"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own" Sri Chinmoy
Cotswold Corker 100k 2 x AAA Audax - December 2018
This ride started in the shadow of the Cotswolds at Bishops Cleeve and as the cutoff time was set at 10:06 I was expecting mountainous terrain. Within a few miles I was on a 25% slog up Bushcombe Lane – a testing climb as it was long as well as savagely steep and soaking wet from overnight rain too (so no coming out of the saddle to climb except on the easier sections where the slope was less intense – there were a few). The views were lovely back across the vale from the Cotswold escarpment and the first check came after only 5 miles of riding - that was a good thing seeing as that had been a very draining 5 miles! The only thing that seemed to be open was Rosie’s Café and although she told me she wasn’t actually open (despite the open door and lights on) Rosie, who I assume it was, did give me a takeaway coffee for a quid which is amazing for a scenic town in the Cotswolds.
Rolling away from the café down Castle Street I soon found myself on lanes to Guiting Power – I was thinking I must have ridden this road in reverse a couple of years ago on a 200k as I remember a long and tiring trek in the dark into Winchcombe. Of course in daylight I didn’t recognise anything, apart from the endless ups and downs that I remember from that 200. In the village itself I needed either a receipt or an info control – again there was only one door open and that was a “traditional baker and grocer” where I felt I had stepped back in time by a few decades. Sparse shelves and a vintage bread slicer were occupying what looked like a front room of a house – when the owner stepped out she was a charming lady of advanced years who couldn’t see very clearly and seemed to have limited use of her hands – pretty impressive she was still running a shop. Sadly her till, a classic bit of hardware that had seen some years of service, was not capable of producing a receipt. At least I came away with a lion bar for 67p. There was an info option so I noted the names of the pubs and carried on.
On the next section through Naunton the memories of riding that same road in 2016 flooded back. I was on a hillside looking down through the trees to a farmstead in the valley below and I could clearly recall dragging my exhausted and soaking body and bike in the opposite direction in the closing stages of an all dayer. On that previous ride I remembered hearing a dog barking, the sound echoing through the night. This time I tried barking loudly as I rode past to see if the dog was still around but I got no response – maybe he was out for a Sunday walk to the pub?
After Naunton it was undulating going to Northleach where I grabbed a pasty in The Fruitcake and ate it on the bench in the square – 28k and 745m of climbing done and dusted. The next section was another familiar one as I’d ridden it on Will Pomeroy’s Cotswold Telegram ride a couple of months before. Again there was some sunshine and lovely views of the Colne Valley. I passed a road called All Alone – pretty unique. How did it get the name?
Climbing out of the valley I crossed the Fosse Way into the pheasant-filled lanes around Calmsden and Perrot’s Brook. I only passed one shoot but I seemed to be putting up pheasants at every bend in the road – they were literally everywhere, coughing and fluttering up from the trees and hedgerows as I rode through. I paused in Bisley to eat some of my mace bars and buy a drink – they had turned off the hot drinks machine in the post office but they put it back on and brought a hot chocolate out to me when it was ready. Fuelling was going well and I was still feeling like there was plenty of power in my legs for the second half. I’d aimed to finish in 7-8 hours but now I was looking at maybe finishing in 6.
The road to Andoversford was my favourite part of the ride – steep climbs and descents took me down a lane in some quiet and seemingly pristine woodland near Kilkenny – it was one of those magical, untouched places, silent apart from the sound of the birds in the trees. A kite circled over the treetops.
After that came the endgame, more ups and downs eventually leading me to the steep descent past Belas Knap and then the haul up from Winchcombe to the top of Cleeve Hill. After dying in the closing stages of my last ride as a result of not fuelling sufficiently, I had brought a secret weapon along this time in the shape of a bottle of liquid honey. I downed it in Winchcombe and had no trouble with Cleeve Hill J
The whole ride took six and a half hours and was among the most beautiful of the year – up there with Angkor Thom in Cambodia, the perfect tree-lined roads of the Marne Valley, the exquisite New Forest and the Monnow Valley.
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