Monday, 17 May 2010

The Black Horse Ride 2010 (May 16)

From left: Jon, me, Andy and Richard (Andy's mate).
The weather held out for us and was sunny most of the way round the circuit this year except for a few grey clouds and drops of rain. As Jon said on more than one occasion, "It's trying it's hardest to rain." Well, not hard enough, although I was wearing my Peter Storm waterproof top and had waterproof over trousers in my rucksack just in case of a major downpour.

Andy and I met at 0830hrs on the A23 and Jon met us further down at Merstham and then cycled through to the start line at the Black Horse pub in Reigate. Nick met us at the pub and so did Andy's mate Richard. This was Jon's first and my third Black Horse Ride, but Andy was on this fifth or sixth. David arrived on the Harley to be involved as a marshall, there were hot bacon sarnies, tea and coffee and this year, in addition to the piper, we had the Mayor of Reigate seeing us off.

From left: Richard, Andy and David (Harley man).
We had all opted for the 50-miler Black Horse ride and were given green number cards. I was 330 and Jon was 329 – there's probably a lottery number there somewhere. The ride started at 10am. 

For the early stages we all kept up a fair pace. In fact, most of the way round our energy levels – fuelled by many a banana – remained high. There was one point where the signage caused a lot of cyclists to go off route, but by the time we reached that point (Jon and Nick excluded as they'd been ahead of us) we had cyclists (including Jon) telling us to turn around. There was a left turn that a lot of the front runners had missed.

From left: Richard, Andy and Jon at Brockham.
The Black Horse ride is excellent. The route is superb as it follows some of the nicest quiet Surrey and Sussex roads, travels through some amazing villages and, well, as long as its not raining, it's the best.

Our first banana stop was in Brockham and by and large we kept going until Rusper where Jon and I stopped for something to eat and drink before heading off again. Everything was going smoothly and we really were gaining ground until, as we reached the Frog & Nightgown pub, my front tyre let me down. Yes, a puncture, and why? Because we'd gone along an off-road track. It cost me around 15 minutes so, if you include the eating stop, we were effectively 30 minutes behind. A quick release front wheel would have been useful.

My bike at the Frog & Nightgown pub near Faygate.
Energy levels remained high until the very end when the last few miles never seemed to end. Marshalls told us there were only three miles to go and then, whenever we met another marshall, it was always the same, 'oh, about three miles'.

The Black Horse ride was fine where hills were concerned; there weren't that many and when they did appear they were fine, certainly nothing like the big hills on our weekend cycling trips. Having said that, there were some punishing inclines towards the end but they were only punishing because we were getting tired. The worst was Trumpet Hill Lane right at the end before turning left on the road through Reigate Heath. Like all long cycling trips, it's the last few miles that are the worst.
Nick Thorp relaxing after the ride.

Jon and I crossed the finish line at 1520hrs and made our way round to the pub garden and a free burger with onions, not forgetting a free pint of Young's – just what the doctor ordered.

My family was there and it wasn't long before we were all together – Andy, Jon, Nick, Richard and myself. We had a few more beers and then, after Andy, Jon and Richard had gone home – Nick and I were going to cycle Redhill – and the rain came down hard. We ordered a couple more beers and sat underneath one of the umbrellas chatting about this and that before heading off in the drizzle to Redhill.

Jon having a well-earned pint of Young's after the ride.
I bade farewell to Nick and made my way through Redhill streets knowing that I could be arrested for being drunk in charge of a bicycle, a reality that came fairly close when I stumbled across three police cars and a bunch of coppers trying to quell some kind of disturbance between a group of 'youths'. I passed unnoticed, bought a ticket and jumped aboard the 1846 Victoria train, got off at East Croydon, took another train to Purley Oaks and then cycled home in the rain.

In fact, ironically, having brought with me waterproof trousers, I took a soaking mainly because I had a ten-minute ride to my house and couldn't be arsed to stop and put them on.

Thankfully, a Sunday roast was in full swing when I walked through the door; all that needed doing was the gravy! I went to bed at 9.30pm, woke up at 3am and then went back to sleep around 4am. Now, as I write this, I feel good: no aches and pains and no stiffness, thanks, I guess, to our regular weekend cycling jaunts.

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