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Burning Holiday: Day 2.

Date: Thursday 5th March, 2015
Distance: 150.0 km | Elevation: 1,803m
Destinations: Virginia Water – Lingfield – Royal Tunbridge Wells – New Cross 

Start kms: 772.1km | Finish kms: 992.1km | % complete: 9.2% 

The second day saw an earlier start. 

On rides like this, I tend to like taking down a few kilometres before I stop for a proper meal. So, with a packet of nuts in my jersey pocket (just in case) I was on my way towards Royal Tunbridge Wells on another glorious day. 

It was a fairly flat, and therefore pleasant, start to the day. With a little more distance to cover than the previous day, I held back a little and stayed in a relatively light gear to warm the legs back up whilst ticking off the towns and villages I’d never heard of and would likely never pass through again: Horne, Newchapel, Lingfield, Dormansland. 

I was fairly quickly off the main roads and into back roads and green lanes. This made for a great and relaxing ride, not having to worry about hugging the side of the road to accommodate overtaking cars, being able to sit up in the saddle and take my hands off the handlebars for brief periods knowing I wouldn’t have to immediately and unexpectedly reach for my breaks. 

What it also meant, though, was that I was 60km in and still hadn’t eaten as I’d not passed anywhere that looked remotely open. I was getting hungry (something I don’t cope well with off the bike, let alone on it) and there was no feasible rest stop/purveyor of sustenance in sight. 

The nuts were broken into and very quickly decimated. 

Thankfully, not long after said decimation I spied what looked like an open cafe. Lou Lou Jane of Lingfield sorted me out with a restorative ham sandwich and hot cross bun. That did the job. 

One of my main concerns about this 2-day ride was doing this distance solo. I’d been out on rides on my own before, but they tended to be around 50km or 60km, which only equates to a few hours in the saddle. Even the ride from London to Virginia Water was only just over 4 and a half hours of moving time. Today, though, was circa 150km to get back home, so a solid 6 or so hours on the bike. Accounting for rest stops and I was looking at a full day. Whilst I don’t mind my own company, having nobody to bounce off or drive you forward at those more difficult times was a worry.

But with the weather on my side, I free-wheeled into Royal Turnbridge Wells feeling great and pulled up for a spot of launch at what was my favourite stop of the weekend. 

The Vélo House is a large, open space of a cafe and a visual ode I to the sport of cycling. The walls are adorned with signed jerseys and prints, the TV was showing historic races and the shelves were stocked with an exceptionally covetable range of helmets, kit and bikes. It was also pretty popular with mums and buggies, which was the first sign that, despite the focused theme of The Vélo House, it had mass appeal. 

One of the key reasons for that may well have been their macaroni cheese with sausage. That was phenomenal. 

Whilst I’d planned and checked my routes for both days, I’d only done so to ensure I was sticking to tarmac roads (whilst I don’t mind attending to a puncture, I don’t actively seek them out either). I hadn’t laboriously tracked elevation and route stats and, upon leaving Royal Tunbridge Wells, I was glad I hadn’t. It may have been my legs tiring, but it felt like all 1,800m on climbing for the day had been back-loaded onto the final 60km home — ignorance had certainly been bliss up to this point. 

Each and every time I took another hill down, another would rear its sheer, steep and ugly head. This happened what felt to be continuously all the way to Orpington. I’d find myself over the handlebars and allowing my wheels to spin unaided as I descended a hill, but was almost entirely unable to enjoy it. 

Instead, I gritted my teeth and winced expectantly at what was round the next bend. Sure enough, there it would be; another incline to suck the momentum from below my tyres, bring me from my saddle and force me to snake my way towards its top as I desperately attempted to take any level of gradient out of the climb. I’m not sure how many time this happened, but I do know there were 7 categorised climbs across the course of the day. 

I’m not sure how many times this has ever been said, but with my lunch well and truly evaporated and my body running on vapours, I was irrationally happy to find myself in Croydon.

It meant London. 

It meant flat. 

It meant less than 20km from home. 

I’d been hoping to break the 100 mile (160km) barrier, but as I drew closer to my road, I didn’t have it in me to push on past my house to finish off the extra 10km lap. I instead chose to settle for the 150km. 

Still, that was two Strava Challenges complete in as many days. It also saw me more than meet the weekly average (207km) I need to be hitting to stay on-track for 10,000km this year. 

And I now know where to take myself if I want to do a bit more hill training…