|Cobbie's Selected Race Results
Raid du Massif Central - 6 days, 562 miles, 16,300m ascent, 46 hrs Report
Aug - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 29:12; 60/301. Report
July - Raid Pyrenean Report
May - Chester Tri West Coast of Scotland Cycling trip ... 300 miles in 3 days. Report
Sep - Scilly Swim Challenge, 11 miles of swimming in 5 stages Report
June - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 29:33; 25/275
March - Gin Pit Marathon; 3:59:26. 14/39
Became a dad
Oct 2011 - Feb 2012
Travelling the world
Nepal - Annapurna Circuit and Chitwan
S. E. Asia and trekking in New Zealand
Trekking the 'Circuito del Dientes de Navarino'; Chilean Tierra del Fuego
Sep - AXTri - Report
June - Chester to John O'Groats cycle ride with the Tri Club; 637 miles in 9 days
Sep - Ö TILL Ö; 14:19; Report
Nov - Pembrokeshire Coast Challenge; 78.6 miles. Day 1 - 5th in 4:39. Day 2 - Retired with ITB injury after 15 miles
Oct 4th - Sandstone Trail 'A' Race; 17 miles, 1750ft 2:19:15; 29/156
Aug 8th - Norseman 14:57; 81=/230 Report No1 & Report No2
June 28th - A Day in the Lakes HIM 5:55:18; 68/309 Report
June 17th - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 29:12; 13/100 Report
May 31st - Pontcysyllte Aqueduct Cyclosportif 107 miles, 3000+m ascent; 7:20:26
March 28th Cheshire Cat Cyclosportif 105 miles; 7:04 Report
March 21st - Chester Tri Runners vs Kayaks; Llangollen Canal 32.4 miles; 5:22 Report
The year I was a fat bast@rd
Atlantic Coast Challenge 78miles; About 18 hrs Report
Norseman 17:05 Report
Etape du Dales 110 miles; 8:40ish with puncture
Nov 17th - Penmaenmawr Fell Race (11 miles, 1500ft); 1:35:23; 50/220
Bala Olympic Tri 2:14:00; 217/773 (AG 61/203) Report
Hathersage Hilly - 1:22:34; 19/169 and AG 4/43 ; Report
July 11th - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 23:16; 15/76
Jan 29th - Tough Guy 1:25:02; 59/3800ish finishers AG 5th Vet ; Report
Jan 22nd - 4 Villages Half Marathon 86:52; 152/1570
Nov 18th - Penmaenmawr Fell Race (11 miles, 1500ft); 1:31:42; 24/237; Report
Oct 8th - Pentland Skyline (16.2 miles, 6,200ft); 3:30:54; 79/150; Report. Blisters
Oct 1st - Sandstone Trail “A” Race (17 miles, 1750ft) 2:15:14; 14/135 3rd V40; Report
Sept 24th – South Shropshire Sprint 1:23; 28/234
July 23rd - TLD Bike Relay 5:52:38; Report
June 7th - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 28:47; 24/97
June 4th - Bala Middle 4:47:39
May 7th - Fred Whitton Challenge 112 miles, 4,150m of ascent, 8:18:52; Report
March 19th - Edale Skyline Fell Race 21.3 miles, 4,620ft; 3:48:25, 100/260
Jan 29th - Tough Guy 92:55; 52/3283 finishers AG 6/521; Report
Jan 22nd - 4 Villages Half Marathon 85:43; 152/1655
Oct 30th - Snowdonia Marathon 3:54:50; 265/961
Oct 2nd - Sandstone Trail “A” Race (16.8 miles, 1750ft) 2:17:41; 29/111
Sep 18th - Bala Olympic Tri 2:20:31; 83/433 (AG 17/100)
Sep 10th - Helvellyn Tri 4:17:38; 43/331
July 24th - The Longest Day 11:00:25; 40/150
June 5th - Bala Middle 4:39:54; 92/318 (AG 25/87)
Mar 15th - Wuthering Hike [31 miles 4400 ft] 5:35
Jan 29th - Tough Guy 93:49; 161/3,500
Jan 22nd - 4 Villages half marathon 90:39; 256/1504
Survival of the Shawangunks - 5:29:45 35/120
Wolverhampton Oly 2:19:50
The year of illness and poor motivation
Powerman UK 3:47
HIM Llanberis 5:09:40
HIM Llanberis 5:38
|All about Cobbie
Joined: 02 Aug 2005
Interests: Red wine and cakes
Sat Oct 20, 2018 6:09 pm Cobbie
Raid Corsica; 1st to 6th October 2018
After finishing the Raid du Massif Central in early June 2017, I only did one ride over 80 miles in the rest of the year. So, my thinking for 2018 was to go on a trip in the autumn. This would keep me motivated and riding all summer in preparation. As it turned out, it was too long a wait, the summer dragging on once the great weather was over.
