Tour of Wessex – Day 2: Somerset & Dorset

Basecamp at the crack of dawn on Day 2

After a good night’s sleep I awoke early on the morning of Day 2 feeling ok, where “ok” is roughly defined as having functional legs but the knees of a 90 year old who also happens to have been hit up the backside with a sledgehammer. Fortunately I had come prepared for this likely eventuality and had brought ample supplies of ibuprofen and “chamois cream”.

The cyclist prepares his seat for the next 7 hours

The obscene quantities of the previous day’s breakfasting were again repeated but without producing the same energetic effect in the camp. The second day’s riding was billed as 10% further than Day 1, and the realisation that pain and suffering were about to be dished out in prolonged, healthy servings was clearly on our minds. We were definitely not the first riders on the start line today.

Welcome to Groundhog Day

We set our own pace at the start of Day 2 on the long haul to the South coast

For the first 40 kilometres we had established a sizeable chaingang of around 8 riders when Gatesy unfortunately punctured. Thinking we had a few minutes of waiting while he carried out the repair, I disappeared behind a bush to answer the call of nature. I was barely halfway through when I turned around and was amazed to see a neutral service motorbike pulled over and a mechanic replacing his rear wheel. Twenty seconds later we were back on the move and laughing; the only thing missing had been a crazy fan to push him back on his way!

They say every cloud has a silver lining, but we never expected a puncture to be so enjoyable

We continued South along great country lanes across rolling hills in the fine morning sunshine. It was all very enjoyable and regardless of the puncture we were still maintaining a good pace overall.

Crossing the Salisbury Plains

An excessive amount of information on the bike computer, but it did help distract me when the end goal seemed so far away

“I can see the sea!” Reaching the South Coast

Beginning the descent down to the coast

On top of the world – celebrating after a long climb

Having seen the Cerne Abbas Giant, Durdle Door, Corfe Castle and thankfully avoiding seeing any tanks or missiles on Lulworth Military Range we finally reached Wareham after 60 miles where we would effectively turn around and head back along a different route.

They don’t call it the Tour of Wessex for nothing

Following Gatesy’s puncture we had taken the decision to skip the first feed station at 30 miles and keep going to the next one located at 70 miles. The problem with this decision was that it’s generally best to eat before you get hungry, because once hunger strikes the pedals just get heavier and heavier. Sweets, fig rolls and energy gels were dug out from the depths of jersey pockets but by the time we reached the feed zone my legs were shaking uncontrollably and I was really suffering. I ate like a man who hadn’t eaten for weeks and barely chewed before swallowing the first few mouthfuls of cheese rolls, flapjacks and bananas.

The food made a huge difference and we were soon back en route at a steady tempo. Things were looking good until my front tyre suffered a blow out. I quickly pulled over and stripped off the tyre looking for the cause. At first I couldn’t find anything but then noticed a long gash in the side wall of the tyre which looked like bad news. I didn’t have any tape to patch up the inside of the tyre wall so I just shoved in a new inner tube and replaced the tyre. However once I started pumping it up, the inner tube started to bulge out of the gash. In hindsight I suppose I might have been able to slip a plastic wrapper inside the tyre to retain the tube, but thankfully on this occasion we were again saved by the neutral service motorbike who produced a replacement tyre and even carried out the repair for me.

Paul offering stringent criticism of my tyre mending technique

Lightning may strike twice so always ensure you are followed by a support crew

Having lost significant time through two punctures and an excessive gorging session at the second feed zone we hit a high pace back to the finish. Once again we picked up a few other riders of similar ability to share the workload. The dark clouds which had been threatening all afternoon eventually exploded a few miles from home which only made us ramp up the pace further. On top of the motorcycle support this was yet another reminder of how fortunate we had been. Rather than huddle beneath our tarpaulin that evening we decided to venture into the town of Somerton for a beer and some local grub. We discussed the events of the day’s 119 miles and prepared ourselves for the final chapter of this epic Tour.

Great pace and great camaraderie to the finishing line

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