End of the working week - End-to-end the downhill way - CycleBlaze

June 14, 2024

End of the working week

LEJOG Day five: Hereford to Market Drayton

Well (spoiler alert) we're now safely esconced in our next B&B, in the town of Market Drayton. Raven is downstairs, having had a good wipe down, and I'm up on the bed, having had a long soak in the bath. This is our fifth day on the road - we've put in a lot of hours, but tomorrow will be the weekend, and we might celebrate by going for a nice long bike ride.

I recalled today something that I'd read more than once on various forums, whilst gathering information about the end-to-end. They say that if you can reach Bristol, you've got it cracked. Coming from the North, you've covered most of the distance, and should be fine. Coming from the South, you've a long way left, but the worst of the hills are behind you and if you've conquered those, you'll manage what's left. Bristol was almost two days ago for us, and as I look at the map, I can't quite believe how far up we've already come. 

I also can't quite believe how fortunate we've been with the weather. Don't get me wrong, it's a British summer, so no azure skies, sweltering heat or warm zephyr propelling us gently toward the horizon. In fact, the forecast has been pretty rotten since Wednesday. If however it is true that the sun shines on the righteous, then we seem to have been the beneficiaries of some misfiling by the weather gods. I awoke to a clear day, even as the local news was prophesying regular and sharp showers, laced with lightning and potentially hail. Sounded like a good time to trial the goretex socks. But we actually spent much of the day serenely pushing forward in a pocket of clear weather, whilst everyone else got drenched. Maybe the intended phrase was, 'the sun shines on the cyclist'. You can see how someone could mishear.

Today was our flattest yet, and we made correspondingly good progress. An hour and a half in, I was settling down to double espresso and torta della nonna outside a rather splendid wine-bar-cum-café in Ludlow. If anything, it felt quite soon to be eating again, but we'd already covered a third of the distance. I recall reading lots of advice about needing to keep the fuel levels up on longer rides, and some transcontinental champion or other had described the longest events as an eating competition with a bit of cycling thrown in. Mind you, they were probably the sort of superathletic dude who's below 55k soaking wet, but I understand the point, and my fitness app is suggesting that I'm expending around an extra 2500 calories a day. I felt that justified a bit of granny's tart, and remain happy to defend the position.

Raven demanded a brief circuit of Ludlow: we discovered a bustling town with castle, market, boutiques, and the odd coachload of tourists.
Heart 4 Comment 0

Back on the road, we headed directly North towards our planned lunch stop. Coming towards us, from the darkening road ahead, a worrying procession of vehicles with their headlights on, some of them with wipers still waving frenetically. We quickly found ourselves on tarmac blackened by recent rain, and pockmarked with puddles. But somehow, we stayed dry. The only real exceptions were that I would indeed have got soggy feet from road spray, had it not been for the waterproof socks, and that at around 1215 there were a few spots of light but steady rain from above, for about ten minutes. I'm of the view that we must have been temporarily in the vicinity of some less-than-righteous local folk, and were simply casualties of the crossfire.

The sort of raincloud that you can see touching the ground. Someone up there is getting very soggy. Bad, bad people.
Heart 4 Comment 0

The route continued to take us through fast country lanes, green and grey, straights and bends, with limited evidence of larger settlements. I'm learning to love the unexpected pleasures of the bike tour though. The heavy scent of unannounced honeysuckle as you pass a country cottage. The rolling comedy of English place names - Wigwig, and Child's Ercall. The unfurling of a sudden vista of rolling green, as the hedges drop and the landscape reveals itself. It's an amazing way to spend time. Even the downsides, like the protein boost of a kamikaze fly hurling itself into your mouth at 20mph, don't quite take away the magic. If you haven't yet done a tour, and like me you're fortunate enough to be capable, I think you should. Really, I do.

I imagine this view looked pretty similar a century back. If rain has an upside, it's coloured green.
Heart 3 Comment 0

Fairly soon, we were rolling into our planned lunch stop at the comically-named village of Much Wenlock. I didn't really feel like sitting down again, and we were making such good speed on the road. I was tempted to pop into a cafe and order a wenlock sandwich, just to see if they'd admit to not having any, but to everyone's relief I thought better of it. We'd stop later.

It looked like an attractively quaint place, but the road was calling us. I did pause briefly for a picture. Do let me know if you can spot anything looking like wenlock; I'm stumped.
Heart 4 Comment 0

Almost inevitably, this meant that the next 25 miles was devoid of anywhere that looked as if it might sell me a sandwich. I was starting to flag a little now. Nothing problematic, but it did rather support the recommendation of staying fuelled. I'll have to make sure I'm more disciplined before we reach the wilds of Scotland. 

Lovely landscape, but I really, really wasn't fancying that distant hill. Fortunately, we circumnavigated.
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And so it came to pass that, at 1430, we laboured into Market Drayton. Around 400 yards before the B&B was a supermarket, so I popped in for calories, and spent a pleasant ten minutes afterwards chatting with a cycling enthusiast outside, who wanted to look at Raven. 

And that was largely that, for the day. I went into the usual routine: wash kit, charge devices, clean up, make a call or two, and pop out for (more) food. Market Drayton seems pleasant enough but this evening, I think I'll just be relaxing on the bed. Tomorrow's going to be another long day in the saddle, as we continue our progress northwards. Look out, Scotland. We're coming for you.

The town centre. I suspect this is where the market happens. But not today.
Heart 5 Comment 0
Not quite the longest day, but very much the fastest (and the flattest, which you'd rightly tell me is linked). Route details at https://ridewithgps.com/trips/190279426
Heart 4 Comment 2
Mark BinghamNo wonder it was so fast: ascent=3002 and descent=3012.
That's TEN FEET! ;-)
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1 month ago
Mark M.To Mark BinghamIn many ways, I'm with you, Mark. My theory about this being downhill all the way remains seemingly valid. But I'm beginning to have a nagging feeling that you and I might be missing something, if only I could put my finger on it... 😁
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1 month ago

Today's ride: 72 miles (116 km)
Total: 340 miles (547 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 2
john shuttleworthIt’s clear you are forming your daily rituals, obviously mostly cycling, but lots of breakfast and cafe comparisons too! But here, we have also created a ritual of reading your post before bed - in fact, eagerly anticipating it, to read how the day has been. You’ve filled the void left by the end of Race across the World!
Thank you
Mrs S 😊
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1 month ago
Mark M.To john shuttleworthOh how lovely to hear from you both! I'm sorry to have disrupted the routine on Thu but will try to do better. It's great to have you guys along in spirit. 🤗
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1 month ago