Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Etape du Dales

There are times when my words end up being prophetic, and probably as many times I end up wishing they weren't.

The Etape du Dales was indeed very hard work.

In the end, I decided on the Kinesis for its lower gears, and whether this was the right decision or not I shall probably never know.

However, the inevitable late arrival and pre-ride faff left me leaving much later than expected, and worrying about the cutoff. This worry was not alleviated by arriving at the foot of Fleets Moss only a minute faster than last year, despite a stiffish tail wind. It was further not helped by realising when the road kicked up that my legs contained a big fat NOTHING! There was no cadence to be had, and no strength either. Evidently, the man-flu had left me lower than I first thought.

The descent from Fleets Moss was 'interesting'. The combination of heavier rider and heavier bike lent itself to a new kamikaze sumo cyclist land speed record of 55mph! Unfortunately, this coincided with a Calgary-Stampede-Rodeo quality speed wobble. Fortunately, I remembered the advice read on forums to grip the top tube between the knees, and I can confirm that this does work. I can also confirm that when you reach the valley floor some 2 miles later, still a gibbering wreck, and finally release the top tube, you are likely to have cramp in your thighs.

From there the ride just went ever more slowly. I was briefly off the bike before Tan Hill, and clambered over Lamps Moss, hitting the inevitable head wind about 50 miles from home. Head down, I managed to get 4 minutes inside the cutoff at the Moorcock Inn (there was no way I wanted to go back over Fleets Moss the other way) and slowly set about the Coal Road. Most of the Coal Road was ridden, and the rain started at the top. At least it cooled the rims and there was no danger of last years unintended exit over the handlebars on the same section.

I was caught before Newby Head by Mike Fedarb, who is doing this years Etape, and he kindly stayed with me to the bitter end. With increasing rain, I had to stop several times in the last 10 miles to wipe the salt from my eyes as it was washed off my forehead, leaving me almost blind on some of the descents.

Final finish time was a10:59:47, only a scant few seconds inside 11 gruelling hours, and some 2 1/2 hours slower than last year.

Not happy.

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