Yellowing Pages

Here are some PDF scans of old books and stuff you might find interesting, note that some of the downloads are quite large to retain legibility.

‘Arrivee #26’ June 1989 – The magazine of Audax UK. BASIC code for a program to work out control timings. A call for LEL volunteers and more:

Arrivee #25′ April 1989 – The magazine of Audax UK. In which we can read an account of PBP 1891 and may consider entering LEL for the price of £10 entries ‘to arrive not later than June 25th’ (1989):

‘Arrivee #33’ Summer 1991 – The magazine of Audax United Kingdom. ‘Have you ridden round the clock yet?’ The Elenith 300. Letters – ‘A suggestion .. that we should encourage cyclists to attempt events on fixed wheel!

‘Arrivee #39’ Winter 1992. In which the new for 1993 Audax UK Fixed Wheel Challenge is announced, AUKs ‘rampant parrot’ logo is disparaged and the cover photo tells of miles in the saddle:

Why I Am A Vegetarian – An Address Delivered before the Chicago Vegetarian Society’ written by J.Howard Moore 1895:

A Simple Primer on Common-Sense Vegetarianism‘ by Henry Light (for 20 years captain of the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club). Probably 1930s?:

The Vegetarian News – The Official Organ of The London Vegetarian Society‘ April to June 1943 discussing such topics as ‘The Protein Problem’ and ‘Diet in Pregnancy’:

Briault 24hr

Veggie G.H Briault rides the 1908 North Roads 24 hour (368.5 miles)

VC&AC Advert from 1928

VC&AC Advert from 1928

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Land’s End to John o’ Groats 2004

Once upon a time I rode from Lands End to John o’ Groats (it was in 2004 but that might as well be the dark ages to my useless memory). I rode an indirect but quiet route with my then riding buddy John Harwood as a set of 8 consecutive 200k Audax UK Perms (for some reason he got credited 8 x 200k but I got 1 x 1600k for the same ride, I don’t remember why). We both took responsibility for route planning for alternate days, John’s were great – mine, mostly annotated photocopies of the route supplied by the CTC, were crap. I hardly remembered I’d ridden it, let alone any detail, so it was nice to come across an A4 envelope the other day with LEJOG written on it in which I found, along with highlighted route maps etc, a day by day account of the ride I must have written at the time. I can’t remember if I did anything with this at the time, I suspect not. It’s too long and not very exciting but I’m going to post it anyway.

Sat 19/6/2004

Before start – long drive down (Sarah) – Trendrennen Farm

Sun 20/6 (Day 1)

Got soaked in downpour during 4km to start. Negotiated Penzance ok but got turned round at Porkellis and ended up coming out on a lane with the way we wanted to go signposted behind us! Sarah met us at Stithians (where control was shop in the rain) and then drove home satisfied John’s ankle giving no trouble. Apart from hiccup at Truro managed to stay mostly on route despite my misplaced trust in CTC provided route (which was either full of detail or neglected to mention turnings etc).

Lunch at Tesco, Wadebridge was a good idea as St Kew offered nothing but a pub which had stopped serving. Only just in the time limits (@ 15kph) as hills, luggage, off-route slowing us down. Tintagel toBude got awful hilly with a couple of 30%ers on the coast road.

Rolled into Gt Torrington about 8:45pm and had to make do with a Spar Shop supper as too late for pubs. Wyburn House was fine but I think we both felt a bit slow and we’d only just begun!

Mon 21/6 (Day 2)

Ate breakfast watching the rain come down at 7:15 in Wyburn House, stopped as soon as we set off leaving us feeling overdressed. B3227 to South Molton offered a slow start with it’s succession of hills. Climb up to Exmoor very long but nice gradient, not managing to build up any time. Drop down then climb out of Withypool – same again at Winsford where PO store offered our first control of the day. Still on the lower time limits.

A good descent of the Brendon Hills followed by a 1 in 4 out of Crowcombe which had us tacking across the road just to keep moving. Expected cafe in Bridgewater closed but local pointed us over the bridge to ‘Poppys’ where omelette and chips went down well. Left on the limits again promising cafe a postcard from John o’Groats.

