I agree that this is a great first 300km ride. An early start, has it was a one-hour car journey to the start. When we arrived at the car park, the height restriction gate was open and the payment machine was out of order, bonus! The car park was filling up and bikes were flashing all around us.
Rookie error alert: we wondered down to the signing on point and stood in a line of people, it took a minute to realise that they were all waiting for the toilet! …. moving swiftly on. The signing on process was well organised, so we quickly had our Brevet card and a cup of tea.
We decided to let the main group leave ahead of us so that we are not completing for road space or trying to keep up. This was a good decision as we had a relaxed start to the ride and the first stage passed fairly uneventful. The first information point by the level crossing was a long time coming and we started to consider that we had missed it, but it was not hard to find the correct information when we did arrive.
The second stage to Newark on Trent was again mainly flat and uneventful. When we arrived at the cafe we could not remember the name, which was important as there are two cafes next to each other. We saw a couple of cyclists go into one of the cafes only to be told that they need next door.
The cafe was nice, but we opted to sit outside with our cuppa and shortbread cake. However, we spent too long sitting, enjoying the sun. We left this control behind scheduled. Knowing that we had already fallen behind our time plan (@12mph) we lifted our speed to regain some time before the next control.
Arriving at Woodhall Spa control the sun was out and there were water butts waiting on the table outside the café. We opted to stop for chips and a cuppa which eat into what time we gained during this stage. Leaving Woodhall Spa we passed the national golf course which was full of expensive cars! As we cycled along we notice that one of the house’s name was spelt incorrectly (differently to the way we would spell it), this is important for later.
We found the roads were really bad and required mudguards and it reminded us of the country lanes in Shropshire, so we felt at home avoiding the holes and stone like mud which had been baked onto the road by the sun. Then we had our first puncture which put us behind our time plan again, we would never recover from this.
Arriving the Skeggy control a dinner/ restaurant on the side of the main road we got our Brevet card stamped and decided that we would grab a sandwich before pushing on. The wait for the sandwich was so long that the control staff had gone before we were served.
The ride along the back of the sand dunes to Sutton on Sea public toilets was lovely in the sun but we could not see any information control at the toilet, so we take a picture and visited the sea whilst we were here. Pushing on to Horncastle was much like the rest of the ride, flat with some small inclines, by the time we arrived at Horncastle we recognised that we would not make it back before the deadline. So, a quick phone call to the organiser just let him know that we were okay but would not make it back before the 2am deadline. Sitting with a Co-op sandwich and filling up water bottles the lovely chippy lady (Mantles Fish and Chip Restaurant) came across the square and introduced herself, offering water and the use of the toilet…. needs must! (It turned out that her husband was doing the event too!)
The Horncastle to Lincoln stage resulted in a wrong turning and we recognised the wrong spelling of the house name which we commented on earlier in the day. This stopped us riding all the way back to Skeggy! A quick consultation with the map we rerouted via Woodhall Spa, then to Lincoln. During this stage we had a second puncture, taking a non-folding continental hardshell tyre off in the dark is not the easiest of tasks! Although the tyre got us back to the finish it needed to be replaced.
Has we travel along the main roads we took the opportunity to discuss how well our lights were working. I also had a flashback to the London-Edinburgh-London when I saw the same red lights (in my mind) on a very tall aerial which was following us! We had to stop again to replace the inner tube as the repair patch had failed (I estimate that we spent one-hour repairing punctures).
The McDonald’s at Mansfield, well actually both McD’s we used in the final two stages, should be re-branded as youth centers. Chatting to the teenagers they were saying that they hangout at McD’s as it was warm, illuminated and there was nowhere else for them to go. I suggested that they should get a bike and do an Audax. Then I had to explain what an audax was and that we were in our final stage of a 300km ride. Most of them thought that we were pulling their leg, but the bike computer does not lie! To be honest, at one point I thought that a small group of the teenagers were considering stealing our bikes, so I made a point of speaking to them, asking their name and taking a group photo before making a fast exit.
The ten-mile sprint for the finish line. We decided that we would use the A road for our final leg to the finish line which was a great move as, for the most part, the main road is downhill. The road marking looked new and were very bright. We finally made it to the finish and a quick text message to let the organiser know that we had arrived back one hour and fifty minutes after the deadline. Now for the drive home!