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

Yatmon 150k Audax - April 1st, 2018

That's a shot of me in Monmouth - if you squint you might just make out the Monnow Bridge in the distance.

This ride came the day after my 12 hours in the saddle hauling myself round the "Kings, Castles, Priests and Churches" 200k route. I was interested to see how my legs and everything else felt the morning after an epic with around 2000m of climbing. One thing that helped get me out of the hotel and on the road nice and early was the brilliant sunshine. It wasn't expected to last all day but after the brooding cloud of the day before, the brilliant azure skies were uplifting and energising. The bells of Tewkesbury Abbey were ringing out for Easter Sunday as I glided out of town on flat roads following the Severn southwards....

The first part of the ride was across the Severn Vale through Apperley - quiet villages basing in the wintery sunlight and only the odd dog walker out and about. It was sublime and I was pleased that my legs were handling it fine the day after 200 hilly kilometres. The routesheet mentioned May Hill and I was expecting a climb, but it was only listed as a landmark and I bypassed it, heading for the hills of the Forest of Dean. They came soon enough and it was proper climbing on the approach to Mitcheldean, then over the dome of the Forest with numerous ups and downs to the final ascent of the hill up to Goodrich and it's stunning castle ruin. I was kind of on schedule and stopped for fuel in the Castle tearoom - hot cheese and onion pasty and large hot chocolate. Stodge and sugar boxes ticked.

Descending out of Goodrich I was soon on the climb to Yat Rock, a real steepy, probably maxing out at close to 20% on one ramp section and quite a long effort too. Finally I came to the top feeling all 2000m of yesterday's ascent in my quads then all I could manage was to roll slowly over the high ground towards the control at 5 Acres Garage. Then it was mostly down hill into Monmouth and another control at Costa Coffee. Monmouth was full of life on the sunny morning and there were a few gangs of cyclists mooching about looking for a feed. I didn't stay long and soon I was on a road I'd travelled only a few weeks before but this time in the other direction - through Rockfield and on towards Newcastle. This section was truly stunning - the Monnow Valley is a special place and seems pristine and untouched, the only downside being that the road is a real monster when your legs are tired. The section of 19k had 720m of ascent and much of it was steep and sapping. I finally began the climb up into Grosmont and as the road was narrow a driver coming the other way stopped and waited to let me get up to the top - he was laughing at my struggles and mimicking my swaying from side to side - I gave him a smile and a thumbs up as it was good natured rather than mocking. I was spent though - legs like jelly - so I was glad to stop for another control. The only thing open was the ancient pub with it's large fire crackling in an old stone fireplace but I managed not to stay longer than it took to finish a coke and bag a receipt.


From The Angel at Grosmont I was heading back to roads I'd covered the day before, but first a section of unknown roads including a section where the routesheet mentioned it was too narrow for trikes. This "lane" was proper off road - bit of a farm track - but I rattled down it unscathed and eased slowly through the deep water at the bottom where I met a tandem coming the other way - we wished each other good luck. More unknown lanes brought me into the Wye Valley, most magical of places, where I span along nicely to Hoarwithy and struggled over the hard, tough, challenging but gorgeous lumpy section to Much Marcle. Here a final control meant another coke in another pub - this one not so homely as the Angel just noisy and repellent so I was glad to be out of there and back on the ups and downs of the final section. Shortly after Much Marcle I heard the instantly recognisable song of a lark - the random stream of notes falling out of the sky - and looked up to see it hovering over the hedgerow. I was so knackered and a bit behind schedule too but the beautiful sight and sound of the skylark brought me back to happiness - a feeling that stayed with me on the lengthening miles back to Tewkesbury. Unlike the day before I got to do it in broad daylight so I didn't feel bored covering the same road two days running.

This was a great ride and I was pleased to have managed back to back all-dayers. My struggles with the distance and the ascent on day 2 made me reassess my plans for France - I decided to keep the distance shorter by bypassing Paris and make sure I planned a route with less than 1000m climbing per day. After all, the plan is to get where I'm going and still be in fit shaped to have some decent hours of meditation when I arrive in Heidelberg so I can't be a total cabbage when I get there.

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