Happily, Paul, a guy we sometimes cycle with, was also doing the 100, so I wouldn't have to be completely on my own. Still, this would be my first ride without Alberto so I was worried about any mechanical issue that might crop up, or even a puncture wouldn't have been fun to deal with on my own.
My concern only heightened over the first 30km when we passed at least five people with punctures. I was seriously starting to wonder whether there were tacks on the road like in the Tour de France! The roads were wet from the rain the night before, which certainly contributed, but many tires were of the lightweight variety which just aren't as puncture proof. I hoped my Cotinental Gatorskins would get me round; they've never failed us on an audax.
The first portion of the ride was a relatively flat run to Ray's Farm near the village of Billingsley. We made relatively good time and arrived in good spirits. We had a £1.60 voucher for Rays Farm included in our entry fee, which was nice, though since we would loop back to the farm twice I knew we'd definitely be spending more than that. I ordered a bacon bap and a Coke; knowing that we'd have to climb immediately after the stop, I was hesitant to order anything heavier, although the cakes looked amazing. The Coke had come in a bottle, and was a bit too much for me to drink quickly. No matter, I hid it in some bushes near my bike and would drink the rest when we got back to Ray's Farm some 50km later!
|In the Clee Hills|
When we reached the top of this hill we stopped to have a quick snack and to try to send some text messages; Rays Farm was in a valley and we didn't get any reception there. I had a text from Alberto saying that his ride was going well, and told him that mine was as well. It started to drizzle lightly, which didn't bother us as it was still quite warm, although it made for a scarier descent.
We had been warned about the condition of the roads, due to some of the rainest summer months in a long time. They were gravelly in places, but actually not too bad, and although I had to take some of the descents cautiously, I loved the route. We were rewarded with many nice views and I was sad that I didn't have my personal on-bike photographer with me as there was no way I could stop to take pictures every time we had a nice view.
We arrived back in Ray's Farm and I found my half bottle of Coke waiting for me in it's hiding spot. It was still relatively cool as well! The bacon bap had gone down so well the first time that I ordered another! Still feeling good, and surprisingly in touch with the peloton compared to normal, Paul and I set off for the final 40km back to HQ.
|Severn Valley Railway|
Around this time a strange feeling started to come over me. For the first time that I can remember on an audax, I didn't really want the ride to end! I've noticed that even on the most enjoyable rides, the last 5-10% of it is spent waiting for it to be over and looking forward to arriving in HQ. But on this ride, my legs felt fresh, the sun had started to come out, the roads were still quiet and the views beautiful, and I was a little disappointed when we pulled into Belbroughton at about 4:45pm.
The organiser had baked at least five or six different types of cakes and was serving bacon sandwhiches to boot! I had some cake (didn't think I could make it a three-bacon-bap day!), said goodbye to Paul, and watched the last of the 100km riders arrive and then depart for home again. The organisers showed me great hospitality, chatting to me and helping me make dinner plans while I waited for about four hours for Alberto to finish his ride.
As he arrived and sat down to eat, I couldn't resist any longer and ordered my third bacon sandwhich of the day. And it tasted great!