There is no doubt about it – we’re into the heart of Autumn and the weather is continuing to turn colder, grayer and wetter. This combined with the realisation that my entry into the Puncheur (http://girodilento.com/ive-entered-my-first-sportive-the-puncheur) next March suggested a change in strategy in the short term. The extremely simple idea is …. do harder rides that are a bit more intensive. The reality is that in the short term until I fully acclimatise to the change of seasons I’ll probably be doing generally shorter rides, so I’m going to stick more hill climbing into them.
Today was the first attempt at the strategy, so I mapped out a 65km route that Bikehike (http://www.bikehike.co.uk/
) told me had 925m of climbing. For me it’s starting to get hard when my routes work out to 150m climbing for every 10km cycled and today’s ride was pretty much bang on this ratio. I also thought it would be interesting to ride some of my regular roads in reverse as I tend to ride roads one way only and I wanted to ride the Nouvelle Col de Groombridge
that will feature in the 2011 Hell of Ashdown (http://www.hell.gb.com/
Today also had an extra twist in that it was pretty windy – 30-35kmh winds the entire ride, which as it’s a loop, worked for me some of the time and against me at other points.
I left town via Hawkenbury and was followed by a car down the first country road (narrow) descent, so I rode as fast as I could on the descent and as I came round the corner at the bottom doing probably 50+kmh there was a rider on a horse that I never knew was there. I jumped on the brakes, the rear stepped out and I went past the horse doing about 35kmh apologising as I did. Fortunately it was a middle aged man with a pretty placid horse and they didn’t seem to bat an eye (although I bet he was muttering under his breath) – of course he then had the car that was following me to deal with.
From there I road up the hill into Frant down the hill and across to Groombridge. One of my water bottle cages has worked loose and I don’t carry a multi-tool or allen keys, so at Groombridge Village I had a quick stop to check it out and see if I could tighten the bolts at all without any tools (I couldn’t). I then rode up the Nouvelle Col de Groombridge which is the first left after the roundabout heading up the hill. It’s much quieter than the main road which is a huge plus as I find the hardest thing about Groombridge Hill are the cars and vans that seem to virtually touch you as they fly up the hill. This new road has none of that. It is steeper at the start and has some lovely views of the countryside to the south as you climb up the first part. Once you get to the 90 degree right it’s pretty flat and you’ve pretty much done the climb until it kicks up again at the A-Road at the top. I turned left there and then took the first right to head down towards Fordcombe. A further left took me down the back of the village and I wound my way back round towards the climb at Nunnery Lane which is a good little challenge as about a 1/3 of the 750m climb is over 10%, I then jinked right and down Saints Hill and around to Grove Road just before Penhurst and up through Chiddingstone Hoath round to the left towards Mark Beech and heading down the hill past Cowden Railway Station and the road here was filthy, covered in thick mud for about 1.5km. I rode down the wheel tracks in the mud at pretty much normal descending speed, but it was a clear reminder of autumn and winter road conditions. I turned left and rode the opposite way to normal down Moat Lane/Bassetts lane where the photo of the muddy road was taken and the one of the lake and the climb with the post and rail fence – it’s a really pretty road with some really mucky/potholed surfaces and I really enjoy riding along there. I met another horserider at the bottom of the climb where the photo was taken but no cyclists today.
From there I rode through Blackham and over to Withyam where I turned left and out onto the climb up to Ladies Mile about 30m in front of a well kitted out looking fellow roadie who was already up on his pedals coming up the beginning of the hill. Obviously I started out up the hill at a brisk pace so that he’d have to be working reasonably hard to catch and pass me. I was making pretty good progress and when I was about 75 m from my turn I looked over my should and saw that I was now about 100m in front of him. I turned into Ladies Mile and rode across to head down Corsley and Forge roads to Eridge Station.
My legs were starting to feel the ache now but I still rode reasonably hard all the way back home including the 11% climb up into Frant. This is the harder way back into Tunbridge Wells for me as the climb is on the A267 which is busy, so I always try to climb as fast as I can to do what little I can with respect to the closing speed of the cars and trucks passing me. Once I get to Frant Village there’s a lovely fast descent to Bells Yew Green (wind assisted today) then the last 1.5km climb up into Hawkenbury which although it’s only about 6% is always harder at the end of the ride.
I think today’s strategy is a good one and I’m going to research some shortish climbing loops to try and keep the legs tough through the winter – climbing hills certainly kept me warm today – but the wind was not a great deal of fun. It was one of the windier rides I’ve done in the last year or so. I can think of one or two days that might have been windier but it really would only have been a few. My average speed for today was 26.6kmh not brilliant but ok.
Thanks for reading