Who would have thought that after a bright and frosty start to the morning it would end up so grey and dreich by the time we left the cafe? Still, it allowed some riders to give their new and clean-looking Xmas cycling clothing a first outing .
With 20 riders assembled outside Broadway’s there was no debate required, and we rode to the cafe stop in 2 groups – Simon McG. setting off with the first group and me taking the second. Grove Road out of Harwell was flooded, meaning a detour to the Reading Road and Rowstock – but despite all the wet weather recently we were otherwise unaffected by all the flooding. The drop in to Steventon was interesting where the melt water running down the edge of the road had been turned in to a slushy hazard in the middle of the lane by passing car wheels .
Thankfully this was as bad as it got, and although we did encounter occasional icy/slushy stretches as we passed through the Hanneys, Denchworth, West Challow and Letcombe Regis these were all negotiated without incident. Reaching the section up Court Hill we found ourselves riding through a large stretched-out group of cyclists, which we later learned were participating in an Evans’ Cycles Ride It event – we’s pass and re-pass many of these people several times as we regrouped at the top of hills along the way.
A quick blast down the Newbury Road and through Brightwalton saw us arrive at our destination – Saddleback Farm Shop, where a large selection of cakes demanded (and received) our attention . And where Matt Chambers – having ridden cross country on his mountain bike – joined us for a section of the journey home.
Suitably weighed down with cake for extra gravitational assistance we left the cafe in the direction of Farnborough for the Freewheel competition. But not before Harri took a few minutes to replace a deflated inner tube and remove the offending chunk of flint from his tyre.
With the starting point being quite flat, Simon Evans took on the role of official easer-offer to ensure that everyone set off with a similar starting velocity. Going off last, we were all intrigued to know how he was going to – ahem – ease HIMSELF off…
So. The Freewheel Competition. And this year’s winner is recently-joined new member Chris Gilligan who, setting off early, took advantage of a favourable early easing of the wind to reach a point a good ten yards or so past the next-best ride. And then had to wait in the cold as everybody else failed to beat his mark. Last year’s champion Martin Stanley failed to emulate previous multiple-time winner Steve Luck by finishing, er, um, last… . Congratulations Chris!
That only left us with the drop into West Ilsley (where Matt went his own way again to get a few more miles in), the climb over the Ridgeway and the sprint up the A34 to get us back to Didcot.
A short ride today, due to the mid-course distraction. 37.5 miles in 2 hours 40 minutes, giving an – admittedly skewed – average speed of 14mph.
A couple of punctures that I was aware of.