Sunday, 19 June 2011

I've seen Lord Hereford's Knob...

...mainly because I cycled past it today.  Yes, today was the Hereford Villages 100 Audax, and here's a novelty - on a predominantly cycling blog, I can actually post about a bike ride.

I had originally entered the 200km, but the redoubtable and long-suffering Mrs K accompanied me to Hereford, and there's only so many shops one woman can manage in a day.  Besides which, less than 3 weeks back into training after the marathon, I really didn't need to ride 125+ miles, when as it was with riding to the start and a couple of diversions, I managed 75 as it was.  75 solo and bumpy miles is a pretty good workout.

I entered the Hereford ride partly because it looked a pretty good route, and partly because I needed an excuse to go down to Much Birch, a small village south of Hereford where my father's ashes were interned in February, and for various unfortunate reasons I wasn't there for the event and to see the new family headstone, so I needed to pay a visit.  It wasn't until we were on our way yesterday afternoon that Mrs K pointed out it was Father's Day weekend (if you see what I mean) which made the visit doubly appropriate.  The last time I was in the Much Birch graveyard was 2 years ago on LEJoG with Mendip Rouleur, as it lies on the route, and it was good to be back there, reminding me of that magnificent ride, childhood holidays, and of course my father.

All worked beautifully after the visit - a cracking B&B, a surprisingly good slightly out-of-town Chinese, and a lovely evening walk through the grounds of Hereford Cathedral, which are being refurbished with fantastic craftmanship.  There was also a walk through a very tranquil riverside park, and for a short while we almost imagined we were walking through a sophisticated European city.  Until, that is, when we hit the last couple of streets back to the B&B, where there was a 17ish year old vomiting into the gutter with a bottle of cider next to her.  More ambulance-people's time was wasted mopping her up.

Let's not linger there.  On to the ride.  Which was a corker.  It started through the gorgeous Herefordshire black-and-white villages on Weobley, Pembridge and Stansbatch, moved on to Titley and Brilley, from which there was a magnificent descent with views of the Black Mountains, and the halfway checkpoint was in the no-introduction-needed Hay-on-Wye.  Ah yes, there was also a tollbridge across the River Wye just before Clifford - a wooden bridge, for which there was a toll of 10p for bikes, and a guy in a hut collecting the money.  Can he really collect more than it costs to employ him?

After Hay, there was the toughest climb of the day, past the title of today's post, and on to Ewyas Harold.  More views of the Black Mountains interspersed the riding.  There followed just generally nice countryside, and apart from being nearly wiped off the face of the earth by someone in a Jag on a corner of a single track road, all proceeded smoothly.  There was one other hairy moment, which was my fault entirely - too fast down a descent and I had to use the run-off area on the corner at the bottom (as it would be described in Grand Prix world).  Mucky tyres ensued, but nothing worse.

So, 10/10 for the route, but only 3/10 to Herefordshire County Council for the road surfaces, which were uniformly awful.  The ride, in fact, feels like confirmation of many of my observations over the last few months:
- audaxes are great; super routes, lovely people organising and riding them, incredible value for money - today's cost me £4 with food at the beginning and bananas at the end
- in this country, the standard of driving in relation to cyclists, and road surfaces, leave a lot to be desired (though I did encounter the politest road rage ever today when [for reasons that remain a mystery to me] a middle aged lady in a Mini wound her window down, wagged an admonishing finger at me, and shrieked "just be careful".  Maybe it was more of an existentialist observation than a comment on my riding)

I had fun today, notwithstanding the road surfaces.  It may be the last time out on the road before France in a couple of weeks.  Which reminds me - Conrad (see previous posts) completed his Paris-London ride yesterday, and if to reiterate my points above, made it all the way from the Champs Elysee to the Elephant & Castle, whereupon he was promptly (and I use his word here) twatted by a woman in an Audi.  It was a SMIDSY incident ("sorry mate I didn't see you"), and again to use his phrase - "why would she?  I was only wearing white shoes and shorts and a dayglo top".  Unfortunately, it seems he's got either a broken or badly bruised rib, so I'm crossing my finger he'll be ok for our trip.  Update next time.

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