I was admiring the legs of a Rapha rider in front of me. 'Like iceskater's legs', I thought. I must have had ice on my mind. Maybe from last week's FNRttC, where there was a bit of sheet ice to be negotiated. Or maybe from my new Icebreaker cycling jersey which has replaced my Rapha top as favourite. I now know why long distance cyclists have a tendency to wear 'the same old clothes'. You are going to be cycling for a long time, you want to be at your most comfortable, so the instinct is to wear your tried and tested kit. For this 300, I made the break. Don't fret, Raphaelites! I also have a new Rapha top which has knocked the old Mountain Equipment layer off the prestigious top long-sleeved spot.
Then again, was that a 'Rapha rider'? You never really know do you? You never know who they are or where they are. What about their .cc web extension? Have you ever heard of the Cocos Islands ...
Anyway, I was pleased I had all those lovely layers, as it was on the chilly side at times. Chilly enough to want to have a hanky at the ready, but a glove will do! LycraMan also said that it wouldn't rain. Good, so I took my waterproof off. How wonderful! I felt light and free.
I remembered the Upper Swell area from last year, lovely. We took the left turn to Farmcote and all of a sudden we were in thick fog. I say we, but I was on my own at that stage. Then out of nowhere three riders floated by me. The Rapha riders! I had nobody to ask for a reality check. Is this a ghost? But no, like Banksy, you know it when you see the real thing. It would have been a perfect Rapha-esque shot, black and white in the fog, soundless.
I'm pleased I have my 'I have to be focussed, go for time' ride out of the way. It is not nice. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the ride. I had a fast first half, far too big a lunch, and a slower second half, resulting in 30 minutes quicker than last year. I thought I was taking the PBP preparations a bit too casually, so told myself to get out of my comfort zone. From now I am going back to my 6 hours for 100km rule, with time for stopping and photos. I saw Honor at the start, she said she was going to 'do an Els' and had brought her camera phone. In an instant, I regretted my 'focussed and photo free' plan.
I couldn't help but take a few:
Coming out of the fog
Broad Hinton - Broad Town?
Ray and I did the section in the dark together again. Our stars get aligned once its dark! We did meet at the start and during the day. But only once it's dark do our speed and rhythm sync up. I was pleased for the company, because I did have thoughts of: 'If I'm going to ride in the dark, why don't I stick with FNRttC!' The last leg back to Oxford did seem to go on for ages.
It was nice to re-unite with Lee and Chillmoister a few times, usually, as they were leaving and I was arriving at a control point. I took a long break at Chepstow, where I went into the recommended Aslan's cafe. The waitress said that all the cyclists had chosen the Ultimate breakfast, what was I to do?
It was a good day, and the day after I could walk and wasn't holding my head at an angle. You soon forget the pain, and I'm already looking forward to the next qualifier, the Severn Across 400. But first! The Easter Arrow.
My thanks to Dave Bew as always for taking care of organising the event.