Ride Report from David Thompson:
It’s high time that I wrote something about LEL, now that we’re through the Granite Anvil!!
It is a tough ride, but then again they all are. 1400 km, a bunch of climbing, varying weather from south to north and back again, wind…LOTS of wind this time, but always a factor at some point in a long ride…
It’s English countryside. Rolling at times, flat at others, sheep everywhere especially up north and through Yorkshire where you encounter a lot of the climbing, it’s very pretty but not spectacular (sorry!). It doesn’t hold a candle to the coast of Ireland, the Rocky Mountains or parts of the Italian rides. A coastal route could be spectacular, but not this route. That said, it is pretty, the roads are generally good, the people are friendly (and speak English!), the cars are polite… Will I do it again? On those last couple of days, I swore off LEL…but who knows. Certainly I’ll favour something else that year if there’s a conflict…maybe. I am a glutton for punishment. I told Hamid to kick me in the butt if I suggested doing LEL again, but then again, I’ve had my butt kicked so many times, what the heck.
I haven’t looked up exact numbers but I understand that there were about 1400 starters and 800 finishers. That’s a higher DNF rate than normal due to the wet and the wind — wetter than usual and windier than usual.
My plan was easy – split the ride into four parts and ride 4×350 km days. That sounds easy but with the wind slowing me down, even though it wasn’t a full headwind, I crawled through parts of the ride north. Any cross wind starts to bother my knees and they were bothered. My drop bags were at Pocklington (about 350 km), and Edinburgh (about 700 km). You only get two. On the way back, I hit Pocklington again for my third change of clothes, which would be around 1050 km… An even split.
I didn’t book hotels, expecting to sleep in the provided accommodations which are mats on gym floors. They do an excellent job of managing that, asking for wake-up time, assigning you a sleeping spot and getting you going when you’re ready. If I did the ride again (see, I’m already thinking that way), I’d continue to use their gym floors.
All, or almost all, of the Controls have food, lots of comfort food, all provided by your entry fee. I ate too much, which slows you down and got very sleepy from Pocklington to Edinburgh, stopping a few times to close my eyes, get in a power nap. I slept at the Control before Edinburgh and then only had a short rest (and shower and change) in Edinburgh, simply taking my time getting out of there.
It was daylight when I got to Edinburgh; Hamid was getting organized to leave. He waited for me at a Control down the road, getting in some sleep, and we headed out together and finished together. I had stopped at the side of the road a little earlier and slept sitting up on the curb, leaning on a railing…yeah, this is randonneuring at its best! That was the best sleep I had on the entire event it seemed as I was never tired again…go figure.
Riding together, not in a hurry, we spent a lot of time at Controls. 3 hours here, 2 hours there, until finally we had to start watching the clock or we would run out of time. We weren’t going to set any land speed records!
At one point we were descending to a Control in the rain, perhaps 10 km out, bothersome cold rain and then the skies opened. I was right beside a bus shelter and went inside; Hamid and several other riders that were just ahead of me reversed course and came back. It was like crowding college kids into a telephone booth. The temperature dropped and everyone was donning additional clothing. I led a group that were having navigational problems to the Control. I coached a young rider into wrapping her exposure sheet around her inside her jacket.
The last day, which of course I wouldn’t have even seen had I stuck to my original plan, was the windiest. 30 mph, according to the weather-person, and in our face. Naturally it was flat with max exposure to the wind. We were barely making 6-7 mph headway and at that point I informed Hamid that if we weren’t able to pick up the pace, we would actually run out of time. That didn’t occur, of course; we had a few hours to spare at the end. We had squandered many many hours getting to that point. Squandered? Enjoyed? It all depends on your point of view.
About 1 km before the end we stopped to take off our reflective gear. Hamid wanted to be clean for pictures. Hamid and the other rider with us left as I was stuffing my jacket into my seat bag. I got on the bike, fell to the side, slipped down into the spiky brambles partway down a slope. Cursing at my stupidity and clumsiness, I dragged myself up, jersey covered in green from squashed leaves, itchy as heck from the thorns, it felt like I was bleeding all over but of course I wasn’t. Duh. In retrospect it’s quite funny. At the time it was simply stupid!
Ride organization is excellent. You really don’t have to open your wallet and besides, English cappuccino is crappy. They simply add what amounts to almost boiling milk. Technique is lacking. Caffeine, yes, tasty, no…too hot to drink quickly.
We got ‘er done. We added to our 1200+ count, FWIW. I was ready for the Granite Anvil…maybe…