Flat bit after Bridgewater allowed us to build a bit of time up so we could enjoy the climb up Cheddar Gorge. Getting quite warm and sunny by the time we reached Saltford for a Coop control. Managed to leave with 30 mins in hand and built up some more along the cycleway. The flattish roads from Chipping Sodbury to the M4 bridge and Cheptow offered a slight headwind but rolled into the B&B about 8:30pm and ate in a pleasant Chinese where I sampled ‘mock chicken/pork’ or some-such.

Tues 22/6 (Day 3)

No cooked breakfast – 2nd most expensive B&B and ‘The First Hurdle’ doesn’t have any staff in till 8am. Orange juice and cereal see us on our way.

Tintern Abbey looks good without it’s scaffolding. John spots a flaw in my ‘cut and paste’ route sheet and ensures we enjoy the correct hill from Brockweir to St Briavels which I thoroughly enjoy in the sunshine with the promise of a flatter day. Successfully negotiate what appears to be some road renumbering after Coleford. The whole-food shop & cafe I was looking forward to in Ross-on-Wye had vanished and the bakery had no veg pasties either so a disappointing 1st stop.

Even John couldn’t make enough sense of my increasingly suspicious route sheet to get us out of Ross on the correct lane so I took us on a short bash down the duel carriageway and got us back into the lanes with a couple of km over. Excellent lane rolled along quiet valley though at one point the surface disappeared under water and red mud causing me to get off before I fell off!

LEJOG Day 3

Things might have gone smoother with a GPS instead.

Managed to reach Leominster in time for a slow and expensive lunch despite my dubious route sheet and left with little time to spare as usual. John rescued us again in Ludlow and our way led to another great lane along Corvedale. A shop stop in Much Wenlock was followed by an A road downhill towards Ironbridge from where we climbed back up along a lane that sported less than 50% tarmac in places and led through an uncharted housing estate over the A road and eventually through a gap at the end or the Wrekin.

Despite my best efforts we hadn’t gone sufficiently off route to make up some unexpected under-distance so shortly before Market Drayton we had a look at the map and added a 4km ’round the rural block’ to ease our consciences.

Market Drayton was wet and we got wetter trying to find a control. Crofton B&B was excellent and after failing to get food in the Talbot pub, which we had been warned was going down hill, dined well and cheaply in the Indian in the company of a couple of narrow-boaters who had also been disappointed at the Talbot. I did my best not to argue with our somewhat car addicted companions. Meanwhile it rained, the B&B landlady Jill Russell had attempted to phone me to offer a lift back to the B&B – what a contrast to the First Hurdle!

Weds 23/6 (Day 4)

A good breakfast was followed by a flattish start on what turned out to be a wet but enjoyably fast stage. Garage control stop at Middlewich followed by John successfully navigating us through the outskirts of Manchester using a well researched route sheet. Lunch at Westhoughton was home-made cheese pie, chips and peas. Again we got through Blackburn successfully though Great Mitton failed to provide a control (though it had a fine church) and we continued on till we found a shop just about to close in Slaidburn with a YHA opposite to provide a stamp.

I enjoyed the climb over Great Harlow to High Bentham. John had spotted under-distance when he ran the route through Autoroute but we had made some of it up already so opted for an out and back along the A683, had we been 5 minutes quicker we might have missed the downpour that got us on the way into Kirkby Lansdale. Our change of clothes packages had arrived but no rail tickets (not that I was surprised).

Dined in the Snooty Fox after leaving our obliging landlady at Wyke House to try and dry our soaking shoes.

Thurs 26/6 (Day 5)

A previously negotiated breakfast of scrambled eggs and beans (she wasn’t going to do us the full English at 7:15) set us up well for what I realised would be a return to the hills and slow speeds.

It rained and rained. The wind blew every way but behind us and I suspect the hills on our route would have made the reputed ‘Shap’ on the main road route look like a pimple. Another wet cyclist joined us on the A685 and stayed with us till he headed west to join the A6. A tiny PO with a cheerful proprietor in Kings Meaburn offered a control where Maids Meburn had failed. I bought a bar of choc and a bottle of water which amounted to about 10% of his stock. Leg warmers on to try and compensate for soaking and freezing feet! Castle Carrock had no control but Brampton’s rather posh looking tearoom offered a decent baked spud, tea, fruit crumble and custard.

