Not written much recently - new job (commuting on my single speed in Birmingham most weeks - fun), but also a bit of trepidation about the first couple of weeks of May - Fred and Etape week, to be accurate.
Well the Fred was bloody extraordinary. I went up the night before to not-sleep at the Sally - the thoery being not-sleeping 15 minutes from the start is better than not-sleeping 90 minutes from the start and having a long drive there - moot point, but 5:30 saw me out of bed eating instant porridge and pulling on lycra.
A massive queue to get into Grasmere show field meant that G arrived before me, having driven over in the morning, and once we'd fettled bikes, registered, G had had a poo, gone back to the car for his number and generally buggered about, it was 7am before we left.
Actually 7am was useful, as it gave us a a clear idea of our "total time" as opposed to ride time that I have on my Garmin.
Gareth has serious labrador pup tendencies, so was pushing things from the word go, but I'd decided that I was going to be sensible, so as he disappeared up the road in Kirkstone I let him go. In a precursor to several of the climbs I gradually overhauled him, and then he came bloody flying past on the descent.
We got in a good group along the A66, and Borrowdale was a bit stop-start due to two and four wheeled traffic. Honister mirrored Kirkstone, and was enlivened by meeting a guy I'd ridden up Crag Vale with on the Skylark ride a few weeks ago. Gareth was dropped, and then flew past on the way to the first feed at Buttermere.
Newlands was ok, apart from a slightly unnerving back wheel slip on the steep bit at the top, then we hit Braithwaite and the climb up Whinlatter - where my GPS said we went through half way.
I'd 'fessed up to G that I was thinking I may get under 8hrs total time, and at this point it looked doable - I was doing the usual mental maths to see what the average speed needed to be, and must confess that on Cold Fell (it wasn't, thankfully) I left Gareth and started to think that if he blows up properly I'm leaving him.
I stopped at Calder Bridge and was about to set off when Gareth came in, only a few minutes down, so we set off together, although I could tell he was starting to feel it a bit. By this time we were definitely on for sub-8, and I'd worked out we only needed to average 12mph to hit it - my thinking became "for every mile at 20mph you can do one at 4..." (Hardknott hangs over you all day!).
I rode all the way up Eskdale on my own, but then the world and his dog appeared as I went past the phone box at the bottom of Hardknott. The bottom bends were as steep as ever, but once I'd got up those I was pretty confident I'd ride all of it, despite the increasing number of people walking.
The top section loomed overhead as I tried to recover as much as possible on the "easy" bit, and almost before I was ready I was on it, looking for the outside of the bends and trying not to get too close to other riders. There was amazing support on "that bend" with hooters, cowbells and shouts, and that gave me the energy to get out of the saddle and pass a few people on the inside - the increase in volume was like a booster rocket and that carried me half way up the final ramp, before I slumped back down in the saddle and ground it out to the top.
Wrynose was, as usual, a bit of an anti-climax (once I'd stopped for a bit of double-leg cramp past Cockley Beck) and soon I was giving it full beans to the finish - I found myself at the front of a little group of riders, none of whom seemed to have the energy to help out, so I led the happy band back into the show field with a ride time of 7hrs and 20 seconds, and a total time for the event of 7:24 and a bit - well over half an hour quicker than I'd thought I might just do with favourable conditions and good luck. G was ten minutes later at 7:35, but had also absolutely smashed his planned time, and looked well set for his epic charity ride week.
Then it was on to the Etape - of which later...