Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Day 2 Brecon to Alveston: Stonehenge cycle ride

Day 2 started out well. After the last ten miles the day before, there were bound to be a number of slow punctures. I was lucky, my tyres had held, but I replaced the air in the front tyre as this had been blown up with a CO2 cannister by the side of the road when I had a puncture. CO2 reacts with the rubber in the inner tube, so it is usually best to replace as soon as practical. We were on the road about 8.00am, and I set off with Jason, one of the HASSRA guys from Manchester. Until that evening, I hadn't spoken to Jason, as it never clicked he was from HASSRA before.

It turned out he preferred to ride at a pace that was similar to mine, so we stuck together until the first Water stop. The roads were fantastic we went on a dual carriageway for about half a mile out of town and then peeled off onto a country lane. We seemed to ride through a valley and I was expecting at any time to peel off the road and hit a serious climb, but it never came. It was probably just as well, as my legs were still stiff from the day before, but after about 30 minutes they loosened up and I started to stretch my pace out a bit.

The water stop was in a picturesque village by a river outside a small coffee shop. I parked up and ate a few nibbles (banana, tracker bar), to keep me topped up and we took a photo by the side of the river once everybody had caught up. I did not really want to hang around afterwards, as I could feel my legs beginning to stiffen again and I didn't want to break my legs in again after every stop. To start with there were about half a dozen people in front of me, and I was happy to keep this place for the time being. A couple of miles in, a hill soon loomed upon us, not a particularly steep one, but required us to lean into it a bit and put in a bit more energy. I soon found myself up the front again, with a guy called Paul. There were two other guys up front, but it turned out they had decided to take an excursion to a steep hill close by.

We were told there was plenty of time to the next stop and that lunch would not be ready until 12:30, but the roads were too good to ride slowly so we pushed ahead. It was me and Paul for what seemed like about 15 miles. We had the re-assurance of the road signs from the organisers so were alright. We were looking for a swing bridge, which was close to the Lunch stop, as the swing bridge loomed, about ten riders descended upon us, they had been chasing us since the Water stop and had just caught up with us as we reached the Lunch stop. It was 11:30 and the lunch stop was a Golf club that served some lovely soup and sandwiches followed by a pasta salad, which after the mornings efforts went down really well. The two guys who took a detour got a rapturous welcome when they arrived late to the Lunch stop. A few were OK, with it, but a few were pissed off. Certainly, the organisers feared the worst and couldn't rest until they knew they were safe.

At 1:30 when we came out of the golf club, the legs were stiff again. I was joined by Brendan, John and Mark from HASSRA and we cycled out together. We were told that the 2nd water stop was just after a big hill, after a while, just as the legs loosened up again, we reached the hill and started to attack it. Brendan was off in front, followed by me, Mark and then John. The hill really was a challenge and had a few twists and turns. Brendan was gaining distance on us all at his own pace and I concentrated on staying on the bike and using him as motivation to get up the hill. He disappeared around a corner and just as I was reaching the corner and he was coming back in site, Mark was beginning to overtake me. Just at the same moment we noticed that Brendan had got off his bike and was pushing it up the hill. I was determined not to stop and kept with Mark, but then Mark suddenly stopped, shouted I'm going as he was still clipped in and just toppled over onto his right. It was a bizarre situation, I really did not want to get off my bike and I was looking back at Mark as I peddled  I could see the pain in his face, he really was hurting, and it was clear to me, me had broken his collar bone in the fall. I had no choice but to stop and go and assist. I helped Mark to unclip, moved his bike to the side of the road and then encouraged him away from the centre of the road to the edge where it was much safer from passing cars. I was then clear that he had not broken his collar bone after all, but probably got a shock through his arm as he went down on it. I was relieved that I didn't have a medical emergency on my hands and pushed Mark's bike up the remainder of the hill as he walked by the side. At the top of the hill, he had recovered enough to get back on the bike and we rode together to the second water stop, which was a good few miles further than what we were expecting from our lunch time brief. I was disappointed that I did not conquer the hill, but equally I was not prepared to cycle back to the bottom and have another attempt, so I will let that one go.

We were compensated for the extended ride by what I consider to be the most fantastic view of the trip. We were on top of a hill which overlooked the Severn estuary, it was quite a view point with the sea in the distance along with Lundy island and we could just make out the Servern bridge, which was mostly obscured by the houses we were stood between. For me, it was the first time in over 2 days that I had managed to get my bearings. After the water stop, was also the best descent of the trip. We were descending through country lanes again, reaching speeds in excess of 30 mph. It felt really exhilarating and appeared to go on for miles. We had a short climb before we re-grouped to cross the Servern. I wasn't sure what to expect from the crossing, we were told we would be climbing for about a mile before we reached the centre of the bridge and started heading down hill, I was expecting some fierce cross wind or being close to the traffic, but the reality was neither, instead I got another fantastic view and a sense of perspective about just how wide the servern estuary is as we cycled over the foot and cycle path.

After the bridge, we went at our own pace again before we ended up at a Holiday Inn near Alveston. I felt really good at the end of the ride, much better than I expected after 2 long rides back to back. I collected my room key and after a bath header to the bar to enjoy a well earned beer. That evening everyone spirits were high consider we had covered nearly 130 miles in two days. Quite a few of us could hardly believe this achievement, but everyone was in bed at a reasonable time as we did not want to rest on our laurels with the day ahead. THe weatherwas forecast as wet with gales, so there was a deal of trepidation amongst quite a few of us.

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