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

It was a fast start …..                       May 2001     Back to Rides in 2001

.... and that was a problem.

Your tactics for a ride like London to Portsmouth and back are like this....  Pick a day with a forecast of a calm beginning, and a developing south-west wind.  Then you start early, dash into the London turn, and make your way towards the other turning point against a light headwind.  When you turn for home, you then have the benefit of a rising following wind to the finish point.  Simple, if you can spot it in advance.

Last summer, I asked Marina Bloom if she'd like to do some long rides on the back of my tandem-tricycle.  Her response was to smile a bit, and to agree that she'd "let me know".  It could've been worse - like a slap around the face for making an improper suggestion!

So, after our adventure on the Eastbourne Road in March, we set off in search of our first RRA record (as a pairing).  For about a week of watching the weather, there had been no suitable conditions.  Then there was a change of the pattern for Sunday 27th May.  Whilst being mindful of the difficulties of getting help at short notice over a Bank Holiday weekend, we decided to go for it.

And so we set off from the usual spot on the A3 Kingston bypass at 4am.  Even standing at the start, there was a noticeable breeze from the south.  So we were moving well immediately.  Great stuff, but all I was thinking about was the likelihood of 75 miles of headwind.

We made our way through Putney, along the Kings Road, and onwards to Hyde Park Corner by 4:30.  Around the turn, and back out through the metropolis.  No problems until we returned to the A3.  There was a headwind.   Not really a "worst fears confirmed" situation, but certainly a disappointment.

Our objective was, of course, to complete the distance as quickly as possible.  There was no existing record to beat, but the RRA had set a minimum standard of 7 hours 45 mins.  Last summer, I had teamed up with Dave Johnson to bring the men's record down to 6 hours 5 minutes, and I had previously recorded 6 hours 30 minutes on a tricycle on my own.  Therefore, the minimum standard was unlikely to bite, and I selected an arbitrary target time of 6 hours 50 minutes for scheduling purposes.

We held our scheduled time past the start point, over the M25, and along towards Guildford.  However, things were not running as well as hoped when we reached the Hog's Back summit 3 minutes adrift.  By the time we had ground our way up to the Devil's Punchbowl at Hindhead, we had slipped a further 4 minutes behind.

It's a bit difficult to be sure, but we had to presume that there was an adverse wind.  When you're actually out there, your brain can play tricks on you, and it was sometimes possible to believe that the wind was non-existent, and that we were just going slowly.

Once across the lights, we zoomed away on some good quality tarmac.  Despite the undulations of the Liphook bypass, we had clawed a few minutes back by the roundabout near Liss.  Onwards and upwards past Petersfield and onto Butser Hill.  Somehow we were still just 5 minutes over by Horndean, where we left the main road. 

Undoubtedly, the surface is generally better on the trunk roads compared with local roads.  It may also be the case that the terrain through Cowplain and Purbrook just doesn't suit tandem-tricycles.  Whatever the answer is, we had dropped another couple of minutes when we arrived at the Portsmouth turn, and another two had gone by the time we were back at Horndean.  Maybe it was the gradient of Portsdown Hill, or maybe it was the lack of an enthusiastic crowd at the top.  The lone figure of Pete Pickers was there, with further vocal support from my Aunt and Uncle in Cowplain.  Where were the Hampshire Road Club?

So, we were a massive 9 minutes adrift with over 50 miles to go.  Were we going to get that promised following wind?  Well, yes, we were, but there are still some hills left.  Buoyed by the prospect of a decent descent ahead, we dragged ourselves past the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, and down towards Petersfield.  A wave from Michael Radford sent us on our 40 mph way towards the next check near Liss.

We had reclaimed three minutes, and were then starting to think about Hindhead again.  After receiving some welcome encouragement from Sue Dawson, the road started to go upwards.  It's a long drag, which often features an equally long traffic queue.  However, Sunday mornings currently seem to escape the jams, so the traffic was passing us.  Did we see a car with race-bikes on, from the Isle of Wight?  I'm sure they'll tell me in due course.

Surprisingly, we were hanging in there at seven minutes down at the lights.  At last, we could start to think about grabbing that time back and making the schedule look silly.

I didn't like to go too fast down the hill, so at 45 mph we freewheeled.  Even with this rather cautious approach, we were still making fine progress.  As we made our way up to the Hog's Back, we saw a very excited Eileen Sheridan beside the road, undoubtedly remembering how much tougher the course was when she was breaking records in the 1950s (!).

We had made tremendous strides in that sector, cresting the er, umm, crest just one minute down on schedule.  From this point, everything came together.  There are no more hills, there's a lot of fast traffic, and we had a following wind.  As we made our nervous crossing of the M25, we found ourselves seven minutes up (yes, up) on schedule.

Suddenly, we were likely to beat 6 hours 40, maybe even 6 hours 35.  For a while, it was really happening.  And then the speedo stopped saying 28 mph, and started saying 24 mph.  The A3 doesn't follow a straight line, and we found ourselves labouring a bit for a couple of miles.

With 3 miles left, the clock had already passed 6 hours 30 minutes.  But we were back on song.  Incredibly we covered the closing stages at over 35 mph, and I really thought we'd get inside 6 h 35 m.  The final reckoning was 6 hours 35 mins 5 secs, almost 15 minutes faster than the schedule, and 70 minutes inside the minimum standard.

I think that worked as well as we could possibly have hoped for, and Marina seemed fairly pleased as well.  Throughout the ride we had made occasional conversation, and there hadn't been any problems (or cross words!). 

Don Glover held the attempt together by timing the start & finish, and observing for the entire ride.  Race service was provided by Tim Dadswell & Mike Bloom.

Thank you for reading this far.  I'd love to keep writing, but I've got to start planning the next one.


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