Riding Across the Cotswolds

Hubris ( /ˈhjuːbrɪs/), also hybris, means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

The adjective form of hubris is “hubristic”.

Today I managed a PB on my commute to work. The average speed for the 12 mile journey was a shade over 12 miles an hour. It’s a form of evens. Technically, today was a rest day but due to the unscheduled car mishap I had to ride. I took it very slowly. I think it might even be a PB by as much as 10 minutes. It was a genuinely impressive achievement and certainly more than a marginal gain.

Steve sent me a text earlier; he went out today after riding hard and fast in yesterday’s Betty Pharoah road race:

taking your lead, i went for a long hubristic ride in the wind and rain today. with rain-smashed legs and just a banana, I bonked HARD and crawled up the gorge into a tormenting headwind. haven’t fucked myself over like that in a long time. there would have been tears if i could have spared the energy.

Yesterday i set out early on a scheduled ride to Cheltenham, whereupon I was to meet with the inlaws and wife for a lovely luncheon. The wife opted to drive. She is still feeling the after effects of a 55 mile Tintern Trek with Suzi Douchebag, the Audax Queen, and a nice spin up and over the Cotswolds did not particularly appeal. I planned to take my Condor, which I am going to be using for some road races next month, and ride the route at a hefty lick. The weather forecast put the kibosh on that, and what with the Ark not being quite ready yet, i opted to take the Mercian with its full mudguards and the guarantee of a dry ass, rather than the guarantee of a mud-splattered obscenity stripe across the gusset and ass crack.

On the way out i felt positively super-charged. There was a gift tailwind, and as is the norm with all gift tailwinds, i managed to convince myself that it was only a mild tailwind and the reailty was that I was super strong. I tore up the climb out of Wotton, pausing only briefly to exchange pleasantries with a Bristol South rider labouring up the lower reaches. There were two other nasty climbs, one of which wasn’t that nasty but merely a bit long, before a fast descent to Cheltenham. I averaged over 20mph for the ride with 2615ft of climbing. I felt quite pleased with myself, i even felt some form of vague pride.

I had a lovely lunch. It was delicious. Fortified with ginger and treacle pudding i decided to ride home again. Through a process of elimination I can now deduce that this initial decision may have been the cause of subsequent events. I can certainly deduce that I experience both ‘a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of my competence and capabilities’, especially when i opted to start the ride with an ascent of Birdlip. I can safely say that this climb is a purgatory for cyclists and both times i’ve ridden it I’ve had real difficulty. It pitches up nastily in several key sections and averages 10% for the 2 miles. It’s disgusting. Last time i rode it i used a 68″ gear which was nearly fatal. This time i’d opted to use a range of gears and still it wreaked considerable havoc on my sense of being. I survived, and in due course I felt fine. I even managed Selsey Hill without too much bother. Things were looking up, I got to Wotton with about 25 miles to go and most of the climbing in the bag. I was feeling good and the sun was shining. Thus far for the entirety of both rides I had avoided the rain. I even seemed to have avoided the worst of the headwinds. I chatted to a random stranger whilst eating a flapjack, he was impressed by my efforts and asked me how i felt about the remaining 25 miles to come.

A Piece of Cake (picture courtesy of The Cherry on Top)

I left Wotton and headed towards Kingswood. The road surface had been replaced with a sort of loose aggregate which makes riding difficult. A roaring headwind suddenly picked up out of nowhere, racing across the estuary with merciless force. I could just about cope. Up ahead grey and darkening clouds massed in formation and the wind picked up further. I finally encountered my first rainfall of the day, initially a gentle few drops which then gathered in momentum. I stopped briefly under a railway arch somewhere north of Nowhere-by-Wickwar to don my overshoes, but before i could pedal off the rain suddenly poured down, so I opted to stay put. Within minutes it turned into freezing hail and continued unabated for around 10 minutes. I felt glad to be dry, but also experienced that curious dilemma, wondering whether to press on or wait…

It eventually eased and I headed out. The headwind remained the same, dispiriting and soul-destroying. After 80 hilly miles ridden at pace i was starting to suffer. I hunkered low on the drops and tried to carry on regardless, but my spirits sagged like a week old birthday balloon stuck in a hedge. I knew I had a mere 18 miles to go but was struggling, and it was the blustery, horrible headwind that broke me. I crossed the ring road with my average speed dropping through the floor and limped back through Bristol, my legs were shot to pieces, undercarriage malfunctioning, and spirits no longer soaring. I just made it home.

6 thoughts on “Riding Across the Cotswolds

Add yours

  1. You were being pre-emptively punished for using the American spelling of the word ‘arse’. Even if it was deliberate, in the biblical context of that paragraph, it’s still unforgivable, and you deserve everything that was meteorologically thrown at you.

  2. There’s something strange about that bit of South Glos. Whenever I ride anywhere near Coalpit Heath / Winterbourne / Chipping Sodbury I feel like the energy is being drained out of me. Always a sense of extra gravity too and there’s always a headwind. The lay of the land feels quite claustrophobic in parts too which is odd for countryside. Always feels much better on the other side of the A38 towards Alveston, which doesn’t make sense as it should be harder and more exposed to winds nearer the channel.

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