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.

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