Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

DSCF0867

The swim course being used as a rowing lake

I feel that I have to do at least one triathlon a year to maintain my status as a triathlete so I chose this one. I knew that the run was going to give me a bit of trouble owning to my ongoing achillies problems so I entered the longest of the events on the rational that I could make up time on the swim and bike. I’d visited the physio the day before to have my legs beaten into shape and I’d promised my loved one that I would walk on the run if I felt I needed to

I turned up at the venue with plenty of time to do all of the things I need to do before a race. It was all very relaxed and low key. It seemed that nearly everybody knew every one else. I’m new here so I didn’t know anyone, that didn’t really matter, I just went around doing my usual routine of checking where everything was and making sure that I was as light as possible before the race.

We were all herded up for the briefing. I always listen to the briefing even though I heard most of it before there is always something important in there. I’m always amazed how little attention people pay to these briefings, up to the point where some people nearly missed the start of their race.

The shorter distances started first, Before the race I’d debated whether to wear a wetsuit or not. I’m not a fan of wetsuits and in water this temperature I think they are too hot. Others didn’t share my opinion. I may be slightly slower than them but my transition would be a lot faster.

DSCF0868

A calm and relaxed transition

We were ushered into the water in small groups to start the swim. It wasn’t exactly a mass start, more of a staggered start. It took a while to get into my rhythm, there were a lot of people who seemed intent on trying to swim over me. I’m not too fond of that. Slowly the swimmers thinned out and I started overtaking people in wetsuits, that made me happy.

I took the first buoy wide to avoid the usual crush but ended up being pushed against the quayside. I few nudges later and I was back on track. It wasn’t a beautiful swim but it was effective. I got to the finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, neither first or last. This was my ideal position.

I’d done a lot of cycling in the week before the race, this was probably a bad thing as my legs were a bit sore. I hoped that this would help me. The soreness disappeared the moment I got on the bike. I got onto the tribars put my nose in the wind and wound it up. It was a lovely course; all the corners were coned off so there was no need to slow down, the straights were long and flat and easy to speed along. I was overtaken by a few fast boys on flash bikes but on the whole, I overtook more than passed me. I got off the bike feeling content. It had all gone well. All I had to do was survive the run.

I knew it was doing to be slow. It has been a long time since I’d run off the bike and I’d forgotten the feeling. The memory slapped me in the face as I wobbled down along the path. I ran for almost as far as I could before breaking into a walk. My plan was to walk for a minute and then start again. It was amazing how many people came passed me in that minute, most of them offered the odd word of encouragement. I started running again and jogged along happily passing some of the people that had passed me. I saw them all again when I started walking again. I wasn’t happy with the run as I’d had to walk but my achillies wasn’t complaining so that was a good thing.

When I crossed the line, I was happy. The swim and bike had gone well and the run had gone as expected. The results confirmed my feelings. I don’t need to do another one for at least another year.

DSCF0869

The final step

Advertisements

I’ve always fancied sampling a route that the professionals are going to use and this Audax route promised just that. It followed a stage of the Tour Down Under but in typical Audax style it added a few café stops and some kilometres to make the total distance 200km. This seemed like an ideal way to sample a race without participating and without being surrounded by hundreds of other cyclists with the same ambition.

It started in a 24-hour bakery close to where the actual stage would start. Just like the professionals we made sure that our nutritional needs were taken care of before the five of us hit the road. As we set off the organiser casually mentioned that gorge road, the first climb on the route, was closed for roadworks. We decided to gamble on being able to get through.

TDU (2)

Quality nutrition

We dodged round the road closed sign and ignored all the other signs that suggested that forward progress would be impeded at some point. Instead we enjoyed the feeling of being on a car free road. This must be something like the feeling professional cyclists get all the time whilst racing. It was rather nice not having to worry about cars trying to pass in the most ridiculous of places. Our reverie was brought to a grinding halt by a large man, covered in tattoos and wearing a skull ring on every finger. He was a man with a mission and his mission was not to let anyone pass the hole in the ground. We tried to use the power of persuasion but that was a lost cause. He had orders and a complete lack of compassion. We turned around and headed down, there was another way to get us back on route but that required a bit of climbing

I had been up Montecute Road before but that was on a mountain bike with much lower gearing. It is not a momentously steep hill but it just goes on and on. The others were far better climbers than me and soon they were snaking away into the distance. I knew the road got steeper near the end and that meant I would go slower. I struggled to the turning where the others were waiting vowing to do something about my gearing. The irony of doing this climb was that we now had to lose a lot of the height gained to get back on route. This involved a descent of the aptly named Corkscrew Hill. It was one of those rather scary descents that scares the sensible and that the reckless call fun. I used my breaks a lot.

