Martin Malins writes…
Left my friend in Iver at 0510 for the 19km ride up to Chalfont. Met
Dave Kahn on the way. My proposed ride mate was a DNS so I got into a
group of about 7 for the first leg through the scenic Chilterns to Woodstock. Dave was just leaving
as I arrived at the cafe. Most of the group I was with either did not
stop or managed to eat their egg on toast in 10 seconds flat so after
taking a bit longer I left alone desperately chasing anyone from the
group to no avail.
After another 70k arrived at Tewkesbury where Dave
was still eating so must jave been making some progress. Met up with
Manotea and we rode together to just before Yat Rock where he
decided to avoid the one in n (where n is a low number) hill up to the
top due to having 20 less gears than I. I grunted up (with a lot of encouragement from drivers and pedestrians, plus cyclists coming the other way) and waited at the convergence of
the two routes for a good 15 mins (using the opportunity to spin my
wheel round until the odometer matched the route sheet).
From there it
was certainly not flat to Chepstow, where they had stopped serving hot
food so I made do with pasta salad and a sarnie whilst sitting outside Tesco
in the wind (a bad move). Once over the Severn bridge it was all fairly
civilised until the Somerset Monument but got back into its stride by
Malmesbury. Here the Dean route was ignored in favour of a nice flat
section back to Swindon where it all changed and we paralleled the M4 (with a lot of over
and under and up and down) and it got completely dark on this section.
Not a moment too soon we arrived at Membury
services having seen the aerial for many km, where we cowered in the petrol station trying to drink coffee
on the floor whilst keeping out of the way of the sliding doors.Manotea
did a very passable corpse impression at this stage and advised me that
he was going to potter back. I had a quick look at the maps in the shop
and decided to abandon the route in favour of straight down to the A4
and back from Reading, in order to avoid repeated stops at the top of
the many hills.
We hit the main road at about 2330, not the best time Many encounters
with 3″ exhaust Novas and general idiots out for a Saturday night burn
up. Without a doubt the worst bit of road I’ve ridden on for years.
Eventually we arrived at Reading and Manotea suffered a total body
failure, so I left him to find a warm floor to sleep on and carried on up to Sonning Common to re-join the route and rendezvous with El Supremo who was checking
all the riders through his roadside flashing diner (he is such a star, how many folk would put so much effort in?) in the middle of a
desolate lane just before Henley. After a short chat (only me there) and fortified with hot soup I set off
along the riverside route to Marlow (with a river that seems to go
uphill a few times) and after Bourne End was the very cruel last road
up to the A40, which I walked last time so was determined to ride.
Arrived back at Chalfont just after 0400 and promptly collapsed across
4 chairs in the sleeping room with just an Altura jacket for bedding (
I had learnt from last year’s 400 to dress in 3 layers for anything
other than a high summer ride). I awoke just before the last of the riders including
Richard Phipps arrived with 30 mins to spare, and also found out
that Dave Kahn had suffered a rim failure and pulled out on the Severn bridge and that Manotea (without the El Supremo diversion) had arrived 30 mins after
me and promptly gone home. Well done for recovering and making it back. A classic 400, not easy but very scenic.