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

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?

 

Related Posts

88 Replies to “Guest Article: Edric’s Windy, Wet, Wild Wiggle”

  1. Awesome! After doing a 122km ride last year, I am looking forward to my first 200km ride (and first Imperial Century) this year at the Ontario Cogal. Hopefully the butterflies don’t weigh me down enough for the man with the hammer to give me a firm BOP! I just hope that Rule #9 doesn’t juice up and slam us with snow (roughly 9-10 years ago it snowed on Victoria Day weekend near Cambridge).

  2. Nice one – funnily enough our desert ride today was a bit different.

    Rode to Jebel Hafeet, which is the highest mountain here (about 900m of climbing so quite respectable) but the route there had some nice rolling hills, lots of beautiful sculpted red-sand dunes… and even camels.

    About 170km in all (I forgot to turn on my computer on the way down the mountain). We might make it a regular thing, until it gets too hot to do long rides.

    Chapeau for the sportive – sounds like you came through it pretty well. But can I just say that if the guy on the fixie had done the same ride you did, he deserved to get across the line first ;-)

  3. Sounds like a great ride! Congratulations on a strong performance. “As the butterflies settled on the 27 tooth cog…” classic cycling writing! But 27 tooth? Really, please tell me you weren’t riding a compact : ) I’d love to join you next year if my schedule permits. I’ll be in London for the Farnborough Airshow this spring. Any chance for a mini-cogal?

  4. Great story, Chris! And bravo for getting that first one under your belt! I like bananas, I love the cooling/warming you get when you stop from creme & embro.

    I actually did my first true 166km ride on January 7th. Mine wasn’t as epic & the worst part was having to ITT to the group ride part because I left late since I couldn’t decide how to dress! Knee warmers or embro? LS jersey or arm warmers? I was leaving at 8:45 and knew I’d be on the bike until mid afternoon.

    Seeing the missus after a long ride is incredible! Mine met me at the ice cream stand out on the country roads I’d been riding.

    On another note, I just marked all the Spring Classics on my calendar. Yeehaw! I’m excited. It’s crazy how fast & furious they come once things get heated up.

    Nice work & congratulations, Chris. Oh yeah, saving that big cog can definitely give you a burst of needed motivation when you are all but tapped out.

  5. Oh, and it is crazy how much you eat after long, hard days in the saddle. I ate like crazy for two days after my 166km ride. Last week was the final cross race of the year and despite it being only 36 minutes of suffering, the course was around 10 cms of mud for 3/4 of the loop. I spent the rest of the day and all day Sunday eating, eating, eating.

    The funny thing too is that my bibs aren’t even like a girdle this week. I guess your body just burns through food during such efforts.

    What I find great about long, difficult rides is how much you learn about yourself, both on & off the bike. What you can handle, what you can overcome, how much your mindset can shape things. For me, each time I conquer a truly challenging ride I feel like I have another notch in my seat pillar & know I can pull it off again, and maybe ride even longer.

  6. @Chris

    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!

  7. Terrific ride report, Chris. You inspire all of us who are still on the “other” side of the century mark.

  8. Chris..first I find out that you have been out here in my backyard so to speak in Simi Valley and then I find you’re riding in my former home in Shropshire. Are you from Shropshire? Are you doing the British Cogal in Shifnal in April ?

    Congrats btw. Shropshire has some pretty stiff climbs eh?

    pssst..I think you might have violated a rule in that pic mate but you’ve gotten away with it.

  9. Great words to motivate! I too felt when doing my first Century I could always cut off at any of the turnoffs and do a lesser distance. I just wanted my screen to read 100 miles!

    I need to do get myself motivated to go to Europe and do a Cyclosportif! These stories help to get me out there!

  10. Just looked at the website…I see it’s 162 km this year in May. Looks like fun. Are you doing it again?

    @Anjin-san

    If Chris rides a compact then he has company I’m afraid. My knees and I are in our fiftyth year together and thrity five of them have spent a lot of time skiing. We needs us a compact.

  11. @chris

    Great piece!

    No one needs to wait until the next one as the English Cogal will be covering many of the roads you mention. I’m hoping for a good turn out.

  12. @Chris

    Great to read how you got on. I agree with Ron that it’s a good way to learn about yourself. A little over a year ago I’d have thought 160km was impossibly beyond my abilities, now I’m confident I could go further.

