June TCR Prep

1,230 kilometres, and 13,350 metres of climbing.

A 300km loop from Brighton to Whitstable and back again.

A couple of 200km rides to and from Mountain Mayhem, plus a lap of the race whilst I was there.

Some road commuting and some South Downs off-road commuting.

A few outdoor swims and a complete neglect of pilates until this last week gone.

A LOT of looking at maps and Google Streetview.

May TCR Prep

1400km, 14,995m climbing.

Started the month with the ridiculous Doorstep Epic Plus then three days later had a proper bonk on the ride home from work. Decided I needed a few days rest.

A day on the Downs on the CX bike, racing home into a headwind over the tops.

A sprinting for signs smashfest to the cheese on toast cafe followed by a couple of pointless hills on the way home.

Evening ride to a special screening of Inspired To Ride.

First outdoor swim of the year (bracing!)

An aborted 700km DIY audax to visit my parents in south west France. Freehub started making strange noises after 260km, by 525km it was totally shagged so I had to give up. Hobbled 5km to next village. Thanks Mum and Dad for broomwagon services.

Tested out the aero bars, need some tweaks to get arm rests in correct place. Started to think about the actual Transcon route for the first time since rough draft for application process.

 

April TCR Prep

1,570km, 16,300 metres of climbing

The month started with the Reilly Cycleworks TCR frameset being built up into a complete bike by Rule 5 Bikes. A few days later I rode it to Bristol in a day for the Bespoked Handmade Bike Show. Then I rode it home again.

A 200km ride around Normandy on Easter Saturday as it’s been a while since I’ve popped over to Dieppe on the overnight Newhaven ferry. Good practice for riding on the wrong side of the road after hardly any sleep. Then the annual Spring Classic ride with mates around the lanes, farm tracks, and bridleways of Sussex on Easter Monday.

A not meant to be all day but turned into an all day South Downs cyclocross ride with a long pub lunch (if crisps count as lunch).

The month finished with the 400km London-Wales-London audax.

Very little commuting other than a few recovery spins. Think I managed one swim.

Various brackets, plugs, and bits of cable purchased so I can set up the aero bars with dynamo lights and USB charger.

March TCR Prep

1090 kilometres, 12,200 metres of climbing

Fast long road commutes & cyclocross squiggles across the South Downs. A lot of ‘the long way home’.

A day tilting at windmills with friends.

An afternoon off work and being hammered by the wind over the Downs.

A 200km lap of Kent.

Route plotting, tweaking, re-tweaking, and submitting of DIY audaxes for April and May.

A recovery weekend of sunshine, napping on the beach along the coast, and a short morning ride that turned into a short all day ride with a lot of stops just because it was sunny and warm.

A lot of headwinds.

Custom made luggage arrived from Wildcat Gear

Transcontinental frame back from the sprayers and ready to be built.

Meridian Hills [AAA Brevet des Grimpeurs du Sud 200km audax perm]

Meeting friends on a cold dark petrol station forecourt. Sunrise viewed from up the hill by the golf course, a huge orange disc seemingly rising from the silver sea. Down on the weald frozen puddles and glistening hedgerow. Icy bends in the hollows, cornering by trying not to steer, a foot unclipped and leg held out for balance. Friends turning for home on the edge of the Ashdown Forest. I continue up and over and it won’t be the last time today. Too low reservoirs. Windmills and castles. Over the motorway between the two ridges. A red London bus and another petrol station forecourt. Back over the two ridges and across the lumps as the sun rolls behind the hills of the Ashdown. Pooh Corner. Sitting in a bus stop searching for train stations on the map – too far away, may as well continue. Climbing Black Hill in the dark (again). Yet another petrol station forecourt. Eating crisps whilst staring at my feet. Nose down on the main road, finding the easiest way home.

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RRtY
October 2016 – Brighton to Cambridge, Cambridge to Brighton 200 DIYs
November 2016 – Tour of Sussex randonnee 200 DIY
December 2016 – Meridian Hills 200 Perm
January 2017 –
February 2017 –
March 2017 –
April 2017 –
May 2017 –
June 2017 –
July 2017 –
August 2017 –
September 2017 –

A Reminder

For one reason or another I’ve not ridden much in Sussex this year. There have been trips overseas, to mountainous lands, stage races and iconic summits, tours and audaxes, foreign counties, long long rides to way over there and then back again. Some of these were planned long ago and some impromptu and immediate desires to get away. Home lanes haven’t really been included and there has not even been that much commuting as week days have been spent resting between weekend escapades. When I have ridden Sussex lanes it has been to get to somewhere else, my usual escapes too close to home.

