Last sportive of the year, but what a great one. Just back from a week away in Holland (where we’d actually ridden a couple of times on Dutch BSOs), and I had the long drive south to Marlow. It was arranged by colleagues Neal, Brian and Richard.
The morning started cold, with 4°C registering on the car temperature gauge. I put away thoughts of toughing it out and got the gillet and arm-warmers out. The ride starts at Marlow cricket club and despite the chill, finding a spot in the sun to hang out and drink the (free) coffee was great.
Once on the road we quickly left Marlow and headed out for the ride up to Christmas Common. This was a regular when I used to live down there, so I knew what to expect. What was different was normally on the climb I’d have ridden over from Windsor, so this time it was on fresh legs. About a mile in there was a big bang from behind, and Richard had punctured, right on the narrow climb under the trees. We found him a patch of off-road ground, and teamwork fixed the puncture quickly. Back on the climb.
Frieth and Fingest pass quickly, and as we’re climbing, the chill is receding. I’d forgotten how beautiful it is around here. There is a BIG pull up to Turville Heath which has me pulling off gillet and arm-warmers while on the move, stowing them for the rest of the day. We eventually arrive at Christmas Common and have the new (to me) long fast descent to Watlington. The route turns north east to head under the M40 near the amazing chalk cutting to Stokenchurch. We have a different agenda though, so its north to Thame, and a little sinking feeling that we’re not going to be stopping for coffee and cake… However, the riding is gorgeous, with most of the lumps now gone, and just lovely undulating country riding. Wall-to-wall blue skies and sunshine. The only headwind is that we’re making by our movement: the bushes are absolutely still.
We cross south over the M40 and A40 before a climb upto Cuddesdon and our first feedstop half way around the 80 mile route. The food is excellent: scotch eggs, sausage rolls, pork pies together with the usual sweet stuff. Richard pumps his tyre upto “running pressure” and as we prepare to leave, Richard picks his bike up only for a bang and a hole appearing in the sidewall of his tyre; damaged by flint? The organisers quickly find him a new tyre, and while he makes another repair Neal says “more food?”
The descent out of Cuddesdon is great, and we know we’re now on the home leg. More nice riding south towards Reading, but first we have the big climb back onto the Chilterns at Cookney Green. I manage a cheeky rest by helping a Dutch guy with a broken chain, but while we get him going, he clearly doesn’t place any importance on chain cleaning, and my hands are black. Not far to the next feed station, and they have a toilet with soap, water and paper towels, so I scrub and scrub some more.
Riding along the tops of the Chilterns we pass through Nettlebed and descend to Sonning. Due to the amount of rain recently, the planned ford at Twyford is off the agenda, and in place we have a long flat slog along the A4. I’m on the front of our group and feeling it. Only later does Brian tell me he was struggling to hang on the back. I think we were all tired at this point, and unanimously agreed later that 80 miles was “the right distance.”
As we approach Maidenhead, we’re back on home ground at Pinkney’s Green. Not for the first time today there is a cricket match in progress. We make the final climb of the day up Winter Hill road, but we know this is climbing Winter Hill by its easiest approach. Then we have the fast and steep zig-zag descent into Marlow, across the beautiful bridge and left back to the cricket club to finish. It’s now 20°C and still amazing weather.
Many of the riders are hanging around, there is beer and bacon sandwiches on sale. However, for me, it is a short ride back to the car park, then a five hour drive back north.
A grand day out!