This was my first sportive – and I really didn’t have any idea what to expect, and I was starting with the biggest.
My morning started at 4.45am fuelled by a ‘pot of porridge’ for the 100 mile ride ahead.
I left the hotel with no confirmed directions to the starting point so tagged onto other cyclists & hoped for the best. Once I reached our starting destination at the Olympic Park I was pleased to see Sally & Sarah. It was a gorgeous morning, perfect temperature & a great atmosphere as all got ready to be ‘let loose’ on our journey ahead.
I hadn’t really studied at the route, I was aware of two climbs Leith Hill & Box Hill but I had been reassured by my Melyd friends that I’d cope with both. I had ridden 100 miles once previously in the Cotswolds, best to say it was a long day! Training for this Sportive consisted of no plan, I just cycled, enjoyed the miles and the company along the way. Determination I do have, so I never doubted I wouldn’t finish the ride but I did worry about how long I would take. I knew that at some point during the ride I would lose Sally & Sarah, but I actually lost them before I had even left the starting zone, they set off and I was still in the loo!
I was pleasantly surprised once I left the start zone how open the roads felt & even though it was early a few folk had come out to encourage to us on our way. The early miles passed quickly, with relative ease & I decided to stop at the second station to replenish my water (Julie’s words ‘drink plenty’ kept in mind). It felt strange cycling on the ‘wrong’ side of the road so I mostly kept left, I loved cycling through all those red lights!
Along my journey I caught up with Richard (from VC Melyd) who was cycling for the charity ‘Dreams come true’ we spoke briefly, he gave me a hug & on his way he went.
Leith Hill was upon me before I realised & I was determined not to stop cycling. It was congested with cyclists, some walking, some shouting ‘keep left’ I weaved my way through the congestion feeling proud that I wasn’t walking, it was a slow climb. I reached the top feeling relieved & thought ‘one down, one to go’ I was amazed how many people had lined the country lanes to shout words of encouragement; some had set up picnics at the end of their drives with little tables offering cakes & sweets but I didn’t stop!
As the day went on, comfort became an issue – I had a sore neck, stopped to take on food, water, and something for the pain. I stopped at a pretty village called Westcott. Just off the roadside on the green in Westcott Common was a large screen showing the event, rows of deck chairs & a play area for children. Food & cake was being sold with all proceeds going to charity! I did my bit & donated, the cake was gorgeous! Surely cycling is all about the cake stop!
After 20 minutes relaxing I decided I needed to continue my journey towards the dreaded Box Hill, I believed this was the hardest of the climbs but in reality I didn’t find it difficult at all, it was easier then Leith Hill, less cyclists & lovely views as you reached the top. I recall a large KOM sign at the top & I smiled to myself thinking ‘well you’ll never be that.’
My next memory of the ride is heading back into London, cycling along the streets, again lined with people and me jumping all those red lights. The pain in my neck and shoulders was starting to grow – but I didn’t want to stop again as my Garmin told me I had just 20 miles to go.
The roads were relatively quiet considering this event had over 25,000 cyclists on the same route, maybe, just maybe they were still all behind me! Cycling down the Mall was an amazing experience, so many people it was surreal. I crossed the finish line in 7:09:19 overall time, cycling time 6:06:33.
As a first Sportive it was just perfect. Thanks to you all for your company over the weekend & especially to Darren for arranging our attendance at his event. How about next year folks?