Rutland Weekend 300 — an LEL buildup ride

A smashing route this – I look forward to re-riding it in a couple of years' time.  Deceptively lumpy start from the get-go, but settling into a flat run to Oundle and then uppy-downy into the Belvoir valley with a great view of the castle over your right shoulder.  And then back again.  The return run seemed lumpier than the outward leg? 

Note: this ride report is a mild rewrite of my submission to yacf, here.  Codified names are the nicknames of people on the forum, sorry about that.  The post date has been changed to the date of the ride. 

I rode to the start from Cambridge with the plan of ECE'ing this 300 into a 400.  I got to the start with 50km in my legs and 10 minutes before the off.  Bumped into Lars, no sign of the tandem (were you really there?).

And then it all fell apart: there's a gentle 50m climb out of Baldock and by the time we crested this, I was lanterne rouge and stayed there or thereabouts most of the day.  WTF?!  Normally I start quick and then gradually see new faces during the day as I tire and get passed.  But at least I get to meet other riders.  Nope, not on this ride. 

This is the last I saw of most riders just out of Baldock:

So since I was at or near the back, I stopped for sandwiches and milkshake in St Ives and sat by the river: call it breakfast, as I'd started out at 5am.

A couple of riders, Toshi and Yoshijen caught up with me just before Oundle and we rode in together, but did our own thing control-wise – perhaps they were late starters? I forgot to ask.

I bounced the Oundle control as best I could and did pass a few riders sat up at the café – woohoo!  Toshi and Yoshijen caught up about 10km before the Rutland control. But by the time we got to the Crazy Fox I was back at the back (or at least it felt that way): the girls in the café reckoned there were still more to come through, eh?  Having over-bought in Oundle, it was time for another waterside picnic with a view of the church-on-the-lake, although first a quick visit into the bike shop for a new set of shades, having somehow snapped the old ones.  I was considering having a snooze on the shore, feeling tired'n'all, but convinced myself to get back on the bike.

The sun was high – too hot!  My pace fell away completely.  I eventually got my lie-down on the verge in the shade just before Sproxton. While I was lying there I heard several other riders pass: I thought I was at the back?  Well I was certainly getting there.  When I got to Bottesford, Toshi and Yoshijen were just leaving and there was a fixie rider finishing off.  So a leisurely baked beans and coffee: in that time not a single other rider appeared, looks like I had got there: all the way to the back.

The return run just felt hotter than the outward leg: hot hot hot!!  That meant the climbs were naaaasty!  But I made it up all the big ones.  Now that I was on my lonesome, I rode conservatively: I could still feel last weekend's 600km in my legs and the heat and dehydration was a big drain, so plenty of taking it easy.

So imagine my surprise when I rounded a corner just after Harringworth to see another rider in front of me: eh?!   It turned out to be Yoshijen, who had reached his limit and was trying to work out how to get back to Baldock.  I broke out the map and guided him to Corby and continued.  I passed another rider just a few miles later: one of us?  I don't know, I don't think so, because they didn't pass me back.

At Oundle I bumped into Toshi again as he was about to leave.  So back to lanterne rouge, sigh sad

After Oundle I somehow found my legs again: they had deserted me most of the day, but now I was able to pick a cadence and tap along nicely.  This is recurrent theme on all the longer rides where as the day goes on I wallow around a bit with a slowing cadence and then at some point it all slots back together and I can tap along at a steady 80-85 strokes, around 24-26kph with my bike's limited gearing.  I think it's a heat thing, but the morning hadn't been particularly good, so perhaps it's just at the point when the pain in my hands drowns out everything else and my legs go onto autopilot?

At this point I had decided to forego the ECE: I seem to have picked up ITBS in my ankle and I don't need to make it any worse than it is before LEL.  I tweaked the cleat to open up the heel a bit, probably undoing the tweak I did the other day, point noted.  So now it was a race for the last train back to Cambridge.

I tapped along at a steady 25-ish for a couple of hours and re-caught Toshi in St Neots.  However, now I was feeling the tiredness in my legs and had to drop the speed down a bit: had I done enough?  As it turned out I had: I got into Baldock just after 00:35.  By the time I'd got a bank slip and back to the station I still had 20 minutes to wait for the train, so I stopped to chat to a rider packing away, was he the one I'd passed just after Harringworth?  I don't know.  I mentioned Toshi and Yoshijen and he pointed to a van over the other side, and it turned out Toshijen had just arrived back to Baldock on the train and so a successful bail thumbs up

For me the highlight was undoubtedly getting chatted up by a group of women at the cashpoint in Baldock, although in retrospect I looked a bit like their dad being dressed like a highways contractor as I was, so perhaps they were taking the proverbial facepalm  Seriously, the route was brilliant, intricate, smooth (mostly).  The weather was amazing.  The bad points for me was the way I was dropped like third-period French at the start: it seriously made me wonder whether I hadn't underestimated LEL.  That said, I was only a couple of hours behind others, although they would have stopped for longer at the controls.

A fine day out, thanks guys thumbs up

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Nick Wilkinson

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