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.

Strava Website

A few people sent me a link to Strava. It’s ridiculously simple and i can’t really believe it’s not been thought of before. Essentially it does what any other training centre thingy does (map my ride, garminTC, etc), you put your garmin/gps thing on when you go out for a ride, record your ride data then upload the ride data to strava.

However, the neat, or fiendish thing about this one is that it then takes segments of your ride, especially climbs and so on, and puts those into a ranking against anyone else ever who has ridden that same stretch of road. it’s really really clever. however, it has the potential to turn any light training spin into an opportunity to top the leaderboard for a specific climb (sorry kieran).

a bit scary

it’ll certainly make you ride harder on the hills, and certainly make you realise there’s always the proverbial larger silverback. it has the benefit of seeing how your times compare with similar riders, thus spurring you on to try and beat those times. today i thought i’d put it to the test and have a pop at burrington – the club run took in the climb this morning. there were a few people on my wheel at the bottom, but after the cattle grid i really went for it and dropped everyone. i was on my 68″ gear with full mudguards and all kinds of shit. it was all i could do get under 9 minutes – the time credited on the website was about 9.30. it made me realise how much harder it is climbing in the cold with lots of layers and carrying excess weight on the bike. i also realised the climb is longer, and i lost time slowing down at the end where i knew the finish to be. on strava it’s mapped slightly awry. anyway, i stuck a time i’d recorded back in may or something up there instead. i didn’t put the 7.33 i managed in october up because i did it without a HRM. it gives me something to aim for for this season…





Finding form, like Samson

Some cyclists are superstitious about odd things. Lance Armstrong wouldn’t shave the night before a race, due to the energy required to regrow the hair, apparently.

my hair is currently getting long, although it’s not really long, i’ve not suddenly become some goddamn longhair hippy hipster mulleteer, but it is in need of a cut. my sideburns are getting unruly, inching down my face day by day. i had planned to get it cut along with the beard once the hillclimb season came around, but it’s one of those things, the longer i leave it the more i think i may as well leave it until the last race, thus avoiding any samsonite style catastrophes.

tomorrow is the penultimate race of the season, the beastly Nick O’ Pendle, with it’s varied and horribly steep gradients. it’s been the scene of the national on more than one occasion, and i’m sure will return again.

Boardman and Curran on the Nick
Steve Joughin goes into serious debt on the Nick in 1980, equalling the course record

I’m a bit nervous about the whole thing, but looking forward to it. i warmed up today at the Nelson Wheelers climb on Barley Moor. Strangely enough i just happened to take my girlfriend up north and met my mum when two hillclimbs just happened to be occuring in the near vicinity, for the second year running! imagine! what are the chances!

Mike Cuming

interestingly, last year i remember feeling disappointed that i hadn’t ridden hard enough, not really dug deep. this is confirmed by the blog. this year i was determined to make amends, and whatever happened to just make sure I really pushed the pace and hurt myself. i succeeded in this respect, blasted out of the gate and hit the lower slopes really hard, so much so that half way up i began to have doubts about whether i could sustain the effort. this is what happens on shorter climbs, where it’s about pain management. i tried to ignore the lactic and the climb was over almost before it seemed to have really got started. there were 4 other riders on the startsheet who had beaten me before, including raleigh/orbea rider Mike Cuming, National Bronze Medallist Ian Stott, and Carl Helliwell, the latter two being part of a very strong Blackburn District CTC outfit who have one the national team prize on previous occasions.


I managed a 3.42 for the climb, compared to a 4.24 last year, this is at least in part due to a bit of a gift tailwind (fingers crossed for tomorrow). This put me inside the course record by around 18 seconds. In effect, i held the course record for about 2 minutes, the time it took for Mike Cuming to make it up in 3.30. I took second, beating everyone else. i was surprised and pleased as punch to beat a real quality field, and be within shouting distance of Mike who has been riding in europe with the professional Orbea 20 road team.

it was a great day, but it really hurt, and by really hurt, i mean stabbing lung pain and sprinter’s cough, sore legs, sore chest, the lot. in fact, it was the most hurt i’ve had this year. maybe tomorrow after the Nick i’ll have to reassess this.

two more races to go.

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