I had been looking forward to riding a 200k Perm this Saturday, the forecast 20mph wind hadn’t put me off and even seemed to enhance the idea as it offered a ‘training bonus’ to prepare me for tougher rides to come. I should have noticed this was odd thinking at the time and by Thursday, when I had to cut my run from 4 to 2 miles due to a bad cold leaving me with weak legs and a fuzzy head, I realised that looking forward to headwinds is a sure sign of pre-viral delirium. Still, I was feeling better Friday afternoon so rather than give up on the idea altogether I decided I’d ride a windy 100k on Saturday instead.
The planned lie-in and 10am start was thwarted by Lala who woke us at 5:30am for breakfast and then again at 6:00 to tell us the food she’d been given didn’t meet her requirements. Giving up on further sleep I breakfasted myself (while Lala went back to sleep) and was on the bike about 8:30 setting off into light but persistent rain.
Taking it easy the first few k, through Oxford and over Boars Hill, the wind didn’t seem all that bad but it soon hit me as I reached more exposed territory. I could keep a steady 12mph into it heading south but turning west into the lane to Garford the going got tough and I found myself on the drops grinding away at under 10mph as chaffinchs and crows blew here, there and everywhere in their misguided attempts to stay airborne. The ground dropped away to my right and a flock of sheep were wisely huddling in the bit of shelter this provided. A few miles later, heading due south again, at least 100 seagulls sat in a field on my left all pointing in exactly the same direction, I could almost imagine a gentle swell of waves bobbing them up and down. This was hard work but I was enjoying myself.
An energy gel at 30k seemed wise as soon I had the 150 metre climb out of Wantage up Chain Hill and onwards over the Ridgeway. This road is usually appreciated by local cyclists in the other direction as one of the fastest, good visibility, descents in the area. I wouldn’t want to be coming down it today – it was all I could do to stay upright in the crosswind. Fortunately the wind was consistent enough to lean into but I kept an eye on my mirror as I suspect the shelter of an overtaking horse-box would dump me in the road just like whipping the crutch away from an invalid.
Top of the hill and I was soon at both the highest and the most south-westerly point of the ride, turning left onto the Farnborough road my speed jumped and I was soon having to use the brakes to keep my cadence tolerable on the fixie. This road can be tough but today I rolled the ups and downs, including a couple of 1 in 7s, with little strain and was soon descending Streatley Hill with an annoying SUV sitting on my back wheel.
I swung north to follow the dangerously potholed lanes through Ipsden then on better tarmac through Ewelme and Chalgrove, still flying along and beginning to persuade myself the wind hadn’t really been that bad and had dropped now anyway. It had stopped raining at some point and I’d not got uncomfortably wet or cold at any point.
Swinging west again for the final 10k I found the wind was still there and strong as ever. It seemed a bit late to neck another energy gel so I plodded on but was back on the drops and making slow progress. I took a final detour to push the clock over the 100k mark though and was home in time for a late lunch feeling I’d done enough but not too much.
This ride reminded me what a great distance 100k is, I tend to either ride 200k plus events as these give AUK points or to go on shorter, 40 or 50k, ‘training’ rides. Today 100k was just right!