I can see the flag

An entry level runner on an entry level bike…


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The Taunton Flyer – Dakota

Another fine mess JB got me into: 70 miles and a couple of hills she said. Think of it as a training ride, she said. If only we could remember what we’re training for…

She collected me at 7am for the Taunton Flyer today. We’d entered it a while ago and a glance at the details last night reassured me that there was nothing I couldn’t handle. We were entered to do the Dakota, just a couple of significant climbs.

We parked as instructed, nearly neatly, at Taunton Racecourse – who knew Taunton had a racecourse? Not me. Anyway, bikes unloaded, lids on and off for a wee and to lurk around the start. Coffees purchased we sat and caught up with SA & PA before they set off on the 100m Wellington, comprising of everything we were about to do, PLUS another 40 miles. Nutters.

At 8:15am we hit the road, and it was all going lovely. Nice back roads, nothing too taxing except a fairly enthusiastic headwind; until we hit the first climb, just before Hemyock. 2 miles and 600 feet later we were up whooshing down into Hemyock, having passed a man who had got it wrong and was sitting in a folding chair at the side of the road wiping blood from various scrapes. Out of Hemyock and onto Culmstock and familiar territory – the stomping ground of our SPCz rides and Saturday Social rides. Out the back way to Cullompton and I clocked that we were averaging 14:xx m/p/h despite the wind! This is unheard of for us, and JB was quick to reassure me that it wouldn’t last! Well DUH… 😳

We slogged to Broadclyst (into the headwind…) and the first food stop where we wee’d and were well fed, homitie pies and brownies and yummy stuff we were actually allowed to fill our pockets with 🙂:-) Jerseys bulging with contraband flapjacks we set off on the next leg, me, quietly dreading the next significant hill…

We had been and were being passed by a number of people who seemed everso friendly – familiar even – we were puzzled but too tired to really take too much notice. Finally the penny dropped when some chap rode by and said “hello flag ladies – we saw you last weekend at the Coast to Coast”. 88862

We started climbing at around about the 40 mile mark, gradually gaining until mile 43 when we passed a chap taking his cleats off so that he could walk the hill better. 😱 Well that bodes well, I thought to myself! Also, there were bluebells. Nuff said. Then we climbed. In a mile and a half we gained 500 feet, hitting 26% in places according to Stravia (she never lies). It was SO steep in places, our front wheels came off the ground! Still, we both rode it and were commended by plenty of walkers for doing so; “go flag ladies” they gasped!

JB said that who ever got to the top first wasn’t to stop, and just to potter on till the other caught up. I think she thought this would be me! Yeah right. For the first time, I felt sick with the effort, and I couldn’t even see JB, she powered up the climb like, well I dunno – something that powers up climbs. I was too focused on keeping balanced on my slowest moving bike in history to get too jealous!! ;-) When we got our breath back and heart rates returned to *normal*, we declared that we needed a new uniform – the flag jersey’s would hafta go in the kindling pile for next winter!

We spent a couple of miles pottering and indulged in the odd photo; and discussed our options. There is a 7 mile loop at 50 miles that you can by-pass, we decided we’d decide whether or not to by-pass it when we got there.

Did we by-pass the by-passable bit? Did we buggery. In for a penny… (we had pockets full of flapjack and ibuprofen… we’d be fine, right?) There was another fairly hefty climb, although nothing compared to the previous efforts and it put us on top of the Blackdown Hills. We circumnavigated Dunkersewell, pausing to point at some nutter in a hand-glider and had a 😇/👿 moment when we contemplated ditching the whole thing for a breakfast bap in the airport cafe (they are the best ones you can get). The 😇 won. I’m really not sure how.

Did I mention it was windy? The headwind? The bloody headwind that we rode in to all the way to the first food stop. Finally we would get the benefit of this all the way ba-… Wait. No. That’s not right, not what happened at all. Indeed, at various times we both heard muttering about the absence of “that fucking tailwind”, or variations of…

We rode along the ridge of the Blackdown Hills. My head went down, this was far harder than any of the hills. Straight flat roads, head winds 😕, boring. We took turns to lead the way and by now, wheel sucking was the only way we (I) were going to get to the end. This went on for about15 miles until, finally, we dropped down and onto the homestretch. Thinking how lucky we’d been with the weather – rain had been forecast and other than a light shower, we’d stayed dry. Mile 73… Sorry, what now? Mile 73 – that’s more than promised. And again, I’m sorry, what’s this stabbing me in the face and legs? Hail? Of course it is. Hail, whatever else would it be? And just in time for the big decent. V-brakes, steep decent, potholes and hail. We tiptoed down the hill, cold knuckles clinging onto the brakes for dear life… and as soon as it started it was over! One more mile and we were back, medals on, bikes loaded, cheese and pickle sarnies eaten and home we went. I’ve not left the sofa since!

5h:30, 74 miles, 4144 feet of climbing, AND average speed of 13.5 mph :-) S&P on the 100? They totally smashed it – 116 miles, 5,000 feet of climbing in 7.5hrs – machines. They are Actual Machines. P’raps this is what we should train for next year…

Meh… never-a-fucking-gain I said. (Of course I didn’t mean it).

