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  • 23/01/2023 – Group therapy

    Can you get better value for money than the Westerley Winter Warmer? For just a tenner, you get the choice of a 27, 37 and 67-mile ride in the beautiful, but challenging Chilterns. But it doesn’t stop there. You get tea or coffee at the start, bananas and energy bars to grab for the ride and are set off in handy groups of 10 riders (in 3-minute intervals). And we were promised lunch at the finish. The organiser’s email read “All food / drinks are included in the entry fee so no need to bring money.” Nice.

    Organiser Frank Proud in purple

    You have to be lucky with the weather for events scheduled in January and we were. It was glorious clear and crisp for this reliability ride. Plus lucky that the organiser had done a super detailed recce, flagging all the little hazards and road defects that had come up due to general wear and tear and the recent freeze up.

    The "glamour" and pre-race excitement builds at the scout hut

    The ride starts in pretty Chalfont Saint Giles and the HQ is the very serviceable scout hut where I took a brew, banana and bar and thanked heavens that the weather was well above freezing and the skies clear. I had planned to do the 67-mile route, but I hadn’t planned on having a job interview on the Monday following. It felt like too much stress to do the long route, as I had some more interview prep to do later that day. I went backwards and forwards and at the last minute I loaded the medium route.

    Bananas and Aussie Bites
    I attached myself to a group of 5 that had set off west towards Seer Green. There was a climb out of Chalfont Saint Giles and I settled in to the group’s pace. As I’m not the world’s best climber, an initial ramp really helps me understand if I am going to be able to stay with a group or not. And I wanted to. It was a really cohesive group of local riders, quite chatty, going at a sensible pace. Checking my bike computer, I could see I was kicking out an average 200w, which is decent for me for this kind of ride. And it felt sustainable. Just as I began to get attached to this group, I started thinking about where we’d split. They were doing the long route, so this might be a short and sweet alliance.

    I was riding my gravel bike, which I’d converted to a winter trainer with 32mm tyres and mudguards. I left a handlebar bag and the group’s roadie sensibilities meant they couldn’t resist a few piss-takes about how much lunch I’d brought with me. At about 12 miles it was all change, I went left to the medium route and the group went right and the one bit of weather that wasn’t playing ball – the wind – started to be a factor for me as I was now solo. Would I regret not doing the long route and showing off the amazing contents of my bar bag?

    The climb up Hatches Lane, by Hatches Wood

    Well, not so much. At 22 miles the routes must have overlapped, because I passed two of the group by the roadside. None of the others were anywhere to be seen. The group had blown up in some respect and I pressed on purposefully at pretty much the same tempo as when I was in the little group all the way to the finish, where… lunch was served. This was chiefly a series of big baps that had thoughtfully been filled with a base of tuna, cheese, ham or egg. I say base, because you were meant to fill it with all the other stuff that was laid out – see photo. Plus tea, coffee, cake and fruit, of course.

    The DIY bap bar

    Having refuelled on a cheese a pickle roll and a hot cuppa, I headed home. I know I didn’t do the whole thing, but I did get to enjoy the ambience of this fabulous grass roots event and ride a reasonable amount in the stunning Chilterns, while not being so knackered that I couldn’t face practicing my presentation and rehearsing answers to interview questions. Next year, I’ll go long. Meanwhile, my great thanks to Frank Proud and the Westerley CC team that stage the WWW.