The Invicta 600 and the lure of India

14 06 2010

I’m a bit late with this blog, well about a week.

My non-working day was moved to Friday and the car packed but before we could head to Kent I helped Rach with some filming she’s doing at the moment. There was a time when Rach first stared film making when I would help out quite a lot but it must of been a couple of years now since I last lugged the camera and tripod round as she did her ‘director’ thing and I actually really miss it.

The reason for the visit to Kent was always going to be two fold, first to ride the Invicta 600km audax on the 5th June and to see my family, the star of which is my little niece India.

The ride started at 6am from Sevenoaks Weald Scout hut, a place I last went to at the age of 6-7 when I was a cub scout on a camping weekend, I have great memories of that trip. The route takes you out West on a 400km loop that nearly reaches Salisbury before heading back to Sevenoaks along the North side of the South Downs . The second loop is 200km and takes you east to North Kent before dropping south then back west along the flat areas of mid Kent to finish back at the scout hut. Being a 600km ride you have between 20 & 40 hours to finish, I was planning on being done in 24.

After my 400km ride to Kent a month or so ago I had hoped to get round the first loop by 11pm, maybe quicker as one website had calculated less climbing than the ride to Kent, but the warning bells should of rung when I looked at the route sheets, I’ve never seen so many instructions for 1 ride, there were hundreds and don’t think that any 1 instruction lasted more that 6km.

The ride started as most Audax rides do, with little fuss after a cup of tea, and then a straight up warm up, straight up Hubbards Hill, glad I’d decided to cycle there from my parents house as a warm up. I quickly settled in to the ride with a chap called Richard, a seasoned Auduxer and cycle tourist with years of cycling wisdom.  As I’d feared with so many instructions the ride was bound to be slower than I had hoped and a few of the instructions sent us the wrong way or had us stopped by the side of the road trying to decide where to go. It was a bit odd as many of the rides I’d done this year had been on my own, so to be riding and getting lost with another rider felt a bit strange, and as Richard had ridden the route last year I was looking to him for the lead, think I rather like to take my own lead.

route profile

Having looked at the route profile before the ride I’d realised it was going rarely going to be flat, but I was surprised by just how undulating it ended up being and I’m glad I’d decided to experiment with a single speed freewheel on the fixie, at least I could roll down the hills, and keep up with other riders.

As the day drew on so the temperatures went up and I realised how conditioned I’d become to cold weather riding over the winter. I was struggling a bit and developed saddle chaffing brought about by salt crystals from sweat but I’d not manged to catch it early enough ans struggle later as a result. By the time we reached the 200-250km point, south of Andover, I was drinking over a liter an hour as the road surface turned dire and the hills ground on. This was becoming a hard ride! By the time we reached Petersfield I was not enjoying my-self, I was sore and my hands had become numb from the constant vibration for bad roads. After a bit of coffee and a decent sandwich we headed of towards the South Downs and on to roads I’d ridden on my trip to Kent. After only about 5 miles my legs returned as the heat eased off and the surface improved, I flew along the road to Pyecombe, by this time Richard was suffering. The lights came on at Pyecombe for the last section back towards Sevenoaks. I truly like my light set up, an Exposure Endurance on medium setting and a joystick with a three cell picky back on full power, this gives me a good 10 hours of decent light on the road which allows me to maintain my daylight speeds.

Shortly after passing though Ditchling the air become still and the roads were rolling, it was a perfect night for cycling, then a gentle cool breeze picked up from the North. At 11.45pm, we stopped to check the route sheet, then we felt a few spots of rain and we barely had enough time to put our jackets on before rain of a biblical proportions hit us! Unbelievable, it came out of nowhere. We were still some 40 miles from Sevenoaks so we just had to plod on. We had become three by that point so we threw a lot of light on the road, but not as much as the electrical storm that was striking up ahead. I’ve never cycled in anything like it, but it was warm and actually quite enjoyable.

At around 2am we rolled back in to the scout hut to a warm cup of tea. My original plan was to just keep going, to ride the whole 600km, my legs were feeling strong but the storm was still raging outside and the route would take me in to the middle of it. I had to decide weather to sleep with no gear on a hard wooden floor or head to my parents and a warm comfy bed. No brainier really, so back out I went in to the rain knowing that a warm bed awaited me. The plan was to get up at 7am and finish the ride.

At 7am the alarm went off. I still had saddle sores, my hands were still a bit numb and the remaining route just did not inspire me and besides I was in Kent and my niece was to spend the day at my parents, if I went out and rode the rest of the route I’d miss her. I figured that given how strong my legs felt after riding 400km and that as I’d not been able to achieve my plan of a straight through 600 I would gain nothing from going out again, so less than 20 seconds after the alarm went of, I had turned back over to cuddle Rach and enjoy some more sleep.

I spent Sunday eating good food, cleaning the very dirty bike and playing with India. Sometimes there are things better than cycling.




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