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  • The third Hard Day in January ride attracted disappointingly small numbers from the forum, but the two riders who did come showed star quality.

    We used almost the same route as last year: from Staines via Twyford, Sonning, Stoke Row, Nuffield, Wallingford to Berinsfield, and back on the A4123 to Henley, then Wargrave, Twyford and back to Staines – about 85 miles. We left around 9.30, arrived at the café just after mid-day, stopped for nearly an hour and got back to Staines just before 4 pm. The return would have been quicker had I not blown up at 70 miles. I only got back before dark with the help of intensive care treatment from Paul.

    So here are my thoughts on the Most Meritorious Ride award. None of the Hounslow riders (same personnel as previous years) are in the frame. I am out because apart from being the judge my ride was rubbish. Jeff’s form was not great, although he still seemed the most efficient in the group when it came to high speed descents: remarkable *souplesse *for some one in their seventieth year. Paul was handicapped by having to rise at five a.m. to go to work and then not leaving Heathrow until twelve o’clock. He met us as we started the long climb from Crowmarsh Gifford up to Nettlebed, and ‘u’ turned to join the group. No cosy tea stop for him but, of course, he didn’t complete the full distance.

    This leaves the two forum riders, Illy and Stelle. Illy has come on all three of these rides and goes from strength to strength. We knew he was going to be a strong rider when we first met him in 2009 and the promise he showed then is clearly being fulfilled. I hope Saturday’s ride will prove a useful (even if small) part of the preparation for his ride in the Tour of Sardinia stage race in April.

    However, in my mind the star of the show was Stelle. In all my experience it has been very rare to come across women who are prepared to undertake this type of run, let alone succeed in riding as a complete equal with committed hardcore racing men. There have been others in the past, but we would be talking of women of the quality of Ethel Brambleby (see my obit. in the How long will you continue cycling thread) Eileen Sheridan, Beryl Burton and Julia Shaw – I have listed these chronologically, not by merit. So far as I could tell there was no moment when I could detect any weakness, any reluctance to go to the front, or any possibility that when not leading she might lose contact. The nearest she came to showing discomfort was on the faster descents, but I’m sure that a few tweaks to her fixed wheel bike could improve matters here. I can only apologise for the fact that there is no actual trophy yet, just the honour of winning.

    I had considered making this ride into a fixed wheel sportive, and this was the reason for moving the event to a Saturday – in the hope of attracting more riders. It seems that an 80+ mile ride in January is just too daunting to be well supported, and so I would be interested to hear from you whether a similar ride later in the year, run as a sportive, would attract serious support.

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