For various reasons, the group I normally cycle with decided that they had to go out at 7 a.m. last Saturday. Now, I will stretch a point here and there, but I am not a natural early riser and I would have had to leave the house at 6.30 a.m. to join the start of the ride. Just wasn't going to happen.
The opportunity arose to participate in a reliability ride. For those who don't know, these are sportive-like events but without the support network. You're given a route to follow, but you're not timed and you're on your own - no broom wagon to pick you up or anything like that. This all means that it's much cheaper - you might pay a fiver instead of the more usual £25 - £30 for a sportive. They tend to take place very early in the season and have been a fixture in British cycling for many years.
The one I was considering was a bit different. The route was organised by the Leighton Buzzard Cycling Club, but the power behind the event was a certain Adam Faiers. This gentleman, for his own insane reasons, not least of which was to raise money for charity, is a supporter of the MK Dons Football Club, and has cycled to every single away match for the team this season.
Think about this - you have to cycle to places like Carlisle (265 miles) and Hartlepool (225 miles). As things panned out, some of these journeys were made in the most atrocious weather. Adam has blogged about his experiences, and deserves a huge amount of credit for what he has achieved for his charity and his suffering on the way. Go to his website for the gory details - really well worth a read.
The ultimate destination of The Broadhall Bash was the Stevenage Borough football ground - the MK Dons' last game of the season and a far more modest 35 miles or so. I planned just to do the journey out there and come straight back with a group of mates, although there were much more ambitious plans for those that wanted to watch the game.
Paid my fiver online and turned up at the MK Dons stadium (far too early) to register and get a bacon sarnie. Registration took all of 30 seconds, but bacon sarnies were non-existent, as the supplier had let them down. Salvation appeared in the shape of an MK Dons executive who had been to McDonalds at his own expense and had bought sustenance. I'm no great fan of McDonalds, but on a freezing cold Saturday morning, an Egg McMuffin went down very well indeed! Lashings of coffee were consumed as I waited for my mates. All turned up and off we set.
In truth, it was a pretty easy ride out to Stevenage - not too hilly, very pleasant countryside and the wind was behind us, but we needed to keep the pace up for warmth. Just as we turned back home, it started hailing. Fortunately, it didn't last long, but it stung like crazy. For those, like me, who are follically challenged, it was particularly painful!
Two of us decided to strike out for home without stopping for a coffee on the way back. We were cycling against a nasty headwind with rain and hail in the air and it wasn't the best fun I have ever had, to be honest. This was compounded by - yet again - a nasty "ping" from the back wheel indicating a broken spoke - the second instance of this on a different wheel in less than three weeks, and we were 35 miles from home. The wheel was sufficiently buckled that it was jamming against the frame, so the bike was unrideable. Shades of Tour of the Peak last year.....
My companion could do nothing to help, so cycled off and left me in Peter's Green. Mercifully, there was a pub 250 yards down the road, so I sought refuge in there and cupped my freezing hands around a large mug of coffee. Boy, did I need that! The spoke breaking was bad luck, but the existence of the pub was truly serendipitous. If it hadn't been there, I risked suffering from exposure - it was so cold.
Phoned my wife, who came to pick me up 90 minutes later. Mind you, I had to buy her lunch in the pub as recompense..... Well worth it in the situation I was in.
So, yet another eventful ride. I've saved the details on my Garmin and it will, under better circumstances, be a great ride for my normal cycling group to do.
Oh yes, and MK Dons won 2-0!