Saturday, 31 December 2016

Rapha Festive 500: Day 5

Wednesday 28th December - My Tour de Londres - South-eastern loop (Kent)

My first day of pure cycling - no running race to warm me up/wear me out first (depending on how you look at it)!

So that meant I could get up first thing, be out of the door by 9am and enjoy the relatively mild, sunny conditions all the way to Tunbridge Wells.

Wrong. Overnight temperatures had dropped and London had developed a glazing of frost on the roads. I don't recall seeing gritting lorries around, so that was going to make surface conditions tricky to say the least.

In effect, the challenge of dealing with riding after a run was replaced with the challenge of dealing with the riding after an icy blast on the roads. This would be all the more difficult given that I had planned to ride 90km around the country lanes of Kent. Hmm. A couple of people had posted photos of themselves battered and bruised after crashing while attempting the Festive 500, and having to prematurely end their mission, so I had to be mindful of the risks.

Eventually, I decided to go out, but to postpone my departure to 10am, shorten my loop and (boo hoo) stick to the main roads. So there would be no Jackass Lane, which meant no Westerham Hill, no Hosey Hill, no Edenbridge, Penshurst or Tunbridge Wells - all areas that I particularly like riding in.

Deer in Knole Park

Instead, I had to stick to the dull old A232 through West Wickham down to Locksbottom, and then pick up the even duller A21 to Sevenoaks.


I did allow myself to go over Badgers Mount and down Pole Hill though, as I could see that these roads weren't too bad. It's a shame that loads of cars and lorries also had the same idea!

My one consolation on this part of the ride was my mini tour around Knole Park in Sevenoaks which looked lovely as ever, with lots of walkers and baby deer to add to the Christamssy ambiance.

Once past Sevenoaks I moved into slightly less familiar territory as my route went towards Maidstone. Along the way I passed places that rang a bell as I recalled doing triathlons on those roads a number of years ago.

There was Ivy Hatch and Igtham, which are part of the tough bike routes in the Sevenoaks and the Tonbridge triathlons. Later I passed Leybourne with its lakes. I remember doing evening triathlons there, and they were tough simply because you had to find your way round the bike course with no marshalls or signage! Going around what had seemed like a complicated system of roundabouts I ended up completely lost with a passerby having to give me directions back to the HQ. Happy days!

Just outside Maidstone I turned up towards Rochester where the terrain was a bit more scenic. By this time the ice on the roads had melted in the afternoon sun. In these more clement conditions I was able to ride along the Pilgrims Way where the road was devoid of traffic - unlike the alternative route which was full of lorries going to the nearby Waitrose depot!

Some people might find a Waitrose depot the nearest thing to heaven, but the roads around there were a nightmare, dodging trucks and potholes. Anyway I would prefer my Waitrose wrapped in a nice fluffy Ocado van coming to me, rather than vice-versa!

Rochester Castle
Rochester was pretty - at least what I saw of it. By this time I was getting a bit bored and hungry. Being in unfamiliar territory meant that I had stopped to check the map quite a few times and that had disturbed my rhythm, and made the day longer.

A really nice view of a spectacular looking chalky escarpment in the distance had kept me going, but even with that there's a limit to how much looking you can do!

Once in Rochester I had a quick gander at the harbour, the cathedral and the castle before heading over the ironbridge to the other side of the tracks - Strood and Gravesend, where my ride ended.

In Gravesend I only managed to see the shopping centre and the train station - I must admit, that's as much as I needed to see of the place. Sorry, but Gravesend is hardly Tunbridge Wells or even Rochester!

Anyway, I was glad to have done a jaunt around the Garden of England, taking in familiar places, new places, famous and not-so-famous places, while clocking up some useful kms and staying upright!

Rochester Harbour
Stats:
92.3km ridden; running total - 318.7; 181.3km left
1 bagel; two jammy dodgers, a custard cream; 3 quality streets; 
weather: frosty, 5degC, sunny spells

Rides on Strava
South-eastern loop (Kent)

Ride from the train station














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Rapha Festive 500: Day 1

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