Report by Andy Flint

You jinxed me with your puncture repair practice!!

Firstly Neil Marshall rocks up at 08.50 and joins us (Andrew Hunt, Mike Large (aka Big Dog) and 2x Lovemans, Keith and Jack) as we depart on the first climb and then gets a puncture within 20 mins - surprise, surprise!! So we wait (cold!) and 15 mins later we get on our way. Then heading down the hill to Dagnall I get a rear puncture - think I hit a hole and the valve pinched the tube - arg! Everyone bar Daddy Loveman was ahead so I pulled up in a handy gateway and started the fix. If only it was so simple!

Daddy Loveman then joined me and helped me out but first tube refused to fill (so wasted my C02 on that one - groan!). Tried another (had 2 with me) and after a lot of phaffing got the damn thing in place and tire on too (Gaterskins are tight buggers!). At this point Hunt arrived which was handy as he had C02 - so up she went... Bang! Bloody tube was pinched by the tire and blew! So, third time lucky... Hunt supplied the tube and did the honours with the tyre, my hands were shot by this point (it was frigging cold)! Another C02 and we were sorted (short valve made it a close one but if just did the job - phew!!).

Phaffed about a bit more (as you do) - cleaning up and then got on our way. Loveman junior was waiting at the roundabout, top man. Marshall and Big Dog had abandoned us, so assume they finished, I wonder if I'll wait for them in future?!

So, now about three quarters of an hour behind schedule we pressed on to Bison, (that is a b!tch), Dunstable and onwards to Aston (another barsteward climb)! Topped out on that one and Loveman junior was in need of fuel, so we used that excuse to take cake (actually, pasty) and coffee at Wendover Woods!! Made a nice stop - but sat outside as packed with families so we got rather cold!

30mins there and we were up for the rest of the Harp Hilly, but it was bloody cold and we all struggled to get our fingers and toes to talk to us as we set off back on the loop through Wigginton and Aldbury. Up the Beacon was a breeze compared to the other climbs but Daddy Loveman was feeling the pace so we re-grouped at the top. Cows on the road added to the fun of the ascent! Problem with this stage was now really just in my head, as I hate the climb out of Berkhamsted and this was nagging at me for the run across Ashridge!  In fact, it was nagging at me from the departure, I soooo hate that climb!

Berko arrived and so did the dreaded climb. Yes, it lived up to its reputation - its a beast!! We all started with our heads down to grind it out but then Loveman junior attacked and Hunt simply had to respond! I wasn't in the game and nor was Daddy Loveman who at this point was well off the back! Think Hunt held Loveman junior but it was close - I couldn't see as I was too far behind with head still down!!

Re-grouping we set off for Ley Hill, thinking that was the last bit of up, which of course it is, but we forgot the down and up on the road to Chesham - which came as an unpleasant surprise!
Daddy Loveman was seriously struggling at this point - thank God or I'll have been the one off the back! We managed a re-group ahead of Ley Hill and then thought we'd cracked it when we dropped down and up a short sharp dip... Only to discover that wasn't Ley Hill - doh!!

Down and up we went on the last of the biggys and Loveman junior couldn't resist- attacked me and Hunt and was gone - no care for Dad at this point, he'd realised that with a big push getting ahead of the 3pm cut off was achievable! Hunt and I didn't see the boy again (til the finish) but decided as son didn't care for father, nor would we, as we also thought we might just sneak in ahead of the cut off! Heads down, we bombed to the end and got in just in time, well, probably a little late, but kind folk made us a coffee and we tucked into what was clearly an over supply of Costco sandwiches and pastries - nom, nom, nom!

Upon arrival we found Loveman junior tucking in without a care in the world for Daddy Loveman and sometime later, as we were suitably satiated, Daddy Loveman climbed the stairs with relief and some degree of delight given coffee and food was still available!

Loveman's then took to their car (softies!) whilst Hunt and I set off to conquer bunkers, which seemed remarkably easy and then we wound our separate ways home...

A bloody epic, but in a strange way enjoyable!


VCC members Kirk Alderson,  Jonny Percival, Geoff Perkins, Craig Sears-Black, Bernard O’Brian  and Kate Gannon, Hazel Davies, Drew Norton, Troy Backhouse, John Jones, Timoth Ayres, Raffi Jacobs, Martin Jones, DAniel Webb and Steve Payne were all in action at the might Dragon Ride across the Brecon Beacons (138 miles for some!) .

"Geoff soon pedaled off into the distance only to be seen hours 9 hrs 15 mins later after completing the Gran Fondo – 138 miles and 12,000 ft.  The rest of us planned to take on the Gran Fondo but in a more sedate manner. At one point we were leading a perfect peleton of 30 cyclists who all rotated seamlessly to Kirk’s (aka Thor)  infamous ‘change’ call.  This soon ended as we started the first major climb into the beautiful moor land.  Our progress came to a screeching halt as a moorland sheep ran out into the road in front of Kirk on a long descent.  Pretty scary stuff but thankfully once the shock subsided he was okay'ish except for nasty cuts and bruises, a broken bike and  a ripped new pair of Assos shorts.  There are no reports on the sheep as yet!   The remaining group pedaled on slightly more cautiously and at the route split Kate attempted to persuade the feeble men to complete the GF but sense prevailed and the group completed  the Medio – a respectable 98 miles and 7,000 ft.   Kate was first home by a margin demonstrating her need to challenge herself out of the Inters. You will be pleased to know the Assos shorts just need a needle and thread and Thor is sore but OK. All in all quite an adventure!"

Comment from John Jones: "After some dire forecasts, the day was actually bright and warm with rain only coming towards the latter stages of the ride. Stunning scenery and impeccable organisation resulted in a memorable sportive"

Andrew Rice and Hazel Davies have been out doing the the spring classics; those sportives that are some of the first to be run in the year and offer the challenges of both the weather and the hills of the North or South Downs.  The rides over the last 5 weeks were; the Hell of the Ashdown, the Puncheur and the Spring Onion (the first two were reviewed in 27th March edition of Cycling Weekly) all are fantastic routes and after a winter's cycling not too big a challenge at about 65 miles each.  This year the weather was kind to us inasmuch as it didn't rain or snow (apart from a couple of hail showers last week!) and the temperature stayed above zero!