We had taken the A road from Brampton to Langholm as we were under distance again and didn’t fancy trying to negotiate the fiddly lanes in the rain. We remembered to get a control in Langholm despite me neglecting to mention it on my route sheet. The A roads had taken us out of the rain into a dryish looking Longtown then back into it again to a well soaked Longholm.

MirrorWe followed the London Edinburgh London route through Eskdalemuir to the Gordons Arms. Somewhere it must have stopped raining and Scotland was quite pleasant. An extra few km to make up the distance and a good meal then bed at the Gordons Arms (who really need to get themselves a rubber stamp). Bikes went in the coal shed due to lack of other options, we seemed to be the only customers that night and rather pitied the staff.

Fri 25/6 (Day 6)

Missing Bridge

‘Road Closed’ – but not for us!

A good breakfast, a signature in lieu of a stamp, and we were back on the LEL route over the Moorfoot Hills to Edinburgh. The hilly section of LEL was easy going compared with what we’d been through and the weather was pleasant although the repeated ‘Road Closed’ signs had us worried. I had already reassured myself that John, not me, had done the route through Edinburgh so we had a good chance of negotiating it successfully. We opted to sit down and and eat in Edinburgh as neither of our other controls that day looked big enough to offer a cafe. Edinburgh was architecturally impressive and worth going through the middle of. The Forth Road Bridge offered another interesting experience.

A garage did us well at Crook of Devon (which seemed to be more or less part of Drum, our control). An excellent easy grade B road climb over the Ochil Hills out of Yetts o’ Muckhart was followed by a flat, low lying, plain that ended in a steep climb to our control ‘village’ of Fowlis Wester where the church yielded some promotional material as our only control option and the road continued to climb then dropped down to an easy road through Glen Almond.

I was enjoying Scotland – we were making reasonable time for a change, the weather was good and the big hills were tomorrow!

B&B in Blairgowrie (now the same place as Rattray according to it’s sign) was great. We were the only eating customers at the Queens Hotel. ‘Stephen’ at Virgin had reassured me we would be able to get our bikes on the van from Wick to Inverness and I hadn’t been charged for the tickets that never arrived.

A phone call from home told me the bad news I had almost been expecting – Jane’s daughter Sharon had died of the cancer that had been rapidly destroying her over the last few months. Should I return? No – no point now I’d almost finished. Jane wanted me to continue.

Sat 26/6 (Day 7)

660 Metres Up

Landlady at Garfield House makes an exception and cooks us a 7:15 breakfast. All seems one long, gradual climb up to the Glenshee ski area at 670m, I zoom up it loosing sight of John – thinking about Sharon and her short life and nasty death. The wind is blowing at the top and the tops of the Cairngorms behind me are disappearing in a dark cloud. John arrives and we descend fast to Braemar where we take an unscheduled coffee and cake stop then along the valley to Balmoral and a B road climb and descent followed by a hilly A939 and then a vicious 1 in 5 from the Allargue Hotel.

JH in Scotland

A year or so later and John had become a much stronger cyclist than me. He went on to cycle round the world starting in 2007. Click on the picture for a link to his account.

What looks like the top of the 1 in 5 round the corner opens up on a view of our road climbing up to the 637m Lecht ski area. The wind strong behind us and feeling good I sail up this one and we whiz down to Tomitoul for a sit down baked potato and tea. We let the wind push us on out of the mountains and over Dava Moor – for some reason highlighted on the CTC notes as ‘exposed moorland’. Dava doesn’t seem to exist so I wait for John after our turn and he hails me shortly after so I slow down. John has bust a spoke in his rear wheel but I follow behind and reassure that the wheel still seems surprisingly true. (We remove the spoke later and compare my only spare but it is much too short so the wheel remains a 35 spoke job for the rest of the trip.)

