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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Rawlinson Bracket 2018: THE CLAW


Rich was moaning about being too hot. Granted, we were in the car wearing 5 layers of clothes plus thermal underwear and the heating up to full whack but today was not the day to be moaning about being too warm. 

Outside, temperatures were hovering between -5*c and -2*c, the wind was howling and the roads were covered in a sheet of ice. And we had  60 miles of the Rawlinson Bracket sportive to do on our road bikes. Hooray. Hoo-fucking-ray.  

Last year I'd enjoyed it SO much (link) I'd cried, tamtrumed and made up new swear words before I was rescued by Linda and Fiona. So why on earth had I entered it again? Because in my infinite wisdom, I'd thought it couldn't possibly be as bad as I'd remembered and roped Rich, Paul and Annette into it. At least if it was as dreadful as I remembered I'd have company in my misery and people to stop me entering it again next year. 

We'd all arranged to meet up about a hour before the rolling start closed so we had time to visit the loos multiple times, sort the last minute mechanical problems that always happen when a bike gets thrown into the back of a car and still have time to get to the aid stations before the cakes ran out. It sounded like the perfect plan.

Rich and I travelled down together and we met Paul fairly early on in the registration area. We couldn't find Annette and had had no communication from her apart from one tentative text mentioning the cold. After several calls and texts without a response we came to the conclusion that we had been ditched in favour of a lie-in which was probably a sensible decision. It was now 10 minutes before the start line closed so we made our way over to find Annette waiting there patiently asking us where we'd all been.

We set off into the headwind. It was -5*c and we had massive hills ahead. Oh good.

At least judging by last year we'd have green, unpeelable bananas waiting for us at 35 miles. Oh good.

Well at least I could stick 2 fingers up at the cold. Well a claw. 

I detest being cold so had invested in Crab Claw gloves. And just in case the cold got through those I'd put neoprene gloves on my hands underneath. Frostbite could sod off. I might look like Dr Zoidberg from Futurama but I'd have the last laugh when I had warm fingers. Warm claws.   

On my feet were thick thermal wool socks, fleecey insoles, tin foil inside my shoes, neoprene overshoes over the top and waterproof overshoes over the top of these. I couldn't feel the pedals through this lot. Or my toes. But who would be laughing at the end when everyone else couldn't feel their feet from the cold, hey? I'd just be unable to feel MY feet because of the sheer amount of kit I was wearing. Winner. I think.

It was tough work in the wind and Annette wasn't feeling 100% so she made the decision to head back to the start when we reached about mile 10. It was a wise decision, no point staying out in the cold and hitting the hills if you weren't feeling great. So long as she didn't get to and scoff all the cakes before we got there.

Rich and Paul were good company despite them giving me grief for taking the hills at a steady pace. After the shambles of last year's attempts on the hills I was just making sure I kept an even pace and effort the whole way up. I'd completely cocked up one of the hills last year after attacking too early and had done something I'd never done before …  walk up the hill. The shame. There were mitigating circumstances but even so … This year this was NOT HAPPENING.

I got to the top of Edge Hill which was one of the more challenging hills on the route and proudly said to Paul:

“I didn’t walk up any part of that  hill and even overtook people.” (I may have done Smug Face at this point.)
Paul promptly asked: “Well were THEY walking?” Which of course, both lads thought was hilarious.

Gits. I was also unable to give them the bird due to the aforementioned crab claw gloves and had to be content with motioning threateningly over my shoulder instead in a crabby kind of a way.

Despite Rich moaning about the heat in the car on the way up, every time I even mentioned that it might be a tad chilly I got reminded of Velominati Rule 5. **huff**

Stylish as ever. I was warm, ok. WARM.

I smashed all the hills. In a sedate, non-smashing kind of a way. Read: didn't walk. And spotted a few friends on route too. Lorraine, owner of an identical bike and the fluffiest dog EVER and Jane, a triathlete friend and focused cyclist who was completing the event with her friend Ann. Nice to see friendly faces. Especially ones who didn't tell me I was moving at a sloth speed on the hills. Yes. I'm looking at YOU, Paul and Rich.

The aid station had, similar to last year run out of energy drink, no doubt squandered to the cyclists doing the shorter route, but at least the bananas were peelable this year. 

No those aren't smiles. Those are frostbite gurns.

After the aid station, the last part of the ride goes quickly with just a couple of interesting climbs left. I'd enjoyed the sportive but there's only so long you can cycle in such cold and wind without dreaming mournfully of a time where you had feeling in all of your limbs and icicle bogies weren't a definitive part of your face. We all looked like walruses. Most of all I was looking forward to a hot black coffee. There's nothing like a coffee to keep your spirits up and warm your hands.

After 4 hours of ice, bogies and banshee-winds, we made it back to the finish at the Gaydon Motor Museum where there were tons of cakes waiting for us … and no coffee. No coffee. They had run out of coffee.

So I had to console myself with another 2 cakes instead. 

Fair dos.

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