  13. @Chris Excellent work! If you feel like doing twice the distance in one ride the 200 on 100 will give you plenty of time to buy tickets and train!

    How much did you eat the next day?

  14. Strong work Chris, and interesting reading as I have just entered the Flat out in the Fens ride. No climbs at all but 240+ Km. Bit of an ask for me as my longest ride so far is 80 miles, admittedly in the peak district which is hilly as fuck(the clue is in the name)

    @936adl
    Really hoping to get down for this Cogal. How many are you expecting ?

  15. @chris

    Great write up! My first official (imperial) century was very special to me as I rode (most of) it with my older brother; my inspiration for getting into cycling. I did pull ahead and drop him with a slower group about 30km to the last rest stop, but other than that, we rode together for the rest of it.

    I’ve found that there’s a certain joy, no matter how many times I pull off rides of 160+ km, in crossing the finish line.

    Most recently for me, it was a double-metric (209km actually) that took me from San Jose, CA, up the peninsula to Los Altos, over the hills to San Gregorio, down the BEAUTIFUL Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Cruz and back over Hwy 9 home. It’s my longest ride to date, and even though I had nobody to cheer me on as I crossed the finish line (turning onto my street), I felt a sense of joy and accomplishment unlike any since I started riding.

    I ate like a hog for the next three days, too.

    Thanks for the article. Cheers!

  16. Excellent write-up. Really captures the real feel of cycling to me.

    Chapeau.

  17. @Chris – well done, both the effort and the writeup. I always liked using a century as an excuse to inhale a foot long Subway sandwich, loaded with everything, and washed down with a fully-leaded Coke.

    But it’s been a few years since I’ve been that distance. Will need to get one in before the Cobbles…

  18. Good work, Chris. It’s a nice barrier to cross. The beautiful thing about our sport is that there is always another achievable goal on the horizon. The hard work is always rewarded.

  19. Gosh, this is such a great article. Thanks for sharing. One of the really cool things about the Velominati is this kind of diversity. The prior post is about the tough dutch bitches. A great write up, and a throughly enjoyable read. But – I can’t really do much but spectate. I’m not a racer (except when someone is in front of me) I’ve never been to Europe (or outside the US – except to the Dominion of Canada, whcih is sort of US-light anyway) and all the dutch I know are words I learn from Frank. And I secretly suspect they are actually swear words deisgned to get me slapped or punched if I try to say them to a dutch(wo)man. (And yeah…Marianne Vos? Rowr…) I’m just now learning about cycling’s history, so it is tough to relate to my own experiences.

    But this post is something I’ve actually done. I do a few (imperial) centuries each year, and even do a back-to-back doule on our ever-popular STP (Seattle to Portland) ride with 10,000 of my closest cycling friends. Some hilly (I get a charge out of the first climb out of the valley on Flying Wheels here in Seattle – Ingelwood hill pitches to maybe 12% for a spell, 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!) Some not hilly. But, like to cogal, these rides have a special place in my life: I can eat any and everything I can all day, including the pre and post ride meals and feel no guilt; and it is what I do that day. A whole day for nothing but that experience. Merckx, but I love that.

    @frank @al:. The cogal rules are such that cogals are always a no-fee ride. But it might be nice to meet up with Velominati at these group rides. What’s the protocol? Put on the cogal calendar as “other?” The do have a fee, but for the support provided, generally very much worth it.

    Thanks for sharing, @Chris.

  20. Excellent read I did the marshbrook sportive in July (similar course but alot warmer) the long mynd is a killer saw a couple of people come off!

  21. @eightzero

    I’ve never been to Europe (or outside the US – except to the Dominion of Canada, whcih is sort of US-light anyway)

    Was that called for? Really? And here I was thinking the US was the bastard eleventh province. You know: the one without a functional health care system or economy…

  22. @Steampunk

    @eightzero

    I’ve never been to Europe (or outside the US – except to the Dominion of Canada, whcih is sort of US-light anyway)

    Was that called for? Really? And here I was thinking the US was the bastard eleventh province. You know: the one without a functional health care system or economy…

    Yup. That’s us: the drunk disfunctional family downstairs. It totally was called for – going to Cananda isn’t at all like travelling to Europe. That scares the hell out of me. The Dominion has all the flavour of the US, but none of the bitter aftertaste, and none of the calories. Prettier money, and a *much* better anthem.

