A 5am alarm call is an unwelcome sound but after the initial shock of the early start with bikes and Mrs B loaded we are off to Lymington to catch the 7-15 ferry to the IOW Randonnee. The sight of 150 lycra clad individuals must have been a shock to the rest of the passengers and I could see their point, all shapes and sizes, one even dressed as spiderman.
The Randonnee is currently my favourite event and the layout is unique, the circular island route allows you to start at any one of the six checkpoints and prevents the bottlenecks of single start events . At each checkpoint your event card is stamped and a full set earns a completion certificate to testify to your completion of the 100km. The event is free to enter which is a big plus, it is a cyclists event in the true meaning of the word and the checkpoints are a social event , as well as fuel stops they are a meeting place to catch up with old friends .
From my chosen start point of Yarmouth the quiet lanes to Newtown are fairly flat and a pleasant start to slowly warm the limbs. The next landmark is usually Gurnard and West Cowes but with the chain ferry out of commission and the link between West and East Cowes severed the organising committee quickly found an alternate route along the cycle path bordering the River Medina to Newport.
Any perceptions that the Island is flat are quickly dismissed on leaving East Cowes and after checkpoints at Wotton and Bembridge the downland on the south-east of the island provide a series of climbs and sharp descents on twisting narrow lanes.
After cresting Blackgang the sea and white cliffs provide a memorable view and a gentle roll along the south side of the Island until the last two climbs on the Military Road come into view, from a long way you can see small figures pedalling uphill but the climbs are not as bad as they look and from the top it is a freewheel run to Freshwater and then back to our start point at Yarmouth. Sixty seven miles completed and 4300ft of climbing on a beautifully sunny day with light winds, cycling doesn’t get better than this.
The event is run like a well oiled machine with backup from the local Lions to make sure the two thousand entrants enjoy the day, even Wightlink Ferries were tuned in to cope with the influx of pedallers from the mainland. An amazing spectrum of bikes and riders were on show. Road bikes, mountain bikes and hybrids, I saw one guy on an old sit up and beg, a good number of recumbents and several tandems, A few family groups were riding with children on small road bikes which bore testimony to a feeling of security on the Island roads. My own observations suggested a far more tolerant attitude shown by car drivers that is not evident on the mainland.
A fabulous day out from start to finish, the Island welcomes cyclists and we will return in September for the IOW Cycling Week.