Century Ride – failed!

I eventually rode out for another of my Century Rides. I’ve been busy over the last couple of months or so, and couldn’t take a whole day out for “just riding my bike”. However, the opportunity arose and the weather was going to be good, so off I went.

I was tired for some reason and didn’t feel too chipper, but because I’d set my sights on riding another century, I was going to do it no matter what!

My plan was to get down to Plymouth via the main roads, then cross over the little ferry from Stonehouse to Cremyll at Mount Edgecumbe. The ride to Plymouth was ok despite the rush-hour traffic and I arrived at the ferry at about 10.30. I left home not feeling as if my heart was in this ride, but by the time I was crossing into Cremyll I was feeling fine and eager for the miles.

From Cremyll the road climbs – of course, the ferry is at sea-level! – and I planned to reach the top of Rame Head and check out the views. There’s a coastguard station up there with fine views over Plymouth Sound and out into the Channel, so at the carpark at the top, I rested a while. Some of the hills I took were VERY steep. I plodded up them, still not feeling full of energy, but carried on nevertheless. One of the last hills up to Rame church was a pig!

The views over to the west are fantastic from up there, right over the magnificent Whitsands Bay.

I was going to follow the bay all along above it to Downderry and Seaton, then over the hills to the busy little town of Looe. Off I went again, up and down, then down and up, all along the coastal road continually with Whitsands to my left.

Then it was down again into Downderry. This is a nice little village with a beach, but I didn’t stop and carried on into Seaton. There’s some benches there overlooking the beach, so I stopped and ate a cereal bar and guzzled water. The sun was out with perfect blue skies earlier, but as I sat at Seaton, it clouded over. It looked like rain, which upset me a bit as I’d believed the forecasts and not brought a waterproof top. I kept my fingers crossed!

From Seaton, I turned off the main road and climbed Looe Hill. This is a road I’d never been on before, and it lived up to its name! I could easily be the toughest hill I’ve ridden up. Now that’s saying something! It wasn’t only steep, but it was long, and I could see no end to it! Up and up and up. I was still feeling low – despite the “high” hill! – and I had to stop a couple of times on the way up.

Eventually, the hill abated, and I joined the familiar road down to Looe. I pulled over into the busy carpark near the bridge and took in the sight of the teeming holidaymakers – Emmets – swarming throughout the place. I was next to a chap on an elderly BSA motorbike, so we chatted a while. It seems that it was a 350cc single, in green, made in 1953 and only done 7,000 miles. He explained that the unusual colour was because it was originally made for the Home Office for the nuclear shelters! How interesting! He also said that it was one of the most comfortable motorbikes he’d ever ridden.

I pulled myself away and rode through the traffic in the narrow streets to find something to eat. I was still not really into this ride of mine, and struggled in my mind trying to find the confidence and determination to carry on. I’d done 36 miles, and could very easily just wrapped my hand in and cycled home again – shortest route would have been 20 odd miles. I was sorely tempted, but decided to plod on to see how it went. Not before I’d grabbed a bite to eat!

I found a pasty shop, leant Bike up against the widow, and bought a Large Traditional. Not cheap! £3.20 for a pasty! They certainly know how to charge in Looe! Mind you, sitting down on a low wall further into the town in the sunshine (again) the pasty was wonderful. I wish I’d photographed it for you.

Stuffed full of Cornish pasty and hunger gone, I climbed back on Bike and made my way out of the town, heading west towards Polperro. I’d devised a map on BikeHike and uploaded it into my Garmin 705 and the pink line to follow would turn me off from the Polperro road, and head into the quiet Cornish lanes and take me to Lostwithiel. On the route, I went through Pelynt, and Lerryn and St Veep. Pelynt I’d been through before, but Lerryn was a new to me. What a pretty place it was! I still wasn’t feeling right and felt perhaps a little depressed, but what I should have done was to stop in the village, rest, take a photograph or two, and perhaps felt better. But I didn’t, and struggled up the hills and through St Veep. What strange name – St Veep – no Idea who he/she was, I must look it up.

I made my mind up that when I reached Lostwithiel, I’d turn for home. This would cut about 20 miles off my planned route and I calculated that although I wouldn’t do my Century, I would at least get above 80 miles. The missing 20 odd miles would have been tough.

I’d planned on going north from Lostwithiel towards Bodmin, then taking the “high” roads through St Neot, St Clear, Minnions, Congdon’s Shop, Launceston, crossing back to Devon and coming home via Milton Abbot and Lamerton. Instead, I followed the easy route of Dobwalls, Liskeard and Callington all along the busy A390.

I tarried a while by the old bridge in Lostwithiel drinking the last of my water. I’d brought two 750ml bottles not expecting for them to last, but knew the Tourist Info office in the town would fill me up again. I’d used them before!

Sitting on a bench by the river was wonderful. I was still feeling low, but amazed at the fact that I can feel rotten but still ride a distance that some folk wouldn’t even consider. What was I complaining about?

I sat there, eating another cereal bar and texted Hilary to let her know how I was getting on.

Lostwithiel is built at the top of the tidal reaches of the River Fowey, and there’s a wonderful old stone bridge over the river which is the site of the last major victory for the Royalists during the Civil War. The Royalists cut off the Parlimentarians from getting to the port of Fowey and their ships, and captured their army and all their big guns. The Parliamentarian cavalry broke out and got away, but all the foot soldiers were capture and marched off. The weather was awful and many died of exposure and exhaustion despite it being only early September.

I rode into the village, topped up my water by kind permission of those lovely ladies in Tourist Info, and was off up the road for home. The A390 is a busy road, but not a bad cycling road – providing you don’t mind traffic. The miles went by, far faster than they had done since leaving the ferry at Cremyll. The good thing about main roads is that they follow an easier line through the hills. The turnpike builders knew how to build roads so these older main roads are excellent cycling grounds.

Dobwalls came, and I rode off down through the village. We have a new modern bypass there now, but Dobwalls has been clogged with traffic for most of its existence. The A38 and the A390 come together to the west of Liskead and through Dobwalls, only splitting and going their separate ways to the west of Dobwalls, so the bypass has relieved the village immensely. I made my way down the hill on what was once a busy and clogged set of roads, only to be passed by a couple of cars. Bliss!

Up the steep hill into Liskeard, sitting down on a bench in the town centre, more water, and I forced myself away or the last dozen hilly miles home.

Dropping down Gunnislake Hill into the village, I touched 46 mph and I still wasn’t catching the cars in front. This is odd, because it’s a 30 mph limit! Good job bikes don’t legally need to keep to the speed limits, but it annoys me that cars – and lorries hurtle down that hill with impunity.

I climbed off Bike outside the Rising Sun, sank two pints, and walked home with Hilary carrying my helmet.

I was dog-tired. Not very hungry, but dog-tired. I’d done 81.2 miles whilst feeling as though my heart wasn’t in it. I was in bed before 9pm.

Roll on next week, and I’ll try again!

Regards to all,