I was really looking forward to ths ride, my first Wiggle event, new area I haven't ridden before, decent looking route and being in March I was holding out hope for ride that didn't involve being soaked to the skin, freezing cold and covered in mud - for a change. One can hope! Fate (perhaps) seemed to have a different idea as there was a bit of mission just to get to the event, thankfully the in-laws were extremely kind and looked after my daughter despite having plans of their own (well that was my fault for forgetting my girlfriend was away on Saturday) and then one of the CV joints dies on my car on the Thursday ... and no where could replace it until Monday, but luckily I managed to get hold of a courtesy car for the weekend. Bit of a squeeze getting me and bike in a Citroen C3! The weather forecast got slowly better all week, from nasty looking black clouds with rain drops and 25mph winds, slowly improving to overcast sky's with 20mph winds. As to be expected on the day, the closer I got the my destination, the sky's grew darker and the drizzle slowly increased to light rain - made all the worse by a strong wind. Having ridden all winter long and with feeling really strong this year (and determined to ride hard after last weeks event), a little wind and rain wasn't going to dampen my spirits, so I set off in to the rain with my timing tag sticker stuck to my helmet and a big bag of jelly babies within easy reach. There is a steady level stretch of road for a little warm up and then in to a short sharp climb to get the blood pumping. sticking to my new plan to get out the saddle rather than dropping down the gears, I do so, and quickly clear the steepest part of the climb and get back in the saddle to spin up the remainder. Some more short sharp soggy climbs follow keeping the body temp up, the wind is blowing harder but the rain has deduced to a light drizzle again, conditions I'm most at home riding in so head down and pedal hard. Soon come to the first 'tog on route - cheesy camera pose, check! Next on to a bit of grassy bridleway ... which quickly turned in to a slipper sticky mud fest, perfect ... down gear and spin through it. Nearly everyone else is pushing or or carrying their bikes, times like these I'm thankful for all the time I spend riding in mud up on The Ridgeway. I'm making great progress past the walkers, despite slipping with every pedal stroke, when I get my first punishment for ignoring the signs that today wasn't meant to be. There's a twang and a jump in my pedal stroke, experience tells me what it is before I even stop, which I do and look back for confirmation that the mud has claimed a third mech hanger this year and the dérailleur is caught up in the spokes round by the chain stay, damn it. So I carry the bike to a little clearing in the bridleway and replace the hanger under supervision of a pleasantly curious young lad, clear off the heaps of mud clogged around the stays and cranks and set off again. My better judgement said slow down, its not that far so walk through the worst of it and then get on your way. Ignorance and impatience won and I rode on, a stupid stupid thing to do as minutes later I'm again carrying the bike. Damn idiot. After cleaning off even more mud than before, cable tieing the dérailleur to the chain stay for a bodged singlespeed as I only had one spare hanger, and I'm on my way again, very slowly, soaked through and very cold I aim gently for every puddle I can find to wash as much mud off the bike as I can. No more than a quarter mile later I stop to help some other folks, who also had a busted hanger, to get on their way again. I soon come to another climb and the extra load on my temporary repair at the start of the climb proves too much and the dérailleur twists round on the chain stay and locks solid, double bloody damn. I apply more cable ties and this time decide to use my good sense at last and not push my temporary repair too much. I'll save it for level ground and descents where I can get the most range from it with minimum risk of it breaking again. A fellow rider confirms we're near the first feed station which is half way round the 15 mile short route. I just need to get to the top of this hill and then its the slow return to the start in the wind and rain. I start off walking, however having spent most of the last hour hardly moving whilst soaked to the skin, I'm really cold and really want to get back so run a little bit. Then a bit more, and soon find a fairly steady pace as I begin to huff and puff and warm up. Its an awkward kind of run in cycling shoes, on rough double track and whilst pushing a bike, but soon I arrive at the wind swept feed station. There's a nice selection of snacks, energy bars and gels, jelly beans and peanuts - all as wet as the grim faced riders who are gathered around picking at them. No time to stand around enjoying the feast, 7 miles to go, and with fairly level terrain its time for a gentle ride and try to clear off some miles. The goings good for a while as I keep a good pace nipping past other riders again and once again pushing my luck. Lucks on my side for a good while ... or perhaps it was just the gravel track as after a little ascent we're out in the open riding along the crest of a hill on more sticky slippery mud. Its completely exposed, and there's a cross wind blowing hard continually with frequent surprise gusts. Its hard enough to ride in a straight line on the super slippery mud, add huge gusts of wind which push you quite literally sideways whilst pedalling, and it makes for an interesting experience. Not only is the mud slippery, as before its extra sticky too and it doesn't take long for the rear mech to jam up again and break the cable ties. Luckily its not too far now to the finish, running where possible, walking where not and rolling any descents I make the best speed possible whilst trying to make light of awful conditions with fellow riders to try and keep spirits high. The final descent is a hard pack path allowing some good speed and a little drop through a gate, a great position for a 'tog, so I pull a grimace face which pretty well conveys my morning so far and get a little air before rolling back down to the finish for a quick bike wash and bike pack and a 100 mile drive home.