Friday 8 June 2012

Heck of the North Hampshire

Remember this? Hell of the North Hampshire, the Magnificat 203km ride last year.

I note that I didn't use the phrase "never again" in that post. Silly, silly me.

After the wind, cold and rain of last year - all for a June event - it surely would be reasonable conditions this year? The week before had been warm and sunny (at least in Paris, where I was - though I was assured the UK was similar) so what were the chances of rain hitting on the Sunday?

Let's look at the factors that influence UK rainfall.

  • It almost always rains on public holiday weekends. This was a double special public holiday
  • It was a weekend of national celebration - the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations
  • There was an enormous flotilla marking the occasion on the Thames. They were expecting over a million people to come out and watch it
  • Street parties were planned throughout the land
  • The Magnificat was on
  • It was the summer
I make that a 98% chance of rainfall.

Last year I rode most of the event alone. This year I had a companion - David from the Pyrenees, London to Brighton and soon to be Dolomites and Haute Route trips. This was his first long ride of the year - over 100 miles - and also the longest he'd ever cycled in one go.

He came over to stay on the night before the ride, and we went out for chain restaurant Italian, with Elaine coming too. We ate healthy food, drank non-alcoholic drinks and were generally very sensible. Up early the next day to kick-start things with coffee, more coffee and double breakfast.

Spinning out to the start (5 minutes from my house) the conditions were... worrying. Not as cold as last year - at least the temperature was in double figures - but drizzle strengthening to rain. Not quite Belgian, but certainly Dutch.

The start was quiet. I think after last year plenty of people bailed before the ride, or simply didn't enter. There were only about 40 people there - I think a couple of groups had already gone - but certainly far fewer than I'd expect.

The first third of the route has three climbs and we probably went a bit hard at these - certainly no-one overtook us, and we eased past the group of people we'd been riding with. Long rides are all about pacing, and this was a great example of what not to do.

60 miles in - my first puncture. Bye bye little group of riders we were towing along.

65 miles in - back in the group.

75 miles in - long draggy climb. Now people were starting to overtake us. We were getting tired. I was getting nauseous from all the energy drink I'd consumed. This wasn't fun. Not even in a "I love the brutality" kind of way.

100 miles in. Onto roads I know well. Spirits rise.

101 miles in. Rain gets harder. Spirits fall. Spirits would have been drunk at this point, if I'd had a hip flask. Oh, my rear brake cable grits up and keeps the pads rubbing on the wheel.

115 miles in, only 12 to go. David gets a puncture, and has difficulty getting his wheel back in. I undo my rear brake. Feck it, rear brakes are just for adjusting line anyway, not for stopping. We're not both pretty cold, knackered and miserable.

127 miles. Done. The finish is almost empty. The bar is almost full. Coffee to warm up. Get a medal.

Time - irrelevant. 57th/190, bobbins really - though the Garmin shows 30 minutes of stops.

Never again. Honest.