This 300 was originally put on by Ian from Willesden as a training run for PBP. The terrain closely matched much of northern France (gently rolling hills with lots and lot of fields). It was run this year as a warm up for LEL (covering some of the same areas as LEL will, though very few of the actual roads). The ride started from Baldock train station - only 40-50 minutes from King Cross - so it was an easy start for me and a reasonably large number of other Londoners on the 6:06 from Kings Cross.
It was clear from the forecasts that this weekend was going to be hot, very hot. I'd ridden to the station in arm and knee warmers and was already too hot.
We arrived at the start with only 5 minutes or so to go - which was a bit of a shame as I didn't get to chat with people before the off (there were people on the ride that I didn't even see). There was a good sized field of around 50 riders.
Within minutes, we were into sparsely populated countryside on good roads with little traffic. That would be the theme of the day really.
Before too long, I was riding behind Chris and Lindsay of VC167 on their tandem (see their ride report here) and Adam on fixed. A tandem on the flat stuff is always going to attract a train (as they punch a nice big fast hole in the air) and it was great to be hooning along at 40kph. Chris and Lindsay decided they didn't want any passengers and decided to launch their rackbag into the air over some speedhumps, straight into the path of myself and Adam - still not sure how it missed either of us, but thankfully, it did (I was a little bit behind on the bumps and managed to swerve and stop to collect the bag (fortunately the car behind us didn't run it over either).
Bag reattached (though I was a little more cautious following them again! And, indeed, I noticed the buckle had come undone on one of the restraining straps later on).
A good tandem tow and then some decent solo pace meant that I reached the first control at Oundle (85km) at the maximum allowable average speed of 30kph. Rare for me to reach a control at that sort of pace and I worried that I was overcooking it. Equally, when the legs feel good, then go with it!
I stopped for around 20 minutes to have some cake and a cheese toastie (in that order!). As I have given up caffeine in preparation for LEL, I watched with envy all those drinking coffee as I did feel a little sleepy from the early start.
I pushed on for Rutland Water (our second control) and things got a bit hillier (though nothing horrifying - it was quite nice to do a ride where the horizon wasn't way above you for the whole day). About 3-4km before the control, at the top of a small rise, the back tyre felt very soft. Indeed, there wasn't much air in it. Before I even removed the wheel, I span the wheel around and could see a fairly large piece of glass embedded in the tyre - so I suspected that was the cause - and indeed it was - a slow puncture that I could have picked up at any time. Still, it gave me a chance to test out my pump and make sure that it was working for LEL. First one in two months - so can't moan too much as I've done a lot of miles in those two months!
All fixed up, I arrived at Rutland Water for an ice cream and a cold drink. Quite a few riders were there already and we were all starting to feel the heat by now.
The next section up to Bottesford (the turning point) was mainly solo and it was now baking hot. My computer said 31 degrees, and whilst not 100% accurate, I can't imagine it being far off that. Some great views of Belvoir Castle on this section - quite a place!
Reaching Bottesford, I stopped at a wonderful little cafe with super fast service (it helped that I arrived a little ahead of the main bulge of riders). A bacon and brie panini along with some ice cream (second of the day) hit the spot perfectly.
The tandem rolled in and, according to their rules, if you are over half way, you can have a pint, so they went to the pub!
The next section back to Oundle was hard. Partly because of the heat (which was now at it's peak), partly as we had a little bit of headwind (which I was thankful for; if there was no breeze, then it would have been unbearable) and partly as we had a couple of stiff climbs to conquer now. The ride had been largely flat or gently rolling at worst so far, so it was a bit of a shock to the legs to suddenly face a couple of proper climbs!
I really suffered in the heat on this section. I was getting dehydrated for sure. I was out of water and had to stop in Oakham for another ice cream, some Orangina and a bottle refill.
Somewhere on this section we passed the Welland Viaduct - can't remember exactly where, and I didn't take a photo sadly - it was pretty awesome.
I reached Oudle again, just as the cafes were closing, so opted for a Tescos stop. The heat was starting to go out of the day - which was good. I had around 75km to go, so was expecting to be back around 9pm for a 14 hour 300.
After refuelling, I pushed on for the end - the last part of the ride was gently rolling again, and now the sun was easing off, it felt good again. Towards the last 20 or so km, it actually started to feel a little chilly (for me) and I had to zip up my jersey again. I guess as it was the first really warm day, the thermal mass of the roads etc. hadn't raised temperature massively to radiate off the heat in the evening/night.
Shortly after the last info control, with about 10km to go, I found a brevet card. I picked it up as I knew someone would be heartbroken to have ridden all that way and then found they'd lost their card.
I rolled into Baldock just after 9 and found Ian at the pub near the station. He rang the rider of the missing brevet card, who was in his car at the station and sounded very grateful. He came back and sorted out his receipts with Ian. Glad to have saved someone's ride.
I had a pint of orange juice and lemonade. I would have loved to have eaten at the pub as it looked good, but the flipside was a train that would have me back into London at 10:30 and home around 11:15.
It had been a brilliant day out. A perfect summer 300 really. The route was fabulous with some great controls, lovely countryside and a great route.
It was hopefully a good last ride before LEL and I was pleased to have finished in a respectable time (for me!). The heat had been very difficult, and I hope it's not quite that warm for LEL. 4-5 days of that would be very difficult and would require a bit of shifting of strategy to maybe ride at night more etc.
Nothing we can do about it now, but wait and see what the weather does.