Thankfully this week there was no blood spilled in the course of an evening’s riding.
Things have hotted up nicely and sundry moles seem to be taking advantage wherever and whenever they can. Some are even riding on the tarmac. This meant a few options were available for the evening.
Dandy, to his great credit, was keen to organise one of our summers-only PAAP rides (Pitch-And-A-Pint) from Peaslake. Unfortunately Peaslake for me takes a bit of organising since I don’t have the luxury of a towbar on the car; which means serial faffing with taking bits off the bike, getting it into the car and then reversing the process at the other end. Plus the same coming home! I’m happy to do it but it is hassle!
Lloyd and JohnR were both short of time too; Lloyd was potentially late getting home while John needed to get to Cambridge later in the evening, so they decided to ride local which suited me. Others too had various business commitments to attend while Danny and MarkyMark (and Tony) were riding the road. All of which meant poor old Andy ended up riding solo on Pitch despite his best intentions.
So, meeting at Hylands were the three of us, plus Darren and Amanda had ridden over on the tandem which made five. It was a sweltering evening, only the third time this year I’ve ridden in temperatures over 20° believe it or not and one of those was the night before when I’ve managed 26 miles on the road with MarkJ. At least the lack of base layer was a novelty.
I suspected John would be on a mission since he had little over an hour to get home for his trip to Cambridge so was happy to let him dictate the route. What followed was a seriously intense bit of high speed riding.
First off, through Wiggly Wood following the tandem, then down all the way to Bagden Farm at high speed. The surface is pretty much ready for summer treads if the rain holds off as the trees seem to have sucked up the rain of the past month or two in short order. We were flying!
Next we crossed the Old Dorking Road and set off for a climb of Dearly Beloved to Ranmore Church (does that give enough clue as to why it’s called Dearly Beloved?!).
This is a serious slog, a short technical chalky gully at the beginning opening out into an unrelenting haul up through beech woods. It’s super fast coming down here but hard, hard work uphill. Initially I tucked onto John’s wheel but as the climb wore on I fell slowly behind. All the same, my efforts cracked the eight minute mark to put me just 9 seconds behind John’s best effort. In a way I was disappointed not to have pushed harder but in reality I had to back off when my HR got up to 178. From there it didn’t drop below 171 for six and half minutes…
My God I was hot when I reached the top! The still, humid air meant there was no cooling effect when we stopped. Once we’d regrouped we set off for And Then There Were Three.
Now, as we approached I thought to myself that maybe I should take the lead down here but Darren quickly put his tandem into pole position and I wasn’t about to argue. I’m by no means a specialist in these woods and have been hounded down here in the past by the likes of Danny so I tucked in behind.
What followed was some mighty impressive riding from Darren and the ever-brave Amanda as they steamed down the hill. I even set my fastest time trying to keep up and they still disappeared. I’ll never forget the sight of the tandem launching over the kickers on the final section with an unsuspecting Amanda holding on for dear life and laughing her head off.
As we reached Box Hill we wondered how we’d get to the top with John in the mood for China Pig. We settled on the long grassy climb up the front face, something I’ve never attempted. This was my first ride on the Five since replacing the drivetrain and I much say the dry trails and ability to get any gear I wanted made for a very fast feeling machine. I felt strong once again climbing, with the smooth surface so much nicer than that lumpy bridlepath of flint but once again John just drifted away from me, long enough to stop and take pictures!
But for once, that was an enjoyable climb up Box Hill.
Without wasting too much time we headed for China Pig and having learned my lesson on ATTW3 I let Darren lead up once more. What a great trail this is, so hard to ride quickly as you tire mentally and physically as you reach the final third. We romped down there, and I could just about keep the demon tandem in view at high speed, setting another PB into the bargain. Some guys are crazy fast down here so I won’t kid myself I’m anything special but it’s always nice!
At the bottom we were all panting heavily as the night showed no signs of cooling anytime soon. John headed for home while the remaining four discussed options Lloyd, Darren and Amanda fancied High Alpine but to be frank I hate this trail. I would have done it if they REALLY wanted to but instead suggested we climb up to the Mickleham Gallops to do Life on Mars which I like so much better.
What followed was another brisk climb that would easily have slaughtered my best time up to the gate if I hadn’t stopped for the others to catch up! I honestly just had a strong night, no idea where it came from at all. Carrying on, I found Life on Mars quite tricky and although my Garmin didn’t register the trail this evening, I don’t think it would have been one of my faster efforts with a couple of sections still a little slippery, forcing me to brake to a near standstill. I felt a little selfish insisting on this route option but it’s hardly a poor option.
At the end we picked up Stane Street back toward Juniper Hall, and once we’d hit the downslope we picked up speed quickly. If a gun was against my head and Darren had turned for High Alpine I would have followed but in fact the run down to the road was a blast. The tandem accelerates so quickly I soon lost touch but the deep chalky gulleys kept me pretty well occupied; to the extent I was ready to switch to the high bank of the final turn if things went badly. At the bottom, Darren admitted they’d nearly got themselves into trouble too and made full use of their 203mm discs.
Back at the foot of Box Hill, Darren and Amanda headed for home leaving Lloyd and I to climb up Crabtree Lane to Jem’s Favourite. My legs were feeling it on the climb with Lloyd looking like he was in a groove too. Soon we were on Jem’s Favourite and I had the bike whacked into the big ring for most of the run, egged on by Lloyd who I could tell was right behind me by the shadow his lights were casting! Strangely I didn’t feel it was flat out until the final climb where I dug in and guess what? Another PB!! Under the four minute mark and just 2 seconds from John’s best. How’s that for tired legs?
In reality, that really was the end of my energy. I was feeling the effects of tiredness, heat and a long ride as we neared the top of Norbury but suggested to Lloyd a final run back to Crabtree Lane and from there along the singletrack to pick up the trail past the field to Wiggly Wood. There were no more PBs or decent times for me, I was just happy to enjoy the trails as the dusk closed in, making me wish I’d brought a helmet light.
Having reached home with a dusty but basically clean bike I was mighty glad to tuck into some pasta; with 20 miles registered and a briskly paced ride behind us it’s always nice to look back in hindsight. If someone had said I would be riding that hard on the climbs at the start of the ride I’d have been worried but as it is? Well, it’s a little bit more Mayhem preparation isn’t it??