Saturday 23rd was the eleventh year of the Phil Hampton memorial ride and as it is organised by the local CTC I felt as a fairly new member it warranted my support.
Phil Hampton was a member of CTC North Hampshire. He was an electrical engineer who had given up full-time work to make time to cycle more than 8,000 miles a year. In June 2002 he was returning from an Audax event to his home in Farnborough, Hampshire, when he was struck from behind by a 20-ton lorry. The accident happened just outside Petersfield on the A3 trunk road. The lorry driver was later convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and sentenced to two years in jail. This ride is an annual event organised by CTC North Hampshire in memory of Phil. All the entry fees are donated to the CTC’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund, which was set up in 2001 by the CTC to help cyclists who may be innocent victims of road crashes.
The ride offered two routes, the choice of either 30 or 52 miles. My plan was to tackle the 52 mile circuit which with the 22 mile ride to and from the venue would give me a daily distance I am expecting to ride on an upcoming Coast to Coast ride.
Fridays weather had the snow that was generally covering the country stopping short just to north of our area and any rain clearing by the 10am start time. The reality on waking on Saturday morning saw snow falling and settling on the roads and the revised forecast giving snow until lunchtime. Conditions were not good but rather than abandon completely I turned to plan “B” my optimistic side decided to load the Boardman into the car, put on my kit just in case and drive to the start if for no other reason than to support the organisation that has gone into the event.
The Alton bypass was down to one lane with snow covering the outside lane and the norm is usually for the higher ground at the Four Marks start to have deeper snow but as we climbed towards the higher ground the snow turned to sleet and the roads were slushy. The weather had clearly depleted the entries but my optimism surfaced when two guys arrived having cycled from Midhurst in the rain and as more locals arrived spirits were positive.
At 10.00am with sleet still falling and the temperature hovering just above freezing the riders departed. The early part of the ride was in testing conditions of driving snow and a cold wind with slush on the roads making single file the order of the day, definitely a case of a bit more effort to keep warm.
Just south of Basingstoke the route split with the longer circuit heading for a northerly route to Old Basing and around the villages of Basingstoke. I struck up a conversation with Ian, an Audax rider from Reading whose company was welcome and a pleasant distraction from the incessant headwind. At Bramley we turned south and at last a following wind, the country lanes had plenty of standing water but were relatively light on traffic and as the rain finally cleared it was actually a pleasure to be on the bike. Our southerly track with the elements behind us continued through Oakley towards Dummer and on to Preston Candover and Old Alreford before crossing the A31 at Ropley. We then turned East into a biting wind for the final couple of miles and finally tea and cake and the warmth of the village hall.
A thoroughly enjoyable ride well organised by Dan and Jan Montgomerie, the numbers were undoubtably down because of the weather, I did not get the mileage I originally intended but as the saying goes even a bad day on the bike is better than a good day in the office.