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12 Tonne Challenge

The seed was planted.  Somebody somewhere had read about the challenge which had been set (possibly’s) to ride 12 100km rides for each month of the year.  Another person then mentioned it, and so I thought “I’d like to give that a go.”  A twist would be to not settle purely for metric tonnes – imperials would also count (and help) - but that would be something, surely - and I failed almost immediately. Going into January off the back of not-too good December meant that I was woefully out of shape; and at this point I should add not due food and alcohol...wholly!  

January passed, February passed. Not for want of trying; but every time I set out to bag my first tonne I had 'The Man' waiting for me. Usually abetted by the wind that’s been an ever-present feature of the year – going too hard against it on the outbound legs found me struggling to cover 50 miles – 12.5 miles short on the whole. I was very-much behind the pace.  Whilst we don't have the hiils of my northern homeland, we have winds to test the best.  

However, I wanted 12 for the year, even if it wasn’t 1 per month.  I couldn't let the idea slip. The summer should allow that with 3 100-mile runs in the calendar, so training for those would allow a bit of double-monthing. Challenge still on. Let’s go – 2015!

1. 16th March 2015: 64.4 mile loop. The First One.  Finally got my legs from 50 to the tonne – a lovely loop along some new lanes in Suffolk and Essex, but mostly regular roads, out against an easterly, and then a nice long stretch reversing a good segment of the Dunwich Dynamo to put that wind to good use. Fresh and happy... 

2.19 March 2015: 63.8 miles A-B. The Fast One.  You wait all year for a tonne, then bag 2 in a week.  Having moaned all year about the wind, I put it to good use. With good planning, and an advanced ticket I was on a train north to Norwich to take advantage of a 35mph forecasted northerly.  A-B rides are great – they take a big chunk of map to display, and you generally spend more time on unfamiliar roads.  Plus, on days like this, you never get a headwind!  Probably got a bit carried away for the first 40 miles – grinning like an idiot and feeling like a god, hammering it through Nelson’s County. Got a bit sapped once I hit Suffolk’s rollers; but I was at least 2-in-3 for the year. 

3.24 May 2015: 73.3 mile loop – avoiding relegation.  April disappeared in a mire of work and general off-bike life; and May was threatening to get away from me. Happily, in a way, supporting Newcastle United meant that this was a day to avoid football results. Have a long loop, no phone, clear the mind. And get your arse in gear because you’ve got a ton to ride next weekend!  Taking inspiration, I extended my usual trip to Finchingfield to doff my cap at the village of Cavendish, before heading south to cover a brief part of Le Tour’s route through Essex and then get some early Dynamo pothole recce’ing done.  Got home too early to avoid the football, but the useless sods in black and white somehow managed to beat West Ham, so the day was double-good. 

4. 31 May 2015:102.0 – Norwich 100 – the noisy one.  Making up for April’s miss, May’s 2nd bagging rolled in, with the longest ride of the year so far.  The Norwich 100 is, or should be, a really nice ride – lovely Norfolk terrain up to the coast, lunch stop at the fantastic Holkham Hall, loop round via the coastal resorts, before finishing under the cathedral, right beside a 12th century pub.  As long is it doesn’t rain, of course...  Last year we used the 50-mile route to introduce a mate to his first organised ride, and is arguably a nicer route. But he was after his first 100, and it’s a great route to bag your first one.   

It rained all day. All day. And that washed a lot of Norfolk flint into the lanes, so I had 2 fecking flats. It also washed a lot of extra bank-holiday traffic onto the coastal roads, which meant that the middle stretch of the ride could be hazardous as drivers, already frustrated by the lack of beach-time, weren’t too happy with a string of bikes.  It also took away from the look of the event – instead of  the vast array of jerseys to help provide some distraction from the effort, everybody was dressed in slightly different shades of yellow, green, or black.  By 70 miles I had no more lube on the bits that need it, so the final 30 were embarrassingly (and worryingly at times) noisy.  After 92 my protégé decided he’d had enough of my wheel, and sprinted after a train that went past. I had a little grin as his effort propelled him past, only for his lungs and legs to give out a mile later. Easy, young padawan...   

Damp and tired, sitting outside a pub wasn’t going to be the dream that was lived in the planning stage. But a ton’s a ton’s a ton.  Maybe the sun will shine again next year? Or the year after! 

5. 4 July 2015: 145.5 miles – Dunwich Dynamore.  Holidays and an awful work schedule put paid to June, so I was still 2 behind the pace, and down on training for my third outing on the overnight escape from London to the Suffolk coast.  As Abelio Greater Anglia (“the champions of cycling in East Anglia”) had imposed a blanket ban on bikes on the branch line running to Ipswich, we had already decided to extend the 114 mile Dynamo by 31 miles.  Seemed like a reasonable idea at the time!  The Dun-Run is something you can read about in many different blogs and reports – suffice to say, it’s magical and mad. Starting in London’s east-end, you transport yourself mentally and physically through the night, until dawn’s early night reveals fields and peace. Village pubs surrounded by hundreds of bike lights remind you of Da-Long Bridge in Apocalypse Now “this sure is a strange sight in the middle of this shit”.  After half-way, it’s too late for pubs, but not for pop-up yurts, burger vans and oases giving out free coffee and tea. Or just people standing cheering in their gardens. At 3am. The sea, once reached, is a fitting anti-climax – it’s all about the journey, not the destination.  

However, The Ship is open, dishing up a fine breakfast to go along with your early-morning pint.  Before doing  the remaining 31 miles.  A cracking night out, like no ride going, given that a large percentage of those who turn up to do it seem never to have done more than their daily commutes. I’ve seen Boris Bikes, penny farthings and even a BMX.  (I could have classed this as 2 metric tonnes – but that also feels like cheating, so it’s just 1 imperial, however extended) 

6.16 July 2015: 64.6 miles – Finchingfield loop.   A shortened version of ride 3 on a beautiful summer’s day,  just to keep my legs honest, and bag July’s 2nd tonne to help with the catch-up effort. Always strange to revisit Dynamo roads by day and relive the memories of the dark.  Also a good training run to keep the legs fresh for the next ride on the calendar. 

By now six are in the bag, I'm cycling regularly (ish), and feeling good. The bike is still in fine fettle and with some sun - haha - I may just manage this! Onto number 7 then I guess. 

Ian Nuttney (staff writer)