I have never done a Sportive before, I have never cycled further than 21 miles. Added to this was the timing, 6 days after the Cambridge Half Marathon meant that there was no specific training allocated for this. It was always going to be a bit of a stretch for me.
Cycling events seem to start a very early time, 6am up and breakfast, 7am leave home for arriving for registration (picking up event number) for 7.30am. Arriving at the hall I was greeted by an explosion of colour and posh bikes.
There were two course lengths available, a longer 56 miles and a shorter 39 miles. While standing there was no way of knowing who was in which group. I got chatting to a couple of people. Every few minutes they released 10 riders. At 8.20am it was my turn.
My ‘group’ of released riders were mainly women and the pace the first few miles was leisurely. I stayed towards the back just tucking in. By 6-7 miles I was beginning to grow in confidence. Generally I found they were quicker up the hills than me, but they really backed off during the descents. I freewheeled down faster than most. On one such descent disaster struck. I heard a bang/popping noise as if something had dropped off my bike. I slowed to retrace and see what was wrong with the bike.
All seemed well, but by the time I had worked that out I was alone. A grand total of 0 people stopped, 0 people even slowed to ask if everything was ok. I estimate I had stopped for 3-4 minutes which meant I was a good mile behind. The chances of me catching were slim to none.
I restarted cycling but didn’t see anyone for a couple of miles. By around 10 miles I could see a single rider up ahead. I caught up and we cycled through to the feed station together. It changed from being a sportive to being a ride with a good chat.
The feed station was at 18 miles and I loved it, tea, cakes, crisps, flapjacks. I was happy to skip the rest of the ride and just eat my way through the food. Alas no, I continued and caught up with the rider who I had met earlier.
21 miles came and went without incident, I wasn’t suddenly tired, it seemed fine. The miles ticked over but by now the weather had started to blow a gale. That drove the speed down towards the end. That and the bumpiness, these were not full blown hills but continuous rolling countryside. I saw a couple of truly stupid drivers.
At about 30 miles came the second problem, suddenly we ended up on a road that didn’t see right, there were no arrows anywhere to be seen. We consulted the map and a passer-by as to where we were. He told us that we must have missed an arrow because we had strayed off course. He suggested either backtracking and looking for the arrow, or heading another way with the aim of rejoining the course. We chose the later. 10 minutes later we were back on track.
The last few miles were a procession. We arrived at the end in just over 3 hours but had only covered 37 miles. Our getting lost chopped 2 miles off the course. Which was just fine.
In terms of nutrition, I took two water bottles one with blackcurrant squash (sugar free) and one with Lucozade Sport. I didn’t finish either. Other than the food I had at the feed station I did not eat anything else. I was hungry or thirsty.
I gained huge confidence with this ride, I could have gone faster and maybe got a better time but as it was I felt great and I know I have more to give.
I found the Sportive really well organised and will definitely look for more from this organiser.
The day was superb, the weather was great, the company good, and the getting lost just added to the fun and excitement. Everyone should try this.
Only downside, a very muddy bike