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TALES FROM ALONG THE GREAT BATH ROAD                                                  Back to Rides in 1991
(or How To Ride A Tricycle For A Long Time, And End Up Where You Started)

My first RRA record attempt for 1991 had for some time been planned to be the London to Bath and back.  After failing for a second time in 1990, I really needed to get it on the third attempt.

My selected start/finish point was between Slough and Maidenhead.  This meant I had a 23 mile ride into London, before the 106 mile slog to Bath, followed by 83 miles back to Slough.  Hence the desired weather conditions were for a calm start, followed by a rising tailwind home from Bath.

You won't be surprised to hear that the winds in early June were totally wrong for this!  To begin with, we had a week of North-Westerly winds, followed by South-Easterlies.  When the South-West winds eventually arrived, they were too strong!  (You may recall that there were 3 attempts on the RRA 25 records in the second week of June).  By the third week, I think I had postponed the attempt six times.  I was getting rather fed up with making arrangements, only to cancel them a day later.  However, I was informed that Saturday 22nd June looked good for a South-West wind, which would rise during the morning.  I set the wheels in motion, arranging timekeepers, helpers and turn-marshalls.

At 4:30am, timekeeper Bill Hannington said 'GO', and I was off - sporting aero-hat and Oakley shades.  At 5:34, Frank Cubis sent me around the 'short-cut' turn at Hyde Park Corner, and I was on my way to Bath.  I was fed outside Harrods - not cucumber sandwiches & Pimm's, but a jam sandwich and Gatorade!

Fifty miles passed in 2 hours 19 mins, but I could start to feel a headwind.  I was hoping for calm conditions until I was approaching Bath, not at Reading!

At Pangbourne Lane (70 miles), there was a serious headwind problem.  However, the road bends slightly from south-west to west, and so the wind became more of a cross-wind.  I reached Newbury three minutes behind a tight schedule.  I broke a spoke, and lost a further 2 minutes changing the wheel (including a 'nature' stop).

Some aggressive riding took me through Hungerford, to arrive at Marlborough with a four minute deficit.  I was struggling out through Beckhampton, but managed to pull back another 2 minutes, taking advantage of a 2 mile descent into Calne.  By Chippenham (117 miles, and a lot of traffic) I was still 2 minutes down, and I turned into the headwind for the 13 miles to Bath.  There followed several stretches at 15 mph.  Fortunately this leg includes the long descent of Box Hill, and so I was only 1 minute down when I reached the Bath HPO turn.  Reg Randall saw me through there, and shouted that the return leg would be a 'flyer'!

I certainly had a tail-wind from Bath to Chippenham - but I also had to climb Box Hill, which had been resurfaced with large chippings.  When I got to Chippenham, I was one minute up (wow!).  However, the road changes direction there, and so I didn't have much of a tail-wind advantage for a while.  I was almost considering abandoning on the climb out of Calne - surely there should be some sort of a tail-wind? ....the wind hasn't dropped has it?? ....I've still got 60 miles to go!  Fortunately I pressed ahead, and was 2 minutes up at Marlborough.  This didn't inspire me, but it's better to be up on schedule, than down!

After climbing Marlborough hill (160 miles), things suddenly seemed to look up.  The ride to Hungerford is gently downhill, and with the tail-wind I was gaining on the schedule.  At Newbury, I was 6 minutes up; at Pangbourne Lane I was 9 minutes up.  I lost a couple of minutes in Reading, but at 200 miles I was 10 minutes up. 

The next five miles were very fast, and I passed the timekeeper at 14:49 precisely.  This meant the record was lowered by 14 mins 18 seconds from 10:33:18 (Stuart Jackson 1981) to 10:19:00.

The distance is 211.5 miles, average speed 20.5 mph.  My feeding team were Eddie and Pat Mundy.

RD 1991

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