Still, it did keep me motivated and I’d cycled over 4,000 miles prior to the Raid. I was also a lot fitter, having trained generally harder and shed some weight which improved my climbing. I was reasonably confident of blending into middle-of-the-pack obscurity, even allowing for taking lots of pictures.
A bonus this year was that one of my cycling friends, Alison, was also coming on the trip; we ride together fairly often, so it was good to have company.
For the first time on a Raid, travel to the start was easy. Easyjet fly from Manchester to Bastia where it starts, so it was a simple trip logistically. Unfortunately, baggage handlers somewhere along the line managed to break a couple of the bike box clasps – I took some photos & Ali reckoned that I could get a replacement clip easily enough so I decided to run some running repairs with gaffer tape on the way home and worry about mending the box later. The damage turned out to be worse once the box was opened – a previously dodgy wheel was now properly broken and the corner of the box split at that point. I have to be honest, I unpacked the bike and left the box behind for the week, something to worry about later.
With our bikes built and lunch eaten, we headed off up the local hill for a quick spin. We only rode 11.5 miles in total but climbed nearly 500m to a village, before a steep descent down into Bastia. The weather and views were great; the coast to the north where we’d be heading in the morning, then views down to the port and, looking south, the finish of the Raid, along an isthmus similar in looks to Chesil beech.
Here's the map of the trip, different days being in different colours. Bastia is top right, the red line is day 1, heading north to start. The fact that the ride circumnavigates the island was the main thing that attracted me to it.
Day 1 – Bastia to Calvi; 118.1 miles, 3000m ascent, 8:55 ride time
This was the longest day of riding and as tough a day in the saddle as I’ve ever experienced. The wind, which was blustery heading north, turned nasty near the northern cape, Cap Corse, and we had a massive headwind for most of the afternoon. I expended more calories on this day than on the Coast to Coast in a Day which is 32 miles further and with 500 or so more metres of ascent. My comment on Stava was that it was an “ugly motherf*cker of a day”.
This wasn’t obvious early on though. We set out in formation until I stopped for my first photo and the faster riders disappeared. This was when I realised that my shades were missing – a call to the guides had them scanning the hotel car park with no joy – I worked out later that they’d bounced off the bike on the very bumpy road out of Bastia (when it’s not bright, I tend to stick an arm down the side of my bar top box). Ali and I rode together for a bit but the various photo opportunities of coastal scenery, small villages and martello towers meant we were generally slightly separated. I missed the first validation stamp Macinaggio as I went through my kit looking for a spare set of shades – I hadn’t brought them. Then it was onto Cap Corse and some gusts which nearly blew us off our bikes.
There was a team of 7 on the trip who rode together all week (which was great for them but made it hard to get to know them, I never did get to grips with many of their names) – they zoomed past us and Ali decided to tag on. I let them go and met up with a pair of Finnish guys, Tomi & Hannu, who were a similar standard but generally ahead of us as they were more organised at food & coffee stops. We got stuck behind a German coach which took up a lot of the road and was moving very slowly but eventually made it to lunch in St Florent. We’d ridden 63 miles and had only 55 or so left – as we sat down to lunch I said to Alison that we’d be comfortably at the hotel by 5pm, which of course turned out to be the silliest observation of the week.
