was patient as I had to stop a couple of times and get out my soggy bits of paper, but I felt a great sense of achievement at having completed the route ‘properly’. There are plenty of hills out there, so it wouldn’t really matter, but Strava told me I was fourth fastest female this year up Barhatch… particularly pleasing as this hill beat me earlier this year.

As for the pedalling bit? Jen was awesome. I could tell she was a little bit tired at one point as she actually stopped talking, but she just pushed on and on, even as her gears sounded like they were giving up. We munched through nearly a whole pack of jelly babies supplemented by fruit cake and biscuits. Sensibly, we had a proper sandwich at Peaslake with our cuppa. I felt hungry for much of the time and our pace was steady rather than lightning but it was good to bank the miles and the climbing. I feel disappointed that I felt so tired an hour from home, but perhaps it’s not surprising with the hiccup I’ve had with my back.

Talking of the back, my physio friend Jacqui worked her magic on Monday, sticking her elbow deep into my muscles until I could have wept. I was very sore that evening, but the freedom of movement the next day was amazing. That’s what you need, friends who’ll answer your dawn texts to go out for a ride, or stick their elbow into your gluteus maximus until you beg for mercy.

Note to Jen: get ready for another go; more fruit cake, hydration tabs… and jelly beans

Steady as she goes …

Map reference: playing around in the Leith Hill area, 130k, 1700m climbing

Carbs and caffeine: tea and Cornish pasty at Peaslake Village Stores plus my rice cakes (see Musette munchies page)

Testing my back again, but this time I set off slowly from home. Husband was with me and he has been working his legs hard lately so he said he was glad to take the pace down a notch too.

It was blowing against us all the way out to the hills from Wimbledon and we were perhaps 10 minutes slower than usual on our leg to the Black Swan in Ockham It’s a waymarker for us, as well as being a good pub to visit (I believe Brad Pitt was spotted there once).

By this time I had already taken some paracetamol and some Ibuprofen but the back was holding up with the chemical support. I was attempting to follow a ten-hills route that I had done with a friend and therefore had on my Garmin. I have an Edge 500, which is about as basic as it gets, but I like it for being tiny and neat. Although I always take it off my bike when I stop, it’s not a magnet for theft. Understated is the word I am looking for, I think.

Anyway, this was my first real attempt to follow a map on it. I was pleased that I could set off from home doing my preferred route and then pick up the route and for several hills the route was clear enough. You get no map as such, just a line that wriggles in the shape of the road, with an arrow on it. So, at a left turn, you get no indication of a road junction, just the line bends left. On the twisty turny roads of Surrey it’s a little confusing, but we managed for about three hours before we lost satellite for too long and were too far off track to find our way back. It didn’t matter, as by that time we were in the vicinity of our familiar Peaslake and were able to  route a different way home.

I am now using my iphone to record for Strava and Garmin for my own records. It’s a bit of a belt and braces solution, but it should mean I won’t lose segments. I wouldn’t like to use my Garmin to map completely virgin territory, but I am increasing my knowledge of the roads of Surrey and Sussex all the time, and it’s fine for these excursions. It’s never a bad thing to keep the old grey matter going anyway, although it’s hard when you get tired.

We did manage to get back on track for Hill 9, aka Ranmore Road from Dorking. It’s quite nasty but only because it is long. I think the steepest bits are about 10%, so at a steady pace it’s perfectly doable.

Overall it was a long steady ride. We did about half the climbing I will face in the Dragon Gran Fondo and about two thirds of the distance. With six weeks to go, I’m glad we banked the distance, even at a pace of just under 24k/hr.

Note to self: rest and stretch today, Turbo tomorrow.

Pain and peas… a miraculous cure

Map reference: Cobham into Sussex, via Quell Hill, 22%, 120k

Carbs and caffeine: sandwich, coffee and chocolate at Kirdford Village Stores, plus many painkillers

Any regular readers will know I’ve been struggling with a bad back. I’ve also been struggling with the knowledge that I do need to get in some longer rides. I think I’ve done well on the winter base, this should now be the fun bit. With this in mind, I snapped up Keith’s offer of a longer ride out into Sussex. Every cyclist needs a mappy friend like him, and if you can find one with a plethora of trivia about the countryside you are passing through, more’s the better.