A week or so ago I rode around Sussex, all the places that have been missed. A 200km DIY by GPS audax, a route that was plotted long ago and sat waiting, an idea for maybe a real audax one day, one with info controls and tea and cake in a village hall. A very deliberate route borne out of previous whimsies, meanderings that settled on a course. Stretching back and forth and from there to here and almost back to there again, it’s a convoluted route to include favourite lanes, cover the many landscapes of Sussex, and make up the distance. So many shortcuts possible but not to be taken. Starting in the lee of the South Downs it crisscrosses the low weald and climbs to the Ashdown Forest before descending back into the weald before dropping even lower to Pevensey Marshes. Then it finally climbs onto the South Downs before depositing you back at the starting point. From chalk to clay, fields and forest, high points and land salvaged from the sea.

I rode with a friend I’ve barely ridden with since spring. We started early, both leaving home in the dark to meet in Lewes at sunrise. Once the sun crept over the hills is stayed with us all day, arcing over us before finally dropping beyond the horizon out to sea, ten hours and 175 kilometres later. We set off in the shadow of the downs and finished in the Earth’s shadow.

Starting with bits of new and old commutes we crossed from East to West Sussex in the bright coldness, the strong sunshine belied the chill in the air, noticeable in the long shadows of early morning. Sunlight caught in mist draped across fields, snagging on branches and hedge tops. Easy careless miles, almost on autopilot whilst chatting. Lanes I rode day in day out at either end of days for years, roads I could once have ridden blindfolded but this may have only been the second time this year, the skittishness of gravel replaced by the slipperiness of fallen leaves in the corners.

We were too early for the Tea Rooms as it was Sunday and winter opening hours have kicked in. Dropping past the reservoir I’d never seen it so low, overflowing across the roads yes, but never fishermen casting off from exposed gravel beaches. We climbed almost to the Ashdown but turned away abruptly simply to include a favoured lane. We’d soon be in the Ashdown anyway, once we’d ridden almost back to the starting point, but first we rode off route to find warm drinks and cake before energy dipped into the reserves. Sat in a window in the sunshine. Two sugars in my tea.

Back outside we headed east and north, into the Ashdown proper, over the cattlegrids. A long steady climb all so we could turn back on ourselves and lose all the height in a few minutes, back down to the weald to wiggle around, up and down, in and out of ghylls and hollows. A day after rain means the lanes were mucky, tyres picked up flints and punctures. Onto the marshes and we found New Bridge Road has been resurfaced plus we had a tailwind, an absolute joy. The sun was low again like the land around us and it finally drops as we start the final climb and when the Jevington Road opened out into the saddle between the hills a giant pink moon sat on the ridge as if carefully placed there. By the time we descended to Exceat the moonlight overpowered the remaining traces of the day’s light, the Cuckmere shining like quicksilver as it snaked out to sea, nestled in the blue-black shadow of the valley under the deep twilight. The most beautiful either of us have seen the river, and a view we’d not have seen had we not both punctured a few miles before. The slight annoyance of that delay forgotten. Happenstance.

Towns spread along the coast sparkled sodium orange but we followed the red shining beacons atop radio masts on the hills inland. Skirting the floodplain on the edge of the forest we hear a tawny owl cry. The zigs and zags of the flatlands around Ripe. We ended in the pub where plans and ideas have been dreamed up over the years. We sat with ale and crisps and the warmth of satisfaction and fatigue.

A gentle reminder that what lies just outside the front door can be more than enough. Home feels like home again.

Here to There to Here

“Spoke to Andrew at TiC who wants to know when we’re going up to say hello?”

Within a few minutes we’ve planned to ride to Cambridge and back in a weekend. Two hundred and twenty odd kilometres each way. The idea to enter the 2017 Transcontinental race as a team means it doesn’t take much for talk of a ride to rapidly (instantaneously) escalate into talk of a stupid ride these days.