The rain starts again during my (this time successful) negotiation of the lanes to Cawdor. No castle to be seen but a posh pub does us tea, crisps and shortcake. John puts every item of clothing he can find on and we both feel a bit under equipped despite 2 panniers each. The route becomes over distance this time but the last 8km to Dingwall shrink to 2km due to my unusual distance calculation and we arrive at 7:45pm with 208km on the clock – our fastest, easiest and highest day so far. The wind on our side almost all day for a change. Moydene B&B is great through the pub she points us towards has 3 large Scots bouncers to inform us there in no food Saturday. The Indian they point us to does well if a little pricey.

Sun 27/6 (Day 8)

Good breakfast and OK weather followed by a gentle climb on the B9176 thru Scottish moorland filled with purple heather and yellow gorse. A good descent to Dornoch Firth and Bonar Bridge then onto Lairg where we ate well at the Crofters Cafe.

As John had said the A836 was a single track road with passing places – how this came to be classified as an A road I cannot fathom! It was quiet and pleasant though and the wind still seemed to be following. The B road after Altnaharra was fast at first and gave good views of the tranquil Loch Naver. Rain and a headwind joined us after we turned north and this 70km stage was making me grovel for it’s last 20km.

Bettyhill’s advertised ‘open 7 days a week’ shop was closed but we found food and shelter at Elizabeth’s Cafe where a signature again had to do for a control. By the time we left it was chucking it down and my legs had decided we must have finished as we were on the northernmost UK coast. The A road to Thurso seemed slow and difficult as it rolled up then down at each estuary. Huge sand dunes, curlews and oyster catchers and the contrast between Dounreay nuclear power station and it’s two neighbouring wind generators kept my mind partly off my aching legs. A garage stop in Thurso revived us for the last few km to John o’Groats and we’d done it!

A stamp from the pub and photo courtesy of a passing walker were followed by a meal at the Seaview and a half a nights sleep at the Caberfiedh Guest House.

Arrivee Postcard

 Mon 28/6 (Journey Home)

Up at 3:30 to cereal and coffee and we were back on the bikes for the last 27km down to Wick. The bike van that accompanied the 6:29 train (but leaves at 6:00 for some reason) left with just our bikes on. They could just as well have gone on the train as no others were waiting. The train rolled into Inverness late after taking us through much wet, flat land down the east coast but we recovered our bikes and got on the (held back) Inverness to Edinburgh train with no real problems. I got us off at the wrong station in Edinburgh but plenty of time so enjoyed another ride down Princes Street and a Marks and Spencer’s feast before joining the fast Virgin train to Oxford. The train manager had both cycled and run (as part of a relay) LEJoG so chatted a while and brought us free coffee when he went off shift. The train was an hour late at Oxford and we were all given complaint forms to fill out in the hope of getting back some of our £91.

CTC End to End Certificate

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Moreton Marlborough DIY

Maybe it was that this was to be the last in my current monthly series of 200k brevets, or maybe because both my last long rides had been followed by a fair amount of pain (very sore legs for August, toothache for September), but my anticipation of the October ride was that it would be more chore than adventure. Just to scrape the icing off the cake the forecast was predicting a 16mph southerly wind to slow me down.

I was going to ride whatever so about 8am Saturday I headed south on my Moreton Marlborough DIY-GPS AUK Perm – after about 500m I turned round and headed north after realising I was following the line on my GPS in the wrong direction. I was snug in winter bib-tights and warm gloves and hat and, what with the wind behind me for the first leg, I was soon enjoying the autumn leaves in the morning sun along the rolling road through Islip and Bletchington then onwards into the Cotswolds.

Roughly following the River Glyme and just out of earshot of the A44 I followed quiet, often unfamiliar, lanes. I stopped a bit before Moreton-in-the-Marsh for a snack and a photo. I peeled off my coat and changed into mitts and cap as the day was warming up nicely. Down below I could see the distinctive chimney of Bliss Mill just outside Chipping Norton.

In and out of Moreton without stopping, the GPS track meant I didn’t need any other proof I’d been there, then soon turn right signposted Evenlode into that headwind that I’d managed to forget to worry about for most of the last 50 kilometers. Familiar lanes for a bit now following part of the return leg of the Poor Student 200, then continuing south after Shipton-under-Wychwood to climb long and steady then descend into Asthall where there must have been at least 10 different couples out walking their dogs, I wondered if it was some sort of event.

