Guest Article: Edric’s Windy, Wet, Wild Wiggle

Guest Article: Edric’s Windy, Wet, Wild Wiggle

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One of the cairns on the unknowable path to Cyclist is riding one’s first unimaginable distance. In the non-metric world it would be the first 100 mile ride, an unholy distance if one has never done it. And there is nothing for it. Come up with a rationalization, a plan, an excuse, something that forces one to cover 100 miles (or close to it) on gun power alone. @chris joined a cyclosportive ride to force the issue and here is his excellent tale. 

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

Edric’s Windy, Wet, Wild Wiggle or to give it its real name “The Wiggle Wild Edric.” Edric, apparently, was a bit of a bit of a Shropshire hardman back in the day. Not sure if he ever rode a bike but you couldn’t imagine living in the area and not riding. I’ve never been much good at choosing the sensible option and I’d picked one of the UK’s hillier sportives for my first big ride -156km including four big climbs. (Truth be told, I’m a bit annoyed they couldn’t have made it a proper century!)

Six am or thereabouts on Saturday morning saw me in the kitchen at my aunt’s house with a saucepan of porridge on the Aga and a pot of coffee brewing. The weather station was suggesting a falling barometer and an outdoor temperature of just under seven degrees. Looking all a bit Rule #9, I was relying on the forecast of low wind. After eating I headed back up to the bedroom to get ready and coax my wife out of bed for a lift to the start, 35km away. I felt remarkably pro rubbing embrocation into my legs for the first time (@Marcus’ suggestion regarding the correct order for application of Butt’r and Embrocation was much appreciated at this point although it’s trickier than I had thought when wearing bib tights – no possibility to get the jewels lubed and squared away before rolling up the bibs to apply the embrocation!)

A timing chip, sent out by the organizers, and some electronic wizardry meant that there was no queuing for registration. Just turn up, a quick word of encouragement from the starter and go. I started at the same time as five or six others but set off at my own pace, the others either starting too slowly for my liking or haring off to catch up with teammates. Having no experience of large organized rides like this, I suppose I had naively expected groups to form and drag everyone around the route – each taking their turn on the front, of course.

The first climb started fairly gently after 9km but soon tilted evermore upwards at 13.5% onto the top of the Long Mynd. The damp moss-covered tarmac didn’t help and a couple of times I felt my back wheel spinning out. Everyone seemed to be going at roughly the same pace at this point but I was surprised at such an early stage to see a few people pushing up.

The descent was even steeper and required constant braking that gave no real relief. From there on, the next 35km consisted of fast rolling hills to the first feed station. I was still riding solo for the majority of the time but for a brief period, I did get on the back of a group being led by a tandem. Nobody else in the group was taking pulls and the tandem pair was going like a train. It turned out they were all part of the same club. They pulled over not long after I joined them to help out another teammate who had punctured.

A long climb into an increasingly strong wind followed the feed station, then another steep descent and more rolling hills. The second climb was the least savage of the four and I surprised myself by going up more quickly than many and for the most, only midway through the block.

There are two course options, the 156km long course and the 94km short course which share the same route for the first 80km. Turning right at the split and ignoring the road sign that promised warmth, ale and chips a mere 14.5km away was probably one of the hardest bits of the route but the thought of explaining such a lack of moral fibre meant that it was never really a serious consideration.

At 94km or so I hit the bottom of the third climb, 150 meters or so of straight up. The profile says it maxes out at 13.6% and that may be true if you were to hop on your bike at the bottom of it but after that distance, it felt more like 500 meters of 22.5%. My brain tried to tell the legs to shut up but the rest of my body was forced to point out that the legs were no longer producing enough forward momentum with which to balance. As the butterflies settled on the 27 tooth cog I was forced to get off. I was back on the bike after a short walk but found the next 9 or 10km of the climb to be one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. The wind was really getting up and I was beginning to get seriously cold (what I would have given for my much awaited Long Sleeve V-Jersey at that point!).

Thankfully, after a couple of tight switchbacks, the descent was easier than the others with 25km of riding sur la plaque. In the six months since the passion switched from mountain bikes to road bikes, this was the most focused I’d felt, the V-Locus perhaps. I was beginning to feel a rhythm and cadence that I could maintain, I was in the drops, head down and keeping pace with two riders ahead of me that I occasionally spotted as I came onto a straight.