A burger & frites later and we set off up a 350m climb, straight into the wind. We’d hooked up with Julian on the climb (who couldn’t keep up with his friend Nick) but I’d dropped back taking photos which turned out to be a mistake as we hit a wall of wind over the ridge and I couldn’t catch back up. I fought into the headwind until I felt the horrible thump-thump-thump of a puncture. To be honest, it was a relief to stop. I was behind a tree so had a bit of respite and I knew it was only 3km until a turn inland where the van would be waiting. I was just pumping up the tyre when Nick (different guy, from Guernsey) rode up and stopped. I had thought I was last on the road and it turned out he’d missed a turn after lunch and done an extra 20km in all – he didn’t have a Garmin so was happy to wait for me. With the wheel pumped up enough to get to a track pump on the van, I put everything away but couldn’t find my helmet. I’d put it on the wall against which my bike was leaning; peering over I saw it in a bramble bush about 5m below. To his credit, Nick didn’t laugh and waited whilst I walked round the wall and through a small jungle to retrieve it.
Then it was back into the wind, up a horribly steep and busy road to a left turn away from the traffic by the van. With some food eaten and tyre back up to full pressure, Nick rode up the hill with me (he was a fair bit faster normally). The summit was only 509m but marked the high point of the day, thankfully the wind was off to the side now so much less of a problem. The top was quite isolated with a terrible road surface and Nick didn’t stop. I’d been guzzling water all day so filled up my bottle, had a quick chat with Neil about next stop being the hotel and set off on the last 40km, more or less all downhill.
Thankfully, the road surface soon improved and I quickly dropped down to a sharp bend in a mountain village. To my surprise, Ali & Julian were there with a couple of the gang of 7. One of the latter had trapped their chain and nobody could free it; they’d been in touch with Graham in the front van but couldn’t get hold of Neil. I told them he’d be along in a few minutes but he didn’t turn up. We assumed he’d taken a different route back (actually, his van had suffered a puncture) and after about 20 minutes, Ali, Julian and I set off to make sure help arrived; there wasn’t anything we could do by waiting.
We arrived at the hotel at 6:45 and slowly the story became clearer. The guys with the chain problem managed to fix it after another effort and pedalled in just before dark. Neil had to wait for roadside assistance and made it back just before we went to bed.
All in all, a full on day.
L to R from the top; Ready for the off, Martello tower; Ali climbs to towers at the top of the first climb; typical coastal view; tomb; beach; heading towards the hills; evening sun on the final descent
Day 2 – Calvi to Calacuccia; 94.1 miles, 3280m ascent, 8:12 ride time
Day 2 started with a choice - the very scenic coast road, albeit with a dreadful road surface or a slightly shorter inland route over a 450m col on a newly surfaced road. It had rained during the night so the majority surmised that the holes on the coast road would be full of water and hard to gauge - Ali and I took the inland route without much deliberation, I hate gravel after all. It was quite misty and very pretty in its own right. Back at the coast for a coffee stop, we found we’d done about 10km less and maybe 250m more climbing – we were ahead of those on the coastal route so clearly had taken the easier option.
A short climb brought up the first col selfie (there were very few col signs and no km markers at all), before a quick descent to one of the trip highlights, “Les Calanches de Piana”, an out and back climb through a landscape of rock spires.
I say a short descent but actually it was the scene of a major mechanical for Alison. She’d been saying that something didn’t feel right and thought the bottom bracket might be loose but half way down, her freehub sheared. Graham diagnosed the fault quickly and got Ali onto one of the spare bikes but we lost about 40 minutes by the side of the road. It turned out that the hub was meant to be through axle only but had been sold with a skewer … the mind boggles.
