Started the week by completing both my 'CS SR 1' and 'AM SR 1' routes as fast as I could. Have never really been a 'racer' (too fat) but for some reason am enjoying racing these 2 routes. The first route is quite short (less than 30k) and I liked to race against myself (and beat my previous best time). At often times, I don't race because I tend to use my single speed bike for this route. This week however, I used 'Slinky', my road bike - and raced it! I think I completed in my best time yet. Both routes were stolen from Strava users. The second route was just over 40k long and has a 23 mile segment on it entitled 'Bill and Alex's 23 miler'. It was this segment that I liked to race. On my second crack at this event, I had the fastest time and was crowned 'King of Mountain' (KOM). I was only king for a day, Bill quickly grabbing his title back. On Wednesday, I raced with the voices in my head shouting 'Kill Bill' and yippee - I had the crown again! I just wondered for how long?!
The 'big cycle' this week was a calender event audax entitled 'Heart of England 300'. As the name suggests this was a 300k event that started and finished in Cirencester. A map depicting my route is presented below:
Had hoped to ride this audax with my buddy Chris, but at short notice he decided to bail. Thankfully, there were others here that I knew and I was able to cycle with them. Most notably, Jamie and Andy (his friend) had rocked up. A whole bunch of riders were all congregated at the start and before I had chance to help myself to some free breakfast we were off. The event started at 6 a.m and was initially a little chilly. I set off with Jamie and Andy, but had lost them quickly after only a few k. It later transpired that Jamie was having Garmin issues.
Stage 1 started to look familiar and as it passed through Salperton, I knew exactly where I was. I had cycled these roads a few months back during my 'Poor Student Permanent'. This time, I found the 'missing' park or 'grounds' and had a lovely zoomy cycle through them. A short while later I cycled right past Broadway Tower and then down the famous Saintbury Hill. This hill was one of those ring-twitching sorts - both my cheeks and brakes being pulled in as I raced down it. The route then continued through Bidford and it was here that I met Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop was a chap that I cycled part of the PBP with in 2011 - he was the chap who rode straight into me. Augustus (so called because he looks like that Willy Wonker character) and I chatted for quite a spell, all about bike related nonsense and the nature of our halllucinations on PBP. Our conversation was cut short when I hit a pot hole that punctured my rear tyre (and buckled the front wheel). Grrr, that was the second pot hole I had hit. In addition, I broke my mudguard as I flipped my bike over to repair issues. As I stopped to fix my puncture issue, Jamie and Andy Rocked up! I told the guys to carry on, hopeful to meet them at the control. Sure enough, I caught up with 'the boys' at the control in Alcester (just 4 miles away from my abode). The official control (Lakes Cafe) was so busy that I went next door and purchased croiisant and sausage roll for fuel. After eating our breakfast, we removed a few layers (was hotting up nicely) and started stage 2.
Stage 2 was much easier than stage 1. This was a relatively flat stage, whereas stage 1 had at least 3 hills of note. The route we cycled briefly passed over roads I often cycle on my shorter training runs. We were blessed with the weather today and the sun continued to shine bright. Stopped and ate beans on toast at the Winnie's Cafe control in Atherstone.
Stage 3 continued with great weather. If I remember rightly we passed over roads that feature in the '2 Battles Permanent'. This was a long stage (about 70k) and I pretty much cycled it all with the boys. At often times I would have a quick chat with a cyclist that had caught us up or that we had passed. We were forced to stop for a while at the Roso Cafe control in Daventry because the service was so slow. At least I had time to re-charge my Garmin and eat more beans (plus jacket potato and carrot cake). As a small group we were pleased with our cycling thus far and figured we would finish between 10 - 10.30 p.m. Other folk weren't having such a great time - we saw a cyclist through the shop window who must have had a fall as blood was trickling from his knee.
Stage 4 started with a hill. Not a massive hill but one that required a wee push with bellies full of food. To be fair this stage was quite undulating in nature and despite the weather being largely great it was a little windy. Talking of wind (no, not the beans) we saw loads of those giant wind turbine things dotting the landscape. I also spotted some strange AT-AT looking things. Reached the control, 'Sturdy's Castle' pub and it was still daylight. We stopped here for a while and I ate a lovely sticky toffee pudding with ice cream and washed it down with a further pint of coke (was drinking same throughout the day). We layered up here and headed for the arrivee, the final control.
Stage 5 was great. I think the pudding I had just eaten had given me a sugar buzz. I started to lead out our little group but had this obsession almost, to catch up the flashing red lights in front. Before I knew it I would catch up a pair of said lights and then want to catch the lights in front of that. The more I cycled, the (strangely) better I felt. It was dark now and was using much lighting to show up the path in front of me. With about 30k to go I decided to race this last section which was mostly on lovely country lanes. I lost count of how many red lights I passed. Before I knew it, I was back at the arrivee, with 306k in my legs and feeling pretty great (had completed this event in just under 16 hours). About 15 minutes later, the boys rocked up too! Good job and a great days cycling! My prediction was accurate, we had all finished by 10.15 p.m!
The Heart of England 300, in my opinion, was a fantastic ride. Nice lanesy route and most of the hills conquered early on. The company was great (shout out to Jamie and Andy - hope to see you guys on the 400 Welsh thing). The only downside was much waiting at controls (felt 'open' controls would have been a better choice) and the absence of my buddy Chris!
Cycled a total of 376k this week. My yearly total now stands at 3,050k. :)
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