Read about how a small team of friends from RAF Benson enjoyed cycling in the Chilterns
The Build up
Paul Bucknall, the team leader took care of all pre-ride administration which involved liaising with RAF Benson Physical Education Flight and booking suitable accommodation along the route. We (the riders) had to have the correct fitness level to complete the ride of some 180 miles over two days.
This involved us joining the cycle way just outside RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. We then followed it in a clockwise direction with pre-arranged rendezvous points where we could meet the support driver, stock up on fluids etc. The route was challenging with plenty of short steep gradients to test the riders fitness followed by many technical descents. The majority of the route was based on quiet single track roads surrounded by the stunning backdrop of the Chiltern countryside.
Was to give road cyclists from RAF Benson the opportunity to ride and compete whilst being covered with by on duty status. The funding came from RAF Benson’s own cycling club budget and proved to be a great success, it was not only a great opportunity to make friends and enjoy the Chilterns, but has laid down foundations for more long distance events in the future.
We met at RAF Benson ready for an 09:00 depart. The weather was perfect, a clear morning with a subtle tail wind easing us out.
Armed with just his trusty map Paul Bucknall led the way, the short sharp climbs synonymous with the Chilterns started immediately causing the group to split up before the regroup at the top.
Twenty miles in we approached White Leaf hill climb which is well known locally and was much talked about amongst the group. Dan Toole was struggling with a knee injury and was advised to try a slightly easier ascent. The rest of us approached the climb following Jonny Heaton’s wheel, the difficulty of the climb was obvious to see, as Jonny began to swerve back and forth across the road while spinning a small gear up the climb. All riders were glad to make it to the top without any walking and were happy with the news that the hardest climb of the day over.
At midday we stopped at a café in Wendover for a quick cake break, with thirty miles behind us our next stop would be at sixty miles, there we would enjoy a more lengthy food stop.
The route remained challenging, it was either going up or down all the way until lunch which didn’t seem to be impressing Dan Toole. PTI Melonie Sears (Former GB road cyclist) was showing her calibre as she sat comfortably at the front for most of the afternoon.
The lunch stop was a pleasing sight for all and the weather was fine enough to sit outside and enjoy the sun, not bad for October.
“Twenty five miles to go,” was the brief from Paul Bucknall as we set out on the last leg of the day. The course actually passed our accommodation where we were to stay that evening with a soul destroying twenty miles to go, fortunately the last part was the flattest. We were able to coast home with no difficulties, apart for the cyclocross style track to the finish – job done.
Refreshed from a good night sleep the group were back on the road and once again the glorious Buckinghamshire weather was on our side. The first twenty miles saw us sweep quietly through country lanes at a respectable 15 – 20 mph. At this point we decided we had done enough to earn our breakfast so a quick café stop was called, morale was high and everyone seemed to really be enjoying just being out on their bikes “much better than being in work,” I thought.
We were back on the road again and making good progress before a pot hole put an end to my front wheel; cue the support driver, It was very frustrating for everyone as we had to wait at the train station in Amersham for around thirty minutes for the driver to arrive with a spare wheel.
Behind on schedule, we had time to make up, we lifted the pace and covered the next thirty miles in steady time. Now back on schedule we approached the Hughendone Valley which produced probably the hardest climbs of the day. The sun had come out by this time and spirits were high once again, one more food stop in High Wycombe before the last section of the route.
The last section saw us hit the highest speed of the ride with good through and off’s at the front. My speedo touched 27 mph, Mel Sears was still happily sat in the wheels, I suppose you never really lose it.
As the sun began to go down, we rolled back into RAF Benson happy with our two days training. I think everyone got what they wanted from the ride, for me it was just a good start to those winter base miles we all hate; my hope is to run another two day event in the spring.
The RAF through its many stations runs various cycling trips and outing, if you would like to get involved visit your local gym, ask for the details of your cycling point of contact or visit RAF Cycling www.rafcycling.org.uk