There are 60 seconds in a minute but I’ll explain later why one second of today’s ride became massively significant.
I’ve done 3 days gardening this week so I might not have been in the best condition to set any records but I felt driven. Last year I rode up Great Hill and my time on the Strava segment “Great Hill out and back” proved to be the fastest time of the entire year. I rode it again on 21st February and was 10 seconds slower but it was obviously still the fastest time of 2019. Until 2 days later when someone recorded 22 minutes and 20 seconds. A different league to my 25 minutes dead. I only became aware of this fact this week and knew I’d have to face the challenge sooner or later.
After 2 days hard work I’d at least have an excuse if I couldn’t beat the time but at least it was dry and sunny. I set off from home to ride to the start of the segment and took it easy to conserve my energy. I failed at the first hard part along the route I’ve been trying to do without a foot down (if you’ve read my previous Blogs, you’ll know what I mean.) I rode the rest clean which brought me to a big climb. In my prime it would take a good 5 minutes. Today I stopped half way to take a picture of the gradient.
I just spun up in my lowest gear. This woodland used to be an area of subsistence farms, surely some of the last in England. The land owner cleared them in the 1920s but a few years ago I heard that there were still people alive who’d lived on the farms when they were children. They must have been fit to climb that hill after school every day!
Then up Edge Gate Lane to the start of the segment. I took a picture of the start of the gravel road climb.
A gentleman with 2 dogs (the best kind) offered to take my picture with the bike.
Then I was off. I started the stopwatch straight away and found the dry surface felt fast. It’s a gentle climb but a long one. Half way up it becomes far rockier followed by some more technical riding over rocks and steps in the surface. I reached the top but there was no time to admire the view of Wales and the Lake District. I just spun around and started the descent. I wasn’t putting the effort in early on. I’d somehow lost my concentration but then gave it some stick! On the rockiest part I got a little nervous. I’ve had a few punctures here where the savagely sharp rocks have blown the tyre, one time taking the rim out as well. I dabbed the brakes to take some speed off. It still felt like I was surfing over a bed of liquid rubble.
On the smoother section I spun the pedals as fast as I could but at one point I needed to change up a gear but kept pressing the wrong lever. You’d think after a lifetime of riding bikes I’d know how to change gear but I was working so hard I think my brain was losing it’s capacity. I was changing down, not up! I got back in the right gear and finished, clicking my stopwatch after I stopped. My target of 22 minutes 20 looked unlikely since my stopwatch read 22 minutes 30. Still there was a chance since I didn’t expect the segment started right by the gate. I rode down to the technical section back along the goit but stood no chance. I failed at the first climb and at the second hard part had my wheel diverted and tumbled down the bank which is further than it looks!
It’s amazing how a big physical effort affects you. I was bumping into rocks and failing on parts I never fail on. It was like I was drunk! I rode the rest of the way home on the road, eager to look at my record on Strava. I downloaded my ride and found the segment. My target was so much quicker than my last attempt which yielded 25 minutes dead. How could I manage 22 minutes 20? My time? 22 minutes 19 seconds! A victory by one enormous second, possibly the World’s longest.
I don’t often talk to the dog since I don’t want to appear an idiot but today I did point out to him that I was so high after my ride, I was looking down on cloud 9! I bet if you ask me about today’s ride in 20 years time I’ll be able to tell the story in the same detail as I’ve told it today.
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