Jenny Lucas, Sarah Wheeler and John Phillips have all been tackling some long distance rides of late, here are some reports from each of them about their rides – 

From Jenny – 
This was my fifth trip with Saddle Skedaddle, a cycling holiday firm, based in Newcastle.  The previous holidays had all been in the UK.  This holiday involved booking one flight from Gatwick to Munich and a return flight from Verona in North Italy back to Gatwick.  The holiday was mainly on trails and cycle paths through the Alps.  Mountain bikes were used which was hard work!  The total distance covered was 370km over 6 days. During the week we stayed in fantastic accommodation, mainly chalets.  Most of the food was provided, even the snacks, all part of the service.  There were three guides for the group of 13 cyclists,  one to drive the support vehicle and the other 2 cycling with us all day.
The scenery was absolutely stunning!  We crossed 3 passes and consequently had some brilliant down hill stretches, one of them lasting all day!  
I love going away with this company and am already contemplating whether it will be Sardinia or Holland next time.  Why Holland?  A rest from all the hills and there should be lots of tall men there!
Sarah took part in the Prudential Ride London sportif – 

This event is a bit like the London
  As a runner, you had to run
it, and as a cyclist, I felt it would be a good event to do too, and I wasn’t
  It is I’m afraid just a
Sportive, so not a race, but of course you are all wanting to go as fast as you
can on the closed roads route.

The remnants of Hurricane Bertha were due to
hit us on Sunday morning.
  I had checked
the met office app more times that I cared to remember – and it was definitely
going to rain at some point during the day – and it was going to be heavy!

So, armed with overshoes, waterproof jacket
and, dare I mention, even a rear mudguard (I do hate a wet derriere!) I headed
for the start.
  It wasn’t raining at that
point, but the clouds were heavy and the wind was 
getting up.  The rain came just as my wave set off – but I
was delighted to start in the dry, so who cares?

I have never experienced so many cyclists in an
event; I was never really alone at any point.
I soon found myself in a peloton, and we were working really well
together, sharing the effort and passing other riders.
  The rain was getting heavier and heavier, the
roads were very flooded and the rain was pouring back up out of the drain
  Disaster struck for our chap
leading our peloton.
  In amazing
spectacular fashion his front wheel went out from under him, causing him to hit
the floor and slide across the road.
Somehow, I avoided him.  Turning back
as I was stopping I saw a couple of marshals head towards him and him with his
arm up to say he was ok – phew!

I carried on, but pretty much on my own now due
to the rain, not wishing to get involved with any other mishaps.
  People were stopping all over the place with
punctures, again, more than I had ever encountered.

There were signs up along the way with miles
markers, but I hadn’t really been following them.
  I thought I was around mile 48ish when a sign
said 61miles – I was a little confused to say the least – and couldn’t even
check on Garmin due to rain.
  Then a sign
saying ‘diversion end’ – well I was totally confused.
  I carried on, I was on a mission.

At Dorking, the crowds were huge and the
atmosphere electric, I was flying high. 
Then the dreaded funny feeling in the back wheel happened, and you know
what it is!  I looked behind me to see
the tyre was nearly flat.  I pulled over,
for what turned out to be a very slow pit stop, where was my team car?!  Thanks to some very helpful spectators, a lot
of chatting and a stirrup pump – what a stroke of luck, I was on my way again.  Even the sun was starting to shine now and
the rain was stopping.  During the
‘little’ chat I said about the mileage and that was when I was told that the
route had been shortened due to the weather, but it meant no Leith or Box Hill,
the hills I had wanted to climb. 

I had done a further 5 miles I would think when
I had the same feeling again – another puncture.
  Again I pulled over and this time did a more
thorough check of my tyre and found a large flint.
  I had started with one inner tube, which I
had used.
  I did have a puncture repair
kit, so that was going to be my only way out.
Plenty of puddles, so I was able to locate the hole in the inner tube.  Time was disappearing as quickly as the rain
was falling.
  Luck again was on my side,
a chap stopped and asked if I was alright.
I explained my predicament, he handed me an inner tube, I of curse
couldn’t take it without paying him – after all, he had saved my day.
  A quick rummage though my very wet tops and I
found some money.
  Tyre changed and off
  Surely I couldn’t  experience any more problems…….  No ,I couldn’t, just me being ultra sensitive
and knowing things happen in threes.
pulled over again about 3 miles later and re-pumped my tyre, it wasn’t
over-hard but it would see me back.

Around 10 miles to go and the sun was coming
out, I pulled over and removed the waterproof jacket, just to feel the sun on
my arms.
  My smile was now getting bigger
as I approached the Thames and all the iconic sights of London.
  The Mall was truly amazing.  The Union flags waving against a blue sky and
crowds cheering.
  I had an emotional few
seconds to myself, before crossing the line with a sense of true happiness and
an even bigger smile.
  What a great ride
I had had.

This is an event I would love to do again,
after all, it wasn’t the full event.
  A superb
day, amazing spectators, and a very supportive husband!

Meanwhile, John took on his longest Audax ride to date – 

Just before I went on a two weeks bike camping trip in Slovenia (it rained EVERY day!), I did my longest Audax ride (as a permanent, i.e. solo and no organised feed stops).  It was a total distance of 305km and I think that’s my limit! 

I started at 04:45 at Broad Robin and finished at 23:00 hrs  after going up to the Bristol Channel at Brent Knoll, back down to the English Channel at Lymington via Cheddar Gorge and then back across the New Forest to G’ham in the rain– grim!  Rabbits were out in force between 04:45 and 07:00, hundreds of the critters, especially around Yeovilton.  Something should be done.

Contrary to popular belief the Somerset Levels are not level. If you try really hard when planning a long Audax route you can find several sets of hills between Podimore and Sedgmoor.  Also, there is a massive mountain, unmarked on any map, between Broad Chalk in the Ebble Valley and Martin.  Other things I discovered were – 

  • Pumping your tyres up to the max on a long ride leads to vibration issues after 100 miles or so.
  • One chicken sandwich is good for 80 miles, but will not get you up Cheddar Gorge.  And smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches are probably not the best choice after 150 miles.
  • 300km + is a long way to ride but after 200 km it becomes more of a mental than physical challenge.

I felt tired all the way around and I had knee issues as it was only a week after I got back from crossing France the hilly way, nevertheless, I simply don’t understand how people like Daryol do Paris-Brest-Paris.  The main thing is I now have completed my Randoneur 1000km target so I get my name in the Audax magazine and a badge!  I have in mind the Randoneur Round the Year ( one 200km ride every month) as a way of keeping the miles in but I do want to focus on TT’s next year so hopefully some PB’s on the way!