bikebritain News February 18, 2011

bikebritain rides the 'Worthing Winter Warmer'

Picture the scene. It's a grey but dry Saturday morning. I've got the wheels off the bike. The clock's ticking - and I'm desperately trying to fit the Spesh into the back seat of the car. Maybe should have done this the night before, instead of feeding on curry and beer. It's a familiar tale of poor preperation, but the bike did eventually fit in.....it was time for bikebritain's second of twelve organised events for 2011 - the Worthing Winter Warmer', a 100 km Audax that start/finished in the small West Sussex village of Dial Post, on the way to Horsham, just off the A24.
 
I was happier than anticipated because I had expected rain... Having arrived at a nearby garden centre, I re-assembled the bike, did a couple of pre-flight checks (have I put the front wheel on the right way round, are the tyres still pumped up, have I packed a spare inner) and make my way up the road to the Village Hall. I had already registered, so this was really just an exercise in collecting my Brevet Card (basically the official documentation that proves you have reached the 'controls' along the way, and acts as the basis for marking your time for the route) and a map. I noticed there was a minor route change due to a broken bridge or something, but I elected not to worry about that too much. I'd figure it out when I got there. With said Brevet Card in my possession, I took a few photos, did a piece to camera and we were off. It was 09.00. It looked like the sun might come out.
 
I had said to myself I wouldn't go mad on this one. I was at the back of the group that left together and began talking to a chap called 'Carl'. Carl was riding a Bianchi Tourer of some description. He worked in the city and wasn't massively chatty. He was quite serious infact. I did learn he was going to ride a 300 km Audax in April, and I remembered how I felt after riding 200 km - and decided he should really use a car for that type of distance.  It would take, apparently, 17-18 hours. I left him and worked my way up through the group. By now the sun was out but there was still a considerable amount of water on the road, and ergo, O now had a wet bottom. Contrary to my original plan I was working quite hard, trying to get back in touch with the group who I regarded as the leaders. It took me a few clicks to do so and by the time I had accomplished this, that group had split down again. I'd completed about 20 clicks and I was actually getting quite warm. 
 
The first control was at 43km and at the top of Blackdown Hill - the highest point in historic Sussex - 280 meters. Prior to this ascent I'd caught up with two chaps - 'Scully' and 'Phil-the-Croat'. Interesting characters, they were drinking Vodka as they were going round. Scully was also on a Fixie and not doing a bad job of it. Dressed in plus fours and a cap, Scully looked the part. I'm just not sure what type of part. I bantered with them for  abit, but as the hill got steeper, the conversation got more and more surreal and Scully got slower and slower. Half way up some of the folks I had previously overtaken then overtook me back and I decided that was enough. I broke away  - as much you do up a steep hill - and that was that. Blackdown is pretty steep, especially the last part. Anyway I made it, breathing hard and stopped off at the Control. Brevet Card stamped, fed, I was ready to go again. 
 
Not sure what the collective noun for a group of cyclists is, so I'll go with a 'gaggle'. A gaggle of Lewes Wanderers (Cycle Club) had headed down the hill in front, and I set off in 'mild' chase. In practice what this meant was I was cycling on my own, for the first time in the ride. And this meant I had to navigate myself and not rely on others to do the job for me.....another reason to ride in or close to a pack. I did alright. I found 'Quell Lane', just outside of Haslemere and started toiling up it. I vaguely recalled this from the last ride in 2009. There was tonnes of detritus on the road - and alot of surface water - still. At about this point I was caught by another set of cyclists, some Lewes Wanderers, others, like me - 'independents'. The descent was entertaining. The water made handling lively and the corners were steep. I was going too fast and relying heavily on the Conti's for grip. I stayed upright - just. I tagged these folks though and I oscillated between 'tail-end-charlie' and 'lone rider' for the rest of that sector.   It had turned into a cracking day - the first time I had cycled in the day and the sun for maybe months.
 
The second and final Control was at the 70 km mark. This really was a quick stop. I grabbed something to eat, made a quick video and that was it - we were off again. I wanted to stick with the pack - and they had already booted off. 'They' (the Wanderers) were about 500 meters ahead and frankly I was going to struggle to catch up with them. I was right. I would catch their tail and they would go again. The club riders were making me pay. Over 10 clicks or so I dropped off the pace - I could'nt stay there. At about the same time a couple of the Lewes team also peeled off - the pace being to fierce for them too. I was caught by another rider, I then caught a couple - so we made a train of 5 together. We quickly got chatting and shared the last 20 clicks or so, sharing bike envy stories with each other. That was fun and nice not having to 'toe it' all the time to keep up. We were still  doing  a decent pace - 30 km +, but it was manageable. A few minor hills later we turned towards home, skirting past Storrington and heading on the back roads to Dial Post. 
 
The ride had lasted nearly 4 hours and it been completed mainly in the sun. I bid my farewell's to my new Lewes Wanderers Cycling Club friends and coasted my way back to the car. Another piece of dis-assembly later, the bike was back in the car and I drove home, satisfied with my morning's riding. Might do another one next month........
 
For more information on UK Audax's see www.aukweb.net for an event near you.
 
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