Hopey New Year – 100k AUdax

I don’t quite know what to think of today. Seeing all these lithe young men prancing up hills on their slender machines makes me wonder why the hell I didn’t get involved in this sort of thing years ago. Mind you, I was never a lithe young man.

There is part of me that is definitely disappointed. OK, I’m spoiled as I know Derbyshire pretty well: my wife is a good Stalybridge lass and our preferred option for a route to her parents’ house has normally involved the Snake Pass. We have also done a fair bit of hill walking in the area, and to see the hills today shrouded in mist and, at one point, being sprayed liberally with a load of sheep slurry, some of which was drifting back over the road just for my benefit (actually, I didn’t smell of it when I got back, but the tractor driver didn’t seem to care where it went) made me glad I had been there on glorious summers’ days.

Having said that, I was pleased with the way I rode. Swinscoe Hill was probably the most challenging experience of my cycling life. It never seemed to end. I was concerned about the fact that we were riding on impressive-sounding roads like the A6 and the A52, but to be honest there are unclassified roads in Essex which are busier than these. There were spells of several minutes when nothing at all would disturb my reverie. I got up everything, in my usual grinding manner, but I have been practising “spinning” and it showed today. Before I started, in fact, several weeks ago, I took the route sheet and wrote on it some predicted times at certain junctures. To begin with I was ahead of myself, but a break for a coffee and a sandwich at the Peak Cycle Hire centre used up a lot of my credit, and by the time I turned right for Longnor, I was 10 minutes behind.

There was a point on Swinscoe Hill when I seriously considered turning round and riding straight back to Derby. I had a deadline in the form of the 1907 train out of Sheffield (it was probably 100 years late) and my connection from Hope gave me a scant 3 minutes in which to find platform 8 from platform 2. However, I thought that there was a chance I might get back in time for one an hour earlier.

I did the last quarter of the ride from memory. I couldn’t wear my glasses because of the rain and a fine film of muck all over them, and indeed, even when I stopped for a short while in a pub in Longnor, everything was so wet that my reading glasses were permanently misted up. Ergo, I couldn’t read a map and I couldn’t read the route sheet. I found the ride out of Glutton Bridge nearly as depressing as Swinscoe Hill, but once I was on the A5027, everything became easier. I couldn’t see the road terribly well because, well, the combination of a single B & M Lumotec powered by a Schmidt has been discussed at some length elsewhere on this forum, and I am very glad I have ordered some solidlights. However, this ride has made me question seriously if I ought to be out after dark if there is a threat of rain in the air, particularly on roads I don’t know very well. Too much is left to guesswork.

So, for 15 miles, I could read neither map nor route sheet and I couldn’t see my computer so I didn’t know how far I had gone and I didn’t know the time. Even Tideswell Church was no help, its clock face being designed in such a way to make the hands, if there are any, invisible, but good ACFers will be glad to know that the loos there are still up to the standard that enabled Mrs Wow’s Grandmother to enthuse wildly about them in the 1960s and 70s.

I was hopeful that I could catch the 5.30 something from Hope Station, but when I got Back to Base, I asked what the time was and it was exactly 5.30! That was what I had written on my route sheet as a likely finishing time, but it gave me just 4 minutes to catch the early train. However, splendid Northern folk: I asked the organisers if they knew anyone who had space for a bike and was driving back to Sheffield and there were instant volunteers, who had to drive back to Doncaster. We had a bit of trouble fitting my bike in their car, but it went eventually and I had lots of tiime to get myself sorted out. I was glad I had a spare, dry, top because I got very cold at the station. Luckily the Midland Main Line train had plenty of space and I was able to turn it into My Mobile Laundry as I spread some of my very wet garments out to dry. I arrived home in Southend at about 11.15.

ACFers seen: Chris S of course (don’t worry about leaving me behind – you certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed the ride at my pace), PaulD, Redsnapper & Frenchie. I think there might have been someone else as well, but my apologies to whoever it was – we chatted for quite some time before my pedestrian pace saw everyone disappear over the horizon. Indeed, after Redsnapper & Frenchie overtook me for the first time, a vigorous downhill enabled me to put the Rohloff into a high gear and return the compliment, but it was short-lived.

I wasn’t last to finish! Apparently there were two others still out when I got back. My riding speed was just over 15 kph.