Tuesday means a Fleet CTC morning ride of about 35 miles with a mid ride coffee stop. The forecast was for overnight temperatures near freezing and a beautiful sunny day to follow. Planning an 08-30 start to be at the meeting point for 09-30 and with no frost on the grass and an outside temperature of +1c it was all systems go. The air felt cold meaning I needed a bit of effort to warm up but as I dropped down into the hollow at Isington I could feel a drop in temperature and a glint on the road surface indicating the presence of black ice which forced me to back off the pace. I gingerly proceeded to Bentley where the roads appeared clear and turned north to climb out of the village towards Crondall. Towards the top of the hill I was stopped by pedestrian indicating the road was blocked on the other side as a van and lorry had collided head on. To turn back meant diversion of two miles and possibly missing the meet time so I pedalled on hoping to be able to get through. Nearing the top of the hill the back wheel started loosing grip and despite changing to the lowest gear I could not maintain momentum. Stopping the bike and dismounting it was almost impossible to stand up on the icy surface and it was clear the grass verge was the safest bet. I walked across a field to avoid the blocked road where thankfully nobody was hurt.
On rejoining the road I cautiously continued into Crondall while witnessing three acts of driving horror that cause a cyclists heart to skip a beat. The first incident involved a car pulling out of a side road with all his windows covered in frost apart from a small clearspot on the windscreen, I braked as he pulled out, he had no idea I was there, this was followed by a touch from a speeding white van man and then a car speeding past, breaking hard and cutting in front of me to turn left, three incidents in 1 mile and the only time I have ever wished I had a handlebar camera to record the events.
I arrived at the Leisure Centre meeting point after 1 hour on the road for a journey that normally takes 35 minutes. With four other members Jim led us off to Old Basing on a circuitous route, first to Elvetham and then cautiously to Hartley Wintney along some very slippery side roads. On through Mattingley and Turgis Green where a tractor and flail were covering the muddy road with a carpet of debris from a hedge he was destroying. Needless to say this produced a visit by the puncture fairy and a chance to take five in the sunshine at Stratfield Saye.
By now the warmth of the sun was finally clearing the roads of ice but not before we had come across blue flashing lights and a car in a ditch having overshot a T-junction near Bramley. On reaching The Old Bakery at Old Basing the outside temperature was rising and an outside table was testimony to the warmth of the sun.
After coffee and cake thoughts turned to the trip back, I realised that Mrs B had volunteered for an airport run so there was nobody at home to check my timesheet so with no wind and a beautiful day I would chance my arm with some unauthorised overtime.
I left the lads at Polecat Corner and turned west towards Cliddesden, from there to Ellisfield and Axford before turning south through The Candovers to Alresford. The roads were very quiet and several small groups of cyclists were taking advantage of the good weather and hospitality offered by the cafe’s in the hight street at Alresford.
From Alresford south to Cheriton before turning East and a brief stop at the historic civil war site of the 1844 Battle of Cheriton between the Roundheads and Cavaliers of King Charles 1.
Through Long Sutton and on to Ropley and a view of the recently fire ravaged local church. The structure has now been weatherproofed to save gable ends and bell tower from further damage from the elements, it will probably be a while until the rebuild starts.
By now the outside temperature was showing +10c on my Garmin Edge and the clothing that was inadequate at the start of the ride was now reducing me to boil in the bag. With jacket and jersey zips eased I plodded on through East Tisted, Farringdon, Selborne and Blackmoor before reaching home.
81 miles completed which was unplanned when I left home this morning. I was not contemplating more than 35 miles but occasionally the sun shines and the day flows to produce an epic ride even after a somewhat inauspicious start.