Hampshire Hilly Hundred 2020

Well that was interesting: a socially distanced sportive in the COVID era. Rider packs handed through the car window, riders sent off in groups of 6, no peletons and almost no drafting: essentially a 100 mile time trial. Still great though if unrelenting. Downside was that with no drafting, my time suffered. Well – through that and the cows!


3-5 min wait for these laden ladies to cross the road

Legs suffered too – lack of longer rides this year at speed showed in some almost quad  cramping at 60 m, cycled through it by spinning up the steepest art of the steepest hill.

The main change since 2018 was in the road conditions. They could almost have advertised this as a 50:50 gravel ride. Gravel everywhere on most of the smaller roads. Pretty sketchy in a number of places and I’m surprised there were few accidents. Some of this must have been caused by the recent storms in the area, but in many places the gravel looked more established than that. This sportive tends to attract a more experienced cyclist but even so. I nearly got caught out on a couple of occasions. Next year they need better signage for the worst spots, and even better if they could sweep key sections, like we used to do for Zappi’s Gran Fondo.

HHH timeline: 2012, 2013, 2016, 2018

Year  Dist.  Time     Elev.   Pos. Garmin                                 Strava
2012  99.91  5:59:26  5,695   128  160.79km, 5:54:55, 1,736m, 27.2kph  https://www.strava.com/activities/8450222
2013  101.7  5:58:25  6,159   126  162.06km, 5:58:25, 1,877m, 27.1kph  https://www.strava.com/activities/53791435 
2016  100.9  5:51:30  5,715    56  162.38km, 5:46:17, 1,742m, 28.1kph  https://www.strava.com/activities/569521387
2018  102.9  5:44:47  6,106    56  165.72km, 5:42:36, 1,861m, 29.0kph  https://www.strava.com/activities/1584321353 
2020                               163.95km, 5:52:39  1,975m, 27.9kph  https://www.strava.com/activities/3921645919
- timings are official sportive timings. Still waiting on my 2020 result.



#hhh, #sportive

Hampshire Hilly Hundred 2016

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.

split gear cable

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.



Wiggle Magnificat 2015 – My Ride

Not many Sportives are long enough to gather their own story – but this one is!

The Magnificat is one of the longest Sportives in the UK (after this you ‘graduate’ to either multi-day events or Audax, the truly long distance cycling community) at 128 miles / 206 km. It’s not especially hilly for that length (6500 ft), getting the only two major climbs out of the way in the first 30 miles. However, its also not flat! A seemingly endless supply of rolling hills and sharp digs to keep you on your toes right to the end.

My history (partly in this blog) with it has been iffy: 2012 – turned up but fell asleep in the car park waiting for the rain to clear, 2013 – nailed it, 2014 – wimped out due to not being fit enough. This year I am back on track and did a couple of century rides in June, so felt confident about the distance. It was not sold out this year, so I was able to just turn up and go.

And here it is (Strava)

It started well – I left with a group of 30 odd riders but quickly lost them all. However, on the very first major climb disaster struck: my rear derailleur gear cable snapped (inside the lever) leaving me with just 34/12 and 50/12! After pondering and beating of fists (and watching all those I started with go by), I simply got back on the bike and struggled up the hill.

Here I am near the top of the hill, bearing it in 34/12.

wiggle magnificat 2015

snapped gear cable

The next hill was almost as bad though, and the bike started to complain (as did my legs) – on one section I simply could not pedal and had to get off and jog to the summit. At least the weather was OK! So, 15 miles of rolling countryside later, in 2 gears (funny how that actually made me faster!), I reached Feed Stop one.

Thankfully there was a mechanic set up there – lifesaver. He managed to extract the broken cable end and replace it. I’d also lost the washer and hex nut that holds the cable to the derailleur body – but luckily he had a MTB cleat bolt with the same thread and the bike was fixed. Of course I was now 15-20 mins down on my ETA, so I had to step up… but as I left the feedstop, it started to rain. JOY! For the next 50 miles we struggled through increasingly bad weather. I found a few riders just that little faster than me, which was great, as my turn on the front did not last so long (!) but I made up quite a bit of time with them. However at about the 70 mile mark I suddenly started to get cramp in my thighs and realised I was trying just that little to hard to keep up. I eased off, let them go and no more cramp.

So to the Third feedstop. There I managed to refuel… and the heavens opened again! The worse part of the ride followed, pouring rain but at least my rain jacket kept me warm and I’d remembered my cap so none of the ‘acid eyes’ that usually plagues me. Met a husband/wife team (well, they caught me up) and we shared the road for a while – that was fun, until one hill where the wife suddenly fired up the guns and was gone… Impressive after 90 miles. Unfortunately about 2 miles later she punctured and I had to carry on alone, but with quite a bit of time made up. Also traveled for some time with a guy on an identical bike! And here we are:

Trek bikes

Trek Madone 4.5 peleton

I was now completely out of food and drink but the final feedstop seemed to take an age to appear. At least, as I rode it down, the weather finally cleared and warmed. Again luckily a rider I passed had a spare banana without which I might have bonked… and here’s the proof:

banana saved my life

pass the banana to the right.

