Long(er) Hard(er) Fast(er) Muddy(er) Arse(ier)

23 03 2009

Ride Report: 15 March 09

This ride was obviously going to be a slight step apart from the
Muddy@rse norm. A few months ago the idea was mooted for a new style
of club ride in addition to the normal fun and sociable once a month
bash. A smaller group would go out with the idea of keeping up a fast
pace throughout the day on longer and harder rides. Everybody would
have a copy of the route in advance and be expected to bow out if they
started falling behind the pace…

the image of true athletes !

Details for the first of these rides appeared the week beforehand, and
it was clear that this was going to be a great ride around the North
Downs. A distance of around 30 miles with about 1000m of climbing.
Suddenly lists of rules started appearing, I started to wonder if I
would have to dig out my skin tight Lycra, and start shaving my
legs… However having come to know the Muddy@rse riders over the
past year, I knew that the emphasis would still be on having a fun
ride, and I was sure we would work together to help each other keep up
the pace. I wasn’t wrong….

Sunday morning dawned rather too soon for me, as I had to work rather
late the night before, but I arrived at the meet point, my bags
brimming with food and snacks, to see a large group forming. Around
10 of us were taking part in the mission, but it was already clear it
was going to be a spectacular day. The sun was beaming down
on us and as we got going on the first few hundred meters people were
already starting to remove layers to cool down. This was going to be
a great day, after weeks of rain and snow riders were going around in
short sleeves at last!

The route Rich had planned for us took us out across Nutfield Marsh
and up towards Bletchingley, starting mainly on national cycle route 21. Then we started some great fast descents and challenging climbs as we zig-
zagged our way up and down the side of the north downs. Rich took the
lead, pointing out hazards and obstacles, even trying to ferry us
through 2 feet of muddy water that sucked him in up to the top of his
wheels… more commitment needed here he said, as the rest of us
watched from the dry land behind and took photos. Apart from a
strange moment where bizarely both our navigator and the GPS got
lost at the same time, we were making very fast progress, although we
all knew that we had to save some energy for the climbing we’d
meet at the mid point of the ride.

I hadn’t met Titsey Hill before this ride. It isn’t the kind of
meeting that one can’t forget easily. I’m not sure exactly where
the dividing line lies between being a hill, or being a cliff with an
impossibly steep path carved into it, but this hill must stand right
on that line. After a quick refuel at the bottom we started the
climb, and turning various shades of purple we all gradually made it to
the top, with various walkers (all rather sensibly traveling in the
opposite direction) watching us aghast at our efforts.

All the climbing had its rewards though as the next section (preluded perhaps the most unusual place to find a taxi) was some superb
singletrack followed by a colossal downhill section, pushing our bikes
to their limits.

The journey back was a similar fun mixture as the start of the ride.
Fire roads, singletrack, some road climbs, and fast descents. But we
were keeping up the fast pace (approx avg 10mph), and although my legs were starting to feel their efforts now, we kept spurring each other on to keep up the pace and not fall behind.

We had by now passed several “Nutritional Rehydration Shops” but
leader Rich had kept us moving past each one, but as we rode back to
Redhill in the warm afternoon sunshine, it was clear that this ride
would have to finish at one of these shops (ah hem!); a pub, The Inn on the Pond in Merstham was right on our route , and couldn’t be resisted twice in one day. A perfect end to the ride!

Or was it … Rich decided to show us “boys” around his local patch on
the way home. A rather nice descent he said… turning out to be a
flight of steps going down a bit of steep twisting hill side. Scary
but we made it, a great fun twist for the final fun of a great XC ride.

So for future Harder Faster rides? Well personally I cant wait for
the next one. A small group of riders pushing themselves to their own
limits, but still have a great time riding superb trails in great
company. And of course having Rich to arrange the perfect summer
weather for us was the icing on the cake. A lot to live up to for who-
ever runs the next ride! … Alex

(Ed: 2700 cals burned, 33 miles in under 5 hrs, 950 mtrs of climbing in endless sunshine. Nice ! Lisa)

Clicky link for Rich’s photos and vids: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13519914@N00/sets/72157615757190244/

Check out the google calendar on right for next dates they’re around mid month every month until August at the moment. Big thanks go to Rich for leading this first ride and putting together a fab loop. Really challenging in al the right places and that sunshine was just to die for.

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