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

From Fulchester to Fontwell ?                          March 2005     Back to Rides in 2005

You might be forgiven for wondering where we find these routes to ride.  As soon as the tandem-tricycle has been washed down after grinding its way from Skipton to Shipton, we're off to Hele and back, and next week it's Ware to Wem, via How.

That said, regular readers will remember "Winchester to Wantage and back" from a few years past.  The snappily named North & West Home Counties Road Records Association look after this one - a route surely born from the curious fact that both terminal points could be (and indeed are) statues of King Alfred.

Marina Bloom and I like to do these rides in the early season, and Easter Sunday was selected for our first effort of 2005.  I found an old schedule for the route, which started and finished a few miles south of Newbury.  It was for the 81 miles to be covered in 4 hours.  As there was no (mixed tandem tricycle!) record to beat, I left the schedule at 4 hours, and we just had to try to better it by as much as possible.  We had a reference point of 3h 50m as being the time recorded by the Lewis/Dadswell partnership in 1997, but we really didn't know what to expect.

We started at 10am, in chilly uninspiring conditions with a very light headwind.  At the Newbury checkpoint we had gained two minutes on schedule, but it soon became clear that we weren't going to make a really quick run through the first quarter to Wantage.  With hindsight, I now realise that there's a fair bit of altitude gain in the 10 miles going north from Newbury, and we were struggling to keep ahead of 20 mph until the few miles of descent after crossing the Ridgeway path.  At the Wantage turn, Peter Clayton checked us through at just over 1 minute ahead of our plan.  As we laboured our way back up Chain Hill, I congratulated myself for not setting a particularly fast schedule.  When we reached the summit, we had covered 24 miles in just less than 1h 12m.  Not exactly flying.

However, happily, we suddenly found ourselves travelling much quicker than before.  Indeed, the next few miles were turned out at almost 30 mph, and suddenly we started to smile again.  By the time we were back at Newbury, we were 8 minutes to the good, and despite some hard work in the next few miles, we were 9 minutes up as we passed our start point.  We had covered 38 of the 81 miles, and hopefully the tough stuff was behind us.

Once on to the A34, we were reliably running at over 25 mph, and with a 50 mile time of 2h 15m, the second 25 miles had been covered in about 12 fewer minutes than the first one.  My only concern related to how tough the final 20 miles would be.  However, there was no question of saving ourselves for later, and we pressed on as quickly as possible.

We had an exceptionally easy ride through Winchester, with the only doubtful bit happening when I squeezed the tandem through a narrow gap in my effort to be sure of going around the statue at the turn.  Subsequent re-reading of the definition of the turn leads me to think that perhaps I only needed to go past it - but I was taking no chances!  Jeff Howland witnessed us here, and we were 22 minutes ahead of schedule. We had a reasonable cushion, therefore, and could afford to lose some time in the final quarter if the wind proved to be a particular challenge.

We did have one or two desperate sections of slowness - including just after we rejoined the A34 - but on the whole, the wind didn't really tear into us.  We were just about able to hold on to 20 minutes credit, and squeezed a bit more out in the last few miles.   Despite a rather messy last section with roundabouts and bends, we finally saw Frank Cubis standing beside the road with his stopwatch in his hand.  We crossed the line in 3h 38m 6s, causing us considerable delight.  Not only had we gone considerably faster than both men's tandem times, but we'd actually scraped inside John Woodburn's solo bike time recorded back in the 1980s.

Following the time-honoured tradition, we celebrated with a fry-up at the nearest Little Chef, and discussion moved on to the next one ....

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