A headwind is a pain at the best of times but on the fixed wheel, my 72″ gear a little too high, it was particularly draining. I’d rise out the saddle as my cadence sunk then make myself low in the saddle again as my wind resistance went up with my increased profile. It’s not the legs that suffer so much as the back and shoulders. Still, Moreton 20 miles behind me so ‘just’ another 30 miles to Royal Wootton Bassett and that should be it for the againsterly. This might not be much fun but was surely good for the stamina.

A quick stop at Bampton to buy water, a stop somewhere else for a flapjack. The climb up to Coleshill was stiff but I stayed on board as the local CTC outing was descending and waving greetings so it wouldn’t do to get off and push. Different lanes through Purton, I’d obviously been feeling adventurous when I mapped this route out many months back.

Then Royal Wootton Bassett at last for a rest and a munch from the Co-op where a ladybird appeared at the checkout, from my wallet or out of my hair I suppose, and the lad at the till had a laugh while I rescued it and put it out the door. Then back on the bike and off I headed for the first of the two climbs over the Marlborough Downs. The headwind was bad as before, seeming worse because I thought it was over with, I must have forgotten that Marlborough is south of Wootton B.

I rode the first climb but walked the second, it was probably faster and my back was having a moan. A young chap casually threw his drink can out his car window as he drove down the hill. The following long descent was difficult in the cross wind and my VC&AC cap was whisked off my head to disappear into the distance, a speck of yellow in my mirror. Fortunately I’d a spare at home as I wasn’t going to stop.

Through Marlborough then, at long last, no headwind. I danced up the climbs and spun down the descents like I’d just remembered to take the handbrake off. Turning north after Ramsbury I thoroughly enjoyed the climb up over Eastridge, the tailwind helping make easy work of it, Red Kites up above, fields full of seagulls, a startled deer dashing off. I’d been craving chips with lots of salt and vinegar for a while but not enough to stop at Membury Services. Shortly after Lambourn it was time to switch on the lights and put my warm gear back on for the last couple of hours riding.

I enjoyed the ride back in the dark. Mostly flat and familiar but with that eeriness of only really being able to see in the patch of LED headlight. I listened to music and watched carefully for potholes disguised as shadows in the poorly maintained lanes. Briefly an owl joined me, just long enough for me to stop looking at the GPS and miss my turn. Then over Boars Hill and back into Oxford where I probably confused my local DIY organiser by continuing on past the official ride end to the chip shop before remembering to press ‘stop’. 12 hr 15 min overall for about 220km so not fast but plenty of time in hand (the limit being 14 hours).

That was the 12th and final ride in my current Randonneur Round The Year series, all on fixed wheel. I was also pleased to find I could still crank the fixie round an Super Randonneur series, that’s 200, 300, 400 and 600km validated rides each with a 15kph overall minimum speed, while managing to run a bit as well. I look forward to having a break from the long distance rides for a while now but, being as that was my 9th RRTY and there seems to be a new badge for completing 10 of the darn things, I suspect I’ll be struggling round another four seasons sometime in the future.

 

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Hundred Thousandth Mile

I rode my 100,000th mile last Thursday, or at least the 100,000th mile since I started recording them in 1998. Everyone of them on a vegetarian diet of course. Working on an overall average of 12.5mph (I’m not very fast) I think this is about 330 days non-stop or about 30 million pedal revolutions.

What with training for the Oxford Half I’d known in advance that I would be pushing it to get an audax perm in during September so I’d booked a couple of days off work to increase my chance of choosing a nice day. As the end of the month drew near it looked like warm, dry and sunny was to be the only option available and I wasn’t going to complain. So I decided on Thursday and, despite the unwelcome appearance of toothache the evening before, at 7:30am I was on my fixie heading out towards Hungerford on the 1st leg of the Marlborough Connection.