Lunch was at Piana so we pushed on with Julian who’d waited with us. It was a lovely day with decent food on an outdoor terrace. The rock scenery on the climb was spectacular, sadly with lots of tourists to dodge.
The rest of the day was taken up with the longest climb of the trip, the 1477m acent of the Col de Vergio, spread over 33km. We took it steadily and had a quick coke at a village half way up. The mechanical delay meant we were worried about the time so didn’t stop for long. Also, the weather was deteriorating and it got very misty soon after. I dropped back to take some wild goat pictures and because of the curves in the road, very quickly became convinced that I wasn’t keeping up. I caught up with a couple of cyclists with panniers but couldn’t quite pass them, probably a combination of the altitude and them speeding up when they saw me. The woods we were climbing through were ghostly as the mist thickened and it was pretty cold at the top where Graham was waiting; I was only 200m behind so had been keeping up, just out of sight of the others the whole time; we were all tired after two tough days.
I devoured all the remaining fruit cake and got a quick pic of the surroundings before donning warm layers for the 23km descent. It was really cold, I had to constantly flex my fingers to stop them freezing and with a wet road surface, I descended carefully. Finally, at nearly 7pm I got back to the hotel. No doubt the exertions of day 1 had had an impact on the afternoon along with our long morning delay but this was definitely proving tougher than expected.
L-R from the top - the first climb & shot up National Park sign; one of the only col signs … woo hoo; on the way to Piana; Les Calanches de Piana; on the Vergio; 2 pics on the Col
Day 3 – Calacuccia to Santa Maria; 80.6 miles, 2600m ascent; 6:47 ride time
Today was more straightforward, thankfully. 5 cols through the central mountains sounded harder than it turned out, since only two were over 1000m; that compares to 5 cols over 1000m in the Massif Central before lunch on day 3 which was very tough.
It was a great day for weather and the views were spectacular, my only quibble being that they were a bit samey, the variety of the Massif Central certainly wasn’t there for me. That said, it was a tremendous day with nothing to worry us apart from the cycling.
Two early morning cols of about 200m came and went, the second was a little busy but then we turned away from the traffic and onto the longest climb of the day, the 850m climb up the col de Sorba. We caught Tom and James here, a couple of pals from London – Tom was quick and very competitive, James more relaxed and having to work hard to keep up. They were both tired and so we soon moved past. The upper slopes were open, rocky and really lovely after which we rolled down to lunch.
The afternoon flew by, the 1289m col de Verde didn’t leave much impression but we had a lovely ice cream in the village of Zicavo where we had to get our route cards (“carnet” in French) stamped. This type of ink stamp is known as a ‘tampon’, leaving much opportunity for schoolboy humour. You need to get all the stamps to prove you’ve completed the official route; amazingly, I only missed one all week, the very first when I was looking for the non-existent spare pair of sunglasses.
There was one more climb before we rolled down to the village of Santa Maria and a very esoteric hotel. Finally we had an early finish (5:15), a good thing too as I needed to wash some kit.
L-R from top left: descent down first gorge, Ali on the next climb, 2 views from the cols before lunch, another tomb, afternoon view; Julian & Ali
Day 4 – Santa Maria to Sartenne; 97.2 miles, 2554m ascent; 7:36 ride time
Waking up after an easier day was refreshing. The profile looked to be a similar level of difficulty; longer at nearly 100 miles but flatter, under 800m altitude all day and moving from the centre of the island back to the coast. The main concern was the out and back along a busy dual carriageway to the capital city, Ajaccio to get a stamp.
First up was a trip to the mountain village of Bastilica, via a small col. We pedalled past the road to the coast for a stiff little climb up to the village, which had a heroic statue in the square. Our coffee and stamp stop was enlivened by an old geezer regaling us with famous cycling stories – the madame rolled her eyes … “every time” she said.
