Muddy@rse Girls do the South Downs way – in a Day!

14 09 2014

Some of the Muddy@rse girls tell a tale of a crazy idea, training and one amazing long day on the hills….

“I’m just going out for a bit of a bike ride.” That’s what I told myself one sunny morning in Winchester. It was just going to go on for a little longer than usual; one hundred miles and sixteen hours to be precise. That “bit of a bike ride” was of course The South Downs Way which Sally, Jo and I tackled this summer.

Motivation is a curious thing. Some people ride the South Downs Way (in a day, or two, or three) to enjoy the countryside; others to beast themselves or to set a new personal best. My motivation was simple – to get fit. It was borne from an idle chat with Sally at the Friston BBQ last year to get us back in training on our bikes. A couple of months later Jo joined our group, and the idle chat had turned into reality. We were going to ride the South Downs Way on the Summer Solstice 2014.

So we set ourselves training targets: Jan 20 miles, Feb 30 miles, Mar 40 miles etc. We set up our own Facebook group to share our training, and maybe just a little competitive encouragement . Each week in my diary I gave myself a different challenge: start using Strava, add in some more hills, go on a detox. And some nice ones too like have a back massage. And the training was underway!

We had our highs: trips to QE2 park and Afan, dinners together to do some “planning”, and our lows: almost dying after only riding 40 miles in March, being pelted by a gruesome headwind as we summited Itford hill on Ming’s “Upgraded Triple S”. But by far our biggest setback came in the form of Jo’s knee injury which wouldn’t go away and meant she had to curtail her SDW challenge to just the second half of the ride.

The start…

Eventually our big day came and Sally and I set out from Winchester under the watchful gaze of King Alfred at 6 am. Still somewhat apprehensive and keen to preserve our energy, the first 25 miles, in the less well known westerly section, were ridden in almost silence. Ollie provided re-fuelling at QE2 park with bacon butties which were absolute heaven.

On route we met a pair of fellow SDW riders. Whilst they were much faster than us, they stopped for more frequent food breaks and at one point lost their way, which meant we kept leap-frogging each other. As a result a healthy bit of banter set in between us as our paths kept crossing. Ah the things you do to pass the time!
Jo joined us at Amberley and she was *Mrs Motivator*. What a welcome boost to our flagging spirits as she geed us along the second half. I will never forget her line, “You Girls Are Machines!” as we plodded our way up Truleigh Hill. Guy also joined us for ten miles from Amberley and Michael and Ollie kept popping up on route to ply us with more food and words of encouragement.
The miles to Ditchling flew by as a result. There we were met by Rich, Catherine, Ollie and a lovely afternoon tea. I have to confess to almost crying when I saw my family. They were just so full of love and laughter and I was feeling a tad weary by that point.
The last leg to Eastbourne was the toughest: the biggest hills, the most tired legs, so it was time to dig in. But one by one the big hills were conquered: Newmarket, Itford, Windover. We started to believe we were going to make it and a sort of giddiness set in.

Cue the second unforgettable line of the day, somewhat uncharacteristically from Sally, “Let’s smash this thing!”, and this silly Charlie’s Angels shot.

Charlies Angels – courtesy of fatigue and giddiness brought on by the thought of actually making it…

As we descended Windover, the sun began to set and the whole hilltop was bathed in a pink, transcendental light. It was my favourite moment.

We tried valiantly not to use our lights up Eastbourne Mile but eventually common sense took over and we switched them on for alongside the golf course and down the new finish to Eastbourne. There we were met by our lovely friends: Lisa, Rick, Ollie, Michael and a bottle of bubbly. High from what we had achieved, the wine was quaffed and stories were shared, before we headed home to for a well-earned rest.
Looking back three months later, we definitely met our goal to get fitter. But the day itself was just a means to an end. It was the six months leading up to it that mattered and, as a result, I can now ride to work twice a week without causing total exhaustion.
It is the incidental benefits that I probably gained most from though. I learned that you need the support of your family to undertake the amount of training we did and that I owe them my time now to say thank you. I learned that, even when you are really tired, you can keep going. Do not demoralise yourself by thinking about the enormity of what lies ahead, just tackle what is in front of you, one pedal stroke at a time. And finally I gained some awesome friends: from my brilliant co-riders to the unsung heroes – the support crew. Thanks and love to you all.
Donna x xx

2014 Cystic Fibrosis Charity Ride/Race from Ditchling Beacon to Seaford

29 04 2014

Ming reports from a world of a timed ride in the name of a good cause


2014 Cystic Fibrosis Charity Ride/Race from Ditchling Beacon to Seaford


PAIN, not enough oxygen, leg muscles protesting, heart pounding like a jack hammer, must keep pedalling, keep the bike upright, bloody hell this is hard work and we’ve not even got to New Market Hill yet!


