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

Avebury 88 bike ride, Bristol/Wiltshire, March 2020


March 2020 has been blustery and stormy, coming hard on the heels of our wettest February ever, but I was lucky enough to get a dryish and mildish day for this ride the weekend after my marathon run at Bitton. Obviously I wasn't going to ride a hard session only a week after that kind of effort, especially with the world in the grip of coronavirus pandemic panic right now - we all want to keep our immune systems in good nick and not trash them with overtraining (been there and done that before).

The route I found on Ride with GPS was 85 miles and started in Bradley Stoke so it made a nice 88 miler from my place. The ring road was quiet and I was soon on the new link road up towards Parkway, smooth and fast but turning into a surprisingly stiff climb. The way out of town was on the quiet lanes around Ram Hill and Kendleshire and I was soon tackling rolling hills on silent backroads, trying to keep my heart rate down around 130 (which I guess is roughly 70%). Limiting myself that way meant I only clocked up 13 miles in the first hour, but I blame the hills. By that point I was over the A46 and on my way through the chilly, empty, cotswold-stone villages of Acton Turville, Burton and Littleton Drew. Next came the picturesque surroundings of Castle Combe and Yatton Keynell. It was all back road and B road and I was warmed up enough now to get a bit more pace up.

I hadn't ridden this way for a while and I soon found myself in new territory - Kington Langley, Draycott Cerne and Sutton Benger. After each hour I chewed my way through a mace bar - important feeding practice for the race I've got lined up this summer. There was lovely valley scenery at Christian Malford and more climbing after Dauntsey Lock, but I managed 17 or 18 miles in that second hour. It was round about that point I felt myself well warmed up and my tired limbs started to enjoy the ride which had started out being a bit of a grind because of marathon fatigue. My eyes began to open up to the beauty of my surroundings and even the unexpected rain didn't dampen my spirits. I climbed up on to Salisbury Plain and began to enjoy (or not) the stiff headwind coming up from the south as I hauled myself towards the half way mark at Avebury.

The rain blew over and some turbulent skies carrying a chaotic mix of sunshine and heavy, swirling cloud greeted me as I rode through the circle of stones, pausing for an obligatory photo or two. Where else do you get to wander among stones like this? Certainly not at Stonehenge which is still in disappointing lockdown for its own "protection".

Refuelling came in the form of a coffee, scone plus jam and cream at the National Trust place. I chatted to some runners who asked about my route and corrected my pronounciation of Cherhill (Cherrill not Chur-Hill). I didn't linger long and soon I was forcing my way into a stiffer headwind than before now that the prevailing direction had swung round to the usual westerly. There was sunshine as I passed Silbury Hill and a good section of A road where I clocked up swift miles despite the wind in my face.

When the turning off on to the lanes finally came it led to the loveliest part of the day - over a ridge and then descending across a common past an eye-catching hillside church towards Lacock. The approach came over a flood plain with the road crossing over a number of old, narrow bridges and then all of a sudden I was riding past the ancient abbey and among the thatched, stone houses.

Next came Biddestone and as I started to seriously tire (60+ miles in already fatigued legs) I managed to slow down without actually blowing up and keep the miles coming. By the time I came through Pucklechurch and tackled the hills round Winterbourne I was more than ready to finish but the scenery had more than repaid the effort. This would be an awesome summer ride so I might have to head back this way when the sun is out and I have more energy in my legs. With Iron Distance on the horizon I will need some hard rides over this distance.

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