PBP Qualifiers

Published on March 10th, 2019 | by Admin


Cartagena 300 BRM – 9th March

For me this 300k Brevet in many ways felt like it was “make or break” for in regards to qualifying for Paris. Being ill and unbelievably failing to complete two 200k qualifiers, of which one was almost flat, had destroyed my confidence. I was though feeling better although still nowhere near the fitness level I had had the previous year. Again we had taken the time to ride most of the route a couple of weeks before, plus we had some glorious weather for training. Anne seemed to be going from strength to strength so I had no doubts whatsoever that she would complete the brevet which is more than I could say for myself. As the brevet started at 7am from Cartagena we decided to stay the night before in a local hotel to spare us the early morning 90 minute drive.

I was nervous as we waited to start, very nervous indeed but I hid this from Anne as I did not want to hinder her. Anne was raring to go and had her jacket off before starting even though it was cold ready to tackle the early climbs. The whistle went and off we went to tackle the first set off hills. We all kept together as we went through the city but the group started to break up as we reach the hills. We knew in the first 50k there were some challenging climbs with more to come later in the ride so we were both prepared to conserve energy as it was going to be a long day.

As we approach the first real lumps Anne started to pull away from me. I let her go as I wanted to keep my heartrate down as I was determined to finish this ride. We had to cycle down a finger of land that extended out to the coast which was extremely bumpy to say the least. I caught Anne at the first control where we had to take a photo before looping back to the main road. We had to stop as Anne had a problem with her Garmin and whilst I sorted her problem we met a Bulgarian guy who had ridden down from Torrevieja prior to the start so had 60k extra on us even before starting the brevet! He also was aiming for PBP2019 so hoping to get the 300k under his belt.

We all rode together until we reached the climb at Mazarron where yet again, with my lack of fitness I just found our pace to fast. I backed off and let Anne and our new friend ride on. As I started to climb my bike started to creak which was obviously the bottom bracket, the cassette on the free hub or as I later found out both. I really was struggling on the climbs so I just took it easy and spun up out of Mazarron. At the brow of the hill I could not see Anne and the Bulgarian but decided to not chase in the hope of steadily catching them rather than using all my energy.

After around 10 minutes I could see them in the distance and little by little over the next quarter of an hour I reeled them in until I was alongside Anne. Anne complained of her gears skipping then seconds later “ping” her chain snapped and was jettisoned from her bike. I don’t think the Bulgarian guy realised what happened as he rode on oblivious to what had happened.

Anne thought her ride was over telling me to carry on without her. She was already trying to figure out how she could get back to the car thinking of who she could ring to pick her up. I examined the chain only to find it had snapped. I always carry a few tools for emergencies including of course including a chain tool. I realised if I removed a pin from the chain by removing a link I could get the chain back on even though it would be a little shorter. I got Anne to hold the bike whilst I operated on her chain. A car stopped as I think he was concerned one of us had been knocked off. Repairing the chain was easier than I expected so within 20 minutes we were back cycling again. A good lesson learned here though. If we carried a spare chain power link we could have sorted it even quicker!

The climbs in the first 100k or so were relentless. On just about every climb Anne had to wait for me as I struggled with my fitness. Worse still on one of the longer climbs I had a front wheel puncture. For a minute with my creaking bike, my lack of form, my lack of confidence and then a bloody puncture I nearly quit. I pushed my bike to a garage which was only about 100 metres away. Bought myself a drink then chilled out for a few minutes, changed my inner tube promising myself that I would finish this brevet. Anne was waiting for me at the control with water to refill my bottles.

The middle section was mainly flat which gave us a well-earned breather plus of course gave us a bit of a time buffer. During this section we passed the Bulgarian who was just waking from a sleep on an improvised bed of a sheet of cardboard that he had placed over level ground. We really enjoyed riding up the coastal road up to Aguilas and back to Mazarron and we made great time with the aid of a tailwind. We stopped for a quick 20 minute refuelling, sampling some tasty tapas before continuing up the beautiful coastal road.

With 50k or so to go I somehow had convinced myself that all the climbing was done. Anne disagreed stating that there was a hard climb yet to come. As we turned a corner heading back to Cartagena my heart sank as I realised she was right. I let Anne ride off up that hill on her own whilst I stopped, had a drink and a bite to eat whilst I watched her blinking taillight disappear up the road. I gave myself a good talking to then just eased myself up the hill. I was tired, still not fully fit so as you can imagine the climb lasted for an eternity. The road had many switchbacks, on which at first I would see the bright beam of Anne’s front light, but on the later ones no sign of her at all. I assumed she was miles in front of me at the brow of the hill whilst I was still toiling up it. Later I found out Anne’s front battery pack had ran out up the climb so she had to just follow the white line and be ultra-careful. Anne was waiting for me at the top of the hill where we sorted her front light then quickly ate up the remaining kilometres to finish the 300k brevet with plenty of time in hand.

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