Fifteen minutes earlier Team Muddy@rse was standing on a bleak and windswept Ditchling Beacon ready to start the third Cystic Fibrosis Charity Ride.  It was the usual eclectic mix of teams out for a nice ride on B.S.O.’s too some very fit people on some serious race spec machinery looking to take the title off team Muddy@rse (not sure looking at Strava the night before checking competitors weekly ride totals was a good thing for my nerves).


Lining up for team Muddy@rse was Tez, Timmyb, Steve62, Baby Gixxer (aka Little Rick) and I.  Last team to roll as we won last year, no pressure then!  We got the go to start and off we went, the pace from the off was relentless, flying across the tops of the Downs trying vainly to hide from a cross/headwind that plagued every team and made you feel so slow.  Halfway to the turn down towards the A27 the team got split by of all things and articulated lorry!  It trundled slowly along the SDW stirring up all the puddles which then stank.  Finally the truck turned into a field and we accelerated again before turning down hill.


Again the cursed head wind struck seemingly robbing all speed.  We began overtaking teams leap frogging them at gates before a short nasty muddy climb that saw everybody jump off and push.  No chance to rest, lungs still heaving, Steve and I really struggled with the fast pace as we pushed up the hill but egging each other on, if we could swear that meant we weren’t pushing hard enough!


A quick blast down to the A27 and across the bridge to the horror that is New Market Hill!  Steve nearly had a comedy clipped in pedal moment at the first turn but luckily humiliation was averted and up we went, another short muddy push and we were out onto exposed downland.  Here we met Team Yellow T-Shirt who were taking things at a more laid back pace and had stopped for a cigarette break!  A quick stop to lose a layer and the climbing began.  Up ahead Tez and Timmyb looked like they were on a Sunday bimble, apart from the rate at which they were overhauling people up the hill!  We slogged up the hill cursing the wind and the hill, getting stretched out with Tez and Timmyb in front with Little Rick bridging the gap back to myself and Steve.


Once at the top and after a bit of heckling Steve and I began to recover from the start and we shot across to the concrete road passing another team fixing a puncture, again the wind sapped our speed, being nearly a full minute slower this time compared to last year.  A bit of gate management and we were all back together for the Mill Farm DH, roaring down the hill determined to be first, passing a cyclo cross bike I missed him going over the bars as he tried stopping for the gate (no injuries apart from pride).


We whizzed along the farm access road and climbed up to cross the Kingston Road when disaster struck!  PUNCTURE!  Timmyb had a flat rear, Tez dragged Steve on and Rick went to hold a gate.  Wheel off, tubleless wasn’t sealing so tyre popped off and checked very carefully to make sure we weren’t going to puncture the new tube.  It seemed like every team we had passed was overtaking us!  Nothing found so we double checked, fitted the tube, some brisk pumping, refitting and off we went.



Collecting Rick just before Itford Hill, sucking on a gel and painfully warming up now cold legs and lungs the pain began anew.  Timmyb shot off to catch the lead two leaving Little Rick to haul the Old Dog (me) up his most hated and windswept hill.  Every time I got on his back wheel he’d look over his shoulder and with wicked grin accelerate a bit so I’d have to keep up.  On this went to the Radio Masts with that thrice cursed headwind making itself felt again as we descended to Bo-Peep passing people all the way with the sun beginning to break through the torn clouds.


My heart was saying we’d lost due to the puncture but this is a race so never give up, set a new target, this time sub 2hrs and aim for that.  Some slightly deranged calculations from what my Garmin was telling me said that this was possible….just.  So with renewed vigour and hitting the vaguely downhill bridleway to Seaford we span as hard as possible, passing more teams and collecting Timmyb before another bout of headwind on the last few exposed fields before picking up the road back to Seaford.