After a brief bout of nausea and forgetting that there was descent in the middle of the final climb, I was soon on the last section, 20km of gentle rollers into the finish. Again I found my groove and before I knew it I was chasing a chap on a single speed 3km out from the finish. I was gutted to pull past him only to have to stop at a major intersection 100m from the end. He drew alongside me and got clipped back in bit quicker to get over the line before me.

I was delighted to hear clapping and cheering from Mrs Chris as I crossed the line. She’d judged the timing perfectly and had only been waiting for a few minutes. I was whisked back to base for tea, cake and a hot bath before heading out to the Lion and Pheasant in Shrewsbury to celebrate with duck rillettes, a monster rib eye and bottle of Château Teyssier.

The ride took me 7 hours and 27 minutes which gives an average of just under 21kph. Taking out approximately 20 minutes for feed stations and “comfort”, which due to the cold were more frequent than I’d expected, raises that slightly. I placed 110th out of 140 finishers. The fastest was two hours quicker and the slowest came in an hour after me. Before the ride I’d had no real idea of what to expect either from the conditions or in terms of time, but I was aiming for about 6.5 to 7 hours. Given the course, the weather and my relative lack of training, I’m really pleased with the result but I reckon there’s at least an hour to come off that time.

Looking back on it there are couple of key things that I’ve learned:

  • Really picturesque wooded valleys have been strategically spaced to lull you into a false sense of peace and hide bastard climbs
  • Dress for at least 5°C below the forecasted weather, the wind will do your morale more damage than the hills
  • No matter how much you hate bananas, after 110km of gels and energy bars something that tastes natural and doesn’t leave you covered in sticky goo will be heavenly
  • Stay off the big cog as long as you can.Knowing you are holding a gear or two in reserve is great, rounding a corner to find the road steepening with nothing left, is not
  • Don’t expect super-fast descents.  The organizers deviously cover the tarmac with moss, mud and cow poo
  • The amount of food I went through in the day after the ride is staggering
  • Castelli’s Fluido bib tights absolutely rock. Between those and the Rapha embrocation, every time  I stopped I could feel my legs warming up rapidly
  • Now I’d like to go and do a century with @ChrisO, in the desert with no elevation and a nice paceline!
  • If you’ve told the internet that you’re undertaking such a ride, the thought of admitting failure to complete strangers will keep you going

Anyone fancy it next year?


// Guest Article // Routes // Unforgettable Rides

  1. @Anjin-san et al
    A blatant bit of Rule #17 abuse spread across the top of the page seems to have raised a few eyebrows and comments. In my defence, that kit was purchased before I found my way as a Velominatus and the ride was unfortunately before I acquired my sacred garments. Whilst I won’t purchase any more team kit, I won’t discard perfectly good kit (Castelli kit is perfectly good), I’ll just keep it for solo rides and roller sessions.

    I am surprised, though, that @frank hasn’t pulled me up for wearing tights rather than knickers or bibs with knee warmers. whatever, I thought I looked particularly fabulous in a Anti Rule #17 sort of way.

  2. @pakrat, @Nate, @Ron

    We don’t have the same associations with patchouli, whatever that is, in the UK. To me the Rapha embrocation reminds me of the smell of some of the older school changing rooms during the rugby season when first went to boarding school. A hugely evocative smell from when I first started to enjoy sport, realise that I was quite good at it and also started to relish playing in shit weather.

    Clearly evocative for you too, although I’d be careful about using it to revive memories like that!

  3. I used a Shimano 105 12 – 27 for the Edric, which was pretty much spot on. I’ve also got an Ultegra 11 – 23 which spends more time on the bike – it’s pretty flat round here. I’m nowhere near exceeding the gearing that that offers on the road although there are interval sessions on the rollers that I can see being limited at some point (my descenting intervals sessions are 50 x 14 or smaller and by coach/sensei reckons that I should be 50 x 13 or smaller). Stability on the rollers turning 50 x 11 at 110rpm is something that I’d need to improve, it gets a bit scary at times.

