The Ranulph Fiennes saying of ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing’ is often heard in carparks when runners, riders and open water swimmers are preparing to train. I’m pretty sensible in my choices of clothing when battling the British weather, but this last few weeks have really tested my cycle clothing wardrobe and especially my resilience to get out and ride.
I cycled last Sunday, it was cold, raining and with a horrendous headwind on the homeward stretch. Whereas the long ride less than 24hrs later was just the opposite, it was hot, sunny and perfect cycling weather. This is it I thought, spring has finally arrived and it will be just a little bit easier from now on.
How wrong was I, this Sunday’s ride was with my friends who are also training for the Velothon and all members of Team Fearless, a group of very determined ladies with whom I cycle with on weekly basis. The ride was to be a fast group ride concentrating on maintaining a constant speed of 15mph whenever possible.
We left Newport and headed out to Blackrock and the route was certainly quick, tough and with swirling gusts of the wind and long hills that seemed to drag on for miles, my legs were burning by the time we’d arrived at the layby to regroup before changing direction and heading towards the coast.
As we set off and followed the road up a slight incline, the ever strengthening gale force winds hit our group, and while no one was actually blown off their bikes, it was a dangerous place to be and I unclipped my feet from my pedals immediately, thankfully the wind was blowing from the right to left and not blowing us into the flow of the busy fast moving traffic.
For the first time cycling, I felt concerned for my safety and the rest of the group too, and as we headed down a smaller lane the chances of abandoning the ride seemed a real possibility. The next thought was how to get home, it was nearly 20 miles from where I had parked the car and that would have been an exceedingly long, cold walk back. It was Sunday, buses are few and far between, not only that 12 cyclists and their bikes would do well to all fit on one bus. That left the train, and it seemed a real possibility if the conditions didn’t improve.
Before we knew it, we’d climbed the hill that leads to Blackrock, and despite being right on the coast overlooking the River Severn and the two bridges, it seemed slightly less windy. While taking on food and water, the decision was made to try and cycle back with a coffee (and cake) stop at Grazia in Magor, the roads were quieter and lower lying and hopefully, a little bit sheltered from what was going to be a really tough headwind for the whole of the way home.
The B4245 road from Caldicot to Magor is relatively flat, but also a drag to cycle, especially when the weather’s so bad it’s a head down and just keep peddling scenario, we took it in turns to lead, to allow each other the opportunity to draft and save already tired legs, but when the maximum speed reached in the relentless wind was a mere 8mph, the ride seemed like a reoccurring nightmare feeling like we’d never make it to Magor, let alone home.
Where the road passes under the M4 was where I think I hit the low point, the strength of the wind as it channelled through the tunnel all but brought the ride to a stop and virtually sucked any air from my lungs and any remaining energy from my legs, but with a downward section of the road visible in the distance, I was determined to somehow carry on with the belief it will be easier peddling downhill…
Except it wasn’t, and by now the wind was so strong it meant standing in the pedals just to keep the bike moving, even downhill!! At this point, my stomach kicked in, and the lure of a large hot mug of coffee and the biggest slab of cake possible somehow dragged me and Team Fearless to Grazia, a gem of a coffee shop in Magor. The cake I choose was referred to as a slice of chocolate goo by the lovely girls serving in Grazia, and it was divine, a perfect sugar hit when I needed it most and the large mug of coffee was equally as good, leaving me feeling just a little more human and almost prepared for the last slog back to the Newport Velodrome.
On leaving Magor, we were joined by John Wheat and the avid members of Newport Social Cycling who were returning from conquering the gruelling climbs of the Wentward reversal ride, a ride I will complete on day, but with 16% climbs as the norm, it will be one for the future, just not quite yet.
Riding back was tough, and the wind continued to be a head on battle, every part of me hurt and it was now raining hard too, but with the determination not to be completely outdone by the Newport Social cyclists we kept going, finally making it back to the Velodrome cold, wet and very tired, and we do this for fun?
I just hope that the weather on the day of the Velothon is nothing like that eventful Sunday training ride.