Here the evil grin appeared again with a “latch onto me” comment Little Rick was off in Team Time Trial mode.  Leading the three of us along the road, head down, lungs heaving, lactic acid coursing through our legs we pedalled for all our worth to the finish where Steve and Tez were waiting. Two hours dead!


After a coffee and rest we awaited the results….2nd place.  A bit disappointed but vowing to be back on top next year we left to drop Steve back at Ditchling, driving home from there I got a text from Little Rick saying we’d won.  After a few more hurried texts it turned out that after checking Strava times and start and finish sheets there’d been a maths error and we were first by 5 minutes!


Back again next year, no pressure……………..


Many thanks to Clint and all his helpers for organising a superb event, all the sponsors for prizes and food etc and finally to all the teams from the very fast One Speeders and the other fit teams for keeping us honest to those just out to do a sponsored charity event.


Special mention to Mrs Ming for ferrying duties.


…….and Team Yellow T-Shirts, three of which were last seen on the Alfriston Road pushing towards Seaford!


Blockbuster! A trip to Afan

26 02 2014

Guy reports from an eventful trip to Afan – a January trip that is becoming a tradition – this was Guy’s first time joining the adventure…

“Never bring a knife to a gunfight”

This is the phrase that popped into my head as I was driving to Wales in late January.

After foolishly deciding to take up a challenge from Robin I found myself heading westward towards some proper mountains with the wrong bike packed in the car. A hardtail bike, with only one gear, that tends to only get used to go to the shops or the pub: according to Strava, this bike was ridden for approximately 56km in 2013, 18kms of those were off road.

As I drove on towards wales the sky started to blacken. It started to rain somewhere around Swindon it started to rain and by the time I had reached Newport the weather had become a “traditional Welsh winter” of torrential rain and wind.

I started to question my sanity but comforted myself in the knowledge that Afan Lodge is dry, has a bar, the food is always good, it has a bar and the company for the weekend would be excellent. Did I mention the bar? It’s got a bar. With Beer. Beer and Whiskey.

I drove on. South Wales was somewhere outside the car, hiding in the mist, rain, spray, and wind.

24hrs later I had revised my initial saying to:

“Never bring a knife to a gunfight especially if you can’t throw straight”…

Here’s why:

Having missed (by luck or judgement) the chance to ride The Wall on a very wet Friday afternoon with the rest of the Muddy@rsers I instead headed up the valley on my trusty On-One Inbred in search of a mobile phone signal. I rode on a cycleway. I got wet. Very, very wet. Signal finally found and home phoned I headed back to the lodge for a change of clothes, a pint of Guinness and a wait in a nice warm bar for the rest of the club riders to return: Singlespeeding is obviously a state of mind and my mind state was soon to be made slightly fuzzy.

Beer was drunk, food was consumed.

Alex played a banjo.

warm, dry, beer, dinner on the way

I think the rain stopped at about 10pm.

I do remember Robin mentioning that we would be riding W2 on Saturday.


1500m+ of climbing.

Lots of Technical ups and downs and a few rock gardens

On singlespeeds.

Oh, and the weather forecast said it might rain and be a bit windy at some point mid-afternoon.

Obviously this would all be a challenge but I felt that if I paced myself I would have a tough, but fun ride with a group of like-minded souls all showing the rest of the mountain bikers with their trick full-sussers and 30 gears just what we could do.


Fast forward to halfway through Saturday.

A slow climb up the Wall through low cloud and mist, onto the link route past the wind turbines, a fun descent on the Energy Trail and then downhill via the redesigned “Darkside” trail to our lunch stop at Glyncorrwyg had left us all tired but happy. The riding was tough, the climbs were long and I was in no real mood to try and overdo things as we were still in for a serious amount of mountain miles. The first spots of rain had started to fall as we completed the descent and it was starting to get windy too.

