On Saturday morning at 5.30 I was amongst a group of about 70 local cyclists heading out from The Blue Bell car park in Stoney Stanton. With a real mix of experience and a wide range of ages we were all heading on our annual trip to Skegness.
I was late, of course, and barely had time to attach my number before the peleton hit the road. Which meant I missed out on my bacon sandwich but plenty of others had tucked in and were well fueled before they left. Most of us were buoyant about the prospects of a fast (or at least easier) ride due to the forecast of a following wind, but rain was scheduled to be across the Midlands by lunchtime. So the aim was clear – ride with wind and beat the rain!
Normally the first few miles of the ride are pretty steady. Everyone takes a bit of time to warm up that early in the
Me in black (to match my bike), Dickie in red (to match his bike)
morning and its good to chat with people you don’t usually ride with. But this year went slightly differently. After a couple of miles I was chatting to a guy I met a few weeks ago who had raised over £1100 for charity by doing the ride, then I looked up the road and saw a group of about 8 people had already started taking things seriously. At the back of the group was the flashing rear light of Dickies bike. So, regrettably, I decided the social ride would have to wait and got my head down to join the front group. It took me another couple of miles to get on to the wheel and that effort was an unwelcome leg burner, but we settled in to a good pace heading in to Leicester.
One of the reasons for leaving so early in the morning is to avoid traffic on the busy ring road in Leicester and most years we are the only people on the road. This, and cycling as part of a group, usually creates an almost-acceptable approach to the traffic light and roundabout systems. As a rule of thumb, if there is no traffic on the road anywhere near us, we’ll tend to run through a red light. But this year the attitude of some of the guys was different and they didn’t stop for anything. At one point, two of them rode on to a roundabout in front of a car just waving it down to stop. That’s not acceptable in my book because if you start pissing off drivers, they show less consideration to you as a cyclist and their cars are harder and faster than my bike!
Anyway, moan over!
Pretty quickly we were through Leicester, briefly stopping to give our numbers at the first check point, and headed on through to Melton Mowbray. There are only 3 notable hills on the ride so the pace was still pretty high along the rolling roads and the sun was shining to take the chill from the morning air. Melton came and went and when we hit the third checkpoint I started feeling confident and declared that, given the conditions, we should target a 20mph average speed now we only had flat ground to cover.
We’d been working reasonably well as a little group. A guy on the front shouting out if there was gravel or pot holes meant we were able to stay on each others wheels. But when we hit the main road, one fella really put the hammer down and we all struggled to keep on the wheel. The dreadful road surface on a 20 mile stretch of the A52 made things a lot harder than they needed to be. It was boneshakingly bad and when the guy in front dodged a pot hole, both Dickie and I ploughed straight in to it. After a couple of minutes of general swearing, Dickies front tyre started deflating and our progress was halted for a quick inner tube change before continuing on the road as a pair rather than a group.
With about 35 miles to go the long, flat, grinding road started to get more difficult and heading through lanes around Boston my legs got heavy and some cross winds knocked some momentum out of us. We had one last stop, grabbed a banana each, topped up the water and headed on through the flat countryside for the last stretch. Even though my legs were now seriously aching, when we got back on the A52 for the last 5 miles, the following wind kept us ticking along at over 20 mph.
Slightly disappointingly in the end we did a 19.8 moving average, with a ride time of about 4hrs 55 mins. But we rolled
The Clock Tower on our arrival
down Skegness High Street well before 11am which was earlier than ever before. After a quick loop of the Clock Tower (because it looks good on the GPS) it wasn’t long before Mrs G and the kids arrived while Dickie and I were enjoying a pint in Wolfies Wine Bar.
People rolled in over the next few hours and, as always there were some great achievements from first timers and veterans alike. Dave and Gareth, who organise the ride each year, were handing out medals long after I’d been to my hotel and got changed. Each year they make the ride easy for us to do and somehow this year they got a reporter along from the local paper
, their families helped out at the stops and Dave even drove the route a few days earlier to spray arrows on the roads to help everyones navigation ….we all owe them a pint.
So that’s Skegness done for another year. We’ve set a record time that might be tough to beat in future years. Most people had a day in the pubs and watched the FA Cup final. I spent a great afternoon with the kids at the Pleasure Beach and was fast asleep by 9pm!