With just over a week to go before we set off on Arch to Arc 2011, a small group of us met to do a test ride of the first stretch: from Marble Arch to the delightful cafe in Kent where we have fantastic bacon and egg butties. And back.
For me, it was an early start. I’d been camping with family for the weekend, so I had to quietly creep out of the tent at half seven to head off for the station. At this point, it was still dry. A short train ride down to King’s Cross (accompanied by a few drunk and slightly rowdy teenagers) and then a couple of miles across London to meet up with the others. There were six of us. Three who did the ride last year, and three new ones who I’d not met before. The rest – 33 in total – I’ll meet next week.
Here’s the route we took. Observant folk may note that we didn’t actually set off from Marble Arch. We’ll be meeting at the Serpentine car park next week, as there’s more space for cars to drop people off, so that’s where we started yesterday. For the real thing we’ll start off by riding up to the Arch for a photo opportunity. Not a lot of sense in still calling it the Arch to Arc otherwise.
Pretty much as soon as we set off, it began to rain. It wasn’t a heavy rain, just a drizzle. But it Just Did Not Stop. All. Day. I’ve not done a lot of cycling in the rain, so it was good to get the experience. Well, I suppose it was. While you’re riding it doesn’t seem to matter that much as you still keep warm from the exercise. (It’s when you stop that you notice the cold!) The frustrating thing is that when you try to ride right behind someone to take advantage of their slipstream, you just get a faceful of spray from their back wheel. Lovely. Also rain and glasses aren’t a great combination any time.
The route out to the cafe was 26.52 miles. Now, anyone who’s been paying attention will see that that is further than my longest training ride so far this year. The longest I’ve ridden, in fact, since last year’s Arch to Arc. And there’s no doubt that towards the end of the outward journey I was flagging. I’d not had the best of breakfasts (a Costa chocolate twist and a hot chocolate at Stevenage Station) but I can’t really blame that. The terrain, the distance, the rain – and of course my lack of training – made it hard work.
And all along was the thought that once we’d got there and had a feed, we’d be turning back and doing the whole thing again in reverse.
Thankfully the return journey was nicer, somehow. More energy from the most fantastic Bacon and Egg Buttie (and a Cadbury’s Creme Egg) and just knowing I was headed home, made a difference.
What I really did enjoy was riding the parts in central London. Absolutely exhilarating. Getting back from Marble Arch to King’s Cross at the end was a fantastic buzz. Loved it.
I then had the delights of standing, soaking wet, increasingly cold, on a train home to Stevenage.
If you include my rides to and from the railway stations either end, I rode a total of about 62 miles yesterday. I was undoubtedly knackered, but enjoyed (almost) every minute. And it was great to meet a couple of my fellow Arch to Arc riders for 2011. See you again very soon, folks!
Sorry about the lack of photos from the ride. When we do the real thing the weather will of course be perfect so I’m sure I’ll be snapping away like I did last year.