Guy getting into the swing of things

During the lunch stop, Bob decided to call it a day and started back for the hotel via the railway cycle trail. A few hardy souls had headed off early to try and get up the long climb to the top of Whites Level, leaving the rest of us to play catch-up,

Having been to Afan previously I have climbed this trail a few times, usually in the summer and I have always enjoyed the way it zig-zags up the mountain through the forest.  Unfortunately it now looks totally different, there’s been a lot of tree felling so what was a nice sheltered climb through the tree plantations is now a long, technical,  rocky slog up a hill that seems to be exposed at all point to the elements. It was raining hard, the wind was now blowing a full on gale and I was struggling to keep up speed and pace as my front wheel seemed to find every ditch, hole and rock to slow down my progress. The climb became the following : stamp on the pedals, get the bike moving, try and go over a few boulders, try and find a rhythm, the climb steepens, I slow down, stamp on the pedals some more, gasp for breath, scream, hit a water bar/rock, log, etc. come to a sudden, stop, gasp for breath, start again. Then repeat. And repeat. And repeat. My love/hate relationship with my singlespeed had started to re-balance itself firmly in the hate camp.

I also realised that I had managed to lose my cycling glasses somewhere on the trail behind me and had also left my sense of humour back in the Skyline café.

Then it started to hail.

Hail and a gale force winds on an exposed mountainside in wales is very painful


Ok, a few points now. Big thanks to Ricky for picking up my glasses (I was so happy that I did propose marriage) and there was a lot of encouragement on the climb from other riders: Rich especially but also a lot of complete strangers too. I ended up riding/stopping to breath/ pushing the bike up the hill. Things didn’t improve once we finally got into the plantation, it was still wet and windy and rocky and there was no chance to actually enjoy the trail as I was just trying to keep the bike moving all the while looking at every fireroad that headed back down the hill and thinking “go-on, you might as well turn around, follow Bob’s good example and take the most direct route to a warm dry bar”

Finally the trail started to flatten out and I met up with the rest of the group at the start of the Windy Point trail. I was last up the hill and feeling worn out, wet and miserable. Haribo, a few words of encouragement, a very shot stop to catch my breath and everyone headed off for the next trail: Windy Point.

The thing about mountain biking is that every now and again you see something truly amazing that completely changes your mood. Ahead of me, Rick called out something like “bloody hell look at that!”. I hadn’t realised that the sky had cleared a bit and the sun was shining low in the sky and suddenly I was threading my way along a perfect, sinuous, narrow trail of forest singletrack with the huge, bright, winter late-afternoon sun shining rays through the mist and trees ahead of me. The forest looked truly, heartbreakingly, beautiful.  I had to stop for a moment to take this in. A perfect photo opportunity presented itself. For a moment all the pain of the climb was forgotten.


The rest of “The Wall” was ridden, the long technical descent back into the valley made more sketchy by wet trails, fading daylight, a rarely ridden, short-travel hardtail bike piloted by a very tired, aching rider who was looking forwards to a shower, dry clothes,  a good meal and a well-stocked bar.

I promised myself that I would not ride on the Sunday and instead head home early. Sunday morning came and I joined the most of the rest of the group for another wet and windy ride on the newly reopened “Penhydd” trail. Another long slow grind climb up a welsh hillside in high winds, mist and rain ensued, but this time I wisely left the group early and rode the cracking good “Blue Scar” trail instead with Nick (and I whooped and hollered through every berm and switchback all the way down too)

Over the last month I’ve looked at the 3 photos that I took of that view at on Windy point, they are pretty good (If I say so myself), hell, I think they are some of the best photos I have taken, but they are also proof that you need to be in the right place at the right time to get that kind of experience and frankly it doesn’t matter if you can’t throw straight.

And that’s why I love mountain biking (but I’m still not sure about singlespeeds though :)

2013 in review

31 12 2013

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

“Guy to the Forum please”

24 10 2013

The immortal words used whenever there’s a mention of either an imminent  tyre discussion or a suggestion of a  delayed arrival at any Muddy@rse ride or event. Its a gentle mickey take, and one of the unique themes that pop up on our very used forum (link over there on the right if you’ve not been here before).

There’s also a growing number of silly nicknames (Margaret and GPS are the first examples spotted in the field), repetitive photoshopped pictures (Donna ewok anyone?) and references to oh-so-memorable rides (often, it has to be said, involving riding bikes in sideways rain across an exposed South Down).

The everlasting Word Association thread.  The ever present Tilgate Wednesday night ride thread. The pretty much constant addition of new subject threads, including new names that keep appearing to join the old (and not so old) school.

