Hard Day Report 2012.
Participating riders (in no particular order) were: Your American Lover, Dancing James, Illy, Stelle, 6pt., Almac 68, Friday March 26th, Bobbyfett and Clubman.
This 2012 edition attracted nine riders, making it the best attended Hard Day so far. There was a tough headwind on the outward leg, but this did not really make it a truly hard day, at least not for those who knew how to take shelter by following a wheel. The temperature was mild with just a few moments of very light drizzle.
There was a range of abilities. We had three really strong riders (Dancing James, 6pt. and Illy), who left to themselves might well have got to the lunch stop a good half hour before the rest of us. The headwind on the outward trip must have been exhausting for anyone not skilled in economising on effort when in a group. I had to stay at least near the front to give directions, so I don’t know exactly what was happening at the back, and I despatched one of our strong men (James) to go back and make sure we didn’t lose anyone.
The first twenty miles from Staines were flattish, but soon after crossing the river at Sonning the climbing started and much of the next ten miles was uphill, so it was no surprise that some of us were beginning to wilt a little by the time we reached the top at the village of Nuffield.
On the descent the sky was dark and a slight drizzle started. It was this which decided me that we would stop in Wallingford and miss out the last four or five miles to Berinsfield. I felt those last few miles on the exposed and windswept A423 road might have been just a bit much for some of the party, and although I was sorry to deprive our strong men of the chance to show their mettle I felt I had to make sure that everyone got home together and in one piece. In fact the return ride with the tailwind was relatively easy, but I think my decision was the right one.
**Most Meritorious Ride Award. **
This annual prize is awarded entirely at my discretion. It does not go to the fastest, the best climber or the freshest at the finish. It goes to the person I consider to be the bravest and most longsuffering.
As judge I am excluded from the running, as are the three Titans. Had Stelle not been the winner last year she would have been a strong contender again, having ridden with Illy the twenty plus miles from home in south east London to the start. She showed no sign of weakness all the way round, and then rode home from the finish – about 120 miles all told. If Stelle ever turns her attention to time trials, the current stars will have to pay attention.
Of the rest of the group: Friday March 26th seemed a competent and fairly powerful rider who sensibly kept within his limits, Bobbyfett had plenty of speed and perhaps should be counted as a fourth strong rider, but he had made things difficult for himself with a machine more suitable for a flat out ten than a hundred mile trudge. He did well to remain so cheerful after pushing his 80” gear up the Chilterns into that headwind. Although he had a long day, having ridden from north London, I’m going to pass over him because the ride was clearly easily within his ability.
This leaves Your American Lover and Almac. Both had to draw on their reserves to finish, but did so in good spirit. YAL (if I may refer to him thus) said himself that he lacked experience in group riding and so was not fully confident about following a wheel. I’d say he picked one of the worst days imaginable to discover the desirability of this skill, bearing in mind the wind and the power demonstrated by those at the front. It should also be mentioned that YAL did sterling work by stopping with Almac when it became evident that his leaky tyre really was not going to permit him to get to the finish, while the rest of us pushed on unaware of the problem.
Although it’s been a hard choice my decision (which, incidentally, is not subject to any appeal) is to award the victory to Almac 68. Almac was the second oldest rider (after myself) but mercilessly handicapped himself by riding to the start from Swiss Cottage and by using a bike which might have looked modern (especially compared with mine) but which I feel caused him a good deal of extra stress. It seemed overgeared and had a tendency to unship its chain. Even so, when he picked up a slow puncture after Henley on the way back, he made every effort not to delay us by pumping it up rather than stopping to change the tube. This strategy was well meant, but had the effect of handicapping Almac still further since most of the time he was having to combat the waste of effort caused by that softening tyre. So, for getting back without complaint under difficult conditions I award the trophy to Almac.
The trophy, as you probably realise, does not actually exist – a situation which saves 100% on its insurance premium. However now that there are three winners whose names should be inscribed, I shall give serious thought to acquiring a real trophy before we have a fourth name to add.
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