Some people have lots of trophies in their houses from things they’ve competed in or won at school. Ours is not such a house. My son has won trophies in the Scouts, for instance, but had to hand them back after having it for a year. I’ve never bothered saving things like the medals you get for doing a half marathon or similar, maybe I just don’t value such things. I have, however, won quite a few virtual trophies from the app. Strava for riding segments on my mountain bike. Anyone can set up a segment, name it and then anyone who has ridden it previously or in future will be ranked according to their performance. If you’re in the top ten you get a little trophy icon and if you’re the fastest you are crowned King (or Queen) of the Mountains. I got a tenth place award recently but what’s impressive is that 1,300 riders had attempted the segment previously. Today I decided on a ride which would include 3 segments in particular where I had previously done well with, the aim of improving my position in the lists to get a higher trophy. Trivial, I know, but in the current lockdown it’s nice to get out, especially if you have an aim.
I rode the same route I’ve often used recently to White Coppice. This tiny village, built around a cricket field, is currently closed to cars, except for those of it’s residents. It’s OK to ride through on a bike or to walk, though, so I joined the river and rode along the trail to Brinscall, skirting the bottom of the woods on the opposite bank. After Brinscall I took a steep road hill then a gravel road cuts across to join the Belmont/Abbey Village road. This shortcut used to be fearsomely bumpy with lots of loose rocks but has been resurfaced over the past few years. After crossing the road I took the route to Roddlesworth Woods. It starts as tarmac but soon turns to a hard packed dirt surface. Later, as it climbs up the woods, it too has been resurfaced. The trail down has long been called “the Boneshaker” on Strava but doesn’t deserve the title any more. By researching on the app. last year I found a segment called “better than the Boneshaker” so rode it twice. Last year was a very wet summer so conditions were never at their best but on the second occasion I rode the segment twice which was enough to earn me a Strava trophy for being 10th fastest, 16 seconds behind the best ever. I thought it would be too long spent away from the dog if I rode the segment twice so instead I found the bottom of the track and rode up. The boggy area, which last year had just about stopped me dead, still looked wet so I planned a way across it’s tufts and bogs. Later I found a fallen tree which wouldn’t be easy to get round. This would be countered by a perfectly dry surface,so maybe I could still improve my time of 1 minute 38 seconds. I reached the top, turned round and contemplated what lay ahead.
The trail disappears into the mossy woods.
I took a run at the start and made sure the pace didn’t drop. A few times I did a panic brake to control the speed and when I reached the fallen tree it looked easier than it had on my climb. I just about stopped as I rounded the end of the broken trunk and stopped again as I changed my mind about the best way through the bog. I’m sure a second run would have been faster but with the fallen tree 1 minute 45 looks OK. I improved by 14 seconds between first and second runs last year so replicating this would have made me faster, giving me a trophy for sixth place. As it was I retain my 10th place from last year. Actually my time today was 15 seconds faster than anyone else this year!
It was quite a long ride at 17.28 miles with 1,455 feet of ascent. This would be nothing on tarmac but off road average speeds are less than half those of a road ride. The next targeted segment is a tough, technical climb and I could find no information about it on Strava yesterday. When I arrived I set off up a rocky, steep slope but soon found a gate ahead. Had this even been a timed segment or was it just a climb to be conquered without a foot down? Through the gate I pushed on keeping the pedals spinning regardless of the rocks. I seem to have far more success attacking such sections rather than trying to finesse them. I made it and found out later that I had indeed received a trophy. I had improved my time by just a few seconds but was still in eighth place. Still, a trophy’s a trophy! Curiously whoever set up the segment on Strava chose to call it “Kitchen’s Lost Path of Doom”! Quite a name. I climbed briefly up Edge Gate Lane, turning off into Brinscall Woods for a long and exquisite downhill which was my final target. It’s only the lower half that constitutes the segment and last ride I got the trophy for second fastest ever, so my real target was the King of the Mountains title. It felt good and fast but Strava seemed to have measured me over a longer length of trail than it should have and my time was no improvement.
I could feel the efforts in my legs as I rode back to and over Healey Nab. The trail, recently cleared after the tree felling, is on excellent form, though I think a little rain will help to settle the dust which has accumulated. In fact that’s just what we are now going to get after seeing no significant rain since the end of February. It will be interesting to ride in different conditions but I just hope it doesn’t turn into a washout like last year. I only got one trophy today and it was the same eighth place I already had though I retain the two others, I just didn’t improve my previous times. It was none the less a fulfilling ride and good training.