It struck me tonight what a great place our club is right now.  A big thank you from me for making it what it is  and here’s to many more years of sillines, bikes and muddy@rses.

Happy 7th birthday Sussex Muddy@rse :D

Going up – “glorious sunshine” on our first anniversary ride in 2007

Rich F






Forum back!

18 09 2013

Update – we are back up and running ;)

Quick post to let you know that our forum is a bit sick right now. Not much we can do other than be patient. How about going for a bike ride? :)

Latest info here if you are interested

Rich f

Bike Packing – An Adventurer’s Tale

20 08 2013

A subject quietly popped up on the Muddy@rse forum over the summer – ”  Darth’s Night Under the Stars”. The premise was simple – Eastbourne local and long-time Muddy@rser Darth had dreamt up a 24 hour bikepacking adventure, where the challenge was visit a number of predetermined grid refs in 24 hours, staying out in the great outdoors in the process. Rules were minimal and based on trust. Prizes only pride and the fun of riding bikes in the hills for a day and night (and day again). A select group of adventurers took up the challenge, and here Muddy@rser Buzzard recounts his tale, which turned out to be a heady mix of low flying aircraft, foul “summer” weather and mistaken identity…


GO TIME.  It had finally arrived.  Sat at the Ram in Firle at 11am ready for my briefing from Darth.  Only problem was that I was the only person there.  Impatience of youth (although youth in this sense is a relative term)? Something that would be a feature of the day for me unfortunately.

Darth duly arrived about 10min later only to inform me that his bike was “knackered” and he couldn’t take part.  At this point alarm bells should have been sounding.  If the organiser and route planner is pulling out then surely I was in over my head.  A little banter with Darth ensued (including some invaluable route suggestions) and in no time at all Ray and Bob had appeared.  We discussed gear choices and routes but Bob was playing his cards very close to his chest (I would soon find out why) leaving the rest of us to wonder if he knew something we didn’t (he did).  Ray was the dark horse though manfully explaining that he would use his warm bed as his “bivvy” for the night and his local knowledge may just prove useful.

And then finally we were off.  Ray graciously showing me to the start of the coach road to Alfriston where we parted.  Bob had left after us clearly not wanting to divulge any of his top secret route choices.  Now it’s embarrassing to admit and anyone who has cycled the coach road will know why but I didn’t even make it to Alfriston before making my first Nav error.  Missing the “turn-off” by which I mean actually just getting off the clearly designated road, I ended up having to back track my way back to Alfriston.  Mildly irritated with myself already, I impatiently took my photo in Alfriston and pushed off up the SDW without taking a moment to ponder the next point (you remember I told you about the impatience).  I would later find out that Bob would see me leave and chuckle to himself knowing that I had once again made a costly error.  So I pushed off and attacked “Old Man Hill??” like a man possessed.  Topping out I realised my mistake, I had to descend back into the valley to pick up the point at the pond – the clue really should have been in the name – since when is the pond at the top of a climb.  Now having not learned my lesson I decided to take the first route down to my right – which was nothing more than a sheep track.  Had I carried on along the ridge for another 50m I would have seen the wide bridleway down but instead I spent the next 30 min fighting down the sheep track and through the thicket of thorns and brambles at the bottom of the sheep track.  Emerging scarred for life I found the pound and then made my way back up the bridleway cursing my shocking map skills.  By the time I crested and found the next trig point up top I would find a smiling Bob at the trig waiting for me, barely sweating whilst I was already a bloody, dripping with sweat, mess of a man.

