After my great day out earlier in the week …. I started thinking about what was a good next ride and fairly quickly decided it was time to do a time/progress check on my speed for this year versus last year. The obvious way to do this was to re-ride what is now a "classic" training ride route for me as it was one I did about 25 times last year. It's either a 55km or a 58km loop depending on which way you go once you reach Rotherfield. Last year my best time over the 55km version was about 2 hours and 7 minutes and repeatedly tried to get closer to the 2 hour mark but couldn't do it. On the way back home there is one last hill up into Hawkenbury and I only managed to get to the bottom of this once as the clock struck 2 hours …. and there is still just over 3km to go at that point (including the last climb of the ride).
In preparation for today I put on my best wheels (the Eastons) and changed cassettes from a 12-27 (which I've run for the last 6,000km) back to the original 12-25 that came with the bike and which was banished when I moved to the hills of Kent. Some air in the tyres and 5 minutes tinkering with gear indexing and I was ready to go.
I set off at a decent pace but didn't feel great so rode steadily for a kilometer or so on the way down to Groombridge (where I was actually thinking of turning around and coming home) – but I started to feel better and picked up the pace again and pressed on.
In fairness, it's been so long since I'd done this exact ride I couldn't remember when I got to the half way point if it was the first half that was faster or the second – but nonetheless I got to the halfway point at exactly one hour (and 30 seconds) from leaving home – so things were looking good to break the two hour mark for the first time. Not long after this point there is a big descent and then a climb of about a kilometer and a half, which I managed to get all the way up in the big ring (something I've not managed many times before).
Once I got into Rotherfield I decided on the spur of the moment to take the longer route and kept pushing on. On the road to Wadhurst I was getting along at good pace and climbed the last hill up into the town in the big ring again and was cruising into the village when a guy on a Specialized Tarmac SL2 in full Team Toachim team kit went fairly easily past me. He wasn't flying so I lifted my tempo a bit and followed him. I thought he'd drop me on the little hill before the left hand turn to Lamberhurst but I actually caught him up by 10m going up there. So I followed him around the corner and again thought "he'll drop me on the short climb out of Wadhurst" but again he didn't. Oddly, he did put about 30m into me on the descent following that hill, so anyway I picked up the pace again and slowly brought the gap back from 50m back down to about 10m when I turned off towards home. He was definitely just cruising along at a reasonable pace and was looked like he was on the return leg of a training ride but it was nice for me to have someone to follow for a while.
From there I was onto some of my favourite roads back towards Bells Yew Green so I picked up the pace as the time was still looking good. I got to the Hawkenbury hill point I mentioned earlier at 1 hour 55 minutes – so 5 minutes better than my previous best and after going the long way. I got all the way to the top of the climb and onto Forest Road before I hit the 2 hour mark and then had a clear run (including getting the traffic lights) and got back to the house in 2 hours 3 minutes and 49 seconds. Doing a post ride map of the route on Bikehike.co.uk
while I drank a recovery drink showed I'd done 58.49km – which gave me an average speed of 28.34kmh! Over 1kmh better than my previous best a few days ago and over 2kmh faster than I'd ever managed on this route before. I'm pretty astounded to be honest – I didn't expect to do that well today … but I'm really pleased. I've also hit my target for the month early which almost never happens – 540km and have got my monthly average back to my target for the year of 300 per month (so 1800km for the year to date).
What a great day and I haven't even told you that it was sunny and 26 degrees too! Fantastic stuff. Looking forward to having a day off the bike tomorrow and then to getting out on Saturday again with Malcolm and Warren again.