Oh dear! What started out as a straightforward ride to Newlands today for 15 of us ultimately degenerated into two lost riders and at least four separate groups riding home!
It’s not always like that, honest!
Before any of that though, this morning, as I rode up to Bockett’s Farm I wasn’t sure who I’d see. I knew Tony and Colin would not be around and wasn’t sure about Lee or DaveC. But to my surprise on arrival I found a large-ish group forming, not all of whom I knew!
By the time we got going we had Barrie, DaveC, Joe, Jez, Jem, Erick, AndyC, Philip, JohnR, Mark, Marcus, Nick, Paul, a guy on a Turner (sorry!)?? and myself. We headed off with Newlands Corner in mind on a fine morning and were soon riding down the Admiral’s Track to Polesden. I was happy to initially sit mid pack today and have a chat with people but confess I’m hopeless with remembering everyone’s name first time round!
Even so it was great to catch up with Philip, Erick and Jem as we progressed toward Ranmore. Already it was clear we had a range of speeds that people felt comfortable with as the group was soon spread out but with key Moles front, mid and rear all seemed fine. We’re quite used to waiting and quite used to struggling to keep up with riders!
We headed down Yew Trees, slowed somewhat by several walkers and riders coming up the hill but were soon digging in to the first climb of the day. I guess it’s actually quite brutal as once past the flinty track you still have a bit of a grind to keep going. Soon I could see we were getting a bit strung out.
Even so, by hanging back to pick up Jem and Paul who were happily chatting away we were still reasonably close together. As the climb wore on Jem and I got talking and hauled in four or five other riders as we rolled up the hill, I haven’t seen Jem for ages so it was great to catch up.
At Ranmore it was no more than a short wait for us all to regroup and press on, along the tarmac a short distance and then off toward Badger Run and Collarbone. Readers will be familiar with our route so far!
Again, we were managing things reasonably well with stops as long as needed and no-one left behind. Soon we were up on White Down and working our way through the trees where Joe, Jez and AndyC all had a good attempt at the massive fallen oak – Joe in particular saw it close up but we were all shamed by a rider unconnected with us who cleaned it with plenty of momentum and some finesse.
From here we carried on through the trees and headed to the singletrack to the ‘dogging car park’, crossing the road and targeting Abba Zabba for the second time this week. While we waited for some of us to give it a go it became clear that Erick and Paul were missing. After a bit of a wait while Jem and DaveC back tracked for a bit without success we decided to press on toward Blind Terror, showing our new riders some of the best brown trousers riding this side of Leith Hill.
As always, some of us rode Blind Terror II, some didn’t which is fine by us – I’ve often bailed out of the big drops in this area but today felt perfectly confident. After Blind Terror II we tackled the steep roll in next to Numbskull which I have to say I’ve ridden better. Maybe my Fire XCs are just too marginal now? They certainly felt like they were on someone else’s side!
Further attempts were made to hook up with Erick and Paul and AndyC headed off to find them after making phone contact but to no avail. Instead the rest of the group crossed the road to Blind Terror, the massive roll in that appears when you least expect it. Once again I was fine with it and rode it all the way down and over the jump at the bottom where we all eventually re-grouped.
This is big stuff and I was a bit concerned for the several newbies in the group who might easily have felt pressured into taking on more than they were comfortable with. I hope that wasn’t the case as there were plenty of short-cuts and bail out options. Fortunately we all reached the road safely where we were re-joined by AndyC without Erick and Paul. He’d been unsuccessful in finding them and had reluctantly decided to head back to us.
So, just 8 miles in and two riders missing. We decided to push on to Abinger, along the Roughs and on to Gomshall and Shere from there. Again the group kept getting spread out but the odd stop was sufficient to keep everyone on track. To be honest I was quite enjoying rolling along at a sedate pace as recent rides have been quick, particularly my rides to work on my own. I needed the rest and the Surrey villages make to very pleasant riding.
So we made progress with the odd bit of strenuous work thrown in with numerous sharp climbs and sandy drags to keep us working. Soon though it was time to make that long climb up to Newlands Corner.
This climb is one of those that feels it goes on forever. I started plum last but more than any time riding I think you have to find your own rhythm climbing and go with it. Slowly I started catching and passing riders, reeling in bunches of two or three all the way up. There was no way I was going to catch Barrie and John up ahead but I was pleased with progress and ultimately managed to ‘summit’ maybe 25 seconds or so behind them, my heart about to explode. All that for an Eccles Cake!
Newlands at least provided an opportunity to catch up with everyone over a coffee, my only wish being that it could have been a bit warmer. Joe, Mark, Marcus and Nick decided to stay behind for a more leisurely return while the rest of the group (now down to around 9 riders) set off for home. John and myself were starting to get a bit short on time and led the others on a brisk run along the North Downs Way which soon had the group stretching out.
By the time we’d got over about one third distance we had a lead group over the rest and reluctantly had to agree to part ways, leaving just John, Jez and myself to head off while the others regrouped.
What followed was a really fast blast home with John, Jez and myself digging in and taking turns to pull each other along. I’ve never covered the run from Newlands so quickly and I doubt the others have either.
It’s not technical in any way but the way we were steaming along in close proximity brought out the roadie in each of us I think! Big rings and upper third cogs all the way home, finishing off with a very fast run down to Yew Trees from Ranmore. In terms of tiredness I still feel I had the advantage over John and Jez’s hardtails (how can a 6 inch travel full sus be so quick!) but John broke me going up the final Polesden climb. Ouch!
Parting from John just after Polesden, Jez and I managed a slightly more sedate pace back to the car park, arriving by 12:05 feeling quite pleased with ourselves I think for what was a good ten miles or so of sustained running without any stops at all.
Apologies to all who fell by the wayside today or struggled with the pace etc. of the ride. It’s not always like this for us and I do suggest you stick with it as that’s the only way you can really get ride fit. Not that I think anyone’s particularly short of fitness, it’s just miles mean smiles really. At the end of the day a 25 mile round trip at a quick-ish pace at least gives you the excuse to snooze on the sofa all afternoon. I know I did!