Famous cliffs, “summer” sky

It was an easy decision at that point for me to tag along with Bob and hopefully gleam something from his clearly superior skills.  Unfortunately coming off the ridgeline into Jevington I seemed to lose Bob.  Gutted but sure in my mind that he had taken another one of his top secret routes I was convinced that he would once again make a fool of me and be waiting for me at the next point, but onward I pushed climbing out of Jevington like my life depended on it (something my legs would ultimately regret).  Bombing down to Beachy Head and the next point I was sure that I would find Bob tucking into lunch at the pub when I got there, but to my surprise Bob was nowhere to be found.  Deciding I was ok on bars for the moment I decided to get to Seaford (the next point) for some solid food.  So far the dark and brooding clouds had failed to materialise into rain but the wind was blowing an absolute gale and from this point on I knew I was going to be cycling into its teeth until the turn around point at the Jack&Jill Windmills.  A thought that didn’t exactly fill me with glee.  I bombed down the hill to the Beachy Head visitor’s centre where I was going to take a sneaky trip along the footpath to Seaford, but upon arrival I was told in no uncertain terms by a group of ramblers that my bike was not allowed on the footpath.  Fair dues I guess and I decided to take the road to East Dean and pick up what looked like a bridleway to Seaford.  Unfortunately when I got there it was another footpath.  I asked at the local newsagent but they didn’t think there was a bridleway that lead from East Dean to Seaford.  So I made the decision to take the road around.  Frustrated at having to resort to the road I put my head down and time trialled my way to Seaford.  Dropping off the road to pick up the navigation beacon as Seaford. There was a slight climb up to it from the car park.   As I was climbing up wondering where my nemesis Bob was when I was suddenly rattled to my core by a deep rumble and as I looked up to my left a majestic Spitfire sped up the coastline beside me close enough to touch (the Eastbourne air show? was on hence the Spitfire).  Definitely a highlight of the day, I was buoyed by the sighting and quickly picked up the nav beacon point and started on my way back.  By this stage my hunger was kicking in and I elected to head straight back to Alfriston for some real food.

Picked up the most amazing sandwich at the Alfriston deli (for £2 which was an absolutely bargain) my enthusiasm was quickly drenched when I came out of the deli to find the rain well and truly pounding the market square.  Rather than sitting in the rain I elected to get straight back on the bike and took the easier coach road back to Firle whilst I ate lunch.  At Firle I climbed back up to Firle beacon but in my post lunch daze it felt like it took forever and my already 25kg bike setup felt more like 100kg.  Once at the top I knew I was on my way to Brighton which is the area I was convinced I knew better and that Nav would no longer be my lingering problem.  Over confidence and impatience would once again come back to bite me.

I picked up the point up top at Firle beacon and although easily found the hard won trig point above Southease where the climb took me around 40min.  After dropping back down off the ridge to pick up the SDW and climb back up again to the ridgeline (Surely there must have been a better option? I’m guessing Bob found one) the real torment began.  Cycling directly into the wind and the driving rain the trip from there to the University Sports Hall at Stanmer was unbearable.  Originally intending to tag the windmills first (as the furthest point to the west on the route) and then dropping down through the Stammer singletrack,  the rain and wind (I was blown off my bike twice along here as my frame bag acted like a sail in the wind) drove me off the ridge line sooner and down to the sports hall first.  Another decision I would soon come to regret.  Once at the sports hall I took my obligatory camera pic and stood under the bus shelter finishing off the rest of my sandwich knowing that a quick climb up through Stanmer would take me to the Jack&Jill windmills and that would only leave me the long slog back to Firle having collected all the points on the intended route.

Checking in at Sussex Uni sports centre – onwards!

