This was it, the point of starting all that training in Nov 2013, to be able to complete a spring 100 mile sportive. The epic route on this event was actually 84 miles so I figured if I ride there and back from home I would do in the region of 110 miles.
Riding there was easy. I pretty much took my route to work and at that time of the morning with less traffic I got to Matchams fairly quickly.
UK Cycling Events (Wiggle) have had to move the start and finish this year, from the New Forest show ground in Brockenhurst, because of complaints from the locals. It is fair enough, the residents don’t want thousands of cyclists spoiling the utopia they themselves appear to have planted and created all those years ago.
What they [the resident crazies] actually did was make the event better. Matchams Park is a much better venue and more importantly, by the time the majority of the cyclists had reached to dodgy areas the field had spread out somewhat creating less of an issue. I did still witness some stubborn drivers in Brockenhurst who refused to move over but I also saw cyclists who still rode two or three abreast which didn’t help the situation. It’s all about compromise you idiots, plain and simple.
Personally I don’t really get what all the fuss is about. The locals seem quite content to let hundreds, if not thousands of cars and motorcycles visit the forest every year, many of whom don’t stick to the speed limits, yet they don’t like thousands of cyclists piling through their villages. I think my only contribution to the pollution of the planet on this ride was the odd burp or fart, but nothing more serious.
Anyway, the ride itself was very enjoyable. I started well and went off like the clappers fueled again by the still version of the Posi+iv Energy Drink (http://www.drink-positiv.com) and assisted by a friendly tail wind. The weather was glorious and I made good progress. The route this year was different so my interest levels were high as I had not cycled much of it before, or we were attacking it from the opposite direction of previous years.
As my food planning was crap this time I had not made any energy bars to take along. This meant that instead of eating every hour, I didn’t get any food until the first feed station approximately 2hrs in. Up until that point I had been gunning along just on Posi+iv so I’m quite impressed with it. Needless to say, at the first feed station I crammed as much into my gob as I could manage and took spares for my shirt to keep me going.
I felt really comfortable bombing along with an average speed of 17.4mph that was above the average I need to sustain for the RM350. My legs began to fatigue after the first feed station but not to the point where I seemed to lose power, they just became numb and plodded on. Cardiovascular wise, I felt fine.
Some of the more exposed areas of the route became difficult due to the wind and my average speed dropped slightly but due to the good start I guess, not too low to get me worried. I hit the second feed station and didn’t actually feel the need for food but took some onboard anyway, a decision that turned out to be the right one later in the ride. My only mistake at this point was forgetting that I had put in 12.5 miles getting to the event and rather then having 20 miles left to run, as I thought, a quick look at the route profile showed I had only done 54miles and had 30 left. I was gutted.
The next 20 miles really seems to drag and much of it seemed to be into the wind, which didn’t help. This point of the ride was a real low for me as I wondered if the old legs would make it to the end. In actual fact it wasn’t my legs that were suffering but my groin and lower ab(s) for some reason. It meant I had to keep standing on the pedals and try to stretch out as best I could. I wasn’t stopping though, no sir, not a chance.
I eventually got to a point of the forest where I recognized the village names and realised I would soon be on the outskirts of Ringwood and not too far from the finish. Unfortunately, when I eventually reached Ringwood I knew that despite only having a couple of miles to go if I went off-piste, the actual route would take us another 10 ish miles before reaching the home stretch. I guess that’s a downside of knowing the area.
Eventually I reached Matchams lane and the home straight. The only problem with the new venue was the cheeky little climb back into the start/finish area, which seemed like Everest after nearly 100 miles.
I was extremely pleased to have made it round as the last few miles were tough; thankfully I ate at the last feed station. I had aimed for a gold time (under 5hrs 20 mins) but wasn’t actually sure of my time at that point, as Strava had logged my entire journey, not just the event. The only thing left for me to do was relax the legs for a bit before climbing back on for the ride home; at that point I wished I had driven.
Thanks to Wiggle for organizing, I’m sure in the face of stiff opposition, another great ride around the New Forest and thanks also to the very funny South African lady who cheered me up when I was dying on the steps trying to muster the enthusiasm to ride home.
All I’ve got to do now is convince my legs they can do three times the distance at the same speed.
My eventual time was 05:09:17 that I am very pleased with. Strava eventually said my overall average speed was 16.4mph but that was because of a ridiculously slow ride home. My event average was 17.4mph so high fives all round.