Twice Round The Island - Mk II

Francis, Ben and I at the top of the Col du Tourmalet
Back at the start of the year I did a twice round the Island ride with Francis, one of the lads that I went with on the France and Spain Touring Trip. It was an epic ride, we started just as it was getting light and finished in the dark. 110 miles over the very hilly Randonnée route in six and a half hours.

A few weeks ago I almost jokingly suggested to Ben (the third musketeer on the France and Spain trip) that he should have a go as well. He decided it was a good idea - always one for a challenge! So on Thursday Ben came over to the island on an early boat and after getting the bikes ready we headed off.

The first lap went very smoothly; clear blue skies, dry roads and a good average speed of 17.5mph. By 1pm we were back at home after the first lap, on schedule for a huge lunch of pasta, coffee and cake. As we sat in the warm kitchen though, some very heavy showers passed over, and it was clear that dry roads would not feature in the description of the second lap.

Francis and I racked up 6 century mile days in France
We set off on the second lap around 2pm; after the rain, the temperature had fallen quite a bit and it took until Bembridge, after the first few hills, before were warmed up. But, by the time we got to Seaview the black clouds were brewing and it looked like we weren't going to be able to skirt round them all. Indeed at Smallbrook the black clouds opened and ditched what felt like tonnes of pea sized hailstones onto our bare legs and arms. Not able to deal with the stinging shots of hail we stopped for a bit under a tree, before heading off in trepidation a few minutes later when it got too cold to stand around for any longer.

About two minutes later we had no choice though; Ben punctured and we were forced to stop in a farm entrance as we fixed it, and watched fire engines and ambulances speed past, on their way to (what I found out later to be) a substation and barn that had been hit by the lightning from the storm!

Puncture fixed, we headed on to East Cowes, relieved that after warming up a little we didn't have to wait for the chain-ferry. We skirted round a very nasty looking storm passing up the Solent past Cowes and before long we were heading out towards Yarmouth in some drizzle, but at least not hail!

At the top of the Col D' Aubisque 

Turning the corner at Freshwater Bay it seems like you are on the home straight (although you still have the biggest hills and some 25 miles still to go. I gave Ben a push up the steep hill up from the bay as his rower's legs were beginning to tire from the pretty extreme endurance training. Once over the top it was down onto the Military road and we got a shift on, trying to bring the average speed up after it had dropped during our storm incident earlier. Another push up Blackgang and Ben and I were on the final stretch - eager to get home to a hot shower.

We eventually finished in 6 hours and 35minutes; a little longer than at Christmas, but some different routes had meant we had done a total of 114.5miles, so our average speed was up at 16.4 compared to 16.2 with Frank. It was certainly an epic ride, and went pretty extreme at times, especially through the hailstorms. Ben asked me jokingly as I pushed him up Blackgang on the final lap if he thinks I could do it three times'll think about that one! Perhaps not quite yet, but can certainly see myself trying for a sub-6 hour time in the not too distant future, hopefully without the hailstorms and punctures as a side-salad.


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