When you ride with a group of cyclists and turn onto a different road if it’s safe to do so the lead cyclist will always shout “Clear” - today I learnt a new word…. “ICE!!!”
In 2009 I took part in the Hell of the Ashdown cycle sportive event and after cycling through a snow blizzard I thought it couldn’t get any worse…
This is a good season ‘opener’ for me in that it forces you to do some winter training on the bike otherwise it’ll be a long horrible day in the saddle cycling 65 odd miles round the hills south-east of London. Thankfully I’d done a few rides so was ready for this.
Because of recent clear skies and sub-zero temperatures last years snow probably wasn’t going to happen but ice was well and truly a concern and because of this the organisers made a couple of minor modifications to the route in order to avoid the worst of it. Well, after riding the route and seeing the amount of ice that I saw and had to ride/walk over, I’d hate to see the roads that were avoided!
Partly because it was cold and partly because I just wanted to get a solid ride in I had no real plans to stop today - just get out there, ride the miles and come home again. I pretty much went by this plan - stopping only once for a couple of minutes to get a snack and a cup of water. The only other stop was when I was pushing the bike up an icy hill when I made a quick call of nature.
The ride was pretty good - that is when I wasn’t scared to death of slipping on ice! Much of the route was perfectly rideable but there were some roads that were treacherous. A couple of times I had to get off and push the bike, and then there were times when I just unclipped from my pedals and pushed myself and the bike across. My speed was severely restricted over much of the course - especially on the downhill sections. On more than one occasions whilst hurtling down a hill I shouted to myself “Sheeet….ICE.” Lets just say it was a little scary at times.
After 67.43 (from my GPS) miles I wheeled into the finish and clocked an overall time of 4 hours 32 minutes 56 seconds. My GPS had me not cycling for a little under four minutes, which was the food/drink stop, call of nature and a set of traffic lights. Other than that it was solid cycling all round. I’d say that very few people (less than 10) overtook me during the event and I overtook plenty of people during the ride. I wasn’t using every last ounce of energy out there, but did feel that I was riding pretty well.
My GPS recorded an average speed of 15.02 mph and over 5377ft of climbing. Not a fast ride - the ice was responsible for much of the slowness.
Although these events are not races I was interested to see how my time compared with others - in the results posted on the official website there were 514 finishers and I was 47th. In 2009 (over a slightly shorter course) there were 541 finishers and I was 316th (although I lost a few minutes because of a ‘directional malfunction’). So from this I’d say that I’ve improved - or all the fast riders stayed at home! Either way as a friend of mine says… “Winter Miles, Summer Smiles.”
Now would I do this again…. On the one hand I think I’ve tried it twice and the weather has been against me both times, so why try again, but then I think I’ve got unfinished business and I’d love to give the ride a good blast and see how well I can really do without have to forcibly slow down because of the weather.
Hmn, I guess I may be back there in 2011 then…