  4. @eightzero

    …and there’s all these…amateurs…walking bikes up the hill. OK, I get the idea that we ain’t all Klier on the Patterberg, but when you blow up, pull over. Rest for 30 seconds, then get back on. Walking is an admission of defeat. Fuck that people, you signed up for a *ride*. Now ride, bitches!)

    Whoops, sorry, I promise not to do it again!

  5. @paolo
    I’m definately planning on doing it again. There’s a big chunk of time to be taken out of it.

    I live over in Cambridgeshire but I’ve got an Aunt and Uncle who live over there which make it a good one to do and they know all the best restaurants for post ride recovery steaks and bordeaux.

  6. @Lepidopterist
    That’s round my neck of the woods, so I’m up for that. It’s along way but if there isn’t a wind it should be a good one to do quickly. Some of the roads might be a bit suspect.

    Where are you based?

  7. Nice one Chris. Takes a special grinta to head out for a real ride when the thermometer plummets.

  8. @Dr C

    You da man, you da man, you da man!
    Shame you didn’t quite get the Imperial Ton, but who cares, as you’ll be doing regular 250km rides over the coming 8 weeks (yes that is all that is left) so you can taper down for the Cobbles run to Roubaix (but no hills, dead flat, you’ll breeze it) – isn’t that the methodology Fronk?
    Good photo by the way – is that you warming up on the rollers before the start, looking altogether Pro, or asphyxiating as you cross the line and smash into the cameraman – either way – you look fucking cool!

    250km rides? Yep, most evenings on the rollers while watching EastEnders. I may have to cut them short to pop in to my parents for tea and cake though.

    No idea where that photo was taken, but it certainly wasn’t on the rollers warming up before the start! Looking pro is one thing but acting that pro will only get you laughed at or beaten when you fail to unclip at the start line and take out three or four fellow masochist while listening to the pre start briefing. Best to wait until you’re out of sight round the first corner before becoming anaerobic and throwing up.

  9. @Chris
    Awesome – looks like mostly kitchen cabinet destruction for you lot in Blighty for the next few days – temps are aplummetin – yach!

    Your startline comment reminds me of a poor newbie who I agreed to ride with last year (being a newbie 6 months earlier made me most empathetic to his plight, and he was mighty enthusiastic about what was to later transpire to be the most brutal run of the year) – as we rolled out of the start, near the front of the 200 strong bunch, into a narrow country lane, he gleefully pressed the start button on his Cateye, springing it from its mounting, and into a sea of rolling spokes and rims – bless him he the reached down, and fell off, into same sea of rolling spokes and rims – never really recovered his composure after that

    I felt sorry for him so rode with him for a couple of miles, where upon he flatted, and then advised me, as the only one of my club to wait for him, that he didn’t know how to change a tyre….etc etc

    All got to start somewhere, lest we forget the pain of learning

  10. @Chris
    by the way, see the way you think you have done 250K on your rollers whilst watching Eastenders, you have probably only actually done a fraction of that, it’s just that Eastenders is so fucking boring that it seems like a lifetime before that infernal bloody theme tune finally draws it to a numbing conclusion

    (I seem not to be much of a fan of the Soaps, in case you try to strike up some chat about Dot Kirby or those baldy fighting brothers when we meet)

  11. @Dr C
    Staggering that you could contemplate riding any further than the end of your street without knowing how to change a tyre! equally staggering is the thought that tyre changing is something that you can evolve into adulthood without being able to do – it’s no wonder your waiting room is being cluttered up with the fat and inept. WTF do people do with their kids these days. Mine might not have done it yet but they know the next time they flat, they’ll be giving it a go themselves and will only get physical help on the bits their fingers aren’t strong enough for.

  12. @Dr C
    250km that’s about 820 feet isn’t it?

    Don’t worry, I won’t be trying to impress with my knowledge of the proles’ opiate. What I know is gained through osmosis as a result of spending quality time with Mrs Chris. The soaps make it so much easier to hop on to the rollers but I suspect that combining the two would slow time to such a glacial creep that not only would cosmic butterflies glide elegantly between your spokes but they would have had the time lazily creep along each spoke as caterpillars looking for the perfect spot to set up a cocoon and pupate.

