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).