2010 is the year of the bike. I’ve been using my training bike on long commutes, and my husband recently gave me his tri bike (a beautiful and light Quintana Roo Lucero – full carbon frame) since he doesn’t do tri any more.
I’ve never done a standalone bike event before. It’s been some time since I’ve done any sport event which is new to me. So, last week, I entered a sportive as a Bank Holiday challenge: a bit outside my comfort zone and good training for the Little Woody long course triathlon.
Never mind the fact that I’ve only ridden “Venus” (as I call the Lucero – husband used to call her “The Widow-maker”…I wasn’t keen on keeping that name) twice before. Never mind the fact that husband got a bit keen and put a tri-spoke wheel on her the day before the race. Never mind that the race was “approximately” 63 miles – a good 10 miles more than I’ve ever ridden in one go before. It’s only training, and it’s all good!
Oat cakes, gels, sports drink, recovery drink and Joe. The stuff in the plastic bag is banana loaf. This is the only thing I ended up eating.
The sportive – the Sussex/Surrey Scramble hosted by UK Cycling Events and Wiggle – started in Pulborough and took in some lovely roads between the North and South Downs. I did the standard distance (as opposed to epic – 95 miles), billed as 63.5 miles.
The set-up was very laid-back and friendly. There was no set start time (it was chip timed), so I parked up, got ready, asked the man in the car next to me to take a picture (“because it’s my first bike race”…!)
and then I lined up with a group of friendly chaps at the start line.
It was a beautiful day for biking and the route was lovely. There were some climbs, but you wouldn’t call them hills and, anyway, Venus’s gearing and wheel size make both climbing and cruising a breeze.
However, the difference in size between her big and small chain ring make it more difficult to change gear than I am used to. As a result, the chain came off….eight times over the course of the race. Argh! Rather that than a puncture, I suppose… Some of the time, I was so reluctant to attempt changing down, I resorted to climbing in my big chain ring which is good training but not so good for the knees.
Anyway, chain-issues aside, I had a ball. The bike is gorgeous and some day I hope to be a good enough rider to do her justice. It really is something to be bowling along a flat bit of road at 25mph without really trying. And it’s a lovely feeling to “dance” up hills (in the small chainring!), overtaking real roadie riders in some cases! (They were probably doing the longer route and therefore saving themselves, but I don’t need to know that.) And I’ve never descended at nearly 40mph on a road bike before. Eye-watering!
I only stopped at one of the feed stations, but it was a funny moment. True to her name, Venus attracted the stares of many an onlooker, and these two chaps asked to hold her whilst I went to
stuff my face with free Swiss-roll refuel on High5 goodies. I came back to this sight:
The rest of the ride continued in much the same vein, with me singing ditties to Venus, cursing rough road surfaces, putting my chain back on and trying to maintain a high-enough average pace to get a Gold-standard finish time (type-A personality, moi?)
By about 40 miles in, I was still having a great time but could tell I was running low on energy. I find it tricky to eat during sport when I’m not hungry but, of course, by the time you are hungry it’s too late. I need to learn to eat in the first half of the ride to survive the second half!
There were a couple of hairy moments, one involving two cars and me…it was more my fault than theirs and if they’re reading this, I really apologise. I couldn’t see you til it was too late and then I couldn’t see a safe way to stop.
At about 53 miles in, the organisers saw fit to send us up a hill (and yes this one was a “hill” rather than an undulation!”) which went on for a couple of miles. It was a single-track road, and the road surface was bad. And, at the top, it was difficult make the most of the descent because the sunlight coming through the tree-cover made it impossible to see what was a pot-hole and what was a shadow. My average time plummeted!
At 62 miles, I started to look for the finish. At 63 miles, my chain came off again. I may have cried a small tear and called Venus a bad name. At 64 miles, I wondered if I’d missed a sign-post and was cycling into the unknown. At 65 miles, HOORAY, I saw the finish and skidded to a halt.
By far the best bit about finishing was seeing my friend Lucy waiting for me at the finish line. Lucy was one of the Tough Titties two-way Channel relay team and, like me, is also a Channel solo swimmer and round-Jersey swimmer. Dressed in white, she looked like an angelic apparition. I wanted to hug her but didn’t want to mess her up, so we asked another finisher to snap our pic. Sorry about the closed eyes. I am Earl Hickey.
After a chat with Lucy, a cup of tea, and a wetwipe from a passer-by, I set off home. All I wanted to do was collapse.
Now I’ve got to learn about my new chainset so I can change gear with confidence every time!
My time was 4:08:00 for 65 miles (not including those feed/chain stops). I was 68th of the 191 “standard” distance finishers (lots of DNFs) and 7th of the 30 female riders who finished. Whoop!