I’ve been riding with the Stratford Cycling Club since June last year, so this was my first go at the Stratford Reliability Ride that’s organised to help kick off most people’s seasons.
The idea is to have a social ride and by choosing the most appropriate group, see if you’re up to the level of fitness that you think you’re at. The options were 3 hours, 3.5 hours, 4 hours and 4.5 hours. Aware of who was going in the 3 hour group, I went for the 3.5 hour group knowing I could try and hop onto the 3 hour group if they went past without the fear of getting dropped within the first 10 miles from Stratford.
As it happened, everything went a bit mental between Long Marston and Mickleton. First the 3 hour group caught up with the 3.5 hour group and those in the same boat as me suddenly shot off to get on the back of them, they had the hammer fully down so people were coasting backwards as people tried to get forward.
The 3 hour group and the chasers then came across the 4 hour group and ended up with a large ragged group of riders trying to blast past another large sensible group of riders. On the far side of Mickleton I gave up trying to keep up, aware that I was just about hanging on but would blow up on the hill coming up if I kept it up. I soft pedalled and let a group go past around me, only to then attack out of the group (and be a bit dickish) at the start of the Campden Road hill. A couple went with me and the 5 of us pretty much rode the rest of the course together.
There was a bit of a split on the way up to Dover’s Hill with me and another dropping back from the other 3, it took a mile of Cancellara-ing (see picture) to get back on and I was fairly useless for the next 10 miles, unable to take a turn.
The road to Stow was a combination of long downhills and long drags back uphill, finishing with another drag into Stow. Here the Banbury rider annoyed the group by solo attacking up the hill and all future rises in the road (eventually he pulled up with cramp on the hill up to Ettington).
Heading back to Stratford
The tailwind kicked in after Stow and we caught up with a couple, one young guy who got spat out the back almost straight away and Stratford’s Tom Lane who stayed until near the end at Loxley. This part of the route was nice but uneventful really, we just sped along at a relaxed but quick pace and pretty much just did the miles!
Two riders peeled off at Ettington and it was left to three of us to ride to Stratford and the finish, the only mishap was as I led us down Loxley hill and didn’t see the sharp left hand turn in the village, luckily there was a lane going straight on (which is presumably where I thought I was heading) and I managed to ride down there instead of doing a Tommy Voeckler and going into someone’s driveway.
I ended up getting back at the same time as the Kenilworth Wheelers rider I’d been with since Chipping Campden and a big group that’d been ahead of us the whole way. Tony Kiss was naturally already there, having blitzed everyone and finishing in 2hrs 30.
Stratford Reliability time: 2 Hours and 55 Minutes
Position: Something like joint 20th out of 150ish? (despite appearances, it wasn’t a race!)