From the off this had all the makings of a special ride. With numbers undoubtedly swollen by the fine weather, we had a few minutes to sign on, catch up with a few of the familiar faces dotted around the car park, before the scratch group lined up at the ‘start line’(Remember – This is a Reliability Trial and NOT a race – honestly). Some of the area’s strongest riders were amongst this group, and in an instant they were gone.
Next up, the ‘B’ or middle group were called to the start. Dai, Johnny, and I shuffled towards the start. This was going to be a very large group out on the road, and it was decision time. Getting stuck towards the back of wasn’t really where I wanted to be, so I decided to make a fairly quick start, and see what happened. Traffic at the very first island split the group, but the good news was that Dai and I were on the front of the chasing bunch. As we passed through Forton we could see the front group and they we were coming back to us. We pushed on a little, and crossed the gap.Although fast, the pace was comfortable and I was able to pick my way through the group towards the front. The familiar figure of Nova Raider @Middy_Middy was amongst those pushing the pace along at the front in spite of a lack of gears, and I was glad of the shelter offered by the leading half a dozen or so riders. We passed through Eccleshall without any problems, and I comfortably held position as we neared the turn onto the A51.
As we headed west towards Woore, the long flat sections offered the stronger riders the opportunity to really put the pressure on. It was on this section that perhaps my biggest weakness was apparent, a lack of top end speed on the flat. It was time to dig deep and hang in there for all I was worth. The group had thinned by now, and thankfully Dai was still with us. We exchanged a few words of encouragement as we clung on towards the back of the group. The good news was that we were still there; the speed was, for me at least, fairly ferocious.As we passed through Woore, the pace seemed to go up a notch and I was in trouble. Looking behind me all I could see was road. I’d lost the wheel of the man in front of me, and the gap was growing. To get dropped now would be a disaster, and it would be a long ride back.
Fortunately, as we made the turn for home just past Woore, the terrain changed in my favour, as the roads narrowed and encountered a series of small but rolling hills. The group dangling just in front was getting closer, and after one final big effort I was back with them. Time to take a well earned breather in the shelter of the pack.As Audlem passed and we headed towards Market Drayton I started feeling stronger, and as the roads undulated I made my way back up towards the front end of the group. Could I hang in there all the way back to Newport? I was certainly going to give it a shot. One final nagging climb up to Cheswardine was the last hill of the day, and from there it was just a downhill blast back to Newport. As we got onto the hill, it was clear that I wasn’t alone in my suffering as riders all around dug deep to keep with the group.
As we reached Cheswardine little did I know that I was about to experience one of the finest finishes to a ride I’ll ever experienced. 30 or so riders were left in the group as we sped down the lanes, the familiar roads passing underneath me quicker than ever before. With no traffic coming the other way, the group made full use of the road. Whilst not a race, it was perhaps the closest I’ll ever come to the feeling of one as the group rode 3 and 4 abreast using the whole road. The pace was manic as we swept past some of the slower riders completing the 30 mile loop. As we turned onto the A41 for the final mile or so, I decided to empty the tank. As I hit the front I knew I’d gone too early but the sheer ehxileration of the experience made it all worthwhile. I was swallowed up by the remainder of the group as we approached the ‘finish line’, my legs were screaming at me and on the point of cramping. A fitting way to finish an absolutely awesome ride.When I checked my watch I was genuinely shocked to see that we’d got back to the start before 12. That meant we’d made it round in under the 2hrs 20 mins mark. Bloody hell! Then I checked my average speed – 35.1km/h! I’ve not managed all that much quicker than that on a 10mile TT. Amazing.
Without a doubt one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve ever experienced.936ADL
Vive la Velo!