Back in early January I blogged about cycling objectives for 2012, and originally this one, ‘Project 330’, didn’t feature. It was only after an exchange with @MartynBroVVn that it was added. At first I wasn’t sure, and at the time it seemed like a tall order, but what the hell, it was something to aim for.
On the face of it, ‘Project 330’ was simple. Ride 100km in 3 hours and 30 minutes. No big deal to many I’m sure, but it’s a fair step up from our usual sort of pace. Having said that though, riding a few time trails has proved to me that if you focus entirely on how fast you’re going, you can surprise yourself.
Maintaining a high average speed needs the right sort of terrain, and ideally the flatter the better. The northern half of Shropshire is just about perfect. Fast, flat(ish), and blessed with lightly trafficked and well surfaced roads. The chosen route was a 50km loop that would take us from Telford up to Hodnet, then across to Shrewsbury before retunrning via High Ercall. The advantage of using a loop being that it would give us a good idea of how we were going at the half way mark.
With the target set, and a route decided, all we needed to do was to work out the when. After not much deliberation we decided to use one of our normal Tuesday evening rides, and the date was set for Tuesday 29th May.
As I rolled gently down to meet Mart as his place after work I was more than a little apprehensive, and wasn’t at all confident that we’d succeed. On the plus side though, it was a beautiful night, and we certainly wouldn’t be able to blame the conditions if we failed.
With the bare minimum of pre-ride faffage completed, we clipped in and headed off towards the start point of ‘Project 330’. As we turned onto the A442 and headed towards the start point, Mart and I wished each other good luck, and I hit the start button on the Garmin. There was no going back now.
We soon settled into a fast pace, and were working well together sharing turns on the front. As we passed the Creamery and Waters Upton I was feeling pretty good in spite of the ever so slight headwind that nagged away at us. Turning south west towards Shrewsbury, the headwind left us, and the pace picked up. My confidence was rising.
Haughmond Hill, just to the east of Shrewsbury was the one potential blot on the horizon, and on the approach our speed dropped as we climbed up and over it. The pay back was worth it however, the reward being a fast and largely downhill run across to High Ercall. The final part of the lap was another gradient friendly stretch through Shawbirch and back towards the start point.
As I checked our progress, I was a little shocked if I’m honest. Lap 1 was completed in 1 hour and 31 minutes which meant we were well ahead of schedule. Things were looking good.
The headwind seemed to have picked up a little as we headed back towards Hodnet, but perhaps it was fatigue as much as anything which was slowing us. Our pace was still high though, and I think we were both beginning to realise that we could do it. The rest of the second lap was all about hanging on and going as fast as we could for as long as we could.
My mind wandered and I began to contemplate just how much we might actually beat our target by, and although we still had 25km to go I decided to raise the bar. Our new target was 3:15. As Shawbirch approached for the final time it was time for one last big effort to get us over the line.
100km was up and stopped the clock. 3:11 and some small change! Although slower than the first, our second lap was still ridden at over 30km/h. I was genuinely quite shocked at just how much we’d beaten our target time by.
Malted Recovery Beverage Consumption followed in the Malt Shovel, and we both reflected on our night’s work. Absolutely awesome was the verdict, and we took a moment to tick off another of the Society’s targets for 2012!