Within half an hour of riding I was on my first round of paracetamol. Half an hour later I had to break my pledge not to take anti-inflamatories and hit the ibuprofen too. Nonetheless it was a beautiful day and Keith confidentally rode us to ‘a climber’s climb’ called Quell Hill. I shall resist the puns on Quell, suffice to say, it is a real challenge; kicking hard at the bottom, and winding up through trees leaving the top obscured. After the initial shock, I just settled into grinding up as best I could. It’s a mindset thing, basically it’s faster than walking unless you are reduced to the speed where you actually fall off. I was pleased to get to the top. And the descent was unbelievably beautiful, views across the Downs; stunning and well worth the pain.

But, that said, the pain was now becoming more of a problem. We rode on for about another 10k with a lump ominously swelling towards my right hip. At last we wheeled into Kirdford, an old-fashioned village store, with an old-fashioned welcome. If they thought it was strange I bought a packet of frozen peas with my sandwich and coffee, they were too polite to mention it.

I slid the peas down my bibs and we had a long stop to chat, which I was grateful for. I kept the peas where they were when we pushed off. Frankly with all the padded Lycra and stuffed back pockets, I don’t think a bag of peas in the shorts was very noticable. The trip back was worryingly painful. My companions talked of fetching cars, but I really felt I could make it, if we could knock off the speed a bit. Keith rode with me all the way back to my car and I gratefully swung myself off the bike.

As I drove around the school run I expected the pain to kick in as the painkillers wore off. It didn’t. In the evening, I expected the pain to kick in. No pain.

This morning I was sure I would wake up in agony. I didn’t. In fact I am more comfortable today than I have been in days. It’s a miracle. I can recommend the frozen peas and a long ride method for back pain to anyone.

And did I serve up the peas for tea? No, I am not that eccentric.

Note to Lucy: I’ve put my recipes on a page called Mussette munchies

Rising in the East…

Map reference: Ashtead to Oxted, further east along the Downs than I have been before, 86k, including Chalkpit Lane climb

Carbs and Caffeine: Bike Beans Cycle Cafe, Ashtead, and Cafe Nero, Oxted

After a three week break I was finally able to get back to Bike Beans for the Thursday ride. There were supposed to be two rides going – a 9.15 ‘advanced’ and a 9.30 ‘intermediate’ – but they rolled into one for the first half of flat riding. Keith was in charge and had organised for us to start as one group and split after a coffee stop. I forgot to count the heads, but I think we were about 12, with some now familiar faces among the dozen. The joint ride was in part to accomodate Jo, who is carrying a skiing injury in her shoulder and so can’t do hills. In fact her doctor has told she shouldn’t do group rides. Unfortunately this advice doesn’t take into consideration Jo’s addiction to riding and this was her second group ride in two days.

The first part of the route was fairly routine commuting across the county. As ever we were going at a fair old pace, our average speed for the ride was over 26km/h, which is probably rather faster than Jo’s doctor would have liked.

I know I shouldn’t go on about the bike, but it is simply amazing the difference the last changes have made to my comfort and speed. I would love to know whether it’s the shorter cranks, or simply the upgrade to Dura-Ace groupset. And my new confidence with the better brakes earned me some QOMs (Queen of the Mountains on Strava) on a couple of descents.

Cafe Nero in Oxted coped very well with being swamped in Lycra and the group then split into three with one woman getting on a train home, a group taking the most direct and flat route home – including Jo whose shoulder was now aching – and four of us electing to tackle Chalkpit Lane with Keith. As usual there was a lot of talk about how long and how steep the climb was. I tried to tune out; so much of climbing is in the head. And, of course, it was fine. I am definitely getting stronger and I think it’s time to diary in some solo hill repeats to build on the winter base, now the weather is better.

The view at the top was stunning, if somewhat marred by barbed wire, and from there it was an hour and a half of the gentle rises and descents that make up much of Surrey. Mostly I was able to keep up. Hanno had to drift back and pick me up at one point, and Keith did the same as we bolted through the familiar roads of Headley with coffee on our minds. I earned another piece of Strava bling here, QOM of The Lord of The Flies segment, which I’m quite please with as I’d had to sneak a couple of jelly beans at Walton-on-the-Hill to get me home. No flies on me…

Note to self: don’t chicken out, you must take your heavier bike today for ride with brother

Flight of fancy

Displaying photo.JPG Ace addition: the new crankset gets the traditional weigh-in in my kitchen

Map reference: home spinning, and quick Richmond Park flip

Carbs and caffeine: homemade chocolate chip cake seems to be disappearing, but the kids are home…

In the last four days since we got back from Flanders, I’ve done 125km, but only 18k outside. Why? The sun is shining, the bike is in perfect condition, I’m not injured … no, it’s the school holidays. I’ve been hopping on the turbo every morning after Husband leaves for work, and ploughing through my turbo challenges, pedalling between an hour and 90 mins, at a rate of 30k/h. Very, very dull.

