Stretched out along the fence line, the peloton splinters into clumps of riders. Shadows tumbling down hillsides. Pedalling not against the gradient but the wind. Silhouettes scattered along the next ridge. The gate opening relay starts, the off road equivalent of through and off, keep riding, no time for gate faff, might even finish in daylight this year. The sea getting closer and closer, before turning along the river, inland again. Into the forest and regrouping at the first control.
Another climb before dropping to the sea for real. Laughing, dodging sheep, and chasing shadows across fields. The furthest point from the start line, but knowing it’s not half way. There’s a lot of toing and froing and up and down to get back, and we’ll turn back on ourselves at least once, but not until we’ve stopped for a half way pint. Tradition.
Scrabbling up rubble strewn holloways, chunks of chalk and flint cemented together with claggy mud. Pushing my weight back, hoping the rear wheel grips onto something, anything. Scuttling descents along similarly churned up bridleways, the sudden realisation this is not a good line, I should be over there, oh hang on, maybe not, rear wheel sliding towards that rut, back to that side, unclip, foot out to balance, back in, back out again, no, over there, oh shit…
In and out of the valley for the third time today. Up and along and down and around the coombes between this valley to the next. Faster, stronger, better mates are waiting for longer and longer at the top of each climb, “Crack on, I can find my way back”. Hoping that emergency gel kicks in soon. Mates waiting on a corner. Again. Climbing through the woods up the singletrack to the last summit, into dusk. Flicking lights on (no daylight finish again this year) and settle on the drops. Just a tarmac descent and then time to collapse in the pub.
“Four pints of IPA please.”
for more info, or to enter next year, follow Velomorpha