Back down the hill we met the van at the turn and headed for the coast via a beautiful, but very rough, road that contoured round the hillside, past a dammed lake and great views of the rocky landscape, with frequent villages hugging the hillside and then views down to the sea as we set off on a long, pretty descent. Suddenly, it all ended and we on the dual carriageway into the capital. Julian led most of the way as we TTed along, to be honest I was too scared to pull out to get to the front. It was a long, unpleasant 10km to the filling station that marked the first business with a stamp. Here we met with the faster riders and the van and agreed to ride the 10km back to the coast road in formation. After a quick fanta and some fruit from the van, 13 of us set off back the way we’d come, single file along the hard shoulder. The gang of 7 arrived as we left, a couple of their team were struggling with the effort of the Raid so far but they were determined to stay together.
The 10km back went more smoothly, the wind was now behind us and the faster riders pulled us along. Leaving the dual carriageway, we fiddled round a few roundabouts and quickly stopped at a Boulagerie to buy food for a picnic lunch atop the next climb. First though we had 20km of flat road round the coast – Suzanne stayed with us for this section; a decent rider on the flat, we had only seen her briefly on the climbs, her power to weight was stunning and she’d be out of sight almost as soon as she passed us. I led much of the way here which probably tired me out for later on but it was quite fun.
After cycling round a long crescent shaped beach, we headed back inland up the Coti Chaivari, memorable for statuesque trees with peeling bark on the lower slopes. At the top the vans were parked up with a great view over the village church and coast in the distance. A wide wall to sit on completed the scene, perfect for our lunch. The weather was great and we only had 55km left so took our time.
The descent was undulating and unremarkable, followed by a long flat section where the highlights were an old style pontoon bridge and a very low, wide rainbow above flat fields. The finale was a 300m climb up to the walled town of Sartene. Julian’s friend Nick rode back to join us at the bottom and paced us up. Ali stayed glued to his wheel and after dropping back a bit I decided to up the effort and re-joined them by the hotel, leaving poor Julian to slog up a couple of hundred metres behind. We ate in a restaurant in the town that evening, the walls and old buildings were cleverly lit, highlighting its medieval appearance.
L-R from top: collapsed barn; beautiful riding; the heroic statue; the dammed lake; rock scenery; views on the morning descent; Church from lunch stop; rainbow
Day 5 – Sartene to Aleria; 115.7 miles, 2552m ascent; 8:45 ride time
Another long day, with an unusual altitude profile, all the significant climbing being up the 1218m Col de Bavella in the middle of the day, the remainder being made up of undulating roads. We were expecting some rain but the day started off bright enough, though with the steepest climb so far out of Sartene – one of those where you go round a bend and suddenly the gradient goes up exponentially. After that, we had 50km to Bonifacio at the southern tip of the island and teamed up with the Finns for a very pleasant couple of hours, with the great coastal views we’d come to expect. At Bonifiacio, we had a coffee and got to admire the large yachts of the super wealthy in the harbour. Then it was back to reality and another fast 30km to the town of Porto-vecchio where the big climb of the day began.
Once again we bought food for a picnic lunch and were promised spectacular scenery on the plateau at 950m and on the col itself. All was well for the first half of the climb, then it started to spit and, as we gained altitude, it turned to proper full-on rain. Closing in on the first col, it was getting very wet indeed and Graham made the decision to take the van down and provide us all with warmer clothes. Already soaked, I struggled into lightweight cag and winter gloves before pushing on up to the intermediate col.
The scene was chaotic as all 20 cyclists were trying to get out of the rain a little and find their own wet weather kit. I pulled on a base layer and my goretex before setting off alone on a slightly downhill 25km to the mountain village of Zonza. I can’t recall the last time I was this wet and, at over 900m altitude, it was pretty cold too. The rain was everywhere, most notably running down my arms and into my gloves; regular squeezing was necessary to keep fingers from squelching too much. The scenery was probably better than I saw, woodland and rocky outcrops passed in a haze as I concentrated on not shivering and keeping moving at a decent pace.
