"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Stroud 5 Valleys 50k 1.25AAA June 2019

I started my cycle of 12 AAA rides with this hillsome route around the edges of the Cotswolds and it was nice to revisit it for the 11th and penultimate ride. Some of the descents are pretty steep and rough so it was great to have glorious sunshine and dry roads after weeks of wintry weather had made us all suspect summer had been cancelled.

I started from Cam and Dursley station with a medium paced warmup into Stroud, checked in at Tesco Express Paganhill then started the ride proper with the first climb up to Whiteshill. I was pleased to reach the top still feeling fresh and with the legs feeling good, then I realised it wasn't the top and the drag/climb carried on a whole lot further than I remembered! A second false summit came and went and finally I was at the true top of the climb where I noted down the name of the wood for an info control and nervously edged my way down the steep and narrow lane towards Haresfield.

Here there was a rare section of flat ride out to the foot of climb 2, billed as a 1:6 on the routesheet.

After a brief descent the second climb of the stage took me to idyllic Painswick, serene in the morning sun. The control was a shop - coke for 25p hit the spot - then I allowed myself a minute of self-timer-faffing to get a photo of the ride on the descent.

That lovely downhill out of Painswick led to a dark, dank valley with a cool hollow and an old mill at the bottom then a mega climb, allegedly 1:7, up to Bulls Cross. I remembered much of the route from previous rides, not just this route but other Cotswold epics that use some of the same controls, as scenic lanes led me down then up again to Bisley. The views from that ascent back over the valley I'd just ridden along the edge of were lovely - as the morning warmed up things were staying fairly quiet and I had virtually no traffic to deal with. On the other side of that coin, these little used roads are not that well maintained and when I passed a couple on mountain bikes on the way up I was thinking they were better equipped than me for the conditions.

After Bisley came the fast descent of the Toadsmoor Valley with its sudden stop at traffic lights (I'm wise to that now so no drama) then a zig zag climg up on to Minchinhampton Common. In Minchinhamton a guy was ranting at the top of his voice about "stinking rich bastards" while the locals politely ignored him. I avoided confrontation with either party and grabbed a mars drink for the receipt and the calories.

From there it was down Well Hill and on to the familiar Forest Green Rovers climb that I've done so many times lately! It's a good test but this time with no headwind it wasn't too tough. From there it was into Nympsfield then I saw that if I really time-trialled it I might crack the 3 hour mark for the Audax. I love a target so I went off in pursuit of it, making it with 4 minutes or so to spare (a sprint finish at Tesco and no queue for the cashpoint did the trick).

So, 11 rides down now and with no weekends free the July ride will be my first attempt at an evening Audax, out of work and down to Chew Magna for Over the Mendips. 
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