Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wiggle New Forest 100: Part Two - Godshill to Finish

Godshill to Bashley

Upon leaving the first feed station in Godshill, we head out along the Southampton Road. Here, the landscape is much more agricultural and fields seem to head off into the distance over the well-kept hedgerows. A little top-up of air in the new Specialized Roubaix tyres has given my bike a bit of extra zip, especially when combined with the handful of jelly beans I’ve just eaten.

The view looking over the endless heathland with wild horses.
After a mile or so, we take a left onto the narrow Blissford Road and continue rolling along at a sociable 35kmh. We continue onto Abbots Well Road and the landscape begins to change again. Firstly, the neat fields lose their uniform hedges, then the fields turn to open heathland, the road begins to rise a little, before we come to a small switchback that carries the road upwards in a sudden burst. 

At the top of the mini-climb we’re greeted by the sight of a dead horse. Jones has started to flag a little on the climbs and with his head down in a determined fashion makes it to the top without even noticing the carcass lying half across the road. “Horse? What horse matey?” is Jones’ only comment on the matter. 

After this brief flirtation with the forest, a bit more rolling around the edges is required before we cross over a dried up ford, take a sharp left, and head back into the trees once more. The smooth tarmac and a sudden increase in the number of riders around us encourages us to up the speed and before long we’re really blasting through the countryside, albeit a little wary of any potential dead horses on the road.

Another brief climb and it is clear that Jones is struggling a little, but is more than making up for it when descending and on the flats, returning the favour of my earlier turn on the front nicely.

Now, riding through a forest on an autumnal day is quite a peaceful affair. An occasional conversation with another rider, the sound of the air rushing by or the noise of an animal in a field is the only thing to break the silence. 

Suddenly, a cry from a few hundred metres back reverberates along the Bolderwood Arboretum Ornamental Drive (a bit of a moutful). For a moment I wobble as I wonder what it was. Jones has stuck his head down and is going for it. I turn when I hear what sounds like a swarm of severely irritated hornets getting nearer. I shout to Jones to move over just in the nick of time as a small peloton of riders clad in club colours (I think) very similar to those of Team Sky go whirring past in a chorus of noisy freewheels.

Following a brief dip into the outskirts of Brockenhurst, we head back into the countryside and continue on through the forest before arriving at the second feed station.


Bashley to the Finish 

In Bashley, Jones is still looking quite spritely, possibly as a result of all of the fig rolls he’s been consuming. I’m generally still feeling quite good and stock up on jelly beans and bananas - being a coeliac the cakes and fig rolls don’t look too appealing to me. Either way, feeling refreshed, we head off.

A few miles along the Sway road, we run into traffic. A melee of riders and cars and vans all seem to be grinding to a halt. After three more miles of slow going we take a left onto a small lane after the village of Sway. We soon realise the cause of the disruption - a tractor pulling a trailer of horse manure.

Some of the braver riders use the, ahem, slipstream of the tractor as it chugs along at 15kph, but I suggest we stay well back having watched one too many episodes of Last of the Summer Wine in my life. To rapturous applause and the collective sigh of relief from the 100 trapped cyclists, the tractor pulls over and the riders jostle themselves back into order. The faster riders disappearing into the distance. The slow riders tootling along looking at the wild animals. The middling riders, like me, ratchet up the pace a little.

Trying my hardest to look like a serious cyclist heading towards Bolderwood.
We weave along a little, with the occasional event photographer popping up like a meerkat from the bracken, and we get to the B3054; a high and exposed road that rumbles over heathland. Jones starts to tire a little more. I’m getting a fantastic tow off a group of riders riding in formation and get dragged along until I reach Boldre and realise Jones has disappeared. 

He eventually catches up and is complaining of cramps in his legs. I try and convince him to get into a harder gear and lower his cadence, but he won’t hear any of it as he gets on his stubborn mountain bike head. A few miles later he comes to a halt and I begin to panic about our overall time. A couple of friendly cyclists stop by to see if he’s okay before departing whilst making sympathetic noises.

We get going again, but it is slow going. I resume my role as super-domestique and provide a tow, but Jones is struggling to hold on to my back wheel even at 20kph. I issue him with a few more energy gels and try and coax him along the road.

Realising we have around twenty minutes until our chances of getting a ‘silver’ time award disappear, Jones digs deep one last time after a frustrating thirty minutes of slow cycling. As we pass a small red brick cottage on a bend on the B3055 Jones comes alive and starts trundling along at a livelier 40kph.

His burst of life over, I resume my place in front and drag him, and a small train of riders, along the Lyndhurst Road. The tarmac comes to an end after the gates to the event venue and we race over the loose dirt track to the finish line, separated by a single second on the timing sheets. 

After crossing the line, receiving a medal and contemplating food, we sort ourselves out and head back towards London, stopping at McDonalds on the way. The event was well organised, we were better prepared than the Brighton ride and we’re feeling happy with ourselves.

Our first organised sportive has been a success, and after an anxious wait for the official timing sheets, we find on the Monday that we have done just enough for a silver time on their classification. By a matter of seconds. But then we never do anything the simple way.

⇐ Part One: Lyndhurst to Godshill ❘

My ride activity data can be found on Strava here: http://www.strava.com/activities/87350025
My Strava profile can be found here: http://www.strava.com/athletes/1271231

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