My Gran Fondo (a long ride)

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Rule #7 // Tan lines should be cultivated and kept razor sharp. Under no circumstances should one be rolling up their sleeves or shorts in an effort to somehow diminish one’s tan lines. Sleeveless jerseys are under no circumstances to be employed.

What a lovely day to be out on the bike. Sun shining, not much wind and no rain. The perfect weather to help with Rule #7 above. My tan lines in my arms are certainly visible and the job is to ensure they are cultivated and then kept razor sharp.

Today I set out on a challenge laid down by Strava and accepted my me to complete their Gran Fondo. This is to cycle 130km in one ride. These are easy when you take part in an organised event or sportive as you will easy find one to cover the distance. However I don’t have any of these events in April so it had to be done alone. So like the lone breakaway rider off I went into the sun.

Starting in my own home county of Essex I soon entered one of the other Home Counties, Hertfordshire (a home county has a border with London for any international readers) but only briefly before I returned to Essex which is where the majority of today’s riding was completed. I visited many of the picturesque villages of the famous county and saw many of the cottages with me without thatched roofs and the distinctive pargeting and more importantly past many pubs which at the time were not open. At least this meant I had to carry on and forge ahead with the challenge.

After 40km I decided to stop for an early lunch, just a meat sandwich from a well known fast food outlet which has green and yellow signs and who’s name is also a name for a tunnel under a road for pedestrians to use, or the underground system in the US. It was earlier than planned but thought I would take the opportunity to grab some food before the body started to suffer. Lunch down I continued on my way to a great effort.

At the time of just finishing lunch I had no idea how I would feel or cope with the long ride, so the next stage of the route allowed the option of shooting home if required. However rule #5 is quite clear so the option of ducking home early was ignored and onward I went. Just me and my bike and the lovely English countryside for company.

After 80km or so I entered the third county of the day. This one not a home county just one with a very famous University which isn’t Oxford. The light blues in the varsity boat race ( and all the other varsity sporting events I assume). This county again has very many picturesque villages but which are different from those of my own county. Those subtle differences make give the English countryside part of its charm and has done for hundreds of years. I knew at this stage that 100km was defiantly on and I decided I would reward myself with a stop of at a very small but excellent pub in the village of Newton. The Queens Head serves excellent real ales, Adnams was my choice today, and they serve a range of homemade sandwiches, which are great, but not for me today. On a bank holiday the Queens Head only serve platters, but the ham and beef are melt in your mouth good, especially washed down with a great tasting pint. My reward was short lived as I congratulated myself on getting past 100km but still had to get home, which was in another county. Cambridgeshire was lovely but Essex is where I needed to be.

By this stage my legs were starting to feel the strain, but then one remembers rule #5 and carries on. I was also spurred on by the fact that I was roughly 30km from home which meant that I would complete the Strava challenge. Off I went to claim my badge, or so I thought.

The home straight was a little frustrating. I was moving nicely between 28-32kph and very quickly I realised I was going to run out of road. There was no way I was going to stop just a few kilometres short of the challenge target. I needed to find a small extension to the route to ensure the badge was earned. I am not cycling all this way to miss out I muttered to myself. As I entered my village I looked down at the Garmin to see 126 km! Just 4 km short of the target and as I went past my house I was still 3km short. Luck would have it I knew of a short extension of 6km which would ensure I achieved my goal. So I dropped to the race position and pushed for one big last effort. I knew there would be no PB on any segments but this was now about the distance and forget the times, to a degree.

The time was not in my initial thoughts but as I progressed it became more important, or should I say became more relevant. Whilst I passed my house I still had 3km left to ride I also wanted to complete the distance in under five hours. I needed to keep going at the best pace I could to ensure both goals were met.

The joyous triumph was realised half way up the final climb of the day. The Garmin read 130.1km and I did let put a small cheer and yes! However I still had to get to the top of the hill to enjoy the ride down to home. This was to add a few more kilometres just to ensure I was awarded with the badge. Just think you complete the ride to 130km and Strava has a small fit and logs your ride at 128km or something just under the challenge distance! I have fallen fowl to this on a run, and have learned a valuable lesson. However this wasn’t to be the case as I still,had to roll down the hill.

The final descent was lovely to get the speed up to ensure I complete the ride with an average moving speed of 27kph, which I am very happy with in a total time of 4:54:55!

And my reward, apart from the improved fitness was this lovely badge from Strava plus the option to purchase the finishers jersey.

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