Thursday, January 2, 2014

Floods, family, falls and failing; my #festive500 1/4

500 kilometers in 7 days, the challenge laid down by Rapha in their Festive 500 2013.
After jotting down some route plans in my head and then transferring to paper to check their accuracy it all seemed feasible. Thanks to a slipped disc that had been getting slowly worse throughout the year my riding had been tailing off and a cold and damp 100km the Sunday before had left me under no illusions that this would be hard, but I could do it.
The weather seemed to have other plans as the rains came, and came and the came some more. By the time I was looking to set off on Christmas Eve there were reports of roads closed and more flooding to come despite the now blue skies. I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to make my destination for that day of Chepstow.
Sure enough the first river I crossed, the Usk, was in full flood.

But the road was clear and so was the sky.
On towards Raglan and with the wind picking up a little I noticed that the clear blue sky was being tainted by some dark clouds. This definitely wasn't on the plan.

I wondered if I my course would pass them by or if they would catch me. As I came towards Monmouth it was quite clear that yes, they were going to catch me. Discretion before valour and all that as I sought out a cafe to stop in to see the rain out.
It seemed as though the whole population of Monmouth High Street had the same plan as within moments of joining a queue for a brew there were more people queuing than already seated.
Sure enough though I got my coffee and Welsh cake.

The rain came and went and I was back out on the roads.
The A466 is a lovely road; it meanders as the River Wye does along the valley, snaking from one side to the other as it jumps between England and Wales. It also runs on a slight incline, and today I was going up it for the next 16 miles. The Wye too had been affected by the rains and although not flooding as heavily as it had in the past it was definitely pushing up.
I slowed at one point as I rode alongside to see the rough speed of the river. Somewhere around 15mph was my guess estimate and certainly fast enough that I wouldn't wish to paddle in it.
On over the bridge at Bigsweir and into the long, long climb to my destination of Chepstow. I was quietly congratulating myself at having avoided most of the rain and keeping dry on what was turning out to be a cold fresh day as I came through Tintern. With the light beginning to fade and a chill creeping into the wind I was glad I wasn't damp. I could see the road ahead had a good flow of water across it and noticed the sound of a car coming up from behind.
Oh they would wait, surely.
No, as I went through the flood, so did they overtake me and I was soaked from tip to toe.
Best pick up the tempo then to generate some warmth. Out of the saddle on the last few long uphills that aren't actually very steep but just seem to drag on and on as the road winds around the cliff edges and woodlands. Thankfully it was soon downhill to St Arvans which meant not far at all from the destination. Whipping past the Racecourse as the sun was starting to drop below the hills casting long shadows as it went, I was as near as damn it done for the first day.

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