Getting up at 5:45am isn’t my favourite thing post-London Commute days. Not for a sportive anyway, given that my loverly cycling club, Zappi’s fulfills most of my cycling ambitions – just keeping up with them!
However, I’m glad I did fall into the car and drive down to Winchester in the dead of Sunday morning.
I’ve done this Sportive twice twice before in 2012 and 2013. It’s usually a dull cool time of year but 2012 was a stunning day just like this one. Some actual rain and clouds on a day supposedly the hottest of the year got me worried again – I am not happy riding through rain and actually missed this year’s White Horse Challenge due to wimping out in the sleet at the start! So I wore a gilet, armwarmers and cap to start. Mistake! Within 20 miles I was overheating and stuffing the extras into pockets.
Started pretty fast, latching on to a quick group and taking turns on the front. They dropped me on the first major hill, my climbing being a bit rubbish still (fat!) but I’m sure I caught up to most of them by the end. I was originally going to stop at the last Feed Stop (at 77 miles) only to grab extra drink, but the day became so hot that I drank far more than expected – so stopping and refilling everything at the second feedstop was in order. Some guys managed the whole ride without stopping. Not sure how – domestiques, soigneurs or the ability to deal with massive dehydration!
The HHH is of course, Hilly. The clue, the clue! Most of these hills are not like Oxfordshire hills that we’re used to in Zappi’s – short and sharp or longish steep and grindy. Hampshire hills are far longer and draggier, with some steep sections, and with rollers in between. There are a lot of them too! Not a lot of flat around here, but it makes for a fantastic bike riding country and in the glorious weather it was a truly summery feeling. Around 50-60 miles in my quads started to hurt a little with some incipient cramp. I span out for a while and luckily it dissipated. Ever since switching to strong nuun electrolyte tablets my tendency to cramp after 60-70 miles has pretty much gone, and the same today – through the pain barrier and into Cycling Zen Zone.
Whizzing by the third feedstop I was feeling much better and getting ready for the several stings in the tail of the HHH. Then, 3 miles down the road gearing down for a hill, nothing happened… looked down and my gear cable outer had split. The cable bent out by several inches, leaving me in top gear.
Spooky. Anyone (anyone!?) who might have read last year’s Wiggle Magnificat post will probably not remember that I snapped my gear cable 15 miles from a feedstop, and had to ride the biggest hills in 34/12. Deja vu. So, the last 20 miles became mind over matter as I wrenched the bike over the last hills, standing, at 20 rpm to get over them, suddenly realising what those old-school riders felt like. It IS possible. It just HURTS MORE. Amazingly I didn’t end up doing dying fly impressions (the end stage of cramp) and managed to finish without losing too much time – maybe a minute or two. So, managed a gold standard for oldfarts, at about 5:51:30, way better than my previous attempts: 8 mins faster and 56th out of 360-odd. 2012: 124th, 2013: 127th (puncture). The route is also actually a lot better than previous versions – they’ve tuned it well over the years, despite it being hillier than ever – 1000ft more than 2012!
I think I’ll be back next year, with better legs.