As I lower my head and brace myself as the umpteenth juggernaut thunders by, water droplets cascade from the peak of my cap. I have a micro second to marvel as they are carried away at a gravity defying angle by the 25mph cross wind, before I am enveloped by the vortex of backwash from the passing truck. For a few seconds all I can do is place my trust in the cycle gods to guide me a safe path past any potholes, as in layman’s terms ‘I can’t see shit’. Welcome to the joys of the A4.
In 1956, the legend you’ve probably never heard of, Ray Booty set a new benchmark record on this very stretch of road for the 100 mile time trial of 3hrs 58mins 28s. The first man to average 25mph over this distance, the cycling equivalent of Roger Bannisters sub 4 minute mile. That was on an old steel frame, with a single fixed gear. No aerodynamic aids, scientific training, sports nutrition, support cars, or ‘marginal gains’. Oh yes, and the day before he cycled 100 miles from Nottingham to get to the event. Damn they bred them tough back then. 25 miles per hour average! Today in these conditions and with the cycling pedigree of a 9 year old girl I’m struggling to hit 25 kilometres per hour!
Inside my wringing wet gloves my hands are black with road filth, the result of a fairly soul destroying puncture only 10km into today’s outing. Yes, today is not my best day ever on the bike. But on the bike it is and that can only be a good thing, so as I plough on in some of the most epic weather conditions I can remember riding in I try to silence the constant inner dialogue of negative self depreciating crap, place my mind in a happier place, and contemplate in wonderment the feats of the super-hard ‘wheelmen’ of the past.
I didn’t break any records today but once back in the warmth and comfort of home, and with a coffee in hand, I was fairly pleased that after over 4 hours out in these conditions I had managed to knock 100km off the festive total leaving just 39km remaining to finish out the challenge tomorrow. Happy days.