  23. Strong work Chris and an apt description. I like the suffer-face photo; you look pro to me.

  24. @eightzero

    With an attitude like that, it’s just a matter of time before you get plowed over by some redneck in a Monte Carlo covered with Nascar/Dale Earnhardt stickers.

  25. @mcsqueak
    Strong work. Yes: that provoked quite the constitutional debate. Lots of support for Luke Skywalker or something, but given our Commonwealth connections, that was vetoed. Vader was a little too ominous, so we went with the younger version of Palpatine. Conveniently, Ian McDiarmid hails from the same Scottish town as the first Canadian prime minister, John A. McDonald, so that pretty much sealed it.

  26. @The Oracle

    @eightzero
    With an attitude like that, it’s just a matter of time before you get plowed over by some redneck in a Monte Carlo covered with Nascar/Dale Earnhardt stickers.

    I would say that end result is likely regardless of any attitude. Yee haww!

  27. 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

    that impossible block has always been the most rewarding; well after it’s all over though. Good work.

  28. @Chris

    Some Great British pluck demonstrated here… great article, and chapeau on your first sportive… you picked a big ‘un. And I agree…. I fear a constant and persistent headwind almost as much as I fear London cabbies from the view point of a cyclist. I did like your recovery meal and carbohydrate drink (Teyssier… Mmmmm). Super article, thank you.

  29. @Anjin-san
    Yep, compact crankset here. It’s what came on the bike and it’ll stay on until it become a limiting factor. Maybe when it get’s too easy to bang out intervals in 50 x 11!

    Thought Farnborough was in July? Regardless, I’m up for a mini Cogal. There are few other London based Velominati about so it may not have to be that mini.

  30. @all
    It’s awesome that you all like it. I was sat there thinking “I’m going to look like a bit of a prat if no-one reads this.”

    It’s odd to think that before it the idea of riding an imperial century was so daunting but now I’m thinking that at some point in the next few weeks I’ll ride up to my parents place and back (225km) to get some big miles in before the Keeper’s Tour and that the lack of spare time and daylight is the only real limiting factor to going further.

  31. @Chris

    @Anjin-san
    Yep, compact crankset here. It’s what came on the bike and it’ll stay on until it become a limiting factor. Maybe when it get’s too easy to bang out intervals in 50 x 11!

    Exactly Chris… it’s highly unlikely. I have no truck with compact snobbery.

    It may be less pro, but the pros have multiple bikes and setups and/or mechanics to adjust it for them depending on the day. Look at the ratios they were riding in the Vuelta.

    I spin out at 75km/h when I’m chasing trucks on my 34-50 compact with an 11-23 rear cassette.

    A standard might let me get another 4% in gear inches so maybe I can go up to 80km/h but first of all that’s just 5km/h more stupid than at 75, and secondly it wouldn’t let me go up a 10% gradient.

    50-11 is a bigger gear than 53-12, which is what a lot of (if not most) people riding standards will have, so it can’t be a ‘V’ thing.

  32. @Chris

    @Anjin-sanYep, compact crankset here. It’s what came on the bike and it’ll stay on until it become a limiting factor. Maybe when it get’s too easy to bang out intervals in 50 x 11!

    Yea, I ride a compact too w/ either a 27 or 28 cog depending on the bike. When I get to the point I can do my little 2km climb in less than 7 min w/o running @ 90% max HR I’ll switch to some big boy gears too. Until then its more about riding the climb than getting off the bike and pushing it up the hills.

    Ride often, far, and fast!

  33. Nice read and congratulations on a great ride.

    Here is a tip I learned by accident during a recent century.

    At the last rest stop when you are feeling about spent (about 3/4 of the way through in my case), and when all of that early morning coffee and gels come calling, accidentally touch your embrocation on your legs. Proceed to clean yourself and accidentally transfer some of said embrocation to your saddle contact patch. I promise no amount of wiping will remove it and you will no longer feel any pain in your legs for all your attention will be focused on the fire within your bibs.

    I have never used the Rapha embrocation, but I swear by my Mad Alchemy Medium (until you get it somewhere you shouldn’t).

