Saturday 7th January 2012.
Traditional post-Christmas morale destroying ride.
‘Balmy’ is not the first word that springs to mind when loading bikes onto the van at six o’clock on a January morning. However, after the strong winds and squally conditions experienced earlier on in the week, the three musketeers were all wondering if they were slightly overdressed for the 200km plus ride ahead.
Fortunately, it had cooled down by the time we set off at 8 a.m. from Oxford into a nagging headwind which lasted all the way to Malmesbury, some 80 kms distant. The pace was quite furious and we all three had to dig deep to stay in touch with some of the familiar, faster ‘faces’.
After a break we headed north to Chipping Campden another 65kms ride away. The first 20 klicks took us along quiet, idyllic lanes to Cirencester. At this point we joined the ancient Whiteway which climbs a couple of hundred metres gradually and serenely into the Cotswolds. Then the fun really starts. The taster is a double bump of a hill before a vertiginous descent into Compton Abdale. By this time we were really warmed up for the long, twisty climb up to the A40. The last bit is 50 meters of strength sapping tarmac.
The very hard part taken care of, we were then treated to another 25kms of short, sharp climbs and descents through glorious countryside and picturesque villages before reaching the comforting haven of the Bantam tearooms in Chipping. On our way we experienced bucolic scenes typical of British country life. Shooting parties made up of tweed bedecked folk, and hunting parties comprising magnificent horses and their riders. It has only just struck me that all this is dedicated to killing. Paradoxically, the images seemed comforting at the time.
The bacon and brie bagels and soup in the tearooms were to die for, and suitably fortified we cracked on back to Oxford via a rolling route which contained one or two nasty little upward surprises before levelling out toward the finish. En route, we met up with and passed Judith Swallow who last year was awarded the rare honour of being appointed ‘ride captain’ on the allure libre version of PBP. Whether the surprise of this encounter caused us to go off route at the next turn will never be known.
Many thanks to my two companions for the day, ‘Supersuds’ and the ‘Turbo-diesel’, who are training to ride 5 consecutive stages of the Tour de France this summer.
Part of the route here:-