But I do have to tell you about my Richmond Park flip on Tuesday. I left my bike at Velosport over the Easter weekend, along with a new crankset (Dura-Ace with shorter cranks than standard, at 170cm, and 11-speed cassette), Dura-Ace Shimano brakes and the beautiful 38cm 3T handlebars that I introduced in a previous blog. Velosport fitted all this for £40, which impressed me.

But what impressed me more was the ride afterwards. In fact it was less like cycling and more like flying. I don’t know whether being forced off the training for a few days while we were away left me extra fresh, but my Strava (for the uninitiated, it’s a website that compares your ride to previous rides, and to other people) gave me 70 pieces of bling, composed of strings of personal bests. And it felt blingy all the way round.

The first thing I noticed on leaving the shop were the new brakes. To actually be able to feel the pads engage is a delight. No excuses now, I’m going to have to improve my descents.

Once I got to the park and could stretch my legs, the bike just seemed to take off. Was it the fresh legs? Or was it the shorter cranks? Whatever it was, the sensation of flying was wonderful, peeling past people, and sensing Husband slipping off the back (with his tired legs, I will concede). Pure, childish joy. This is why cycle is addictive.

The final change puzzled me at first. There are little mini bricked humps as you pass by Ham Gate towards Pembroke Lodge, travelling clockwise, and the bike was so smooth over them that I started looking at my tyres, wondering whether they were flat. I hadn’t checked them when I picked up the bike. Surely the shop would check them, I fretted? Then I remembered my bars are now carbon. I was, for the first time, getting the full carbon experience. And now I get it. Over distance, the smoothness will make a huge difference, it isn’t just the weight, it’s the ride.

So the bike is finished. Apart from changing the bottle cages – I really hate the silly Italian ones I was palmed off with a few weeks ago, I won’t be visiting that shop again – it is as light as I can possibly justify. Now it’s all down to me.

Note to self: call in some favours, you need to get rid of the kids and get out.

Sometimes the weather app talks cobblers 

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Stone me: a small section of cobbles on my little circuit to dry Husband’s bike. Riders and bikes were covered in fifth by the end, black like miners, with the wrinkly ones streaked white along their lines

Map reference: Varsenare to Houtave and back, 15k

Carbs and caffeine: nothing for this short ride, but freshly cooked waffles two days ago still a highlight of our holiday here

All holidays this year have been designed around cycle commitments, so here we are in Bruges for Husband to do what is known locally as Ronde Van Vlaanderen, aka The Flanders; 254k – 120k of boring flat (against headwinds of up to 30k) followed by hills, cobbles… and sometimes hilly cobbles. It is one of the ‘classic’ one-day cycle races that the professionals do every year, and indeed is one of five of these classics that are known as the ‘Monuments’. This one was first held in 1913 and is renowned for narrow steep cobbled ‘bergs’, which force the pro riders to fight for the space at the front or risk being edged off the road. Many times, in bad weather, the pros have had to pick up their bikes and run up the hills.

Back to Saturday, and Husband’s race, all was prepared and the weather app suggested it should be dry. Unfortunately, the app was wrong. Husband set off in short bibs to spend the first three hours pedalling against rain and wind. At the first feed stop, he was still shivering. In fact it took him 130k to stop shivering. There has been some debate later about whether this was my fault for referencing the errant app reports. But I clearly remember ‘nagging’ Husband as he prepared to leave in the dark about what he was wearing, and moreover what he was not wearing – his arm and leg warmers, his new rain gilet, his waterproof? All were left in a bag in the kitchen. Luckily he has now accepted the blame, and family peace has been restored. As with his early races where he didn’t have enough water and food, it’s a lesson learnt.

With the weather against them for the first half of the day,  all the riders were forced to dismount for the Koppenberg, an early hill which maxes at 22 per cent and was covered in mud, but by the end, the road had dried and they were able to sail up the Paterberg, another famous hill. In fact, at this moment, I feel like I cycled the route myself, as we watched the pros do the route on the TV the next day. It was dry and sunny all day for them, which seems unfair.

The drier weather gave me a chance to get out, if briefly. Husband sluiced his filthy bike and I took a little turn towards the coast. It is wonderfully safe cycling, you can see for miles across the fields. But with my elevation over 25k at 24m, this was not a training ride… Just a mood enhancer.

