and the road surface was often under water, making it difficult to spot defects.
We climbed Burrington Coombe up to the top of the Mendip Hills and then headed for Cheddar Gorge. We made a slight route adjustment just before the top of Gorge, choosing to stick to the ‘B’ roads rather than cutting the corner via a minor road. This added a very short distance, but avoided what could have been a tricky section in the prevailing conditions.
The descent of the Gorge was tricky. On the brakes all the time to avoid running off on the bends which were hard to spot in the sheeting rain. How good it was to reach Chuffy’s and Baggy’s tea stop in a lay-by near the bottom. These people are stars, doing this for us on a night like this. Some riders were arriving clearly suffering from a degree of hypothermia. One girl was shaking so much she couldn’t keep the coffee in her cup.
There were probably only 60 to 70 people doing the ride this year in view of the conditions, and Baggy and Chuffy had to rescue some too.
Stuart and I set off again and ploughed on through the water across the Somerset levels. This is actually a misnomer as there are some ridges to cross along the way! In addition to the rain we saw two flashes of lightning, although they were probably quite distant as we did not hear the thunder.
Having kept my feet pretty dry in my excellent neoprene overshoes, I was not pleased when I stopped at the A361 junction and put my left foot down into 4 inches of water.
As we approached the feeding station at North Curry, 55 miles into the trip, we could see a clearance coming and although it was still raining, moonlight was filtering through. So we had a 50 minute stop, hoping that things would improve.
Setting off at 2.50am in dry weather, our spirits were definitely rising, only to be dashed 10 minutes later as the rain started again!
Luckily it stopped as we approached Blagdon Hill, a long climb to the top of the Blackdown Hills. This heralded daybreak and the view back over Taunton with light filtering through the breaking cloud was inspiring.
We needed inspiration for the long haul across the top of the Blackdowns, with a light southwesterly wind having replaced the stiff easterly which had accompanied the rain.