Ah, breathe in the sweet air of failure and cough up a mildewed lung. The weather is what did us in. Rain. Again. It wasn’t all that bad, we got a good ride out of it.
The Reliable is a Grimpeurs du Sud qualifier, a ‘Permanent’ ride that we had decided to tackle a few weeks ago – between Hills and Mills and the next calendar event Mad Jack’s. To Explain: “Permanents are events registered with Audax UK which can, in most cases, be ridden at any time. They are intended as events for the more experienced rider, riding alone or with family and friends, and not as replacements for calendared rides whose dates have been planned as part of a programme of events“.
The email received from my friend George was “I’d like to have a go at a couple of 100k permanents in two weeks time (13th Feb) if anyone fancies it (one or both). I’m attempting two but that may change depending on how it goes”. His idea was to link two permanent rides, starting with The AAA Milne with a link ride between to start The Reliable – 200km and a whole heap of climbing (3200m roughly). A big day out with an early start, “doable but probably not in February – good luck wit that” was my internal response, but I agreed to at least ride one, The Reliable. Circumstances, in the end, shelved the back to back permanent ride idea.
According to Audax UK; Permanents should be entered early, a month or more in advance of your intended ride, however a quick check with the ride organiser, Martin, he was fine with the late notice. Validating the ride is usually by a set of controls on a brevet card (info controls or proof of passage via till receipts from local convenience stores) or these days you can submit a GPS file. You can start of finish The Reliable from either Groombridge or Ripe in East Sussex, but given that we all live closer to Ripe and Ripe doesn’t have any shops or other places to get receipts as proof of start time we opted to start in Lewes, approximately 5km from the actual route itself – again a check with the organiser confirmed that this was OK.
I was already wet from riding to the ride. As we sat in Bills Café in Lewes, second coffees were ordered and surreptitious glances were taken out of the window at the falling rain – resolve was already wavering. The route has a lot of promise, covering 1630m of climbing in 100km of riding – “no gratuitous hills” the official ride synopsis exclaims. Clockwise the ride for us starts in Lewes before meeting the route proper at Half Mile Drove just east of Ringmer – from there it scuds up to Crowborough via Buxted, before heading east through Rotherfield, under Wadhurst, orbiting Burwash and then heading south westerly back down through the Weald via Brightling into Horam and finally the nice flat section back through Arlington and Ripe.
There had been no let up in the rain – we made it to Crowborough and the first control at the Sainsbury’s Local. As we all stood shivering under the heating vent by the automatic door, puddles forming on the floor whilst George set to outside fixing a slow puncture, there was a subtle change to the group dynamic and determination – all it took was for one of us to exclaim defeat and we all followed. Maps were consulted and the decision was to make it back to Lewes by the safest and most direct route possible and a warm pub where there is beer and food.
We covered a third of the route in the end. I managed to do a decent 90km ride by the time I got home, having ridden back from Lewes after we said our goodbyes later in the afternoon. We’ll be back to try this one again – Martin the organiser has given us the nod. Perhaps that back to back idea will be rekindled along the way somewhere.
One lesson learned from all this – pack dry socks if you’re heading out into freezing cold precipitous weather, dry gloves aren’t a bad idea either. Vic, I salute you for your incredible foresight.
The Reliable – £3 pay via Paypal through Audax UK.
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