At the final feedstop I had to oil the chain (only an idiot uses dry lube when the forecast is rain) and banana-up, with the final 14 miles only to go. However these Sportives do tend to have stings in the tail, and this was no exception. Cue spinning madly to avoid cramp…!

If there’s a problem with the Magnificat route its that last 8 miles / 10K, it really is quite boring, mostly slightly up, big roads no scenery – I just wanted it to end by then and rode as hard as I could. Too hard, coming in to Newbury Racecourse I completely missed the finish line and was almost at the car park before I realised and turned around, all those final gains lost.

So did I enjoy the ride? To be frank, not really! About 40 miles of reasonable weather and nice countryside, but the rest of the time staring at the wheel in front, trying to keep the rain out of my eyes.

Next year I will save up for Majorca!

#cycling-2, #magnificat, #sportive, #wiggle

Zappi’s Gran Fondo 2015

We’re ready to roll with a new website this year and online entry with British Cycling.

The event is on October 18th this year – an Autumn sportive.

See you there?


#gran-fondo, #sportive, #zappi

Hampshire Hilly Hundred 2013

Hard. 4 minutes slower than last year, but quite a different course to last year with 500 ft more climbing. Slow puncture that eventually had to be fixed meant I did not get back in under 6 hours, had that not happened I reckon I’d have improved my time. Ah well.

Hampshire has some wonderful scenery to take your mind off the pain. Was not happy with my cycling position, kept slipping forward so have decided to get a ‘bike fit’ to check my postition etc. Lets se if that helps.

#hhh, #sportive

Hello world – and the White Horse Challenge is done

Well, that was a long and horrible winter. I managed some steady training but missed Cheiveley and Puncheur due to bad weather or family stuff.
Finally managed to do the White Horse Challenge with a load of folks from my cycling club. Was hoping for under 5 hours but a short stop at the second feed stop blew that. Still, a pretty good morning on the bike, and came in 27th in my age group. Starting to feel fitter on the bike again but everything is very late this year, fitness included. Sore for a week afterwards, but the hilly club ride this Sunday didn’t murder me so it must be working. Hampsire Hilly Hundred up next week – bring the pain!


Ahh, winter riding, how I have missed thee.

or, not.

Oh the joys:

Cold feet again today. When I remember to wear thermal socks and overshoes I’m fine, but just grabbed everyday socks this morning and regretted it. Only 6 turned up for the Sunday club run. Not sure why as the forecast was OK, but there was a lot of flooding on the roads. After climbing Watlington hill a couple of us decided to take it a bit easy – so the group split amicably. We had a good run, pushed ourselves somewhat but the other 4 are all amateur racers (one of whom won a Cat 3 the previous day) and we didn’t want to hold them back.

Sunday Steady Run on Strava.

And when I got home and checked the bike, the Chiltern Hills had left a little of themselves with me:

bar steward

So, check them tyres!

My bike is now complete. I finally managed to ebay some Ultegra STIs and a derailleur so those went on along with a new KMC gold chain a week or so ago. 10 gears now (was 8 speed RX100), 12-27 and a whopping 160 grams lost (!). Of course I’m now thinking on the next bike, when and how I could possibly afford it. Cervelo S3 is the current favourite. But, I am going to have to earn it. If I can make 72Kg and stay with the Club fast group by summer, I will be looking for this frame! Some (rather consumerist I’d agree) goals at last…

Having got back in to regular training (though a bit of a blip this week, so today was hard) I  find that my legs, as previously posted, hurt. Most of the time. This is Good, as Pain is Gain. However, things can be done about it, so I have invested in a ‘foam roller’. These mimic the effect of a leg massage to help loosen the muscles and reduce tight spots. They also help with core training. So we’ll see how and if this works soon. Also thinking of a proper bike fit. A lot of people recommend these, and I still have trouble getting comfortable sometimes, so I might just try it.

Next up though, sorting out riding goals for next year. The overall goal is above – get the weight down, get fast enough to deserve a classy frame. But to get there I need objectives. Given that I don’t have the time/dedication for race training, sportives are the goal. So time to set up next year’s plan. As with 2011 and 2012, this will start with the Cheiveley Sportive in Jan. May be see you there, dear reader?

#bike, #humour, #oxfordshire, #sportive, #strava, #winter-training, #zappi

funny old cycling year so far.

After a great January, things sort of slowed… Was ill for part of Feb, March was better but I missed the sportive Le Puncheur as it was chucking it down on the day. April – got a gum infection then a pulled shoulder muscle. Jeez.

So only in the last week or two have I got back into proper miles. Too late to be ready for the 90 mile White Horse Challenge. A bunch of clubmates did this and stormed it with a 19 mph average. Real shame I missed it, though I did a 60 miler on the day.

Latest thing I’ve become addicted to is Strava. This app/website allows anyone (with a GPS!) to set a stretch of road, and the fastest person along that stretch becomes KOM (King of the Mountain – even down hill)… But it can end up making every ride a race… I think I have a couple of KOMs left but there’s a competitive bunch of folk out there.

Next up, the Hampshire Hilly Hundred. This one is going to be tough!

#bike, #sportive, #strava