Cycle for Uganda 2016 – The Report!
On the way to Clevedon, as I turned onto the M5 at Avonmouth, the stark contrast of a rainbow against the dark sky summed up how the weather would be for the day. Mixed. Like it couldn’t make its mind up. However, arriving in Clevedon and setting off in beautiful early morning sunshine was certainly an encouraging start to what was a fantastic ride, even with a mid-ride rainstorm bordering on the apocalyptic.
After the usual safety briefings and with a little help from Gary, the mechanic from Bristol Bike Centre, to sort out a few last minute issues, 12 cyclists set off from Clevedon at 9:15am in bright sunshine and a comfortable 17oC / 63oF with zero wind. Almost ideal.
51 miles of roads lay ahead, mostly quiet country lanes with very little traffic, taking us across the moors and into the edge of the Mendips, with only the small task of climbing five big hills in our way, including the well-cycled Burrington Combe.
The first 7 miles were virtually flat and we moved at a surprisingly brisk pace. By the time we reached the foot of our first hill our legs were nicely warmed up and even the 16% bend near the top of Cleeve Hill didn’t pose much of a problem to anyone. Emerging from the tunnel of trees into the brightness of the day signalled the end of the climb and the beginning of the descent into Wrington, yielding a fantastic view (the reward of climbing) and what can only be described as “exciting speeds”. 41.6mph if you must know!
After a brief stop to regroup, we continued through Wrington town centre before stopping for a well-earned break at the edge of the Mendips under the shadow of Burrington Combe. Refuelled, and raring to go 15 minutes later, the long steady climb awaited. A very different type of climb compared to the previous ascent. This one was all about rhythm over the 2.5 miles to the top.
If we thought the views from the top of the previous hill were good, the views as we descended into Blagdon were even better, and the speeds were even faster! No, I’m not telling you how fast this time, my mum might be reading! (Watch the video!)
As we passed Blagdon Lake, the clouds rolled in, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped by 4oC – it wasn’t long before the first spots of rain were felt. Continuing up through Butcombe to tackle our 3rd and probably easiest out of the five hills, we put on the rain jackets at the top and gently descended five miles to Chew Valley Lake as the rain became increasingly heavy. Just as we arrived at our lunch stop, the heavens opened and the lake disappeared behind a wall of torrential rain. After being questioned on my decision to wear overshoes earlier while the sun was shining, I was probably the only one left with dry feet! 25 miles cycled and 3 hills climbed. Now was a good time for a break.
Sheltering underneath the parasols, many of us enjoyed the delicious fish and chips they serve here, and they’re gluten free too! Seriously, they are really excellent chips.
Having made good time, and no mechanical issues either, we spent a good leisurely hour here, with half of it spent watching the rain pour down wondering if it would ever stop. Finally, the horizon brightened and the rain stopped. Blue sky replaced the seemingly endless grey, the sun threw down it’s glorious warmth, and the only evidence that it had ever rained was the puddles everywhere and the damp feeling we all had.
Setting off in brilliant sunshine we stretched our legs again in the direction of Bishop Sutton while watching the water evaporate off the roads in clouds of steam. Soon we were back on quiet, single-track country lanes, preparing ourselves mentally and physically for the hardest section of the route. A tiring climb through East Harptree that briefly gave way to a short gentle downhill breather before, without much warning, kicking up to 20% gradient. There is no shame in getting off and walking up this one! (Watch the video!)
With legs burning, hearts pounding and lungs screaming, we struggled our way to the top of the hill. It’s the 4th time I’ve done this route, and it’s still the bit I don’t look forward to! Just one more hill to go.
The steep descent into Compton Martin is a tricky one, not made any easier by the damp conditions and the man who left his wheelbarrow in the middle of the road on the exit of a bend! Averaging 11% gradient and nudging 20% in places, I was thankful to be going down this one even if it is tough on the brakes and the wrists, back and shoulders.
Descending the 5 miles back towards the opposite side of Blagdon Lake (relative to where we were a few hours earlier), we approached the final climb knowing that the worst was almost over. Chapel Lane is not an easy climb, reaching 16% in places, and being twisty and narrow you can’t see the summit until the final few yards, making it feel endless. Once at the top there was a great sense of achievement knowing that hard work was done and the 10 miles back to Clevedon would feel like a walk in the park in comparison.
After a brief rest stop near Bristol Airport, watching the planes come in to land, we cruised down 4 miles of uninterrupted downhill, barely needing to pedal and sensing our journey’s end was near. Back on the flats of the moors, everyone seemed to have fresh legs, the sun was back out and we cycled enthusiastically, some having so much fun blasting along they carried on going and missed a turn. No harm done, and a scout was sent out to take them back into Clevedon on an alternative route and we met back up with them near the town centre.
Rolling round the final turns, we arrived back at the hall 7 hours and 24 minutes after we left, well ahead of schedule. Still no mechanicals, not even a puncture. I think it is safe to say everyone had a great ride and thoroughly enjoyed themselves! Well done everyone! It was fantastic riding with you all, and simply a brilliant ride!
I’m looking forward to doing it all again on 10th June 2017 when we are cycling around the Avon Cycleway! Sign up now!
Now tell your story of the ride in the comments!