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.
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 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.
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 .
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 . 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.
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