  13. Nice write up @Chris. I think I’m going to ride the Wiggle New Forest 100 in the Autumn, we holiday there a lot but i’ve never ridden there yet.
    The one UK sportive that I always love reading the write ups on is the Fred Whitton challenge. It seems really hard to get a place so I might just go and ride the route with one of the timing chips the tourist board give out. The climbs look brutal…

  14. Ha, I hadn’t notice the Yellow Jacket of Authority chasing Chris! Nor had I seen the funny caption. That’s great.

    On the topic of embrocation I’ve been using a few different ones for a couple months & while they warm a bit during the ride, the hottest one got was when I tried it out one night a few hours before bed. Nothing. I then woke up in the middle of the night with my knees on fire. I tried to ignore it but had to go wash my legs off. I’m wondering if you need to sweat to activate them? Or get rained on? I was under the covers that night and overheated a bit, did that set it off?

    I’ve used Nature’s Kiss Hot Stuff, Sportsbalm Pre Sports medium balm, and the one that woke me up in the night was Dznuts In Heat high heat.

    Don’t know if I’m doing something wrong or what, but most of them seem to be the warmest when I return home and am sitting down post-ride.

  15. I’m going to be in London (south) next week if anyone is nearby and fancies a ride, even some laps of RP – as long as it’s during school hours when my presence is not required.
    I may even manage a brisk jaunt to Box Hill early on Sunday. This of course is bearing in mind that I haven’t been in the UK since October and will probably spend the week thinking “Too bloody cold, why ride when I’ll be in Abu Dhabi again next week.”

    I’m hoping someone will suggest a ride and then I will be forced to go out.

    TBH I use the time back home as a bit of a rest from my normal training schedule so I don’t feel bad about not going out, though I’d like to get in at least one ride.

  16. @Chris

    @Dr C
    the proles’ opiate

    +1 Beautiful – don’t spoil it for me, I’m going to assume you made that up

  17. @ChrisO
    forecast Sunday is -10C, snow and horizontal ice – go for it

  18. @Dr C
    absolutely, was going to go with plebs’ but proles’ has that Alan B’stard sneer to it.

  19. @ChrisO
    It would be good but there’s no way out of work at the moment and getting down south of London at the weekend would take too much out of the day. I can get away with disappearing for a quick 80km ride but not if I’ve got to add two hours onto each end to drive there and back.

    It’ll have to wait until the Keeper’s Tour

  20. @Dr C

    forecast Sunday is -10C, snow and horizontal ice – go for it

    Is it really… my god I’m going to freeze inside, let alone out on the bike.

    In that case I will stay in bed and think of Abu Dhabi.

  21. @Chris

    @ChrisOIt would be good but there’s no way out of work at the moment and getting down south of London at the weekend would take too much out of the day. I can get away with disappearing for a quick 80km ride but not if I’ve got to add two hours onto each end to drive there and back.
    It’ll have to wait until the Keeper’s Tour

    Can you not just cycle there, do the ride and cycle back again?

  22. @Dr C
    Hadn’t thought of that but it might be better if I sneaked out of work and grabbed a Boris Bike.

  23. @Chris

    @Anjin-san et alA blatant bit of Rule #17 abuse spread across the top of the page seems to have raised a few eyebrows and comments. In my defence, that kit was purchased before I found my way as a Velominatus and the ride was unfortunately before I acquired my sacred garments. Whilst I won’t purchase any more team kit, I won’t discard perfectly good kit (Castelli kit is perfectly good), I’ll just keep it for solo rides and roller sessions.

    Yeah I’ve made a self imposed by-law to 17 that gets me around it as long as the kit was purchased pre-enlightenment (and is good a la yours) or the team wound up over 10 years ago (e.g. an awesome Cafe de Colombia kit I snagged via the ebay)

  24. @Chris
    Hah, missed your post Chris.
    I am based up in Manchester, going to go down for a couple of days with (very non cycling) Mrs L.
    Let me know if you decide to do the ride.

  25. @Chris
    Also managed my first imperial century yesterday in 6hrs 45mins …

    Ignore the last 7 miles as my Garmin auto-started when I got in the car.

    Celebrated with a bottle of Bollinger my cycling buddy got for me in the pub after we had got back and showered.

    Man I feel good and sore today.

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