Now at this stage I’d been on the bike for around 6hrs and my legs did not feel as snappy as they should.  However having been forced to take the road to Seaford I didn’t want to climb up onto the Ditchling Beacon Road (the route I knew) and I elected to rather try find the path (as it appeared on my GPS) leading from the back of the university up through the Stammer forest and depositing me out on the SDW about a mile to the east of Ditchling Beacon.  This moment of madness would cost me.  I spent the next 1hr climbing through barbwire fencing, crossing fields, running (yes that’s right I couldn’t get back on my bike quick enough – need to work on my CX mount) away from dogs, staring down crazy cows and walking through what seemed like a field of brambles before finally with much thrashing and gnashing finding myself back on the SDW (although closer to three miles east of Ditchling beacon).  Mustering up the strength to get back on the bike I started heading towards the windmills.  As I crested the first small roller I could believe my eyes.  There about a mile in front of me was Bob.  I will admit it, I was completely gobsmacked.  I was shattered after my fight with the English countryside and here was Bob in front AGAIN just cruising.  I decided to get my head down and catch up to at least try to ascertain how in the hell he had managed to come across the downs so quickly.  That turned out to be harder than I imagined as he seemed to stay tantalising out of reach as I powered up the climbs and hit the descents with fervour.  I was trying to convince myself that there was no way he could have already picked up the sports hall point and that as consolation he would at least have to drop down and collect that on the way back whereas I wouldn’t.  I also knew that he would stop at the windmills and I would be able to catch him up there but for some reason I didn’t want him to get there before me (I know crazy thinking after 7 odd hrs on the bike).  So I pushed the big ring and finally started catching him up the last few little rollers before the descent to the windmills.  I was making progress which spurred me on and I got my head down and lit it up (as much as you can with a 25kg bike underneath you) but as I raised my head and the wind and rain abated for me long enough to get a clear view it became obvious that it was not Bob at all but instead Bob’s twin (Bob – sending your twin out on route to freak your fellow competitor out was in my opinion a truly ingenious plan).  Catching up to Bob’s twin I grunted a “hello”.  Bob’s twin responded by saying he saw me break out of the bushes about 4 miles earlier and was doing everything he could not to let me catch him.  Hence the full on pace and he now felt like he had blown himself trying to stay away from me (he said all this with a laugh and a smile but all I could muster was a grunt and a grimace).  In my red mist haze I proceeded to fly off down the descent and drop him immediately.  The fun was over within a minute though as I had to break clumsily to dive into the windmills car park – Bobs twin flying past me shaking his head.  To be fair,  Bob’s twin cannot have a particularly high regard for me and I wouldn’t blame him.

So having picked up the last point I was in a bit of a quandary. I wasn’t sure if I should make my way back or try to find a spot to camp.  My decision was made for me when I realized I was out of water.  I knew I would need water either way so figured I would make my way back along the SDW and try to pick up one of the taps along route before finding a sheltered spot for the night.  It was at this point that the weather conspired against me.  The wind I had been fighting all day seemed to swirl around and rather than being behind me as I expected it was bearing its teeth right at my face.  The rain stinging my arms and knees as I pushed forward.  Thirsty and tired each climb took an eternity but I was determined not to get off and push.  Once again my naivety would prove my downfall and for those of you that know clearing the two climbs through the small forestry sections (Just before and just after crossing the A27?) are brutal without the 25kg bike and the tired legs but with them would just prove silly.  I suddenly felt the dreaded twinge of cramp coming on and I was forced to hold off a little and recover.  I had managed to fill the camelback up at a tap but the rain was still coming down and the thought of trying to pitch camp in the wet was very unappealing so instead I just kept plodding along the SDW.  I knew that once I reached Southease I was virtually back at Firle and that became my goal.  That short section from the road crossing to Southease seemed to take an eternity and as darkness started to fall I wondered if I would ever get there but sure enough I was soon standing at Southese station.

Another checkpoint in the (frame) bag

By this stage I had decided to head back to Firle and get a warm meal at the Ram.  This thought alone drove me along over the last few miles.  The climb out of Southease is painful at the best of times but after 8hrs on the bike it seemed like Everest would have been the easier option.  Knowing it was the last real climb of the ride I manfully tried to clear it without dabbing and I got to virtually the crest of the grassy top when a loss of concentration meant I slid out on the slick grass and fell into the wet grass.  Tempted to just lie there I must have stayed on the ground for 10min before the wind and rain raised me to my feet.  In no time at all I was back at Firle beacon and I took the road back down to Firle standing outside the Ram drenched, sweaty and happy.  At this point I sent a text to Darth to let him know I had finished (around 8h45min or so after leaving) and I wouldn’t be around for the 12pm meet the next day.  The thought of a beer and burger prompted me into the pub with my plan to be to wait out the rain and then pitch up just outside of Firle somewhere in a sheltered spot.  Once inside I realised that my wet stinking lycra did not exactly fit particularly well in the Saturday ambiance of the local gastro pub and I felt so uncomfortable that I was prompted straight back outside with my pint into the rain.  Standing outside with no prospect of warm food and the allure of my car close by and with that my warm bed would eventually prove just too inviting.

I packed up the bike and bits and headed home happy in the knowledge that I had ridden hard, made mistakes, tested my resolve but ultimately just had a damn good adventure.

Thanks must go to Darth for setting it all up, to Bob and Ray for coming along, to Bob’s twin for pushing me along to the windmills and finally to English countryside and the brilliant summer weather without which it surely would have been far too easy??


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