Now we were at the bottom of the hill we had to gain the height all over again by climbing up gorge road to the reservoir. Yet again the group started to lengthen as those with climbing prowess speeded up and I slogged my way up. I thought that the climbing would be over by the time I reached the reservoir but I was cruelly mistaken. The road just became more undulating. I was able to catch the group on the down hill sections only to be distanced whenever the road went skywards. I started to get the feeling that it was going to be a long day in the saddle.

TDU (1)

Refuelling

The first café stop came as a welcome relief, well it would have done if the café had been open, we had to carry on a little to find a temple of calories and fountain of hydration. Just like the professionals we took care of our needs, unlike the professionals our needs included a bacon and egg roll and about a litre of coke. I was amazed at how much I was drinking. It was a hot day and I’d been dripping with sweat but to go though two bottles and a litre of coke before breakfast was for me, unheard of. At least I felt ready to tackle the next park to of the route.

The route kept its undulating character but now we were in the country and surrounded with fields of ripening corn. It was all very beautiful and for a while took my mind off the many small rises that seemed to appear out of nowhere. I had no idea that long steep hills could be hidden so well in the countryside. We got to the top of one where the views were spectacular, it didn’t even look like a proper hill. It just got steep without appearing to get steep. I don’t like this sort of hill.

TDU (3)

Heading for the hills

We came to a sharp corner, it housed a tree that someone had lived in one hundred years ago. Something like that is always worth stopping for. It also gave me a chance to recover slightly, finish the last of my water and have a stretch. I prayed that the next stop was as close as I though it was. It wasn’t

The next control was in a pub. The first glass of coke didn’t touch the sides. In fact, I’m sure there was some steam rising as I downed the drink. I had some crisps to slow down the flow of the next glassful. Even though I had filled by body with quality nutrition I still felt like I’d gone through the mill. I think it was here that it dawned on me that I was going to have to climb the Corkscrew in the next section. I suddenly felt rather weak.

TDU (4)

We should have stopped here, I needed a cuddle

The way to the bottom of the hill was mainly downwards with a few little lumps. That didn’t make the feeling of trepidation any better. Ive attempted the Corkscrew once before and it didn’t go well. This time I was hungry, dehydrated and tired. There is a whole world of difference between climbing when fresh and climbing with over one hundred and fifty hilly kilometres in my legs. I went as far as I could before grinding to a halt. I stood for a while gave myself a good talking to and them carried on for some meters and stopped again. I repeated this for a while before throwing in the towel and walking, there had been no cars on the road up to this point, now they came streaming passed all of them laughing at my inability to get up a hill. I tried to save face by cycling the last one hundred meters. It didn’t work

I met the others at the top of the climb. The official route took us down the hill to climb up another. There was no way that I was going to climb another hill. If I went down that road I fully intended to freewheel directly to my house and lay in a darkened room for a large number of hours. I didn’t care that it would be the first time I’d ever failed on an Audax. Luckily the others had no intention of descending and knew another route to our final control that involved less climbing.

There was still a lot of climbing and I was slowly coming to a halt on each climb. I lost count of the times I stopped to give myself a very good talking to. I was having a massive sense of humour failure due to the lack of sugar and liquid. This needed to be addressed urgently at the next stop. Two packets of crisps, two large glasses of cola and a packet of nuts later I started to feel a lot more human.

If I was a professional cyclist I would now get onto the team bus, participate in post-race interviews and probably be banned by the commissionaires for taking the wrong route. However, as I’m not I had to make my own way back to the city. It wasn’t far and it was mainly downhill. At last I could free wheel down the twisting road and admire the view over the city.

TDU (6)

Mission accomplished

This was the hardest ride I’d done in a long time and in retrospect I think I enjoyed it. It took a long time and a few bathfulls of water to recover. There is one thing that is certain. I will be glued to the television when the professionals go the same way.

TDU (5)

It took how long?

