Yesterday I went out for an early season training ride with an old friend Alick who last year did his first Ironman. Also along for the ride was Alick’s coach Mike, who is training for an Ironman for mid way during the year.
The last time I rode with Alick was about 3 years ago just as I’d decided to get seriously into cycling. Alick came out to Kent and we hit some of the local roads and lanes. I was so unfit that day (and with the wrong gearing) that after one not particularly big or challenging hill I had to stop and lie down on the side of the road for 10 minutes. It was pretty embarrassing. Now with the best part of 10,000km in my legs since then I was less nervous about what was pitched as a low to medium intensity training ride but mindful of the fact I’ve done very little riding since November.
We met at Alick’s house in Surrey and headed out towards the countryside through West Byfleet, Pyrford and Ripley on the flattest part of the ride. It was blowing a gale with winds anywhere between about 25 and 40kmh (so not actually a gale at all). It was also very grey, with skies that threatened rain onto already wet and muddy winter lanes. It was a classic winter training ride day (perhaps except for the high winds). Alick had set the route and said there were some good climbs in there. After not really riding much for the last six weeks I was hoping to not destroy myself and was most nervous about the unknown (to me) climbs Fortunately for me, the other guys hadn’t been doing much riding either. Mike had managed to get the most miles in and that showed itself once we got to our first climb – Crocknorth Road. I stuck fairly close to Mike’s wheel and managed an ok if unspectacular cadence up the climb – fortunately it wasn’t too long – long enough though as it was challenging for winter legs and lungs. Mike and I got to the top ok but Alick struggled and was a bit behind.
We regrouped and carried on and as you can see on the route profile there were some decent lumpy climbs. They included Coldharbour Lane, Leith Hill and Coombe Lane. On each occasion Mike and I climbed pretty much together, while Alick was having a tough day at the office on the hills in particular. Mike was definitely the King of the Mountains on the day though.
The roads in places were very greasy indeed. At one point in particular I felt like we were riding the Strada Bianchi from the Giro as the road was completely covered in mud and puddles and we got covered in it over a km or two. It was fun though as we were belting along at the time – just not a road to ride on your best bike in those conditions.
On the flats we made decent speed averaging around 40kmh in places, which was good fun and nice for this early in the year. Following the last climb at Coombe Lane we had a pretty flat run back to Alick’s house and again pushed the speed as much as we could manage without blowing up completely. I was definitely tired at the end – but not completely wrecked, which was a good result.
I can’t speak for the others but the ride had been a good one for me. It was probably a day that I wouldn’t have gone out if I hadn’t been riding with others and apart from a 15-20minute stretch when it got cold and squally – it had been an enjoyable ride. Challenging enough on the hills but I’d coped pretty well all things considered. This has definitely been my best ride of the year to date and one that confirmed I’m slowly on my way back to fitness.
It was great to ride somewhere different and to ride with new people – it made for a fun day out. Alick and Mike were excellent company (no surprises there), so it had been thoroughly enjoyable. We rode 74.5km, climbed 840m in about 3 hours. I say about as we had a small debate about the ride time. My Cyclemeter app, which struggled with the weather conditions said we’d been moving for 2 hours 47minutes but it was probably about 3 hours in reality. I don’t mind as it was a good ride and a good day. I’d like to do the ride again and perhaps add in the extra loop over Boxhill, which adds about another 25km to the total ride. I think I’ll get a bit fitter first though.
Mike has a good and big training ride to the north of Tunbridge Wells that sounds like a great challenge and I hope Alick and he will also come with me to sample West and South of Tunbridge Wells including the Ashdown Forest. So there is the potential for some really good rides together (especially if we can get a few more people out too). Time will tell.
Thanks for reading.