After 4 weeks the house is coming along well and some progress is being made on my workshop so I thought I would see what the local cycle club Sunday Club Ride was like. I emailed the contact and was told, “It’s the CX season with a race on the same day, so only a B group ride this week. You would be most welcome to join us. Flash 9:30 Welshpool.” Flash turned out to be the leisure centre. Sounds ok so I plotted a route to the start. Most of the routes are hilly but the A road between Newtown and Welshpool isn’t and shouldn’t be too busy on a Sunday morning.
At the allotted hour I set off on the luxo-cruiser thinking that I did not want to set high expectations by going on the grin machine. I also wanted a granny ring for the hills. On reaching the A road I was met by a police motorcycle outrider – an oversize load was coming through; should only be a 2 minute wait. I waited and in the distance saw a group of riders who could only be club members making the trek from Newtown to Welshpool – the ride start alternates between the two and club members gather at one to ride to the other. They too were held up by the load but soon enough we were on our way. Just ahead I saw a club jersey waiting at the side of the road so pulled into to introduce myself and check that everyone was heading to the same place. The following group soon caught up and in fact were going at great speed. The challenge was to get on the wheel. And then it was hell for leather for Welshpool – with speed somewhere between 20 and 25 miles per hour! I was later told that some riders just go for that blast and then go home.
At Welshpool about 15 riders turned up, all male, mainly on Giant bikes (local bike shop is a Giant franchise), all carbon and too many deep section wheels for my liking. It’s the “B” group – it should be ok. Straight out of Welshpool we hit the first climb. Just over 300ft in about 3.6 miles. I did not disgrace myself but arrived in the second half of the group. From then on the ride was a bit of a blur. This was no “B” group, this was a bunch of testosterone fuelled blokes out to outdo each other. On the flat (what passes for flat in this neck of the woods) speeds were over 20 miles an hour. On the down hills I could not keep up with anyone. One kind guy, thank you Paul, dropped back to give me a wheel to hang onto as we raced along the B road towards Shrewsbury. 15 bikes slightly strung out with me giving everything I’ve got to stay in touch. Brief respite as we regroup at Chirbury. They slow for a right turn where a car is coming out only to find it is a lone house – rather startled lady driver wondering why 15 lyrca clad men want to turn into her drive. On through Worthen before finally a right turn towards Minsterley. I have no idea what these places were like; never before have I had to sustain such a pace for so long – it hurts! Paul reassured me that this was unusual – Club Rides were not normally like this – but he did say to expect that on some sections some riders might go for Strava segments and there were a couple of places where the club seemed to have a switch – you reach the place, the switch is switched and everyone goes like a bat out of hell!
From Minsterley it is a lovely climb to Gravels, gentle gradient 700ft of climb over 5.2 miles. It’s an A road but no traffic. I got stuck behind the two slowest climbers for a bit but then made my way past them and for ever upwards. I have no idea how far ahead the rest of the group were but I just made my way up at my steady pace and enjoyed it as best as I could – though mutterings about a “B” group could be heard under my breath. Thankfully we regrouped at the top. The descent towards Bishop’s Castle was rather into the wind and although going at over 30mph and pedalling as fast as I could I was left standing. A very short but very steep climb out of Bishop’s Castle put us on a road which goes along one side of the Vale of Montgomery with a stunning view of the other – I had noted this road driving along it a week earlier thinking it would be spectacular to cycle it. It would be but I think this is one of the roads where the switched gets switched. Thankfully three guys held back and paced me along but even then keeping up took everything I had and little left for taking in the view.
Finally the cake stop…. must have been about noon, but I have no idea as I was too exhausted to do anything other than order a tea and the most calorie laden thing I could see. The banter round the table was about how individuals had done their turn on the front, how long, how fast and what happened when the next one took over. The relief provided they could hold the wheel of the over-taker and what happened if they could not. This was everything that I had feared about this club; a British Cycling affiliated club whose only interest is speed and competitiveness – not my scene at all. 54 miles at an average of 16.9 mph – explains everything!
Luckily the cake stop was about 2 miles from home and much of it uphill. I bade farewell and literally crawled home. If the road turned upwards at any angle however shallow I was reduced to the lowest gear possible.
There is a Wednesday ride – apparently it is more leisurely – and this Club Run was “highly unusual.” Do I believe them? They had better be right if I want to ride again with this group. Otherwise I am going to have to set up my own group!