Lee Valley (3)

I jumped at the opportunity of a club session on the Lee Valley Velodrome, who wouldn’t? The chance to fly round the Olympic track was far too hard to resist. The only track that I’ve ridden on is Herne Hill: a four-hundred-and-fifty-meter outdoor track. Lee Valley is a completely different proposition: a two-hundred-and-fifty-meter indoor wooden track. The straights looked short and the banks looked tall. The whole thing looked very intimidating from the centre of the track but I was itching to get on the bike and have a go

After going through the formalities of finding a pair of shoes and bicycle that fitted me we were all gathered together by the coach for the initial safety talk. We all sat through it waiting to be unleashed on the track. Even during the safety talk there were differences. The main one being that slowing down to a halt should take two laps: one on the blue and another on the inside track.

Lee Valley (2)

My steed for the evening

Finally, we were let loose on the track to warm up. The more experienced started higher up the track but I wasn’t ready for that. I stayed down on the blue line until I felt ready to tackle the banking. Slowly I worked up the lines and slowly my confidence grew. By the end of the warm up I was quite happily going to the top of the banking and swooping down at great speed. This track was so different to Herne Hill and it took a while to get used to.

Lee Valley (9)

The medal winning GB sprint team was ‘ere

After the warm up the coach gathered us together and explained the next exercise. We were to set off in a long line and, at the end of each lap, the one at the front would peel off up the banking and re-join the end of the line. It seemed very easy in theory but in practice it was a lot harder. The main obstacle was a lack of consistency in the speed of the line. After a few laps, it started to become obvious that some wanted to force the pace and some didn’t. Whenever a fast one hit the front the line would stretch out and then on the next lap someone else would slow the pace down. This made life difficult in the line as one lap we were chasing all out and then the next we were trying not peddle into the cyclist in front.

Lee Valley (8)

Mark Cavendish was ‘ere as well

As I came off I mentioned to the coach that I’d only ever been to Herne Hill and how different this was. He was very disparaging about Herne Hill, saying that it was not really a track it was more like a ring road. I didn’t share his opinion but didn’t feel the need to argue.

The next exercise was all about gaining a lap. We all set off in a line and on a signal the rider at the front would drop down to the sprinters line and go hell for leather to gain the back of the line. Again, it sounded easy in theory but was hard work in practice. The inconsistency of the speed of the line struck again. One moment I thought I was gaining and then the line would speed up. The coach had noticed. He wanted a consistent fast pace. He was concerned that if it went too slow someone would fall off the track. It took me ages to gain a lap and then, in what seemed like an instant, I was at the front of the line being instructed to gain another lap. I feel that I earned my mouth full of Haribo and slurp of water at the end of the exercise.

Lee Valley (7)

Chris Froome was ‘ere too

Each exercise got progressively harder but it all remained fun. Slowly the fatigue kicked in and the rests became longer. I took to finishing each exercise early as the volume of track work took its toll. I was quite relieved when the coach announced that the next ten minutes were for warming down. Some took this as meaning rocketing round the track at high speed whilst others took this to dawdle. I took a path between the two extremes.

Eventually it had to happen. All through the session the coach had warned us not to go to slow. Up ahead two cyclists were dawdling round, half way up the track. Suddenly the one at the front lost traction and fell off the track, taking the cyclist behind with him. It looked messy and spectacular at the same time. Both lay on the track for a few minutes before gathering themselves together and being escorted to the centre to fill out forms and be assessed for concussion. At least we all know now that we shouldn’t go too slow.

Lee Valley (1)

So was Danny Mackaskill

Despite being unfit due to weeks of inactivity and eating I thoroughly enjoyed the session. It left me with the feeling that I wanted to do more, much more track work. I made a mental note to deal with this.

BobMMM (1)

The obligatory post cake selfie

There are days when there is nothing better than leaping out of bed ready to take on a lovely ride in the spring sunshine on Gracie the trike. Today was not one of those days. I was feeling tired and lethargic and I wanted to stay in bed. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’d lured Keith to come on the ride with promises of eating his body weight in cake I would have probably stayed in bed for another few hours.

I met Keith in the car park of the leisure centre where we signed on, chatted to all and sundry and indulged in some preliminary cake eating. Keith seemed happy that the early cake quota on this ride had exceeded his expectations.

