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  • 07/03/2022 - My fitness proved more reliable than my bike

    The view I’ve had mostly through the winter has been from my shed atop my turbo (see photo above). But this weekend I did a road event. Not exactly a mass event with 150 riders, but the Verulam Reliability Ride was the first event with the possibility of riding in groups I’d gone in for since the pandemic . In fact, the Verulam Reliability Ride was the last event I rode just before the first lockdown back in March 2020, so there was a nice symmetry about riding it again. The 2020 ride dang near killed me with 5,000ft of gain over 70 miles. I was struggling with fitness that spring.

    I was so delighted that this event was taking place. I am a massive fan of Reliability Rides, they are just so English and give me that day at Wimbledon, Test match at Lord’s feeling. Village hall, tea, cake and sandwiches, it’s all good. I know, I’m an easy date. It’s similar with time trials. It’s the grass roots of our sport and it’s so uncool that it is in fact super cool.

    The Verulam Reliability Ride is part of the Chiltern Classics series of six rides that take place January to March. Reliability Rides are traditionally ridden as pre-season leg testers and this series fits the bill perfectly. Plus they only cost about a tenner to ride and you always get a good feed at the finish. It’s old school base training for me and I usually ride one or two each year. When I came to plan my season in December, I checked the organising clubs’ websites and it looked like none were being staged, so I elected to ride all the routes in DIY mode. It turned out that two are being staged, the Verulam Reliability Ride on 6 March and the Berkhampstead Reliability Ride on 13 March.

    The Verulam ride went really well for me. It features some brutal ramps up (to 18%) and a few longish ascents. Whiteleaf is now indelibly printed on my psyche, but I handled them all steadily and (almost) finished feeling strong. I say almost because I had quite a few flats, ran out of tubes, switched to patches, but had only one. When the cupboard was bare and no sign of passing riders, I did what I’d never done, I admitted defeat and called HQ. The organiser, Alan, drove out and picked me up. I was not bothered by not finishing, it wasn’t a race and I was only five miles from the finish. We had a good chat in the car and listened to the Arsenal match on the radio before arriving at the HQ and refuelling on sandwiches, tea and cake. It was a good day.

    Memo to self: check stock of patches in advance and pack three tubes rather than two.

    All these Chiltern Classics routes are fabulous. All are quite testing, with plenty of challenging climbs, technical twisty roads and rough but quiet back lanes.

    If you fancy the Berkhampstead Reliability Ride, it starts and finishes at the Musette Café in Aldbury. You could drive there or take a train to nearby Tring from Euston.

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