Routes are plotted, tweaked, replotted, a weekend chosen, and then routes submitted as DIY by GPS audaxes for the points and this season’s SR attempt. Jo isn’t bothered about the audax stuff, this is #transcontraining. The points mean badges though and I like badges.

We realise that the weekend chosen is a year on from when a friend passed away. A 450km round trip in two days seems as good a way as any to remember.

Saturday

East Sussex

Over the familiar hills and along friendly lanes as far as Pooh Corner before entering that lesser known corner of the county, the bit up in the north-east that borders Kent, not quite close enough to ride regularly.

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Kent

A pretty triangle enclosed by motorways and those in a rush, a quiet slow space surrounded by noise and speed. Trying not to get caught up in the garish club runs and failing. Looking to Essex across the river. Raspberries and sticky buns on the ferry.

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Essex

Running out of tarmac across the scruffy hinterland of the Thames estuary, past the fruit pickers under the pylons and tower blocks and a Constable sky, a clunking shuffle in the metal shed and the glowering eyes of the security guard. We might be in the right county for Constable but The Haywain this isn’t. A while later an emergency tea stop at a pick your own fruit farm. A glance at the map to work out where we might be and how far is left.

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Cambridgeshire

Landmarks and views start make sense, a familiarity embedded from previous rides. However darkness falls quickly and then does the rain. The red lights of Addenbrooke’s cranes shine red in the sky visible from miles away guiding us to our quarry. Except I routed us hither and dither so the target keeps moving. Past the airfield in the pitch black and the rain gets heavier, senses of humour are starting to be lost. We just want to get there now. DNA and railway lines.

We arrive dripping and bedraggled at This Is Cambridge HQ. We are handed tea and red wine and food and our kit is cleaned and dried. Wine and chat lasts into the night. Thank you Andrew and Daf.

Sunday

Cambridgeshire

A damp dullness hangs low over the flatlands and we grind into the drizzle laden headwind – flashbacks to this road and that audax when 25 kilometres was done in silent through and off with the fixie riders, heads low trying to avoid the wind. Big skies and vast fields, a dissolving horizon, washed out browns and greys, muted tones flattening that which is already flat.

Hertfordshire

A fried breakfast as early lunch is utilised to avoid an impending very dark very grey cloudbank. It’s well timed as rain starts to fall heavily outside as mugs of tea are placed in front of us. Back out under blue skies and we cheer. Then we turn back into the headwind.

An American Airlines plane skims overhead with wheels down, indicating that we must be near Luton. The hills get bigger and steeper, lanes get more enclosed, some respite from the wind. A few miles on a big fast road are endured before we escape back into the narrow lanes.

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Buckinghamshire

Into the unknown. Is this the Chilterns? Where is this? Are we still in Hertfordshire? Routing a ride on the smallest roads you can find means county boundaries are unmarked and blurred, back into the realm of the places between places. The rain must have fallen heavily here because we often find ourselves riding through floods, unclipping shoes to hold then above splash and wake. We are grateful to have missed this deluge.

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Berkshire

“Oh hang on, isn’t this bit from the St Crispin’s Night Ride?”

Big houses and royal residencies, greenbelt and the fancier suburbs. Roads known to my teenage self but only faint recollections now.

Surrey

Roads better known to my teenage self and bits of the audaxes that run out of south London. Darkness falls as a full moon rises. Canary Wharf is visible over the hedges from the ridge but then suddenly we drop into the narrow lanes and droveways of the downland. Mist lies low in the fields and we feel the chill when we drop into the dips between hills. Barthatch Lane is way more fun going down than up.

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West Sussex

Crossing this border always feels like being home again no matter how far is left. Autopilot can be switched on, or it would be if a dense fatigue wasn’t starting to envelop me. Onto the disused railway and the legs instantly feel heavier as the drag on the tyres increases. Scrambling past back fences and a dog’s bark carried on the wind. After what seems an eternity (sorry Jo) we end up on the same flood plain as the end of the ride to and from Wales, the last big ride that finished in the dark – this time fewer kilometres but the tiredness is the same.

Home

Lie down.

Get up and eat.

Lie down again.

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