For the fifth year in a row I rode the White Horse Challenge today. I'm pleased to say that following the blip that was 2013, my steadily improving trajectory of performance has been resumed. The only problem is that at the current rate of incremental improvement, I should break the 5-hour barrier sometime around the year 4076.
The total time, which the organisers use to award standards, was just 8 seconds better than in 2012, although my riding time was over 3 minutes faster.
On Friday and yesterday, there were a few e-mails buzzing about between me, Martyn, Jon and James as to whether we should go for the 5-hour target. I think we all wanted to give it a crack, but no-one wanted to be too emphatic in case we crashed and burned.
I won't bore you with the full description of the route, Jennifer, who also rode will do a cracking job of that. But the four of us worked very hard to stay with a fast group for the first 22 miles, until we fell off the back going up the hill out of Broadtown. We had done well to stay with them, and from then on I think we worked pretty well together, with occasional help from one or two others, until the major hills started to kick in, just after the second feedstop. Up until that point we had managed to maintain a pace that would have got us in under the mythical 300 minutes.
James was clearly climbing much better than me and Martyn, and Jon was not far behind him. So I persuaded the two of them to ride off and see if they could break the 5 hours as our pace had slipped and we were clearly not going to make it. James pushed on and missed out by 90 seconds, although Jon got caught in traffic in Lambourn and ended the day with Martyn and me.
So yet again I fell 6 minutes short, but the faster riding time shows what is possible, could 2015 be the year we do it? Perhaps we need Mr Lupton to give us a tow? I don't think I could have ridden any faster today, so next year we will have to do some things differently, train harder and hope for better weather.
Not that it was bad today. Nice breezy Spring sunshine, starting a bit chilly and warming up nicely. Shorts were the order of the day for me for the first time this year too.
But today was a brilliant day, great route, great organisation as ever, friendly too, and best of all my riding companions and me enjoying our Sunday out on our bikes. We chatted afterwards and waited for Jennifer to finish, giving her a big cheer as she did so, one of the faster women again.
The route also had a minor diversion, whilst retaining the climbs associated with the white horses. Including Dragon Hill, past the Uffington white horse. Which is really a dragon. Well I think it is anyway. It was certainly a boundary marker in days gone by. How appropriate.