I knew I would get some traffic at this time on a weekday but most of the lanes were ok, in fact turning off the congested crawl of the A338 onto nearly empty lanes through Garford and Lyford was quite surreal. There was a road closed sign across the bottom of Hackpen Hill but I risked ignoring it and the work crew at the top kindly let me through though I suspect that I’d have had to retrace and climb up Blowingstone instead if I’d been a bit later and they’d started spreading tarmac. Close call!

The hilly lanes after Eastbury were lovely in the already warm sunshine, just me and a few pheasants who were hopefully unaware what was in store for them. At the top of a hill a black and white cat stepped into the road and requested attention. I stopped and patted his head, looked around for his house but couldn’t see it, there was a thick bit of woodland though which could well hide a cottage or two. He had no collar but his belly and laid back manner suggested he wasn’t starving. I worried for a moment whether I ought do ‘something’ but he wandered off out of our bit of shade and sat in a ploughed field in the sunshine looking totally content so I got back on the bike and carried on to Hungerford.

I bought doughnuts at Hungerford and they maliciously summoned my temporarily forgotten toothache. Oh well, a couple of ibuprofen, lots of water in me and my bottles and I set off for Wootton Bassett. Passing through Ramsbury it became clear that the local scarecrows had been out on the tiles. A couple of them relaxed near someone’s front door, one seated in a large planter. One sat on a porch roof with a bottle in one hand and a tankard in another. A scarecrow penguin stood in the pub garden.

The long climb up the Marlborough Downs was pleasant though I was very glad I’d plastered myself in suncream. A brief stop at Wootton Bassett then a bit of a tailwind through Cirencester and up part of the Whiteway before I turned east towards Calmsden for the first Info and then onto Lechlade for another short stop. I could have made better time but had already decided to take it easy being only a few days after my half marathon, I’d even brought lights just in case I loitered too long. It was good to ride with no target time for a change.

The Cotswolds, and particularly the woods after Charlbury, were very pretty in the late afternoon light and it was a bit of a shock to find myself on the busy A44 to Woodstock as the commuters streamed home. Fortunately there is a lot of usable cycleway between Woodstock and Oxford so the last leg was slow but not too hairy. I did get back on the main road for the last mile round Peartree and Woodstock Road roundabouts though as the cycleway takes you over 2 fast A34 slip roads then dumps you on the wrong side of a busy roundabout with no easy way to get back into the traffic flow.

I got back home before dark having taken about 11hrs 30m. That was the 11th monthly ride of my current fixed wheel Randonneur Round the Year so I plan to ride one more 200 in October then give it a rest for the winter so I can concentrate on my running.

(The toothache came back with a vengeance that evening and left me in pain for most of the weekend – I can feel myself developing an unwarranted aversion to COOP doughnuts which is a shame as they are vegan.)

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A shorter PBP

Whilst I hadn’t found myself regretting my decision not to ride the prestigious PBP this year I thought it would offer a good excuse to design a different route for the August audax ride I needed to continue with my current Randonneur Round the Year. So at 8am Sunday 21st, a few hours before several thousand riders would gather in the Paris heat to embark on the 1200km to Brest and back, I headed out west from Oxford on the first leg of my Poulton – Burbage – Piddington 200k DIY-GPS Perm.

Usually I try and get a bit of rest before a long ride but the previous week had been quite active for me, with the Oxford Half coming up soon I need to build up my running again. I’d raced the Bearbrook 10k with fellow VCACs the previous Sunday, managing to avoid throwing up this time and finishing only 4 secs slower than last year. Then an 8 mile run on Thursday, the longest I’ve run for a good while, followed by an easy 3 miler on Friday. Saturday morning I tried my best at the Abingdon parkrun running hard enough to chuck my breakfast but not for a PB.

Bearbrook 10k 2011

So what with well-used legs, and the planned route being well over nominal distance at around 225k, I reckoned a 12 hour target time was reasonable and was planning on taking it easy and stopping when I felt like a break. Perhaps I should have geared back down before starting as my 72 inch made me work a bit into a slight headwind for a lot of the first stage, I had no intention of stopping mid-ride and flipping the wheel though.

