From the Amnesiac AUK.
So who is the organiser who is so conscientious that he goes round his route before the event with secateurs, a broom, and a brush, clipping the foliage around the signs, and removing gravel and mud from the roads? Andy Seviour, of course (Mind you, he did not do a very good job on the gravel — there was still a lot of it about). He told me this while I was drinking his beer and folding his brevet cards the previous evening. Mandy, his wife, complained that every recent trip out had turned into a route-checking expedition, sometimes until late at night.
The following morning I was woken at what seemed a rather early hour for a 100km event. Andy departed for the start with a bulging luggage pack, on a bike which had been warming by the hall radiator overnight. I followed after a decent interval.
The car park was full of cyclists, scurrying for shelter from the rain, and grimly trying to make light of the weather. Dave Hudson, with his new, bigger-and-better trailer, was looking official behind a damp trestle table. Fifty-odd riders signed on and rode off into the lanes.
A spell behind a mountain biker with kiss-me-quick mudguards persuaded me that the best place was up at the front. So, not without a struggle, I joined Alan 'Pedals' Pedliham, who was wearing his best fixed grin, John Hunt ("No, I've hardly been out"), and Neil Williams, who, ominously, someone had told me was going rather well.
The weather cleared, and the hills started. Andy had put some effort into squeezing as much climbing as possible out of a short East Sussex route. One of his ruses was to place controls at the tops of climbs, with a retrace so that the early riders sped down past those still climbing. Our cheerful greetings were not always returned.
Eventually John, who had admitted to regular turbo training, and Neil, who was indeed going well, dropped me on one of the climbs, and I pootled back to Hailsham at an easier pace.
Thanks to Andy and his family for hospitality and a good ride.
The following weekend I took a trip to Cardiff for Dave Lewis's Glamorgan Glory. This involved more alcohol-induced conviviality, and more folding of cards. We did manage better than on the same occasion last year when, the evening flowing nicely along, time passed unnoticed, and we both retired at 4 :20am for a good two & a half hours sleep. This time, after a reasonable night's sleep, we hurried down to the start, noting, as we went, the increasing Southwesterly gale. I was on fixed.
The first part was into the wind, which got worse as we neared the coast. It started to rain, and John Hunt stopped to put on his cape, whereupon it miraculously ceased again. The first control was manned by the traditional frozen body sheltering in the lee of a small hut overlooking the Bristol Channel. The wind got worse. Gusts swept us sideways, or nearly stopped us dead at the crest of a hill.
Anne Learmonth & I swept into the second control to be confronted by obvious signs of major building work and no cyclists. We glanced at the route sheet, which said, "Café on left". "Mister perfect route sheet has got it wrong." Crowed Anne, and, "It must be the pub further on." So there we went, buffeted and impeded by the wind; and, no, it was not the pub. A more careful reading of Dave's instructions revealed the existence of a left turn, which, being familiar with last year's route, we had both missed. The wind was even worse on the mile or so back. We could see the café and the cyclists from the main road. "Well perhaps he is right this time." Said Anne, grudgingly. Dave, at the café, just looked smug. (She did something similar last year, when, paying less attention to the route than we should have — my excuse is that I assumed she knew it — we reached a roundabout at the bottom of a long hill. "Oh", said she, "We shouldn't be here." After a brief discussion of the merits of climbing back up the hill — we were both on fixed — she instead gave me an eye-popping lesson in city cycling through rush-hour Cardiff and back to the finish.)
The valley on the left, as we turned inland, was flooded. Sure enough, as we dropped down there was a Road Closed sign, and cyclists heading back saying it was impassable. That was a red rag to a bull, and so we plunged on, and into a knee-deep, swiftly flowing torrent. It was a case of carrying the bikes through it. This was only the first of several floods to be negotiated. Feet squelching , we carried on to the next control.
A glum wedding party was in progress there. We left to climb the biggest hill on the ride. Last year it was the incentive of catching the Peregrine tandem which got me up it (and where were Nik & Jen this year — they had entered to ride). This year it was trying to keep up with Dave and Anne (on gears), without pulling my knees apart.
A largish group of us arrived at the next control, a pub on a hill. Here was another sombre-looking wedding party. It was time for a pint. We left to descend a long hill. Dave shouted, "Right". "Through that ford?" I enquired. "Yes." And so through I went, back wheel sliding on the mud. "There is a footbridge." He called, as I exited, dripping.
A few more sharp little hills which I did not remember from last year), and a rolling route back to the flyover, and we timed our return to coincide with the switch of control from the café to the pub. Steve Clarke, also on fixed, arrived with us, eager for his pint and chaser. An hour or so passed and the two missing persons, Nik and Jen, entered, claiming to have overslept. The rest of the evening passed convivially.