www.dadswell.co.uk  Mostly cycling records, mostly on three wheels

No Bottling Out Allowed!       with love from Ralph      Back to Rides in 1993

One of 1993's tricycling targets turned out to be Dave Pitt's "London to Portsmouth and back" record.  In June, having been over most of the route on a number of occasions in the past, I produced a schedule.  The selected start/ finish point was Albert Road, on the Kingston bypass.  This meant I had a ride of about 10 miles each way to visit the Hyde Park Corner turn, and that the finish, being most of a record-breaking 25 mile course, would be very quick.

This schedule was for a 5am start, but I revised this to 4am when further thought was given to the likely weather conditions.  I wanted a calm ride for the section into London, and then down to Portsmouth ... followed by a rising tail-wind to bring me back to the start.  A further point in favour of the earlier start was that Portsmouth would be easier at 8 am than 9 am.

Unusually, there was not a lengthy delay while the right weather conditions were awaited.  Extraordinarily, in fact, the weather was suitable on the first day that the new schedule was valid.  In a bit of a panic, I phoned Audrey Hughes to "book" her as Timekeeper and Observer.  To deal with driving and feeding, I got a willing volunteer in the guise of Andy Gallacher, a work colleague.  The instruction was to meet at my flat, at 0245.

I decided to do the ride with my sole energy source being drinks of Maxim, with only some Tracker bars to convince my stomach that it wasn't being starved.  This was partly because I believed that food was unnecessary on a ride as short as 146 miles, and partly because I didn't want to be bothered with preparing the stuff.

We arrived at the start at 0330, and I began assembling my trike.  Andy wandered off to the start point to paint the road, to show exactly where I had to finish.  I expected a white line, with "Pompey" or "Ralph" written nearby. He chose, however, to write "No Bottler, RD" instead.  To explain. Andy is fiercely (although possibly not seriously) critical of people (particularly me) who don't finish races.  The action of abandoning has been defined as "bottling" -ie not having the "bottle" to finish.  After this year's 24 hour, when I failed to finish, I had been tagged "the bottler".  Ho hum.

Meanwhile, with Dave Pitt appearing as an additional witness for the start, I was despatched on time.  Dave managed to bypass me and get to Roehampton Lane, to see me across the lights.  The junction was in my favour, though, and he shouted out "Piggin' hell Raef, even the bloody lights are green for you!"

I continued, through Putney, over the bridge, along Kings Road, and was soon at the Hyde Park Corner turn.  Eddie Mundy sent me around the turn, and I was one minute up on schedule.  Retracing, with marshalling assistance from Frank Cubis, I passed the start point and was two minutes up at the Hook underpass.

Dawn was breaking as I crossed the M25, and a shout from Esther helped me to climb up the Hog's Back.  With a small group of witnesses, I stopped at the summit to lose my lights, and left this check point at 0556, two minutes ahead of my plan.

After passing Milford, I was on the long slog up to Hindhead, and my advantage was slipping away.  In fact, I was level with schedule as I passed the cross roads.  The descending past Liphook, featuring a shout from clubmate Alan Dawson, left me two minutes ahead.  This soon vanished when I climbed away from Petersfield to Butser Hill.  The wind was rising in my face, and there was rain falling.  This was the lowest point for morale, as I struggled at about 12 mph.

Things looked a little better as I approached Horndean, and I arrived on schedule.  The temporary traffic lights in the village seemed to be under my control, as they miraculously changed to green as I approached.  I made my way up the hill and along to Cowplain, where my Aunt and Uncle were waiting with some welcome encouragement.  Pete Pickers and his mum were also out getting wet. 

I was soon on my way down Portsdown Hill towards Portsmouth itself with the wind seeming to be worryingly light.  However, when CCP witnessed me at the HMS Nelson turn, he noted that I was just 2 minutes down. 

(photo at the Portsmouth turn, featuring poorly adjusted helmet)

The return visit to Portsdown Hill was not as traumatic as expected, and was actually quite routine - must have been a tail wind.  I struggled a little for the next few miles, and was getting rather edgy as the wind didn't seem very useful.

Horndean was visited 5 minutes later than planned, but this was as bad as the deficit got.  Once I had eased myself back onto the main A3, things started moving well.  After zooming off Butser Hill, I was 3 minutes up at the check near Liss.  However, this advantage evaporated during the long rise to Hindhead, and I was again level at the cross roads.  Traffic queues were building up here, and my helpers could only just see me at this point. 

Apart from a nervous moment in the Devil's Punchbowl, I was sure that conditions would now be favourable to the finish.  My guess at this point was that I would probably be worth a 10 minute improvement on the record.  I flew along the next few miles, and was soon on the run up to the Hog's Back, at Guildford. 

Mr Pitt was at the roadside, and had realised that I was ahead of schedule.  He kept shouting "Slow Down!" at me, but I pretended not to understand.  Six minutes was the advantage over schedule here, with 22 miles to go.  The wind was obviously rising behind me now, as I was able to keep the speedo saying 30 mph for lengthy periods.  There was a shout from above, as Pete Stonebanks and several other firemen stood on a footbridge. Thankfully, I didn't get a high-pressure hose fired at me!

As I homed in on the M25 junction, the traffic was heavy and fast flowing.  There was a nervous couple of minutes as I had to move out to the second lane, to climb onto the flyover.  Dave Pitt did some unorthodox traffic management to protect me from the sliproad traffic, and we were across 14 minutes up. 

The last ten miles were also very quick, in particular the section through the underpasses as we approached the finish.  For these last 3 or 4 miles, I don't believe the speed went under 30 mph, and peaked at 38 with 400 yards to go. 

It was at this point that I momentarily free-wheeled, in preparation for the final flourish.  I then spotted George, who was timing the finish, and I sprinted.  I crossed the line with a time of 6 hours, 30 minutes 40 seconds. This lowered Dave's record by 22 minutes 13 seconds, and raised the speed to 22.25 mph. 

I was quite pleased with that, but all I got from Andy was "You bottled at the finish! I saw you freewheel!"

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