The longest day……168 miles ahead of us, and the weather is HOT!
Probably the hardest day to leave in the morning being at home, breakfast done we reluctantly set off, heading past my old house in Hilderstone.
Heading out on familiar roads, and Justin’s regular training ground, the first part of the day was one of the steepest, but no real hills of note. Justin’s Garmin continued to have problems and kept switching itself off – fortunately mine was still working ok – if it’s not on Strava it doesn’t count!
The route through Penkridge and down to Wolverhampton area was nice and scenic, with our first stop in Kinver, after around 45 miles in. We stopped at the very friendly Olga Dunn cafe. Bacon and maple syrup hit the spot, and armed with the kind donation of flapjacks from the owner, we got back on the bikes (1/4 of the way there!). A great cafe and worth stopping at.
After 15 miles or so of undulating climbs, the road then headed more downwards to Worcester, with a few nice descents to stretch out the legs. The road then flattened out with a long section of just grinding out the miles before stopping for lunch at the Hunter’s Inn near to Long green and Forthampton.
We both ordered the Carbanara and boy was it good – possibly the best I’ve had. Pints of water and coke to calm down the heat of the day, this was a great stop, and sitting outside in the sunshine, listening to the tunes playing outside, it was so tempting to close the eyes and have a snooze. Just over half way!
Shortly after leaving, I noticed something catching on my back wheel, and with it getting louder I decided to stop and see if I could find what the problem was. It was pretty clear – my rear tyre had a large bulge and split on one side, and a chunk missing on the other – probably a combination of the heat of the day and the load it was carrying – this tyre was about to go. Fortunately we were only a few miles from Gloucester, so a change or route se carefully limped to find a bike shop.
The first bike shop was a rental place and had no tyres. The second bike shop was shut. Fortunately the third bike shop, Striking Bikes, was open and had tyres – phew. As I turned over my bike to take off the wheel, Justin started quoting the ‘rules’ and almost got the rule book shoved where the sun doesn’t shine.
Here is the tyre…..
Tyre changed and spare tyre bought, using the power of Zen again we found our way back to the planned route. A combination of the heat and being annoyed at the added hour of faff, my head was not in the right place and for the next 20 miles or so I was more focussed on how far we still had to go, the pain in my achilies, how uncomfortable the seat was, and other negative vibes. I knew this wasn’t good, so several verses of ‘I’m a chicken (the lads song from school) I soon got back into the groove. Justin’s Garmin even started to work again 🙂
The road started to kick up again at Falfield near Thornbury and the hills were more than welcome after the long drag of the flats – the hardest riding was definitely where the road was flattest with hills giving a chance to get out of the saddle and stretch out the achilies.
The heat of the day took its toll at around 125 mile mark and out of water and feeling a little light-headed, we stopped for supplies at the BP garage before crossing the M4. Here Iain got chatting to us and kindly made a donation towards the Charity – thanks Iain :). After refueling and feeling much better we still had a long way to go and time was ticking on, so back on the bikes we headed to the Clifton Suspension Bridge to cross the river Avon.
The road climbs to the bridge and the bridge itself gives great views over the Avon – but stopping for photos on the road wasn’t the most popular move with others using the bridge – oops!
After the bridge is a long steady climb (and pee stop) before a long descent and few undulations into Congresbury – a nice section. We pulled in to the Oldfields Fish and Chips shop and reassessed whether we would make it to the pub at the end in time before they stopped serving food – still around 20 miles to go it would be a close one to get there in time – but we decided to give it a go and leave the chips for another time.
Following the climb after Shipham, the road then dragged out, with the last 20 miles in the dark and on flat roads, this was probably the hardest section (more mentally than physically) of the ride so far, and our old friend the headwind had made its appearance again. Slogging it out we eventually made it to Bridgwater and to out stop at the Premiere Inn. That was a long day!
We had missed out on food at the restaurant next door as we had arrived so late, but fortunately there was a 24 hour petrol station where we filled up on quick food and headed to the room for food, shower and chill – eventually getting to bed just after 1 am.
167.8 miles, 12:46:16 moving time, 8819ft of climbing, averaging 13.1 m.p.h. A long hard day in the saddle, but the longest day now done, it felt good.