Sun 09 November 2014

The Hell of the North (Downs)

Last weekend I did the Evans Cycles Biggin Hill Sportive which I'd signed up for AGES ago. Infact I'd signed up for it so long ago I'd forgotten any of the details other than the date so during the week before I checked out the route (I did the medium) and was horrified to see that it was incredibly hilly. Here is from the blurb:

The North Downs feature heavily on this ride, alongside some swooping descents and tricky climbs, including Toys Hill and Titsey Hill. This is a tough ride but the climbing is rewarded with some descents and views which will more than reward your efforts.

Checking out Toys Hill shows it is at number 10 in the 100 Greatest cycling climbs list which started to seriously daunt me. I can do a long steady hill but can't do steep climbs easily. Also whilst I'd been cycling to work a lot I hadn't done any long rides recently.

The day of the ride was unbelivably wet with torrential rain pouring down causing flash flooding all along the route. Those descents which were meant to reward my efforts were so wet, and had so many wet leaves on, we ended up going about 5 mph down them whilst fearing for our lives! The weather then alternated between miserable greyness and rain or bright sunshine which dazzling reflecting off the road. My front wheel punctured twice on the ride which is a bit unusual as most weight is on the back wheel so that is more likely to puncture. However with braking so much on the descents it seems to have made me puncture which made the rest of the descent interesting whilst I tried to control the bike. This ended a good run of no punctures for me, as hadn't punctured on that bike for about 18 months.

Miles 35-40 were hellish as the rain was relentless and I became fixated on getting over 40 miles as then the amount of left to do wouldn't be much. They were also very bumpy with lots of inclines to ride up. Then when we got to 50.4 miles a hill started. As a sign had said the route was actually 51 miles instead of the advertised 50 I thought fine as it is only half a mile. It turned out the route was 53.5 iles due to a diversion thanks to a closed road. The last 3 miles were up hill; which If I'd known at the bottom of the climb I'd have probably burst out crying but as I kept telling myself it would be over soon repeatedly I kept going and didn't do badly in the end. The thought of getting dry and having a cup of tea was an incredible motivator.

My wife asked if I enjoyed the ride and had to try to explain that the ride isn't enjoyable but the sense of achievement and accomplishment is fantastic.

Here's my stats for the ride but as ever for long rides my little Garmin has cocked up and isn't showing the full route: