Monday, 8 July 2013
Tour in the mountains - I'm out for another 100.....
There was a shallow layer of humid mist as I set off at 7.30am on Saturday morning - my plan to cycle 40 or 50 miles, return home for a short break then cycle, a round trip, to visit my mother - a further 50 miles. I'm aiming at another 100 miler to add to my collection - my back aches and I'm not looking forward to labouring in the heat, but it's getting close to our Paris challenge - I need the miles.
As the sun quickly burns off the early morning haze, the temperature begins to rise. I pause to quench my thirst and am surprised at how hot and sweaty I have become. I set off again quickly, there is a kind of enervating airlessness, almost stifling and dragging - it is as though the air has been sucked away and we're in a brief vacuum of high summer.
I make good progress and roll back home for a welcome rest and to take on fluids. I remember this technique served us well riding Lands End to John O' Groats - a stop every 30 or 40 miles for half an hour, made each days journey bearable.
I set off to my mothers, taking the longer of the possible routes - now the sun is high in the sky, it is relentless, searching out weakness and punishing those foolish enough to be toiling under its gaze. I stop to drink and wipe my brow. Soon I am riding through Netherseal towards my old house when I am passed by a small car - then there is a relentless 'papping' of a car horn - At first I think it is someone in the small car who recognises me? - then I realise the noise is emanating from behind - I glance over my shoulder - it's Gary returning from a weeks holiday in Suffolk - he shouts through the window as he passes - amazing that we should pass each other. I stop by briefly at his house before continuing my journey - I've covered 60 miles approx at this stage.
It's a tough, sweltering ride through the lanes and villages to Barton under Needwood - i pause again at the top of a rise just before the descent to Walton on Trent - my back is sore and is made worse by the undulations. I lay down in a freshly mown hay field, the sweet smell is welcoming and the cut grass comfortable - I stretch out as best I can and close my eyes to shut out the stabbing sunlight. I'm in the middle of arable and pasture country, a great greenish-white sea of hay. My clothes are soaked from my efforts and the intense heat of the day, I feel my legs starting to cramp and ease off the stretching. There are the smells of cut grass, horses, oil and tractor fumes from the farm adjoining - the smells of animation in the countryside. I press on, not far now to another pit stop.
At my mothers I am greeted with a cold drink and some freshly prepared salad, I enjoy both whilst catching up with the Tour on TV. They're making their way up the first Col - a little Columbian is out front looking comfortable, not even out of breath, making it all look so easy, as the riders start their descent before the final climb to the finish it is time for me to head back - I'm inspired by my viewing and set off at a decent pace on the slightly downhill road through the village back towards Walton - I zoom past people sitting outside pubs enjoying the warmth and sipping cold beer - I decide I'll do the same - later.
The climb up from Walton is a drag - and once again I'm leaking fluids, the sickening blaze of the sun becomes hardly bearable and I welcome the deep violet tinged shadows of a group of trees - my heart is racing as I greedily swallow from my bottle. The next twenty miles are tough and I make slow, laboured progress, my speed fluctuating from around 9mph up the hills to 25 or so on the downhill stretches. I see a rider up ahead turning down the lane that is part of my route - I back off a little - its a question of whether to go hard, catch him, overtake him maybe, but then can I keep up the pace - or will he come back and overtake me? - I sit back, 20 or 30 metres, he glances over his shoulder, he knows I'm there. I estimate he's travelling at around 17mph - easy enough on this road - gradually I creep nearer and then decide to accelerate - all or nothing - I fly past greeting him as I pass - my speed on the increase - 23...25mph, the road is flat - I can hold this for a while - I press a little harder as the road rises slightly and then harder still as the road moves up to the junction. As I turn I glance back - no sign of him!
Just 10 miles or less to cover now - my mileage shows 91 for the day - I'll make the 100 for the fourth week on the trot - I've moaned about the bad weather - today has tipped the balance beyond what is comfortable for me - I'd like it to be cooler! I climb the final drag up towards home - slowly but consistent. No need to push too hard now - my water bottle is empty, my mouth bone dry, I think about that cold beer and wonder what has happened in the Tour. As my mind wanders I'm passed by a rider who crept up from behind - didn't hear him, he's moving fast - already three or four lengths in front - I instinctively kick but its no good - I'm empty now - drained. I let him go. It wasn't the guy I passed earlier and my scoresheet for the day is more overtaking that overtaken - I don't care anymore! - less than a mile from home and computer says 102miles - It's 5.00pm - I need the shower and then.... the pub. I'll catch the highlights of the Tour later.