We left the car park at the head of the pack and instantly found the first obstacle. Men in fluorescent jackets had been busy closing one of the roads in town by erecting all kinds of barriers and signs. The road we had been instructed to take on the route sheet was very closed to traffic, luckily it was not closed to pedestrians. If we were being law abiding citizens, we would have taken the diversion or pushed our bikes along the pavement. It was, however, early on a Sunday morning so we took the most obvious course of action.

Once we were reunited with ridable road we bowled along at a nice rate chatting about the trivia of life. I slowly became aware that we were way out in front. There was no one coming up behind us. This was strange. I’m much more used to people flying by me at this stage as the fast-paced ones disappear up the road never to be seen again. It doesn’t matter how much I like to kid myself that I’m in that group, I’m not and when riding Gracie I never will be. I was certain that someone would come past when the road went vaguely upwards. The extra weight of a Trike and my inability to go up hills almost assures this. It didn’t happen; I was starting to get suspicious now. I wondered if I’d printed of the correct route sheet or maybe I’d missed an instruction. I even wondered if the rest of the field had been wiped out by a stray asteroid.

Reality intruded on my revelry, the left side of Gracie started to feel a bit soggy. I tried to ignore it but it was followed by a little metallic bumpiness. I slowed and someone behind me told me I had a puncture. The tyres on Gracie are quite a tight fit, I bought them for the colour, everything else was a minor consideration. Keith and I spent a strenuous five minutes of so deploying the full range of tools and swear words to prise the tyre from the rim. If we’d had grappling hooks and crowbars we would have used time. Everybody came past us as we cursed and swore. At least that confirmed we were on the right route. Eventually we won the fight and got Gracie reinflated but that didn’t stop me fretting quietly that the tyre was going down, I’m never that confident with my puncture repairs, I’ve had far too many failures.

BobMMM (3)

Eating cake to the memory of Bob

We could have tried to catch up with everybody or we could have continued at a leisurely pace admiring the spring scenery as we passed though the countryside. It was too nice a day to rush so we took the easy and more enjoyable option. Had the pubs been open we would have been very tempted for a spot of refreshment. We passed some very nice looking (but closed) pubs.

I’ve often wondered if two people on two wheels is faster than one person on three wheels, today the answer was trike overtakes tandem. This is a useful bit of knowledge for when I’m playing cycle top trumps.

Somewhere outside of Ditchling Keith started to smell the cake and slowly speeded up. I watched as he slowly got smaller. I wasn’t going to chase him, there would have been no point. I guess that a couple of hours riding alongside a Trike can make someone a little stir crazy. I caught him up at the cemetery that was acting as a control. This was the whole point of the ride, to visit Bob. We ate some cake to his memory.

BobMMM (2)

Bikes hiding behind a hedge so the South Downs don’t see them

Keith confessed that he had never been up the Beacon and as we were crossing the bottom of it, it seemed rude not to. I had no intention of taking Gracie up there; it was not something we relish. Luckily there was a group of Rovers who were going up so he would be in good company. I said I would ride slowly so he would catch me up somewhere on the way back.

I spent the rest of the ride spinning gently through the countryside in a world of my own making waiting for Keith to affect the catch, just like the sprinters teams do to the lone breakaway in the Tour de France. The closer I got to the finish the more convinced I became that Keith and the Rovers were bearing down on me. I was being the plucky breakaway rider soloing home and they were the big teams hunting from another victory. They never caught me and I got the pick of the cake.

In hindsight, I’m glad I got up this morning, even if my only motivation was to not let a mate down

Man of Kent 200

Posted: March 26, 2017 in Audax, Cycling
Tags: , , , ,
ManofKent (2)

In an ordinary suburban street…

I really didn’t feel like doing this ride. I woke up but failed to get out of bed. I prayed it was raining to give me a legitimate excuse to stay in bed but the prayers didn’t help. Eventually I dragged myself into an upright position and went through the motions. If I hadn’t prepared everything last night I probably would have stayed in bed. The object of my lethargy was the Man of Kent 200 a one hundred and twenty five mile Audax ride around Kent. Last time I’d done this ride on Gracie the Trike but Gracie had been visited by the puncture fairy so I had decided to do this one on two wheels instead. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a long ride on two wheels. It should make a refreshing difference.

