Last year, I did a few of the off road RideIt! events, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This year, I intend to do some Road Sportives as part of my preparation for my Tour de France or Bust trip, which starts on the 27th August 2011.
And so it was that, after having booked my entry online a couple of weeks ago, I got up at 6am, in order to get myself ready and drive the 70 miles from Eastbourne to Esher, and to be at the start line at 8.30am. What I hadn’t anticipated was the 30 minute registration queue. Still, it’s good to see that these events are being so well attended. I know first impressions don’t count for much but there seemed to be all sorts of abilities, from the leisure cyclist, who’s intention is to have an active day out on his bike, to the hard core riders preparing for the racing season.
Having checked the weather forecast, which promised dry weather for this event, I decided to use my Fondriest (Very light frame, no mudguards with Ultegra Groupset which doesn’t see much wet weather). In hindsight, maybe I should have used the Trek, if only for the sociable aspect of not spraying the following riders.
At registration, you are given a timing chip, which you place around your ankle. You also get a map of the route and a energy gel. I didn’t really need the maps as the previous day, Evans had published the route online for Garmin users to download and set up on their GPS devices.
Once registered, I sorted out my bike and headed to the start where the rules of engagement were explained to each group prior to setting off at 5 minute intervals. You are not given a start time, you just join the group who are about to go. A member of the Evans team goes through the routine, as he has obviously done many times before, and explains how the routes have been marked out with various directional arrows. On this occasion, there are 4 routes, (Fun – 12 miles, Short – 29 miles, Medium – 54 miles and Long – 71 miles). I was doing the long one which turned out, according to my calculations, to be just 68 miles (No I didn’t take a short cut!).
And we were off! The group I was in was made up of about 15 riders. Due to differing abilities, within a few miles, the riders spread out and found their own pace. Having time trialled for most of the 90s, I instinctively tried to catch the rider ahead only to realise that this really wasn’t a good idea as my HR was quite elevated and after all, this wasn’t race. Old habits die hard.
The first of two feed stations was at the 30 mile point. On offer were Bananas, Flapjacks and Chocolate Brownies as well as plenty of energy drink in order to replenish your bottles. By this stage, I had only finished one of my two 500ml bottles. After refilling it and eating a Banana, Chocolate Browny and an Energy Gel, I set off again.
There was another feeding station at 49 miles but I decided that, as there were only 18 miles left, I had enough fluids to keep me going. Wrong!!!
We moved down to Eastbourne in 2006. Prior to that, we had lived in the Woking area for about 20 years. In the 90’s, as a member of the Charlotteville Cycling Club, I used to train on most of the roads on today’s route. It was quite nice to revisit them. There was one hill which I was dreading though: White,Down Hill, north of the A25. The whole hill is about 1.5 miles long but it includes a half mile section with a gradient greater than 10%, going up to a maximum of 18%. During my early days at the Charlotteville, on a club run, I had to get off my bike and walk up that hill. The reason for this was a combination of being a beginner and therefore not strong enough and the fact that my gearing was too close for that type of terrain. Ever since then, I have made sure that I only went down the hill. I’ve managed to get 56mph down it but this a short lived experience as you really have to put your brakes on for the hairpin at the bottom. Anyway, this hill was approaching closer and closer, at around the 55 mile mark, and I was getting quite anxious.
And here it was! Now, Evans Cycles, please explain. Why do you feel it necessary to place a sign at the bottom of the hill saying “Climb starts here”? Isn’t it enough that you can see the road going up and up and up as far as the eye can see? Also, while struggling and breathing so hard as though your life depends on it, which of course it does, as no cyclist wants to get off and walk, do you inform riders with another sign saying “Half way”? I’m sure I spotted a little smiley face after the word way. Whoever printed that sign, let alone placed it there, much have very sadistic tendencies. Actually, to give you the benefit of the doubt, that smiley face could have been a bit of mud. I did make it though, just. My smallest gear was a 42 x 21. Maybe I should get something smaller. Still, it”s all good training for the Alps and Pyranees.
With 10 miles to go, I was beginning to struggle. Maybe I should have stopped at the last feeding station. A rider overtook me and I got on his wheel and stayed there until about 2 miles to go. I did feel a bit guilty for doing this but I had very little energy left. I did feel better about it though when, as he was pulling away from me, he missed a turning. I shouted “Left”, which luckily he heard and doubled back.
Was I glad to see the finish! I walked over the timing mat and handed my timing chip in. My back was hurting and my legs were tight but after a short recovery in the car, I felt quite pleased with myself. My Garmin was telling me that I had done the 68.19 miles in a moving time of 4:15:16 giving me an average speed of 16mph which I was really pleased with. All in all, ignoring the aches and pains and Raikes Lane, it was a great event. Thanks Evans.