Having spent the first two weeks of October on holiday and seemingly watching what seemed like half of Portugal cycling the roads of The Algarve I was eager to get back on the bike. The plan was to drop the suitcases and grab a couple of hours on the Hampshire lanes but I had not factored in dropping out of thick cloud 300ft above Gatwick to be welcomed by a stiff Easterly wind and driving rain so with my enthusiasm tempered I decided to wait until the following day and a CTC group ride.
Thursday arrived with grey skies and a hint of drizzle but a burst of adrenaline fuelled by a two week layoff saw me ready to take on the lanes of Hampshire and Berkshire and the ride to Sulhampsted via Bramley for the coffee stop gave me 65 miles, my first ride in October.
The route was relatively flat which did nothing for my late traning schedule for the club hill climb in 3 days time so on Friday I decided to test the legs with a few climbs around Farnham which culminated in a visit to my brothers for coffee. I should point out at this point that there are no aspirations of winning any hill climb, I am just competing for the experience and my lofty aim is to avoid the wooden spoon.
Saturday afternoons are our local CTC leisurely rides so I joined the group in what proved to be a hilly route to Alresford, not exactly what I had planned and attacking the climbs had me wondering if I had peaked too early. After an exilerating downhill run to Cheriton I was ready for the coffee and cake and The Cricketers in Alresford did not disappoint and at £2.49 it was the bargain cake stop of the year.
Sunday dawned wet with heavy showers but a glimmer of hope as the BBC had a brief dry spell forecast for the event. Cycling to the start I met up with the club group taking a circuitous route to the start. Arriving at the start line on Brightstone Lane most went through a warm up routine and that left me alone with the starter who duly handed me a number 1.
Looking round at my fellow climbers all looked young, fit and lean and my thoughts were how many would pass me on the hill. I had no idea about tactics but decided not to go out too fast (my constant failing in time trials) so when the countdown ended I pedalled conservatively. At the halfway point the road kicked up and the gasping started, I kept the cadence going and got out of the saddle, the finish line did not seem to be rushing towards me but as I closed it my only thought was joy that I had not been passed.
I crossed the line in 4:33 a full minute and five seconds behind the eventual winner but I achieved my goal with two other riders below me and considering the age difference I was ecstatic. As the time keeper read out the results the rain started, time to retreat to the comfort of a well earned bacon sandwich.
The following week saw me out on the bike every day, joining the CTC ride on Thursday and our local group on Saturday for a ride to Winchester from Medsted. This ride was certainly interesting. I left home expecting a dry ride from the forecast I had just watched on the BBC but within a few miles the rain started. At the meeting point fellow club members mused the weather but as we were all there universal acceptance that skin is waterproof saw us all pedalling against a strong southwesterly wind and driving rain. With several long climbs the group stretched out but all came together for our destination of the Hockley Viaduct Cycle Route & National Cycle Network 23, a old railway viaduct that has been paved for walkers and cyclists
From the viaduct we took a short cut through Five Bridges Road and this proved a disaster , three punctures found the group scurrying about with pumps and patches and just when we were ready to continue we were approached by a couple on mountain bikes who had also punctured but had no spare tube, puncture outfit, pump or any idea how to mend a puncture so in kindred spirit one of the group set about helping a fellow cyclist in distress.
Our untimely delay meant time was now pushing on and a dash through Winchester just made the coffee shop before it closed and then the long slog back to Alton as the skies darkened and the rain started again, I finally got home at 6-30pm cold and wet.
Sunday, and again gale force southwesterly winds but the good news was that my ride to the inlaws was predominantly with a tailwind and already 24hrs before the forecast St Jude storm the roads were already littered with debris. With assistance from the elements my average speed at 16mph included last weeks hill climb route which if nothing else is good for morale.
Monday duly delivered the St Jude storm and it seemed a sensible decision to take a day off from the bike, not only fierce weather but roads blocked with fallen trees but every cloud has a silver lining and my Land Rover was loaded with logs so we now have a head start on next years supply.
The following few days saw local rides as roads were cleared and my recce of a CTC ride I am leading on Saturday to Hindhead revealed the extent of storm damage at the Devils Punchbowl with a stand of trees on the rim of the bowl snapped in half. The buzz of chainsaws could be heard amongst the trees as arborists tried to bring order back to the woodland, at least the paths had been cleared and our ride would not need re-routing.
My final ride of the month should have been with our Thursday CTC group but when it was time to leave for the meet the rain was still falling and while I do mind if it rains once I am on the ride, my enthusiasm to leave home in rain is deminishing with age so it was a local 30 mile circuit once the weather improved. A final total of 450 miles for the month was short of my monthly target of 500 but as this was achieved in the last 14 days of the month I was not unhappy.