I met up with Mark at the start; Mark and I are veterans of many an Audax ride and more importantly we ride at about the same pace. We often put the world back in to shape whilst meandering down country lanes.

The first and longest section of the ride took us from the village hall to a vicarage for breakfast. I would like to think that the ease of the ride was due to my extensive winter training regime but I suspect that it was a lot more to do with the howling tail wind. It pushed us eastward with ease but we knew in the back of our minds that we would be battling it later. There was only one hill of any significance but the wind assisted climb seemed much easier on two wheels than three. After the climb was a long wind assisted descent to the first stop. This is how I always think cycling should be; moving at speed with the minimum of effort.

ManofKent (3)

My bike was at the bottom

The vicarage didn’t disappoint. A bacon sandwich was slapped into my had the moment I walked into the garden. I like that sort of service. The bacon was followed by a croissant and a chocolate biscuit just to make sure that I had all the major food groups covered.

The next section was still with the wind and this made life easy. We made our way quickly to a cup of tea and a large chocolate brownie in a garden centre café. We all knew that this was the end of the eastward journey, things were about to get a lot harder.

ManofKent (4)

Quality carbohydrates

The wind hit us about a mile from the garden centre. Things went from lovely to very Dutch in a matter of minutes. Now was not the time to be cycling alone and struggling with the wind. Now was the time to be in a group, to hang on to a back wheel and take shelter, and to do your fair share on the front battling against then elements. Mark and I teamed up with one other and we battled the wind with grim determination and bloody mindedness. There was no chat, no batter, just gritted teeth and a constant fight. We came to a junction and the other guy dropped off the back, he apologised saying that he couldn’t keep with the pace. This made me feel a little smug and then guilty at feeling smug.

There was a long descent along a beautiful valley near the end of the section; I assume it was a descent because the road tipped downwards. The wind counteracted any advantage here. I assume it was beautiful as one of the other riders told me it was, in the summer, when there is no wind. Today however, I didn’t see much apart from Mark’s back wheel or the road ahead viewed through squinted eyes.

ManofKent (7)

More quality cardohydrates

The next stop was in a station café, out of the wind and surrounded by the comforting smells of mediocre café food. We did wonder whether the small steam trains would take us back to the HQ but apparently the tracks didn’t go in that direction and it would probably be cheating. At least we felt like we had broken the back of this ride and were heading for the finish.

The route changed direction and the effect of the wind lessened. This was a blessed relief after the battle of the last few hours. We trundled along easily to the penultimate check point. Here we joined forces with another group. We were the youngsters in the pack the other four were in their late 60’s and early 70’s. This didn’t diminish their ability to stay on the pace. As we got closer to the HQ the pace increased. It was probably the smell of the tea and the aroma of peaches in ride pudding that did it. As we hit the final stretch it became an out and out race. There was no way that I could have been accused of letting the 67 year old win, he did it all by himself. It was a good sprint to the finish with neither of us giving any quarter.

ManofKent (8)

It wasn’t going our way

Invicta Hilly

Gracie waiting whilst I fill myself with tea

Gracie was being a little petulant today and refused to get out of the car without a struggle. I should have realised that this was a bad sign but as usual I carried on regardless. We had driven here to take part in the Invicta Hilly, the smaller version of the Invicta Grimpeur, The first long ride that Gracie and I did together. The big version consists of two loops, one clockwise and one anti clockwise. The hilly is just one anti clockwise loop. There was a lot of climbing and I remember from last time that it got quite painful by the end. The smaller version was definitely the one for me today.

It all started well, the Hilly participants were waved off at the allotted time and I made my way out the gates near the front of the pack. I was under no illusions that I would be the fastest round. That will never happen with an extra wheel on a hilly route. I was surprised how long it took for the first few to come past. I was well into the first climb before it happened. This made me happy as it suggested that the minimal amount of winter training had paid off.

The first control came at the top of Yorks Hill. I sat there for a while and contemplated the first descent. Descending on a Trike is a stressful experience at the best of times and Yorks Hill is steep and evil. The road surface was rutted and covered in mud. I decided that a screaming plummeting descent was out of the question and went for the timid cautious approach instead. It still wasn’t a pleasant experience. I got to the bottom shaken and stirred but mainly happy to be alive.