I got through Oxford and along the B road over the Swinford Toll bridge early enough to avoid too much traffic then enjoyed the lanes through Clanfield and on through the pretty villages around the River Coln. The morning was cool but pleasant and I didn’t feel the need to stop until my planned few minutes rest and an eat at Poulton. The wonder of GPS-DIY Perms is that you don’t have to search round for proof of the visit, a till receipt or rubber stamp often being hard to find at quieter places. The GPS track file itself is used as proof.

Heading south now and a little disappointed to find I’d still got a nagging headwind though at least this bade well for the next and longest stage after Burbage. I suffered a bad patch through the flatlands around the Cotswold Water Park with the miles passing too slowly and a touch of ‘why am I doing this?’. I stopped mid-stage at Wootton Bassett for water and Jelly Tots then set off towards the double climb up onto the Marlborough Downs looking forward to the change of terrain and hoping not to end up walking as I did last time I took this road on fixed.

I winched myself up the first lump with a bit of groaning but not too much pain. Then whizzed down to cross the A road and was pleased to make it up the second climb, confusingly one of 2 Hackpen Hills hereabouts both of which have the Ridgeway at the top. A group of cyclists including a tandem were resting at the top and soon caught me as I tried to keep my speed down on the following descent. The tandem stoker made a point of explaining that they were on a 4 day tour for the over 60s as they passed. A bit later as they stopped to regroup above Marlborough recognition clicked in – the tandem team were John and Shelia Ward, John being AUK’s Permanent Secretary.

I’d opted to avoid the main road and add a couple of kilometres by taking the permissive road through the Savernake Forest after Marlborough. While being very pleasant this straight bit of road is also full of huge potholes and undulates somewhat. I passed a couple of bunches of leisure cyclists and stopped in the shade for a snack and a photo.

Changing direction but not stopping at my Burbage control I now had the wind behind me and enjoyed a fast ride in the sunshine next to the Kennett and Avon Canal through the Bedwyns to Hungerford where I stopped to buy water as the day was warming up well.

The climbs over the Downs through Boxford, Catmore, West Ilsey were great with the wind behind me and the sun now constant. I saw deer, a big brown rat, a sparrowhawk keeping low by the hedgerows. Both buzzards and red kites were in abundance and twice I spotted the two species circling together over recently cut fields, not a good day to be a mouse. Then came the long descent towards Chilton where 500 unavoidable metres along the A34 dual carriageway with it’s exhaust stink and roadside mess offered an unwelcome contrast.

Tiring a bit now I ate a gel riding through Didcot and noticed just how low my water was getting. Back in the lanes I looked out for shops in the Wittenhams, I didn’t want to stop for my next planned eat till I’d got some liquid to wash it down with. I diverted into Notcutts Garden Centre only to find it closed with no obvious outside tap. The Severn Stars pub in Marsh Baldon was also closed as is to be expected at 5:30 Sunday afternoon. I drunk my last sip and climbed the hill to Garsington, not far from home now but still a long time till arrivee as I had to overshoot Oxford to get to my next control. I spotted an outside tap on a house and knocked the door to ask for a fill-up, the lady who answered was only too glad to help out. Half a bottle went straight down to accompany a porkless pie then it was back up to speed and onwards to Piddington.

If it hadn’t begun with a P then Piddington would be my last choice for a turn-about control as it’s at the bottom of a hill. But down I went, stopped and swallowed an energy gel, then about turn and straight back up again. Only about 10 miles to go but I was now straight into the wind and it was taking it’s payment for earlier assistance. I passed a bunch of young riders fixing a flat but they soon made short work of me on the climb up to Beckley. Through Barton, under the subway, down the ring road cycle track and I was home for 7:40 pm – 11 hours 37 overall for 142 miles.

A thoroughly enjoyable ride on a lovely day but my body made me pay for it later. Having been mostly comfy on the bike for the duration as soon as I tried to sit in a normal chair I found I’d been rubbed raw and was happier standing up. After heading for bed early I was kept awake by what felt like every bone and joint in my legs hurting, I’m used to achy, crampy muscles but this felt like the very foundations were having a go. I was very, very glad not to have another 1000k to ride over the next few days – quite enough PBP for me!

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