It had been a while since I had done any serious road riding, so when Phil asked me to join him on the SWRC Sportive, I naturally hesitated. Oh, no I didn't, I dutifully volunteered like a lemming, as I do with most things cycling.
100km on a bike, on a Sunday with a good mate, seemed like a great idea at the time. Time would tell that it was.
24th Feb arrived a lot sooner as these things always do, unlike Phil I had not paid attention or reviewed the course, one day I'll pay attention in class. Anyway the day arrived and Phil and I met at a chaps house Phil knows through running, thoroughly nice bunch of people. Before we knew it bikes and people were prep'ed and of to register and get cracking we went.
We registered and then milled around a little while before our wave was sent on our merry way. Phil and I had already decided to do our own thing and not get caught up in the groups and the overly competitive riders that frequent these events and rode at our own pace.
For the next 20 odd minutes we cruised through Surrey country side, chatting and enjoying the ride prior to arriving at the foot of the first hill of any note. Having agreed to ride at our own paces as well on certain sections, in particular the hills, I popped out of the saddle bounced off up the hill, sat down at the top to be joined again by Phil (this would be the order of the day) I love hills for some stupid reason and get summit fever.
Phil and I continued a chatting, before Phil issued a warning about the descent we were about to make and then darted of like a bowling ball down the hill and towards the large chevron signs depicting a sharp bend. I did not think much of this at the time, rounded the corner myself sweeping right and then back left through the hairpin. I joined Phil shortly after, who then described his near death experience. We chuckled and rode on.
As we did so we were passed by the freight train Dynamo London (this would also become order of the day), we passed people, people passed us. Many replying to our "hello's" some tacking on for a chat, others tucking in for a chat and a rest.
Nature called and peeing oneself on fun event is not really a requirement, so we stopped briefly. A little further along it was Phil's turn. Evacuations complete, we proceeded at a nice steady pace a few more little hills and we arrived at the time check and feed zone. I embarrassed the young lass handing out the banana's by holding a brief conversation with her. Then we continued on.
Moments later, we had stopped to check Phil's rear wheel, it was of course fine. So we got going again. Soon to arrive at the first serious hill, but not before I had the chance to do some off roading on some skinny tyres, thanks to a moment of navigation madness, followed swiftly by a heavy dose of neglect for the skinny tyres and lack of tread afforded by a road bike off tarmac. It was fine.
Bedham Hill, a sneaky little mite. It creaps up on you, you get a little warning of the 15% gradient, then nothing, looking at the trees, ride past a few folk, still nothing, round a corner "Hello and how's your mother?" it sharpens up a treat and stays this way for a while. Once again, I bounced out of the saddle and got on with the job. Phil and Ian (I think the chaps name was), cruised steadily upwards behind me. It flatterned and we regrouped, only for it to rise again in a series of short sharp thigh splitters. They did their job to many a rider. I arrived at the top, grinned at the photographer and slowed.
Phil soon joined me, I did not notice Ian. We started our descent, Phil a little more controlled this time "I wonder why?" :-) Only to be met by an ascending climber warning of an accident. We arrived shortly at the accident, inquired if a first aider was on hand, the silence and standing around, suggested not. I dismounted and started to check the guy out (Ian from Cycleworks). Ian was battered quite bad, he had hit the deck at speed and hard.
Running through the routine checks, he seemed alert and at worst seriously bruised. Ian's collarbone looked a bit weird. So I check this carefully, but he responded with no pain (would turn out he was quite a tough cookie, he had a displaced fracture of the collarbone), he did get progressivley groggier as we got him into the car. I discussed with the driver that hospital would be the best option as he had got much worse than when we arrived. He agreed and sorted this out rapidly.
Ian tucked up in the car in some pain now, we continued on our way. Our rapid descent was continued, a short stint covered, before another crash site, this one seemed more organised and they had already called for help, well I think that is what the guy said. I was too busy keeping myself upright after finding the corner of a wet steel utilities cover.
It gets a bit strange now, we were passed by the Dynamo London freight train again. I can only remember sneaking past one near the false summit, strange.
Phil and I settled in to some "turns" ourselves and sped along for some time before Phil, had to ease up for a bit to rest a niggly hamstring. We were passed again by the same Dynamo London freight train, WTF is going on what are they doing? (Turns out, from a couple of reports, they were having problems staying upright).
From here it was quite a good little ride, undulating roads, nice villages tucked away with the sun starting to shine and a sizeable group formed for a period of time. But this was to fade as the hills became a little more serious. All groups had self destructed and the Dynamo team along with them as Combe Bottom was approached and sieged by one and all.
Phil had warned me of this climb, but every rider insight was a target "catch one, catch the next", I love hills, I am not a hill climber or the build of one, but I love them. Off I went, spinning high, when I could not spin high, I changed gear. A few classic cars joined the overtaking as well. This hill was slowly but surely tightening the screws. I popped out of the saddle, and went past a couple of the Dynamo team, this lead me to the last 100m's of this climb, the sting in the tail. It gets steep and fast, I swept right then left to avoid the steeper apex of the final corner. Two riders looked across smiled and said "f**k" with a why didn't I think of that look on their faces, but they continued to the top in style.
There was now a flat run along the ridge and a long descent to follow, I slowed refueled and was soon joined by Phil. We cruised now for about 15 minutes, soon to join the A246 or 5 (I am not sure). We rode this for a few minutes and then it was off this and winding charge through the back roads of Fetcham and the surrounding areas.
We seemed to increase the pace continuously, I saw a chap on a bike giving it some effort, I targetted his rear wheel and we joined him rapidly. We then continued hard as a three, more a bunch sprint rather than working together. I turned the screws a bit more and started to hurt myself, Phil sat along side me still. I thought this was great, Phil has really come a long way in a short time and does most of his riding himself, infact most of his training. After having a moment (the f-ing wall, I think I might have even told myself aloud to "Harden the F**k Up) I broke through this and turned the screws a little more. Phil stuck with me and this would be the pace we held to the end. The guy we had caught had dropped his mate a while back and had been working hard by himself (green Bianchi, all in black)"good effort". But with a slight rise at about 1km to go he audibly popped. Mate, if you every read this. Good effort!
We arrived back at the start/finish, happy we had stuck to our plan, glad we had stopped to help Ian and glad that after hearing the story of Phil's near demise I had not rounded to corner to a bloody pulp, formerly known as Phil. As he wasn't on his Planet-X it would have been worthless to me. ;-)
A great turn out for a well organised event, well done to the team at SWRC. Girls, where were you all? There were a few out, but being from cycle mad Australia I am use to seeing 1/3 (approximate, so don't quote me) the field being female at these events. Lets hope SWRC and other clubs sell cycling to the UK's fairer sex better in the future. SWRC a job well done.
Phil has written a bit here as well: http://i-must-try-harder.blogspot.com/
The route is shown here: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_QNV4H5WOJ-A/R78-syqxMrI/AAAAAAAAAHw/NfCEzItDVbM/s1600-h/Springmap08.jpg