Finally, Zonza arrived and I dripped into the café. The owners were surprisingly accommodating of about 10 cyclists leaving pools of water across the floor. Ali got me a hot chocolate which was lovely and, as the rain finally eased a little, I retrieved my pizza slice from the van and had a decent munch, then managed to get the ends of my gloves inside my cuffs (with help it has to be said), not that it made much difference to how wet my hands got. In the chaos Ali and I then set off without Julian – it was raining again – and pedalled up the remaining 400m to the proper col. We look like very cold, drowned rats in the photos that I insisted on.
The descent was 25km, and the roads were soaked so I took it very steadily. Julian had rejoined us by now – he and Ali are both better at descending than me so I made no effort to keep up as I cornered very carefully. I passed Nick who’d had a puncture and then as we got lower, the rain eased and incredible rock spires started to appear out of the mist. I stopped a few times to try and get some pictures; pretty much everyone came past whilst I did so, presumably thinking I must be mad – thankfully I got a few worthwhile ones which highlight the conditions as well as the beauty.
At the bottom, I caught up with everyone in a big layby by the coast. And when I say everyone, all 20 cyclists were there at the same time. Anyone who’s been on one of these trips will realise how unusual this is. Certainly the conditions played a part but it also highlights that the standard here was pretty decent. We knew that we had 25 flattish miles to go so were quite surprised when everyone else disappeared, leaving the three of us with our last bits of kit adjustment. We rode back as a three up, taking 2km turns, along a long, straight, fairly busy road (it was rush hour after all). We worked together well and bombed along at 20mph, no mean feat for day 5 of a Raid (for me at least), with 90 miles already ridden. At the hotel, Julian tore a strip off Nick for not waiting and it turned out that there’d been some conflict with the gang of 7 not wanting to work with other people. I steered clear of all that, pleased to still be riding strongly, especially given the challenges of the week. With one easier and much shorter day to come, I went to bed thinking it was in the bag … as if …
L-R from the top: Early morning coastline; Bonifacio; starting up the Col de Bavella in the dry; at the col (note Italian naming on the sign); two views of rock peaks on the descent
Day 6 – Aleria to Bastia; 84.2 miles, 2209m ascent; 6:34 ride time
It was a relief to see decent weather in the morning. With just 3 cols, a maximum altitude of 819m and 133km to ride, this was set up to be a relatively relaxing day. We were told to expect narrow mountain roads and I’d been told by someone who did the Raid in 2017 that the steepest col of the trip was on the final day so relaxing was clearly a relative term!
We set out through the first vineyards we’d seen, with lovely views of mountains in the distance. After a few flat miles, we started a gentle climb up to the first col. It was a really beautiful 20km, never steep and with great views of villages perched in unlikely locations. We had to be careful though as yesterday’s rain had washed a lot of debris onto the road. On the next climb Ali had pulled ahead a bit when Julian had a puncture. He was right next to the support van for another group of cyclists so I sped on the catch Ali and then soft pedalled to the first spot with a good view to wait. Ali was nowhere to be seen and had in fact turned round so I sat in the sun for 20 minutes waving at the rest of the team as they went by, along with the cyclists from the other group.
Back together, the three of us pedalled up to the high point of the day, the col de Arcarotta. Once again, we were treated to beautiful views and several encounters with local livestock; cows, goats & pigs were a regular feature of the trip and added considerably to the local ambience. Over the top we stopped in the small village of Piedicroce for lunch. There was a beautiful terrace but the restaurant owner insisted we eat inside. With just one col to go, the gang of 7 were having wine, Julian and I opted for our own bit of decadence by having steak.
