Poor James! Today was his first ride out with us after six weeks of pre and post nuptial fun and his suggestion was a trip to Holmbury. So in the absence of anything approaching a firm conviction from any of us, Holmbury it was, plus a bit more.
It’s always the ‘bit more’ that catches you out isn’t it?
After a wild night at Dave’s attending the Moles Christmas get-together (great evening Dave and Cathie – can I order a job lot of lamb samosas please?), only six of us made the cut first thing this morning – James, Andrew, JohnR, D’Andy and Lloyd. The others were still in their burrows when we set off at 8:30 from Bockett’s in glorious early winter weather.
My 10K a Day effort continues but with a long month ahead of me I wasn’t planning to set the pace today, not that I’m feeling fast at the moment anyway. We settled into a relatively relaxed pace heading up to Polesdon, passing Graham and mate for the second time this week on the way. Instead of taking the Yew Trees route, we turned to Hogden Lane and raced down the top section through a deep blanket of russet leaves, being turning up Pamplona.
The climbing was pretty sedate today, although John and Andy, with miles in their legs looked happy to scamper off at the first opportunity. Reaching Ranmore, we turned toward Badger Run and continued on to Collarbone, with the trails almost devoid of mud. This changed briefly on Trouble in Paradise which proved a bit claggy and with the fallen tree looking decidedly slippy when Andy scouted it out. There’s another tree down on Short and Sweet and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon, being a substantial windfall. Hopefully in time a detour may emerge.
Reaching the Abba Zabba area, D’Andy shot down and discovered a pretty sketchy slough of debris and soft ground at the bottom of the dip while the rest of us headed round the top. I was on the Kona Big Unit which isn’t really designed for this sort of riding but it felt ideal for watching D’Andy do Abba Zabba and then Blind Terror 2. Reaching the road, we crossed over and tip toed down to the bottom, with the Kona – in my rusty hands – flowing quite nicely.
As we paused at the bottom, a roadie stacked it on the slimy/damp tarmac at the bend in the road and D’Andy went to pick him up. Turns out he was a rider from DoMTB who D’Andy knew of but hadn’t met. A new helmet will be required and D’Andy, doing his best Tom Baker, handed over a bag of Jelly Babies to keep spirits up as it became clear it had been a hefty landing. After making sure things were OK, we headed off but D’Andy soon turned off for an early appointment with a family commitment.
The remaining five of us continued on our way toward Holmbury via Abinger Roughs and then the Paddington Farm climb in glorious sunshine. Past the Volunteer, then up past a very full Youth Hostel car park and down through the trees to the two lakes, from where we commenced out final climb up Holmbury Hill to the Reservoir. By this stage, James – who’d been gifted the ‘slowest rider’ mantel by D’Andy, was starting to find the constant climbing heavy going. At least the cheese straw and coffee option wasn’t far away as we headed down Barries’.
Dropping the post on my Kona I tucked in behind Lloyd’s Santa Cruz which was gobbling up the trail. I haven’t ridden Barrie’s for a while but thoroughly enjoyed homing in on Lloyd. His bike was sucking up the surface without fuss, while mine was spending most of it’s time at varying altitudes as it hopped, skipped and flew down the excellent trail. By the time I reached the bottom my legs were complaining that’s for sure!
Although he wasn’t on today’s ride, I have to say that Kev held me up!!
A pleasant break followed at the store, sitting in the weak sunshine and congratulating ourselves that we hadn’t been too bike geeky at the Mole party the night before in front of our spouses.
The plan for the return leg was to cross Winterfold and pick up the Newlands route back through Albury and Shere. James was a bit doubtful but we talked him into the plan…
We could really have done with Al to steer us across Winterfold as we forsook many excellent trails to head up to the car park near the Windmill and then used the road to head to Barhatch Lane and Wepen Copse, passing a Tony-shaped roadie subjecting himself to the misery of the Hound House Lane climb on the way. Nice to see you Tony!
From here it was downhill at a decent pace for a while as we took the long, rather wet, descent down to Ponds Lane and eventually the railway crossing at Little London, passing a walking Ginny on the way. Hi Ginny!! By now, the sugar whispers that had been quietly nagging at James were starting to make themselves known as his pace dropped off and he started to struggle properly with the draggy surface and short inclines.
We boosted him up with some energy chews and pressed on, conscious that we had little option. James hung in there grimly.
The route now picked up our classic Newlands run, albeit in reverse, which is an odd experience. The trail is very familiar but still enjoyably different in reverse. We all knew though that at some point we needed to climb Ranmore though. At Abinger we persuaded James to get down one of my Rhubarb and Custard Torq gels (lovely!), knowing that we weren’t far from the White Down climb. The plan was settled to tackle this as carrying on the High Med didn’t do anything much other than to add miles to the ride and James was really suffering. Get it over with we reasoned.
The approach was cruelly sapping with lots of sticky clay to contend with, then it was up , up and away. I followed Lloyd and Andrew up at a steady pace and found it sufficiently taxing after a four hour ride but at least had the compensation of an extended rest at the top while John shepherded James up the climb. He made it up, but was forced to resort to foot for the final yards. We’ve all been there – cold and utterly exhausted and just wanting to be home (or sat outside a mobile cafe with a giant egg and bacon bap to soothe the pain away!). But there were still miles to go.
So we plodded on as with each turn of the pedals we got closer to home. Finally we were back on Ranmore and could look forward to some easier riding back down to Bookham. Andrew headed for Hogden Lane while we agreed to retrace our steps back down to Pamplona and meet him there for the final assault on the climb up to Polesdon via Hogden.
After a final push from James we managed to shepherd James all the way back to the car park. He might have felt rough – and still had a few road miles left to Ashtead – but at least he was in one piece. I don’t suppose he did very much during the afternoon other than take it easy and eat ravenously; well, that’s what I did anyway!