Ah fuck it!
The road is actually properly closed. Tall metal barriers span the darkened sunken lane. It’s always a risk riding past ROAD CLOSED signs but with a bike you can almost invariably get past somehow. More often than not it’s only closed to cars and pedestrians can get through, but over the years I’ve also straddled chevron covered plastic barriers, jumped over holes carved across the tarmac, shouldered the bike and clambered up banks, or cyclocrossed the grass verge, and there was that one time I pushed my bike along the side of resurfacing machinery trying hard not to catch the eyes of French workmen. Thinking about it I got away with that one in Germany once too. Didn’t even need to pull the dumb foreigner trick. I’ve pushed my luck many times. Too far this time it seems. Both road and footway fully blocked, the barriers stretching from one side to the other. The sun set about an hour ago and the last of the twilight is swiftly draining from the spaces between the branches overhead. I can’t see how far the closed section is or if I can find a way around. Anyway just to make sure no one chances their arm CCTV and guard dog signs are on display. I’m pretty certain there won’t be any dogs but not so certain that I want to find out one way or the other.
I’m 187 kilometres into a 220km audax, I really could do without this. I was hoping to be done by the time dark fully set in but we got off to a slow start as Simon wasn’t feeling well. I dumped him in Lewes 65km in after a coffee stop but we were already a long way off a ten hour schedule and all the hills have been in the second half of the ride. I haven’t ridden this sort of distance for a long time and quite honestly wasn’t entirely sure that I’d get all the way round, however I’ve signed up for a much longer endurance event later in the year and need to get some distance in the legs. This dead end now adds a bit extra because I didn’t listen to the bit of my brain that said ‘Don’t risk it, you know the way around, yeah it’s longer and the roads shitter but it’s flatter and just as quick’ and rode past the signs at the top of the road – and the word top is key here. I’ve pointlessly dumped myself at the bottom of a High Weald ghyll and the way back out is steep. Classic not thinking things through when I’m tired. I know I do yet I still do it. Idiot.
I swear to myself again, delve into my musette, pull out a packet of crisps, and turn on my heels. I’m doing this audax perm the old way with a brevet card so I’ve needed to collect receipts on the way round to prove I’ve hit all the controls. As with the last couple of years since COVID I’ve not carried cash and the last few shops I’ve used had minimum card spends, so I have a fine collection of sweet and savoury snacks in the musette – I ran out of pocket space two controls back. Oh, and a roll of masking tape in order to hit a fiver in that last village store and I really didn’t need more food but ran out of tape a couple of days ago Now I just need to follow the bigger roads to Mayfield for the final control, then a relatively short section back to Hailsham and I’m done…
Oh fuck off!!
Approaching the roundabout in Horam I see a ROAD CLOSED sign glowing in sodium light of the streetlamps. It’s the road off to the left, the way I need to go. This is a bigger road than the last lane and usually I would be convinced that I could get around whatever has closed this one but after that last double back detour I’m going to pay attention to the signs. It’s less than ten kilometres to the finish now and I’d quite like it all to just be done. I can get on the Cuckoo Trail all the way back to the finish from here. I turn down the road knowing there’s a pavement as far as the entrance to the trail.