I wouldn’t say my latest attempt at a 300km audax was a disaster, I did after all make it back to Warmley station under my own steam (no pun intended).
The fact I took on one that was packed with Wills Hills after back to back weekends riding the same distance may have been enough keep the odds of success on a knife edge, but add to that a few navigation issues mostly at roundabouts that seem to confuse RWGPS navigation (and the rider), I caught a delayed Sandbanks ferry (about 40mins wait) to let a tanker out the harbour then swiftly followed by a deluge of rain that didn’t really let up for the next 3-4 hours!
Before I conclude some highlights were meeting Peter Corfe, Kevin Daffey, Mark Harding, Phil Collard, Owen Wood at the start. The fact I actually rode down to Lulworth Cove from Bristol to begin within such a good time I find mind boggling (probably went a bit to hard TBH) and an ice cream that cost me £6 and not even a cone I find equally staggering!
The ferry crossing was enjoyable but so is any ferry especially crossing with bike as well. Plus I’m glad I chose to eat on Poole Quay as there was very little if no choice thereafter aside from the odd village pub and one shop.
In truth the ride down was fun but the ride back was far from it, the only highlight was riding another section of the Castlemaine trail I haven’t previously ridden. Aside from that it was a bleak, very rural, very very wet and a long slow slog all the way to Devizes.
The only shop I saw was in Sixpenny Hadley, my ever sinking mood was compounded by a slow puncture I found at Fovant and the only saving grace was it had finally stopped raining, it was still daylight (just) and I had the luxury of a village social club patio to fix on.
The final blow came when I arrived at Ginny’s cafe and they were closed and it dawned on me I was already out of time only 2 hours through the struggle and that I’d miss already the cut of times for the last 2 controls as being 10:30pm and 12:30pm whereas they were in fact 20:30 and 22:30 (bloody 24hr clock!)
Although I was ready to throw in the towel and head to Warminster Station I was it seemed so close to Moonrakers in Devizes that it felt daft quitting just yet. Little did I know that getting there meant traversing Salisbury Plain, yet another long drag after several others on the ride north from Poole.
At 12:30am I found Moonrakers, closed as it was gone midnight and without yes-was-here to mark the occasion selfie or bike photo I slipped away a 24hr gangtok find food, then ditched the navigation in favour of following the road signs to make B-line back to Bath.
Crossing Bath City centre at 2:30am in the morning was an experience in itself although it compared little in comparison to the ordeal I’d just been through and I was soon back on the Bath to Bristol cycle path and rolled into Warmley Station at about 3am in the morning.
My B&B was only 10 mins down the road and after all the rain, mud and muck, the debris and floods in got out of my damp kit and in the shower looking as black as if I’d been down a coal mine that day!
So disaster no, bad luck yes. The conditions we endured on the Sunseekers and Moonrakers yesterday was enough to break the most audacious and strongest of riders. The fact I got round and back without quitting was a victory in itself.