By Relve Spread
This was my first cycling trip with BellaVelo or, indeed, any cycling club. For lesser mortals, the coordination of thirty women of varying ages, needs, and abilities to the New Forest would have resulted in sheer terror, panic, denial. For others, like our awesome trip leader, Lottie, it was deftly executed with German like precision.
A Facebook group was created which detailed and organised 100 mile rides (London-New Forest), Thursday/Friday arrivers, ride routes, trains, car shares, food, bag carriers and so on. In the
weeks leading up to the ride I kept in the loop through this, but was otherwise mainly distracted by the standard non-existent work-life yawn balance. As such, I didn't really (i.e. didn't) look at the posted ride routes. I rolled up on the Friday then with this vague notion that the Isle of Wight, our Saturday ride, was probably similar-ish to my Surrey rides, i.e. flat-ish with some hills thrown in.
The Isle of Wight is not flat-ish. And even 'undulating' and 'deceptively hilly' in the ride brief on the ferry across did little to dampen my enthusiastic ignorance. So when gradients of around 16%-18%
(?) loomed up out of nowhere there was, thankfully, no time to ponder and I just got my butt out of my saddle and clawed to the top. It was probably then it dawned on me this was not a Surrey ride. But with my amazing group of ladies (pretty much all of whom already had 100-200k in their legs, if not more) we aero-dynamically 'cruised' round, scaling hills like gazelles on legally sanctioned performance enhancing drugs, descending them like eagles on a death-wish. Our outstanding ride leads did some top level flexi-leading/strategising to keep the team on track,
re-grouping, fuelling, picture taking, road-side maintenance-ing etc. to get us back to the ferry in time (well, maybe an hour later) for ice-cream and our Saturday night pub social.
Come Sunday morning, the Brick Barn set out at 7.30am to catch an early final ride (sadly my knee
conked out), while others got up to ride at an hour more compatible with a Sunday morning before heading homewards. I had a truly great time and these ladies really are the best. It was great fun, and they sucked the spin out of the New Forest and the Isle of Wight, taking on fog,
sunshine, hills, fields, mud, traffic, ponies, donkeys, sheep, chickens, and wine, like the lionesses they are. Everything worked brilliantly - the accommodation, the organisation, the food which was delicious both at the pub and our self-catering, the laughs, the support, and the camaraderie - I can't wait for next year's trip and more rides in between.