23 August 2011

Caught in the Rain AGAIN: A Hertfordshire metric century

This may surprise our readers, but we have only been caught in the rain on three occasions in the entire time we have been cycling in the UK. The first was Easter weekend 2010, on our first ever mini-tour in the Isle of Wight. The other two times have been in the past two weeks--the Friday Night Ride to Bognor Regis last weekend, and on our most recent ride around Hertfordshire on Sunday.

We had planned a 110km route for Saturday. We wanted to get back to London before the afternoon so that Alberto could get some work done, and we were taking Rachael (of triathlon fame) out for her first ride in the countryside and her first metric century!
We met at the train station at 8am, and by 8:20 we were in Potter's Bar. We knew that rain was forecasted for the late afternoon, but we were pretty sure we'd be back from the ride by then, and besides, we did the loop clockwise to take into consideration the direction the weather was heading! The first few km's were fantastic, as we rode through farmlands and forests, enjoying the lovely sun which was pleasant without being too hot.

Shortly before midday, we met Hitchin, the halfway point of the ride. An attempt to avoid the main street through town resulted in a very hairy situation in which we were stuck on a very busy road for a few minutes. We managed to turn off and take a route through the centre of town, but this was just as unpleasant as the cars didn't seem to think we belonged there. Fortunately it was all over in about 20 minutes and we were back in the countryside.

A few km's later we stopped at a pub in Weston to fill our water bottles (it was the first open pub we had passed). There were some tables in front of the pub, and they looked very inviting in the sun. We decided to have some soft drinks and relax for a few minutes there before heading on our way.

Clouds roll in, if only we had noticed!

By early afternoon, we started to notice the humidity in the air and we could see that it was getting a bit cloudier. I honestly didn't think we'd get caught in the rain, but then it started...first a few telltale sprinkles, building into an all out downpour. We only had about 20 km to go at that point, but they were tough! There were some minor hills that had to be ridden up, which was difficult enough, and then down, which was even harder as we worried about how our brakes would work in the rain. And then there was the minor incident of turning up a road only to find out that it was actually a route through private parkland with a locked gate! Fortunately the diversion didn't make the journey much longer anyway.

We made it back to Potter's Bar and then back home, and, obviously, about 30 minutes later the sun was shining again!

Overall, 118 km for the day, 22.2 km/h average (this had significantly dropped due to the last 20 km in the rain!), and nearly 5 h on the saddle. We hit 55 km/h on some of the downhills, still quite far from the pros...but getting there!

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