I caught up with a group of riders in front and followed them to the foot of the next hill. It turned out that I went to school with one of them. I didn’t recognise him at all but apparently I was still the same, something that I doubt. Catching up and chatting took the sting out of the next hill, we even passed someone who was attempting the ride on a Moulton.

We reached the top of the next descent. This was a lot more benign than the last one. It was on a wide road with a good surface and no bends. This was a good road to drop down with childish glee. I assumed the position and let the plummet commence. Then the wobbles started. Little wobbles at first but rapidly escalating into violet throwing off the Trike type wobbles. The whole of the front of the trike was vibrating wildly. I tried pulling hard on the brakes but that only made the whole thing worse. I started fearing becoming part of the road surface in a sudden and violent way. I brought Gracie back into the fold with a combination of brute force and intermittent braking. I pulled into a layby and cursed loudly. I’d been on the margin between upright and road surface; that is quite frightening.

Climbing the next hill I noticed that the quick release on the front wheel had come loose. I’ve no idea if the wobble had caused it or it had caused the wobble but I was willing to bet that it hadn’t helped the situation. Maybe that was why Gracie was being so petulant this morning. She was obviously offended that I’d not given her the attention she deserved.

www-4

Gracie, waiting outside whilst I filled myself with tea and biscuits

I’ve done this ride many times and it is always cold. Today was no different. The weather forecast wasn’t too promising either, with the prospect of snow later. I used my usual rule of if it’s not raining when I start I’ll do the ride. I’d chosen to do the ride on Gracie the Trike for a number of reasons, chief amoungst them being stability and the ability to carry a lot of spare clothing. I felt that I may be in need of extra layers as the day wore on.

The start was the usual mix of familiar faces, cups of tea and catching up with the news in the small world of Audax. I met mark in the HQ and as is usual we started the ride together. Again we were the epitome of Audax cyclists: one of us on a fixed with mud guards and panniers and the other on a tricycle, chatting our way round a ride and putting the world to rights.

At various points on the first leg we tangled with a sportive that was also running on our lanes. Sometimes they were cycling with us and sometimes they were on the other side of the road. Gracie managed to raise a smile from a lot of them. On one corner curiosity got the better of me an d I asked one of the riders which sportive and what route they were doing. After a little chat we felt that we had sold the benefits of Audax (mainly more cake) over Sportives with the cyclist promising to look us up on the web.

On another corner I overtook three sportive riders, they seemed to think that having an extra wheel was in some way cheating. They were very vocal about that. I almost offered them a turn on Gracie to show them that a Trike is in no way cheating. I didn’t because I think that Gracie should be paid more respect than that. She is, after all, an old lady who is still keeping up and in some cases passing the youngsters.

The original route took us up a steep hill to a control but the organisers had decided that the road was too dangerous for us to pass. They regaled us with tales of snow and slush and slippery conditions. I wasn’t too sad that I didn’t have to struggle up the hill for a tepid cup of tea and then follow it with a hair raising descent. I quite enjoyed my hot tea and cake instead.

www-2

Mark, at the first control using Gracie as a bike stand

Mark and I set off on the next section as the snow started to fall. It was very light snow that didn’t settle. At least it wasn’t rain. Rain would have made the ride miserable. The sprinkling of snow was little enough to be distracting but not annoying. The route passed along the piece of road that persuaded me that Audax was a good thing to do. It is a lovely narrow lane through trees and past a pond. Even now in the depth of winter it had a certain charm. I may have been viewing it through rose tinted spectacles though.

There seemed to be more slight ups than downs on this part of the route. I’m a lot slower going up than Mark. I can usually catch up on the downs, providing there are sufficient downs. There weren’t. Mark slowly pulled ahead until he disappeared into the distance. It became clear that I’d be finishing the ride alone.

I learnt at the last control that I wasn’t the last on the road. This raised my mood a little as I felt at times that the entire field had passed me. I was now back on familiar roads, I knew all the lumps and bumps and had mental markers all the way home. I was able to retreat into my little world and try to ignore my legs complaining about being used so much. I was so deep into my world that I almost jumped off the Trike when someone passed me with a jaunty “well done!”

Eventually I pulled into the HQ ready for my bowl of hot soup, a bread roll and almost unlimited cake. The feelings of gloom at my fitness faded fast with each mouthful of cake. I felt I’d done quite well for my first ride out of the year on Gracie.