Event: Taunton – Lynmouth – Taunton
Distance: 100 miles Duration: Two days Elevation: 3000m
Participants: Paula, Ian, Declan Prizes: for the top three!!! (I was in with a chance)
Support/Team Car: Annemarie (best support ever!)
This event was kindly hosted by our good friends Annemarie and Declan. As soon as they heard I was planning 50 events this year they jumped in with an event for me. Very exclusive apparently as only two days after agreeing to do it, I received a text from Declan saying the event had now sold out 🙂 but no worries The Greens had secured a place. Hurrah!
Our ride started from Taunton on Saturday morning. It had been -1C when I woke that morning but had warmed up to a balmy 3C by the time we set off. With the right gear on it was actually quite nice, no wind or rain and a glimpse of winter sunshine. Given it’s the middle of January we couldn’t have hoped for better weather.
The hills started within the first twenty minutes as we started the climb up onto the Quantocks. Hills would feature quite a lot in this ride and by quite a lot I mean constantly – we were either going up or down. Our first hill was a familiar one, we have done it a few times recently and apart from a steep bit at the bottom it has a pleasant gradient of around 4-5% for around 4km. Up on the top we met Annemarie for our first support stop.
The support stops in the camper van were one of the highlights of this event. Annemarie would greet us with a big smile, a warm van with the kettle on and a table full of food – seriously – FULL of food, sweet, savoury, homemade goodies and naughty treats – it was all there.
We only stopped for a short while at the first stop, so Ian could faff with his power meter and then we were off. Down off the Quantocks and up onto Exmoor. Elworthy Hill is a killer, the bottom half leading up to the crossroads is bearable, and then it kicks up for over a mile at an average of 10% but with little bits of 17% just to keep you motivated 🙂 I haven’t ridden this part of the hill for a couple years and last time I had to stop a few times while I tried not to die – hanging over my bars trying to catch my breath and with my legs screaming for mercy. I guess I must have improved these last two years as although not easy it seemed manageable and I didn’t need to stop – yay!
Another pit stop at Raleighs Cross – Hmmm hot coffee and walnut cake in the warm van. Although a beautiful day it really was very cold and knowing the van was waiting for us kept me going.
Another 10 miles across to our next stop at Wheddons Cross – undulating to say the least and then onto Simonsbath with the joy of descending down into Exford knowing you had a steep climb out the other side.
Our final 10 miles to Lynmouth were across the top of Exmoor – the views were spectacular – the late evening sunshine and the sheep and ponies dotted around. We all felt so lucky to be out enjoying it.
The only downside was the long descent into Lynmouth, which although beautiful was down down down, which meant the next day would start up up up! We nearly missed the final decent, but fortunately Ian was waiting for us, to make sure we did the final right hand turn – if we had missed we would have started climbing a 16% hill up into Lynton. Thanks Ian 🙂
Lynmouth is a pretty seaside town with houses poking out from the trees high up the rocky hills and with a gushing river running down the gorge in the middle. Back in 1952 this gushing river turned into a terrible flood killing many people and there are many signs around the town remembering the tragedy.
On arriving in Lynmouth we cycled towards the beach where Annemarie was parked up and waiting for us with champagne – YES!! champagne!!! – no wonder this event was sold out 🙂 The table was laid out with nibbles and we all huddled inside in the warm and toasted many things – our great day out, Declan’s birthday (the following day) and most importably the end of AM’s chemo/readiotherapy treatment. Yes, this amazing woman has just undergone two surgeries, chemo and radiotherapy and still chose to celebrate her recovery supporting three hungry, cold, tired cyclists – she is very special.
We stayed at a delightful little pub with a big fire, lovely rooms and fabulous food – possibly too much fabulous food (and drink) – and the only way home was over a lot of hills…on a bike (or maybe a van) lol!
Not the best night’s sleep but very comfortable and I felt rested. Ian and I had a short walk in the morning along the beach front – it was clear enough to see over to Wales. Then back to the pub for a full English breakfast – not my usual pre bike ride food, but good mini break food.
After a quick photo of AM and Declan in the same place they had a photo taken 30 years ago, we were off.
Up up up…. a steep ramp of a few 100m followed but 4-5km of reasonable ascent up the gorge then a left turn. Here the road surface got a lot worse and the gradient a lot steeper – and it just kept going up. Every bend I hoped to see the road flatten out and every bend revealed another steep ascent. Ian, who is very good at this sort of thing, had left us ages ago, Dec and I plodded up. C’mon !!! Please be the top, please let me see a glorious view….the van!
We made it and AM was waiting for us. We didn’t stop for long as the weather wasn’t quite as nice as the day before and we wanted to get some miles done. Our next big stop was at Wheddons Cross where we would stop for coffee and ham rolls! The hills were totally worth it for the food stops. I bumped into my friend Heidi at this stop – she is a very serious cyclists and must have laughed at us all piling into the warm van, as she set off across the hills.
The weather was starting to change – fog and drizzle with big black clouds looming ahead. Big black clouds that we were heading straight for.
That morning I had expressed a wish (ok I pleaded) that we not go up Cothlestone – up onto the Quantocks. It’s very steep (I’ve done it before) and I just couldn’t face it at the end of the day. Declan kindly arranged a detour at Raleighs Cross so that we could make up the missed miles without going up the scary hill. Our detour contained a scary descent and lots of uphills …hmmmm. Not sure I got away with it 🙂 It was very beautiful though – which helped. The rain was getting harder and by the time we were back on our route and heading down into Taunton the wind had also picked up and we were all drenched. BUT, we were nearly home. Another 20k along familiar roads and we would be back at Declan’s. As Ian is faster we told him to go ahead and get the first shower. Dec and I went as fast as we could. I couldn’t wait to get back, by the time I got in the shower my feet were so cold they felt like they were on fire – if that makes sense – they really really hurt and it took me a good hour before I started to truly warm up.
While I sat huddled by a heater, with a wool blanket over me the prizing giving started – and YAY – First Lady !!!!
It was a fabulous weekend, great cycling, great support and great company. Thanks Annemarie and Declan, I will be putting my name down early for next year’s place in this exclusive event.