|Newsletter - 2000 Archive|
What an epic weekend! With all the Wessex hills the Brimstone is a hard 600km at the best of times, but with strong headwinds, rain all night, and hailstorms Sunday; this year it was extra special. To have any chance of finishing you had to: 1. Be quite a fast rider; and 2. Mentally incapable of packing - if you keep going when all around you have packed, you may have misunderstood the situation (apologies to Kipling). At the Wellington cafe (319km), discussion between most of the remaining riders resulted in an estimate of 14 out of the original 56 still on the road within the time limit (several more kept going, although out of time, and I guess that as many as 20 might have got back to Poole).
After non-stop rain for most of Friday, and a horrendous drive down to Poole Friday night, the blue sky Saturday morning was a pleasant surprise. No problems on the way to the first control near Andover, apart from mis-judging a sharp downhill bend and taking the corner rather wide. I arrived in the small first group, the rest of whom rode straight off, but I felt like some refreshments, and so left a bit later on my own. This next stage was where the fun started. All the rest of the day we were heading roughly SW (controls Codford - Beaminster - Exmouth), and there was a strong SW wind. At Beaminster the pub landlord said that last year almost everyone was through by 4pm, but this year by arriving at 15.44 I was third in. At least the sun was still out - shorts weather, and any time the wind / hills / anything started to get to me, I eat a chunk of Stollen Cake from the special supply Dave Hudson presented me with a while ago. Spirits were therefore high.
By the time I reached the coast at Charmouth the wind and temperature were both dropping, with increasing amounts of low grey cloud. On the climb just after Colyford on a car went by with a decent bike on the back - a Longstaff - looks familiar - it's Peter Marshall's bike - and yes, it's on Ian Hennessey's car. A bit further up the climb (at a nice steep bit) I spot Ian standing at a corner poised with camera. He expects me to smile as I go by. Stop for a chat - it turns out that on the same bend I took wide on stage one, Peter went straight on into the hedge, and was now in A&E in Salisbury with a broken wrist (one arm), broken hand (other arm), and unconfirmed reports of broken ribs. He was due to have a general anaesthetic Sat night to have the wrist set (& pinned?). He should be home by now.
Soon afterwards the rain started. Steady, set in, type of rain (it stopped about 12 hours later). At least there was no chance of overheating on the infamous climb out of Sidmouth. Just after Knowle my front tyre went flat. I decided I wasn't going to fix it in the rain (the warm and dry of Exmouth control was nearby) , so pumped it up and carried on for 500m - and pumped it up again - and again - and again ... At Exmouth the controller had recently had an update from Shawn, and the DNF list was already growing - the early signs of the cull to come.
Lights on for the next stage to Wellington - all on minor lanes. Lots of people went off route here, including me, all in different places. I don't think the route sheet was wrong, it's just what happens in the dark on minor roads when it's tipping down, and vital road markings have disappeared under rivers of water and gravel. A bit later, back on route, on the arctic wastelands high above Hemyock, my front tyre went flat again. This was the lowest low point of the event (won against strong competition). No chance of finding shelter this time, so I sat at the road side and fixed it by the light from my Petzl. A group of about five or six riders went by, a few hundred yds apart. A couple asked if there was anything I needed. I nearly said "A shotgun to the head" but thought better of it, because in the circumstances they might have taken me seriously.
The specially open cafe in Wellington was a haven. The group that passed me were already tucking into food, attempting to dry off etc etc. After food I decided to have a short kip, set my watch for 20 mins, decided when the alarm went off that more was needed, but managed to fall back to sleep before restarting the timer. I'm not certain how long I slept for, but I arrived at 12.50 and didn't leave till around 02.30 (control closing time was 03.16). Strangely, when I came to again no one else had left, although several more had turned up. The order of events is a bit confused here, but it was at this control that some locals knocked on the door to say they had just seen someone walk off with a bicycle. Mel Kirland's was retrieved from around the corner. Also here we worked out that there were probably only 14 still in time, and couldn't work out where Andy Seviour had got to, who was last seen about 2 hours ago dropping off the back of a group about 30 mins before the cafe. Chris Avery was noticeably quieter than usual. He may have been in shock from nearly hitting a large tree on the long steep descent into Wellington, which had fallen blocking the road in the half hour between the previous rider and him. He said it was big enough that he had difficulty climbing over it. Given that there was almost no wind, I assume that the waterlogged bank had given way and taken the tree with it.
Despite the long sleep I couldn't stay awake on the stage to Tor Hole, and had three stops (not ideal - it was wet, cold, and no bus shelters - but if you can't stay awake you have to stop). On the last few km into the 'secret' control it stopped raining! That moment was probably the best part of the ride. There was the traditional warm (literally) welcome at Drew's house. Drew had a tape playing "I want to ride my bi-cy-cle", but after several hints from those collapsed around his kitchen table he got the message that we didn't, and pressed 'Stop'. A body looking just like Chris Avery arrived as I left, but he was now completely un-Chris-like in character - he only spoke when spoken to, for a start, and he had a fixed blank expression. This must be a first!?
The leg to Malmesbury was pleasant enough - sunny, and a bit of a tail wind. I had to get the tools out to adjust the brake cables because the rear lever went to the handlebar and I had already used up all the travel of the adjusters during the overnight sections. About 100m of flooded road at one stage - deep enough that the chain was just in the water. Just before Malmesbury the front brake started grating - the block was down to the metal. Taking advantage of the way the cantilever brakes wear such that the blocks head towards the spokes, leaving a lip of rubber, I turned the blocks over to get enough brakes to get me home (hint - carry a set of brake blocks for Crackpot - lots of people had brake problems caused by massive overnight wear, and new brake blocks were like the proverbial hen's teeth).
The remaining two stages back to Poole were uneventful apart from a couple of short sharp showers, and one long hailstorm. Got to Poole at 8.33 to find the rest of the HBCC contingent already there after packing at various stages. First back was Mark Glover at 4 something! The suggestion is that he didn't stop till Tor Hole!
Replacement parts needed:
1. Brake blocks (2 pairs)
2. Transmission (complete) - starting to misbehave last week on the Rollercoaster, now doing automatic up/down changes for much of the ride.
3. Legs (1 pair)
4. Computer (1) - it suddenly went completely crazy after Wellington - reading double the correct speed (did wonders for my average though), and with the altitude randomly changing by over 1000m/sec. It then reset itself at Malmesbury. Hopefully it's a temporary affliction caused by water and/or dying battery, but I fear not. I believe that the Cateye is no longer made, so any recommended bike computers with altimeter?
5. Rear rim. Bad side wall wear - I don't think it will be long before the beads fly off.
And the general consensus is that Crackpot is harder ...