Wednesday, 27 July 2011

D'Itching Ride

Dr Matt is feeling the fear in advance of late August's trip to the Italian and Swiss Alps. With this in mind, I've taken a week off work and planned to shock the system into some semblance of shape. The initial idea was some sort of compass ride programme, with a 100 miles or km to the north, 100 miles or km to the south, 100 miles or km to the east and 100 miles or km to the west.

The croissant and I started with a ride to the south. I've always been taken by Matt Seaton's description of cresting Ditchling Beacon, glimpsing the sea and turning back to London (in part in a distancing of the writer from the only ride for charity mentality that has come to dominate so many people's views of cycling). Perhaps I would do this perhaps I would reach Brighton and ride a long the coast a bit, or perhaps I would take the train back.

A late start didn't bode well, and the legs felt heavy. But good time was made, and a reasonable route through Brixton taken. After an hour, the croissant and I were south of Croydon, having taken in Ikea and the Battle of Britain memorial. At Purley, we did better than the Gentleman's Team Time Trial Tweed Ride, and I found the glorious track across the common and hilltop road, presenting vistas to the north and south, meadows all around, and then a steep, wooded series of descents to the plain. Feeling pretty good, and even enjoying the hills I kept finding, I pressed on, finding pleasant routes like the well-named Cogman's Lane, and noting that the road outside of Hayward's Heath was still unrepaired, with the same deep pothole that brought down a Tweed companion still lurking for the unwary.

As always happens, on the approach to Ditchling, I began to feel weary. I passed the garden centre, which offered succour to Dr Doug on our first trip to Brighton, and slugged a gel. Then it was Ditchling and the Beacon.

It seemed like the worst ever climb of that particular hill. Perhaps I was out of shape, lacking fuel, or perhaps I had pushed it too hard to get there. Still, I pressed on, and realised that it was being alone that made it all the harder. I counted the turns, and took in the view. Then, I was at the top, and paused by the sign left from the Ditchling Devil audax last weekend.

Out of drink, I asked if beverages were sold at the ice cream van at the top. No, it leads to litter, was the apologetic answer. This was no time for Mr Whippy, so, I glanced at the sea, and turn the bike around, with a slow, but reasonably graceful descent. I had decided to see how far back I could get.

Supplies at Ditchling, then to Hassocks (of the Puncheur fame). Here, I took on another gel. I managed to squirt (or other verbs) it all over my arm and leg, leaving blood red goop to set. I wiped the stuff off my arm with what I thought was grass, but there must have been a creature or unpleasant fauna: welts and scratched appeared on what amounts to my bicep. It was now D'Itching Ride.

Then along an A road to Burgess Hill and other places. It was the beginning of the school run, and so not the most pleasant of riding, but good time was made. But I had enough, and turned off at Crawley Lane. Lovely, but oh so steep. Back through Copthorpe, watching the planes come into Gatwick, up over the ridge, and then down Church Lane at Bletchingly. Here, I was desperate to avoid the mountain I had descended south of Purley - and found White Hill Lane into Caterham on the Hill. 'On the Hill' should have been a clue. And yes, dear reader, I put my foot down to take a swig from the bottle kindly filled in the kitchen of the Post Office in Bletchingly.

Eventually, we were on the road to Purley, Croydon, Norwood, Streatham, Brixton, etc etc (amazed at how zippy those tiny street cleaners are). And then cruising up Regent's Park, deciding to spring home, and passing each and every rider like a complete dick. But we were home, 9 hours after setting out. The cyclemeter gave up with 5% battery, but the croissant had carried me 180km, and 1,200 metres of climbing.

(Stats before it conked out:
Ride Time: 6:21:50
Stopped Time: 1:30:18
Distance: 155.02 km
Average: 24.36 km/h
Fastest Speed: 62.64 km/h
Ascent: 1212 meters
Calories: 4846)

So, to celebrate, I went to the Hawley Arms for a pint. And, because of the wake going on upstairs (and one of the guests), confirmed that we had met in Sainsburys a couple of years ago.


Trois V!

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