Ben Hardisty writes…
The Castle Ride – a route around West Kent, starting in Tonbridge, ticking off a few of the castles in the area – an excellent and testing event which I have to admit I completely underestimated. Aiming specifically for a sub 6 hour 30 ride, I crossed the finish line timing mat almost an hour later, utterly spent.
Dark skies threatened but we were lucky on the day, the forecasted light rain holding off, although there was a tough NW wind.
I started off in the ‘early birds’ group and after about 5 miles I found myself in an ‘escape off the front’ of 4 riders. It stayed like this until Bo Fjeldsoe from Sevenoaks Tri came steaming up to join us. I hadn’t seen Bo for a few years since he rode one of our evening 10s. He was soon on his way leading the field up Exedown Hill never to be seen again.
I was now in 2nd place on the road and while another rider caught up with me, he struggled on the next set of climbs and I was on my own again. However a minor disaster struck when I took a wrong turn (the first of two) at about the 20 mile mark and I ended up down the bottom of a hill which I then had to climb back out of – grrr. No matter, I was still feeling ok.
By now we were cycling through Rochester and then along the Pilgrims Way which affords great views over the Medway area. Hollingbourne Hill was the next climb, a long energy sapping climb but not steep. The middle food station arrived at Headcorn with a glorious spread on offer, but I only allowed myself 10 minutes here before moving on. A check on the time revealed I was already behind schedule.
Heading South now towards Biddenden and Sandhurst were some of the flatter sections of the course. After another missed turn, I fortuitously bumped into the Old Portlians road train and latched on to their coat tails. For some 10/12 or so miles I ‘enjoyed’ being dragged along but eventually I had to let them go. Now at about the 75 mile mark I was struggling and rode through the next food stop, determined to get back to Tonbridge asap.
What I didn’t realise was the last 30 miles or so were full of climbs, some short, some longer, but by now every single drag or climb felt very tough. Then to cap my day off, at about the 85 mile mark I had an ‘off’, checking whether I had missed a turn looking sideways I hit the curb and went tumbling at speed into the grass. Taking a few minutes to check myself and then get the bike straight, I gingerly restarted and got back into it.
A few more climbs and drops and Bodiam Castle came into view, a beautiful sight, but I couldn’t really appreciate it as there was another climb I was having to persuade myself up. Finally the 10 miles to go marker, not long to go now I was telling myself, but there was still more climbing to be done !
Eventually the outskirts of Tonbridge arrived and the last few miles were gratefully negotiated. My longest ride for a couple of years and it felt like it !
my garmin plot here