Note to self: must get kids farmed out so I can get out for a proper ride myself

Bars should fit me to a 3T

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Best bar none: Ex-display, but now these drops are mine, all mine

Map reference: home, on the spinning bike, 50k

Carbs and caffeine: slice of homemade bread with Marmite, large cup of coffee afterwards

I shan’t bore you with the details, but today’s turbo challenge was aerobic endurance. Briefly, 95rpm sections; 5mins, 10mins, 15mins, 10mins, 5mins, with between 1 to 3min active recovery in between. I do find it helps to follow a programme and I’m quite pleased with my 50k in 92 mins, although I shall work on dropping the last two minutes next time.

Of course the main reason for blogging today is to introduce my handlebars which arrived today… in an oddly unhandlebar-shaped box. Finally I shall have a fully carbon bike and I can’t wait to see how that feels. They are light of course (208g on my kitchen scales), but I’m told it’s the lack of vibrations that I will enjoy. It’s another Ebay purchase. Here’s a link to their five-star review on bike radar

Husband managed to bag them at half price as they are 38cm wide, which is narrower than most people would be looking for. Despite having wide profile shoulders, this is what I measure at on the bones. The LaPierre currently has 42cm and I have noticed the difference with my Giant which has 40cms bars.

And anything which makes me more aerodynamic must be a good thing.

Note to self: Husband doing Flanders this weekend, must buy Genoa cake for the back pocket

Double Staple secures a hilly ride

Uplifting view of the Downs: free to anyone, you don’t have to be on a bike

Map reference: Richmond Park, through Cobham to Staple Lane, Crocknorth Road, Box Hill and back through Walton-on-the-Hill. You will have to take my word for it as the Garmin turned itself off. Just under 100k

Carbs and Caffeine: Box Hill cafe, cup of tea and a flapjack, cycling fuel and lunch rolled into one delicious homemade slab

Making my way to my Richmond Park rendezvous with Jacqui, I had my doubts about today’s cycle plan. The winds were horrendous. As a gust hit, all I could do was stop pedalling, grip the handlebars and hope the cars would have the sense to know how difficult the conditions were. One senile old gent chose this day to try driving (so slowly I had to overtake going up cardiac hill – aka Broomfield Hill) while holding his iphone in front of his face to take a video. The silly old duffer is now the proud owner of a shot of me gesticulating to put the thing down. Leaving your brain at the gate because you are driving through the park is not acceptable… and that goes for parking in the middle of the road to see the deer too.

I was still worried about the gusts as we continued. A cycling friend has bust his knee skiing, and it has pricked my fear that all this training would count for nothing, should I sustain an injury. We actually got off our bikes in Kingston, as the wind funnelling between Peter Jones and Bentalls was too dangerous to ride through, but things improved from there and by the time we were in Cobham I had settled down and was enjoying myself. We pedalled on to Staple Lane and, since I climb faster, I decided to do it twice to Jacqui’s once. The plan was to catch her a bit down the road. Jacqui obviously took this as a challenge and pedalled off as fast as she could. She was most of the way up Crocknorth Road (which we know as ‘the steep one under the bridge’) before I caught sight of her. She must have been holding back before. Anyway it gave me a chance to stretch my legs along the rolling ride between the two hills and I’m sure I would have set some personal records on Strava if the Garmin hadn’t failed to record that section.

My screen told me we had done 60k as we pulled up outside the cafe on top of Box Hill. I wish I had looked at the climbing rate, as that information is now gone forever.

We were trying to ‘make time’ as we set off for home as Jacqui was late for all sorts of household admin, but were stopped as we turned into Headley Common Road by a police block and ambulance. Unfortunately a motorcyclist had been hit by a falling tree. I dread to think what would have happened if it had been us. At least the guy had his protective clothing. A policeman told us that the biker will be all right, but it is very sobering seeing someone stretchered into an ambulance.

As the road was closed for an investigation into the accident, we were forced to take a rather long circuit through Walton-On-The-Hill and Tadworth (made slightly longer with a wrong turning from me). Poor Jacqui was now very late, and had to call her mother, who was at home with the children, and explain to her that there had been an accident – no, she wasn’t in the accident – and she would be much later than planned. Mobile reception is not great up there, the conversation went round and round in loud circles for a while before the message was received.

So not everything went according to plan. Jacqui was very late and I have no record of the ride. And hail had not been forecast but fell anyway. But we banked some miles, and that’s a good thing with 10 weeks to go the the Dragon Ride.

Note to self: turbo tomorrow, need to start building up the stamina