Thinking we were going to have a relaxing afternoon, we set of on the remainder of the descent but, on the hairpins out of the village, I went over a piece of debris that was obviously very sharp and punctured. No bother I thought and quickly changed the tube. Ali and I both had a CO2 canister and both failed dismally as the valve jammed. My little hand pump wasn’t working either and a couple of the gang of 7 stopped to help. After a couple of minutes, I got the valve to work and sufficient air into the tube to continue carefully until Graham passed us with a track pump. Cornering was really challenging and I was pleased the roads were so quiet as I regularly couldn’t stay on the right. Finally, the van passed but more disaster struck as, with the last stroke of the pump, the inner tube exploded. That was both my long stem tubes gone but luckily Ali had one and Graham took over to pump it up. Setting off again, I still had a problem – bump, bump, bump, every wheel revolution. I stopped and checked the outside of the tyre carefully, and found a huge split that had caused a big flat spot. Poor old Graham took over again and changed the tyre, luckily there was no damage to the inner tube.
With a hour lost, we were now at the bottom of the final col in mid afternoon, some easy day. Given that this was the last one, it wasn’t hard to work out that it must be steep … and boy was it steep. Ali went for it and I followed; after the first couple of turns I looked back but Julian was already out of sight (it turned out he’d lost his chain). We worked hard all the way up to the top of the Col de St Agostino, more like a day ride at home than day 6 of a Raid. The gradient eased higher up but it was a decent challenge. Graham was at the top, no doubt relieved that all was well and he took a couple of ‘final col’ shots of us before Julian arrived.
The final col is always a moment to savour but it was past 3pm and we still had 50km to ride; a 15km descent and 35km back along the isthmus to Bastia. Back at sea level we found Nick waiting for us, no doubt stung by Julian’s words the night before. I was impressed, he’d left the lunch stop well before us and so must have been waiting in the café for nearly an hour and a half. Any hope of an easy tow went out of the window as he was such a strong rider, even when backing off to our level. I’d been looking forward to great sea views on this last section but actually it was incredible dull, only once did the road run alongside a beach, the rest of the time it was just head down and pedal.
By the time we got to the outskirts of Bastia I was blown and fell back on a climb along the very busy main road. After catching up we worked our way into the old port for an ice cream and the final stamp (we’d started just north of Bastia so didn’t get this one at the start). The ice cream shop didn’t have a stamp so we walked over to the bar next door and had a beer instead. It was time to reflect on what had been a memorable week, not always for the best of reasons. Ali’s freehub had broken, Nick had sheared two of the large cogs on his cassette and I’d had 3 punctures after only suffering one previously all year. Julian’s single puncture, normally about as bad as it gets, paled into insignificance. We’d had dreadful weather on the two longest days as well, all of which added up to this being a very tough trip. I suspect that in ‘normal’ conditions this Raid would be much more relaxing.
With beers drunk, we rode the final couple of km back to the hotel where it all began. The traditional champagne was quaffed & bikes packed before our final meal and of course, plenty of wine. I managed to drag myself to bed at 11 before getting too sloshed which made the return journey much less horrible.
L-R from the top: 2 early morning views; livestock; village; on the way up to the second col; goats; Ali & I on the final col
Overall, I’m still not entirely sure how much I enjoyed the trip. No doubt I preferred the scenery and variety of the Massif Central but of course that’s a very personal view. I think it boils down to the fact that the week was so relentless, it never felt like we could just relax. This was odd as, for the first time on a Raid, I was never in any doubt that I’d finish. Even two weeks later, as I write these final words, I’m struggling to put the trip into context. Perhaps I just need to accept that it’s an outlier, a one-off set of circumstances that made a challenging but not overly difficult trip, into something an order of magnitude more intense.
As always our guides, Neil and Graham, were incredible. To say that they had their work cut out this week is a massive understatement. As always, they handled everything thrown at them with good grace and a smile. Ali and Julian made great riding companions and never complained about my constant photo stops and careful descending; we kept each other smiling all week which was great.
46 hours, 49 minutes ride time
16,477m of ascent
Resting HR increased by +7bpm over the trip. Last year it was +13 bpm over the same number of days. In 2016 it was +13 bpm as well, but with 1.5 fewer riding days.
So, basically, I’m fitter now!
Almost back to being an athlete in 2016