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

Lacock Loop, Jan 18th 2020

Having just signed up for Iron distance tri in the seemingly distant summer, I realised it was time to get some continuous riding at a stiffer pace in, as opposed to hanging in there between cafe stops on long Audax rides. I picked the Lacock Loop up from Ride with GPS and at around 60 miles (once you adjust for my starting point in Filton rather than the route creator's start somewhere in East Bristol) it seemed a great challenge to start with. The problem was the weather forecast - a sodden day on Friday then a clear sub-zero night made icey roads likely and I wasn't about to tackle them in the dark. I left it until around ten thirty, by which point the temperature had crept up a few degrees and I could see reassuring liquid puddles outside my house. It was cold but beautifully bright and I headed off round the ring road cycleway following a red line on the screen of my phone but with most of my attention glued to the road immediately in front of me. I'm nervous when it comes to ice and there were shady spots where the lethal white stuff was still around, so I concentrated hard and steered my way between them. Around Frenchay I saw a fallen rider with two others anxiously stood over him - he'd clearly had a spill and was in a lot of pain but he was conscious and I could see no sign of anything severe so I left them to wait for the ambulance. Could happen to anyone....

That might have been what distracted me but for some reason I followed the wrong red line off the ring road path and ended up doing Lacock Loop in reverse. No great drama but it means you get turn warnings after each junction instead of before - not ideal! I wasn't in a mood for turning back though so I ploughed on down the cycle path to Bath managing to hit my first target of the day - some steady stretches of 18mph. It felt fine on the flat and I was able to sustain that on the familiar miles past the statue of Gaius Sentius and on into the regency city. Here I hit congestion - walkers and riders on the narrow path into the city centre - then more delays at lights and junctions on the one way system. I finally escaped on to another shared use path that was slow going but in Batheaston I got off the cycleways and on to open road where I could hit a more steady speed. This also marked the start of the climbs though, as once over the toll bridge (pounds being collected by a shivering attendant - bikes free fortunately) it was all uphill past Bradford on Avon and into the rolling lanes.

I kept up my target pace, though the delays around Bath had held back my average speed on the garmin to 15mph, and I set myself the target of trying to get that figure up with some consistent riding of "18s". I came into the Cotswold AONB and through gorgeous villages and bleak wintry landscapes before finally slogging my way into magical and ancient Lacock after around 2 hours. The route took me past the turns for my usual cafe haunts so I decided to carry on and stop later for a feed - I was well warmed up, the threat of ice was gone now in the slowly rising temperatures and watery sunshine and all seemed to be going well. That decision turned out to be a very poor one though, as there was simply nothing in the way of a feed opportunity for miles and miles. No garage, no shop, no nothing. The visuals were right up with the best rides - through Biddestone and on across the Cotswold Plateau towards Tormarton - but while I was feasting on the aesthetics my body was running on empty and my speed was diminishing minute by minute. I came through the exquisite valley at Ford then climbed tortuously up what should have been an easy drag along the A420 then turned back on to the lanes only to encounter a flooded section too deep to ride through. I was not in a mood for adding extra miles so I dismounted and waded through - it turned out only to be ten inches deep but potholed and uneven underfoot. Back on the bike I had sodden feet to add to my woes, with the inevitable hunger after a total daily intake of only 2 bananas and one gel for three hours of hard riding. What was I thinking? A sign appeared for Pucklechurch and after miles of slow, sapping grind when I could sometimes barely manage 10mph on slight inclines, I stumbled into the Spar then sat outside on the cold, wet pavement eating penguins and downing a bottle of chocolate milk.

The miracle revival from all that sugar came soon enough and I zoomed back through the lanes to the ring road and even managed another stretch of "steady 18s". An easy session made challenging by simply not eating enough, but I felt great afterwards and happy with the speed I managed when I was properly fuelled. Later that day I went shopping and bought 24 SIS gels and a dozen cheap energy bars. Next time there will be no bonk....and who knows, I might ride the route the right way round instead of back to front, so the eating opportunities of Batheaston, Bath and the two cafes on the cycle track come at the right time!

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