Posted by: Emily | June 4, 2010

The Tour of Wessex 2010 – an alternative account

This time last week I was on a train headed for Taunton. It was the day before the start of the Tour of Wessex and to say I had butterflies would be akin to calling a monsoon a light shower. The journey to Somerset had not started well. Ian and I had arrived at Paddington, without a train reservation for my Scott, only to find the train carriage full and the Train Manager refusing to let us take the bike into the main carriage. With less than two minutes to go until the scheduled departure time we were still standing on the platform edge and things were looking very bleak indeed. Ian was just getting ready to start taking off the wheels, thus turning a bicycle into ‘bike parts’ and therefore perfectly permissible, or so we were going to argue, when the Train Manager finally relented and allowed me to stow my Scott in an otherwise empty carriage where, I was told several times, there would be no guarantee as to the safety of the bike. At this stage I was just relieved that my Tour of Wessex experience wasn’t going to start and finish at Paddington station so secured the Scott as best I could and ran to get onto the train before it left.

We arrived at Taunton, Scott intact, to find the welcoming sight of Paula waiting for us. This was to be a common theme throughout the weekend. As I tried to get to sleep that night, having spent the last few months preparing, both physically and mentally, for the three days ahead, it seemed almost unreal that the start was now less than 12 hours away. My biggest concern wasn’t the distance, over 300 miles, or the ascent, over 7,000 metres, but the downhills. In particular, I was dreading the 25% descent that Crowcombe presented, having tried it once and been reduced to walking down most of it, in tears, out of sheer terror. Clearly I was an excellent candidate for an event such as the Tour of Wessex.

.Ian has already given a brilliant account of the the three days and, from his post, you’ll know that despite my fears, we not only completed the Tour of Wessex, but neither of us sustained any injury other than some chaffing and sore backs/knees. Given that our previous sportive experiences include four falls, an altercation with a dog and a cracked rib I was overjoyed.

.Here are my Tour of Wessex 2010 vital stats:

  • Number of major hills climbed: 30
  • Official time: 26 hours, 32 minutes and 44 seconds
  • Time spent cycling (according to my Garmin): 23 hours, 31 minutes and 29 seconds
  • Time spent eating: 3 hours, 1 minute and 15 seconds
  • Number of PHS’s (Paula’s Ham Sandwiches) consumed: 22 (11 each)
  • Number of Buzz bars, peanut butter protein bars and other bars eaten: at least 20
  • Number of fig rolls eaten: approximately 15 (mainly by me)
  • Number of Nurofen taken: 7 (4 by me, 3 by Ian)
  • Number of punctures: 1 (Ian’s)
  • Number of slipped chains: 4 (all mine)
  • Number of brake-free descents: many (all Ian’s)
  • Number of stops at the feed stations: 6 (3 on Day One, 3 on Day Two and 0 on Day Three)
  • Number of stops at the Paula feed stations: too many to count
  • Number of times I thought I wouldn’t be able to cycle down Crowcombe: at least 50 (per day)
  • Number of times I thought about the next PHS: at least 100 (per day)
  • Number of times I swore cycling up Dunkery Beacon: about 10 (per minute)
  • Number of additional miles, not mentioned in the Tour of Wessex info pack, that we cycled: 9
  • Number of times I wished I was able to cycle and drink simultaneously: roughly every 30 minutes
  • Number of times I gave silent thanks to Stu, who convinced me to buy padded shorts: roughly every hour
  • Number of times I gave thanks, silent or otherwise, to Paula, who not only drove us to the start and back from the finish daily, but also followed the yellow signs for three days, providing support that would rival that given to a professional cycle team, and kept us going with the now legendary PHS’s and tea: roughly every 15 minutes
  • Number of times I checked the route profiles: whenever I could
  • Number of people wearing full-on lycra: everyone except Ian and me
  • Number of times, apart from when finishing and getting down Crowcombe, that I felt overjoyed: whenever I saw Paula’s Audi or was eating one of my 11 PHS’s
  • Number of times I’d like to do the Tour of Wessex again: I’m not yet sure, but probably at least once.

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