It was a fresh Sunday morning and a great turnout from club members on our inaugural Club Gran Fondo with 22 members at the 8.45am start line. Due to the high turnout, we split into two riding groups with the aim of meeting up at the mid point café stop in Newent.
The anticipation of the route mapped by our very own David “Digger” Townley was building, as we knew any ride into the Malverns would not be a flat one. With 78 miles of road ahead of us and c3000ft of climbing, the riding was going to be a challenge although homemade flapjack from Cookie and the great weather got us off to a great start.
The ride for both groups was an eventful one with plenty of unplanned challenges to test our team spirit. The first group led out by Digger and The Chairman encountered a few near misses on the steep downhill descent from the Malverns, when Mr Secretary went slightly off road around the bend, Joel locked out his brakes as he met a car round the same bend and Sarah shouted out the first puncture of the day.
We managed to get Sarah fixed up, ate Rachael’s Jelly Babies while Joel expressed concern about the lack of rubber on part of his tyre, which eventually popped at about 15 miles from the end, forcing him to retire early. After a couple of missed turnings early on, we eventually made it to the café stop near Newent at 45 miles in, just as the second group arrived at the same time. From the second group, it appears new boy Jonny had a puncture at 15 miles, an unfortunate collision with Dr Tim at the top of Malverns due to a clipping out issue and then another puncture at the café stop!
As the rest of the second group arrived, it was clear a couple of them had encountered punctures as well as a mud bath along the way, through the shallow “Digger’s Ford” near Eastnor Castle which had taken two casualties; Anthony Hoyte & Scott Robertson. Their cuts & bruises were cleaned at the café facilities but the taste of free coffee & homemade cakes helped the healing process. There were a few heads turning from the locals, due to the clopping of our cleats and middle aged men dressed in lycra in all shapes & sizes.
After a well earned rest it was back on the road again and the second group went off first with a couple less riders, who joined the first group for the return leg. It wasn’t long before the group encountered their next challenges; a yapping farm terrier dog running at them to protect his owner’s land, Aidy trapped a wasp between his nose and his glasses causing him to get stung three times and Joel eventually retired with a burst tyre.
As we rode closer to the finish, there were cries of celebration as some riders achieved their personal bests for distance riding and there were many hugs and high fives at the end to congratulate each other on a great day of group riding together.
Thanks in particular to all the ride leads and sweepers for keeping the groups together and there was really positive feedback from club members after the ride about how much they enjoyed the event. It is events like these that make you proud to be a Wheeler and thanks to you all for your ongoing participation & support of the club.