  34. Fantastic write-up Chris and thanks for the contribution. I’d venture a guess most folks who complete their first milestone ride, whether it be for distance, a race, or sportive are whipped by the physical effort. The first century I rode kicked me in the pants. That said, what I appreciate is building the psychological stamina and mental memory as much as the muscle memory. The older we get the more important that perspective becomes. I’m surely less resilient than some of the young folks I ride and ski with, but the fact that I’ve been around that block a few more times gives me an advantage (often, not always). Of course, then Rule #10 kicks in and it gets hard again, or should I say it gets faster…I could only hope.

  35. Great write up, and CONGRATULATIONS. This brought back memories of my first century, and i felt like iwas riding along with you as i read.

  36. @Chris
    Really good article and ride.Despite having bad moments you finished the ride.Thanks for sharing this experience with us.

  37. @paolo

    Just looked at the website…I see it’s 162 km this year in May. Looks like fun. Are you doing it again?
    @Anjin-san
    If Chris rides a compact then he has company I’m afraid. My knees and I are in our fiftyth year together and thrity five of them have spent a lot of time skiing. We needs us a compact.

    In my fortieth year and I too have a compact on a bike (the Cevelo S2 you can see on the bikes page)… just a good natured jab, not meant to be a criticism. 156k is fucking load of riding no matter what kind of gearing you are running! That said, pretty standard in Smokey Mountains to run 53/39 and 11/25 or 11/27. Most guys around here on a compact crank run an 11/23.

  38. @paolo

    pssst..I think you might have violated a rule in that pic mate but you’ve gotten away with it.

    I think the wording of Rule #17 is left open enough that most people refrain from calling someone out on it, at least he complied with the second part, wearing Castelli tights to match a Castelli jersey.

  39. I didn’t take it as criticism and even if it had been it wouldn’t matter. I run what works for me and I’m good with that. I have a set of dura ace 24 clinchers with an 11 28 that I use most of the time. My theory is that I want to keep skiing and riding bikes for many more years to come so I want to be kind to my knees.

    When I ride with the VMH I have some god awful cheap Maddux wheels that run almost 2000 grams and I have a 12 25 on them. She much prefers routes with some rollers and not long climbs so I find it helps me to work harder to use those when I ride with her.

    Talking of wheels by LBS is now a Lightweight dealer and he showed me some carbon clinchers the other day. 1150 grams 48 mm deep mmmmmmmmmm…$6000 yikes. But now I can’t stop thinking about them, just when I have my Cervelo exactly as I want it..damn!

  40. Concerning Rule #17; I have a really tough time finding kits to wear because I refuse to wear sponsor logos that don’t match what I’m riding, and most non-pro bike-wear isn’t cut aggressively enough. I have a few of the Nike jerseys from when they first started dabbling in the cycling world (before the LA and TdF jersey sponsorships and those things are the most ill fitting, poorly conceived pieces of kit I have ever worn. They are comfortable in only one position, standing up. Off the bike.

    There is a really great retro looking jersey by Specialized that I want to wear, but can’t decide if it the three Specialized components on my bike warrant its use..?

  41. Awesome story, @Chris!

    Some of your points really resonate, but this one especially:

    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

    I know what you mean, you assholes really add a lot of pressure whenever I do Haleakala!

  42. @Calmante

    Concerning Rule #17; I have a really tough time finding kits to wear because I refuse to wear sponsor logos that don’t match what I’m riding, and most non-pro bike-wear isn’t cut aggressively enough. I have a few of the Nike jerseys from when they first started dabbling in the cycling world (before the LA and TdF jersey sponsorships and those things are the most ill fitting, poorly conceived pieces of kit I have ever worn. They are comfortable in only one position, standing up. Off the bike.
    There is a really great retro looking jersey by Specialized that I want to wear, but can’t decide if it the three Specialized components on my bike warrant its use..?

    I ride a Cannondale but the shop I frequent stocks Specialized stuff. No complaints about any of it, and considering how much more rule compliant I look then some of the other locals, no one cares. My bike is made in America but my kits is third italian, third us, and third swiss, with an Italian cycling cap. But the colors jive and thats what people see. They can’t read logos that well when they’re getting dropped.

  43. @Anjin-san

    @King Clydesdale
    +1. You can wear what you want when you drop most folks at will!

    But it feels better when you look good. Let’s not forget that Rule #5 is not an excuse, it’s a matter of course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.