Tour of the Cotswolds 2016—Straight out of (Little) Compton
Did you know that a “wold” is a rolling hill? If I didn’t know that before, I sure do now. Joe and I had done the short version twice previously. That consisted of a 52 mile route with 3927 feet of climbing. It was very enjoyable, offering charming villages of honey-coloured stone cottages, quieter roads, better behaved drivers, and a change from the hum drum of the Surrey Hills. This Sportive is also much smaller than some of the events we’ve done, with a maximum of 500 riders. Well, this year we opted for the long course which is 76 miles long and involves 6155 feet of climbing. One of the climbs—Dover’s Hill—was home of the 2010 UK National Hill Climb. This time, we also brought my twenty-four year old son Patrick, who has been trying to fit in training around a busy work schedule and preparations for his upcoming move to China.
Early on, things did not go according to plan. First of all, Patrick, who had raced on ahead of us, had a crash around mile 30. I heard a voice calling “Mum, Mum!” from a petrol station forecourt on a busy stretch of B road. Patrick had heavy road rash on one side of his body, but his bike was OK. He’d already phoned the medical support team and they were on their way. He told us that he wanted to get treatment and continue, and he urged us to carry on. We agreed to meet at the feed station and see how he felt then. When he arrived at the feed station, he was heavily bandaged, but still determined to carry on—but he was going to stick with us from now on, just in case his situation deteriorated.
The second thing that didn’t go according to plan was that I completely and totally bonked. I had mismanaged my fuel intake and I paid for it. Before leaving Kingston at 6 am, I had eaten one piece of toast. The feed station came at the 42 mile mark. That was too long to go without fuel intake, especially on such a challenging course, and on such a hot and windy day. Joe had urged me to eat an energy bar, but I was (foolishly) determined to wait until the feed station. When I did finally eat, it was too little, too late. The recovery took some time to kick in. On the first named hill after the break (Stanway, 1.7 miles, avg. 5.3% gradient), I was broken. At the top of the hill, I told Joe and Patrick that I couldn’t continue. Well, Joe informed me that I had no choice but to continue! Patrick told me that he’d slow down the pace (as he whizzed off….). So I continued, but limping. Next I had to face the two killer hills of the Tour—Campden Lane and Dover’s Hill. I struggled up Campden Lane (.8 mile, 9.7% avg., but with segments over 15%), but I was not alone—others were walking. Misery loves company! Luckily, my recovery was kicking in as we started up Dover’s Hill (1 mile at a solid 14%) and Patrick was surprised to see me finishing slightly behind him.
By this time, all three of us were longing for the finish line, but we still had the Hidcote Boyce climb ahead of us. We just gritted our teeth and did it—motivated by the thought of the cold beers that awaited us. At the finish line, one of the organisers asked us if we’d “enjoyed” the ride; for a long moment none of us could answer. Finally I replied that I was glad to have finished it, and he laughed.