Wallingford to Marlborough (50miles/80km)
The early 6.30am start was only the beginning of this nightmare! After registering and waiting around for all the late-comers, we set off at around 9.30am.
The first 10km were great; tarred roads, flat, dry. After passing through a few villages, we went offroad and onto the Ridgeway. The legs were still fresh, so the hills went fine. Then came our first fast downhill section. About halfway down I heard a hissing sound. At first I thought my disc brakes were rubbing, but then my back wheel started to jump around a little too much. I looked down and there it was – a puncture!
Twenty minutes later I was back in the saddle and heading up hill again! I couldn’t be bothered to navigate according to the map, so I just followed everyone else.
Again all went well for another 10km or so. But then the weather changed and the heavens opened. I don’t remember the last time I rode in rain like that! And the headwind was an absolute killer! At one stage I was peddling downhill as hard as I could and still only managed a speed of around 7km/h!
Oh, and then there was that fall! I was riding hard down a clay hill. I was doing about 30km/h when my front wheel dropped into a rut on the road. I tried to lift it out again, but the clay took over and I started to slide uncontrollably. I went down quite hard and slid a good 10m on my arms. I was up in a flash (didn’t want anyone to ride over the top of me). No damage besides a bloodied knee (which is still swollen).
Seven hours later and without back brakes I arrived in Marlborough. I was covered in mud from head to toe. My bike looked like it had been dipped in molasses and my knee was throbbing. Day 2 was going to be interesting…