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Lets go to the coast. No, not that coast, the other coast

The annual Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast ride is a 54 mile ride from Watchet in North Somerset to West Bay (popularly now known as Broadchurch) in Dorset and is something else JB talked me into (and I’m glad she did).

We entered this back in December, there was talk about dipping toes in the ocean on both coasts in one day; sunshine and ice-cream and chips. It all sounded very lovely.

M, a rider from JB’s social rides, indicated that she fancied it too, so JB entered the bun-fight that is the entry system – this ride sells out in a morning and managed to secure us all a place.

Mr JB very kindly agreed to take us to Watchet on the North Somerset coast, a pretty little harbour town with a steaming steam engine and everything. Parking was tricky and MrJB slowed the car enough for us to untangle the bikes from the bike rack and leap out before he was on his way again.

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We registered and waited for M who had followed the diversion signs at a road closure; MrJB knew a *special way* through and we managed to avoid being delayed.

A quick obligatory selfie at the start and we were off. Forgetting what being at sea level means we set off all smiles in the sunshine, only for the penny to drop that when at sea level, there was only ever one way we were going to go! Up.

Off went M, looking likely to make good on her promise of *only* managing an average of 12mph. She kindly agreed to wait for us at the top of the hills ;-) The first seven miles saw us skirt Exmoor and climb 700 feet before it levelled off and then a nice whizzy descent to the edge of the Quantocks and the first pit-stop in Bishops Lydeard. There was a fairly keen headwind, which was with us the whole way and it made for a couple of “whoooo” noises from me as we whizzed down the hill and the wind attempted to alter my course. M wasn’t as brave :-O on the descents as JB and I, allowing us to even out anything she gained on the ‘ups’. It came as quite a surprise when a glance at the Garmin revealed that we were averaging at 13.xx mph. I commented to JB that this was unsustainable and I would quite likely die if we kept it up. Fortunately she readily agreed and we backed off a bit. Having backed off the pace a bit and having plenty of juice and chocolate on board so we decided to skip the first pit-stop and crack on.

The next section clipped the edge of the Quantocks at Kingston St Mary, it was gently undulating and we decided that things were going so well we could skip the second stop too, shovelling in chocolate as we went. M was starting to make noises about stopping at the next one, and I needed a wee so when we arrived in Ilminster we were all happy to abandon our bikes for cake, flapjack and a wee. In that order.

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Re-fuelled, we were off again, with the knowledge that the other significant climb was just ahead. ‘Olland, who I knew from days gone by (school) was riding with his son George. ‘Olland had ridden from West Bay to Watchet and was now riding home again, giving him 108 miles on the Stravia. Impressive, and just a teeny bit galling as he swooshed by going up the hills Raspberry!.

Anyhoo. I was now in familiar territory regaling anyone who would listen with talk of my youth – “soandso lives there”, and “I got pulled over by the police there”. Then there was the big hill. Heads down we ground on, climbing gradually at first. From 34 miles to 39 we gained 600 feet with gradients of up to 17%. There were bluebells – a warning we should have heeded :-O. Still, we plodded up, well, I plodded up, JB found a second or third wind from somewhere and hoofed off up the hill, passing M and leaving me for dead. Lowest gear selected long ago, I managed to stay on board and even passed a few riding even slower than me and a few burly men walking. Smug face on at the top, and off we went again, hoping the marshalls were telling the truth when they said “it’s all downhill from here”.

A proper fast decent was soon upon us and this was the last time we saw M. We carefully (?) whooshed down, and into Drimpton where we by-passed the final pit-stop, only to be faced with the kind of draggy climb that takes all your energy before you even realise your climbing. Soon Broadwindsor was upon us and the crowds were out and cheering!

Then it actually was [almost] all downhill to West Bay and The Other Coast, although the headwind felt stronger than ever, and was working hard to scrub off any speed the downhills tried to generate. We took it in turns to wheel suck the remaining 7 miles, each of us unable to do much more with the wind taking any energy we had left! Then into Bridport and poor JB was subjected to more tales of my youth, nights in The George, and “there… look there, THERE’s the fish and chip shop I used to work in” and “this roundabout is new…” And then, finally, we could see the sea and the finish.

Having given MrMegster & TheBoy an ETA, we put on our best smiles and sucked in our bellies for our finish line photo, but the bugger was nowhere to be seen. After we’d abandoned our bikes and had a little lay-down we rang him. On his way. “So, we’ll just take some nice pictures of the bikes by the seaside. Over there” said JB. When she said “over there” she meant “up that shingle wall”. So we did. Here’s mine.

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Then we spotted MrMegster & TheBoy the from atop our shingle bank. MrMegster just shook his head at more pretty bike photos. TheBoy said “we didn’t see you arrive because we’ve been in the arcades”. MrMegster said “shush TheBoy, you weren’t supposed to tell mummy that”.

We plonked ourselves down and waited the return of M, some 20 minutes later.

Thoughts of ice-cream and chips; and in the sea were quickly put out of our heads. We could barely stand in the wind, so a dip in the ocean was much less tempting than the idea of it last December. Thoughts of getting home to bed were far more appealing!

This was a fantastic event, one of the best I’ve done. Brilliantly marshalled, organised, sign posted and supported. There were people all along the route with cow-bells cheering us along. I will definitely do this one again next year :-)