My first sportive of 2016

This Sunday past, I rode my first sportive this year. When we left home, there was a half inch of wet snow on the car. Both Kyla and I worried as we drove south that the ride would be cancelled by the time we arrived at the start, a water sports facility outside of Cirencester. The day before, the organisers had moved the start time from 9:00 to 10:00 to allow ice to disappear from the roads, but I wasn’t sure if they had texting capabilities to cancel the ride if they intended to do that, and we had to start over an hour beforehand.

The snow gradually disappeared as we drove south, though the sky remained grey and the temperature never rose above “almost freezing.” We arrived, though, and the ride was going ahead. We parked in a muddy field and unloaded the bike and I got my kit on. The ride had two distances, 48 and 65 miles (77 and 105 km), and I had decided on the way down that the shorter distance would be better in this miserable weather. I was tired and had a lot of qualms about the ride, but I wasn’t ready to quit.

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I was off with the first group. As regularly happens, the ride got better from the outset: nerves calmed, warmth grew. We buzzed along on level roads at nearly 20 miles an hour (32 kph), a pace I didn’t dream I could maintain. I mostly managed to hold onto the group I left with, passing some and being passed by others. We had two difficult hills, the first hitting 14% of climb at Highworth, the second 14% at Coleshill, but they came early enough that I had energy, and weren’t so long that they sapped it for the rest of the ride. The riders out on this January morning were all dedicated cyclists, though the two riders who rode at my pace for quite a distance, passing and then dropping behind me, all the while having a good old natter, were trying, when I was using all my energy simply to keep up.

As usual, I mostly rode alone, though I chatted about the weather with the people who passed me. Just after Faringdon, though, I started riding with another fellow. It took me a while to realise he wasn’t on the ride that I was doing; he was simply out on a cold January morning for the chance to ride. It turned out he is a racer, riding criterium and time trials. He said that most of his riding this year had been indoors, on the turbo trainer and he was glad to get out and ride in the fresh air. I was really chuffed; I’d never known I was riding with someone who was dead serious about riding. I wished I’d got his name, but since we literally met in passing, I never learned it. We rode along together at least to Little Faringdon, and probably further; unless there’s an easy marker—a post office or pub with the town name—I usually don’t know where I’m passing through.

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I finished the ride tired and cold but pleased. Kyla took wonderful pictures of me arriving, and later, when we met the organiser, she agreed to take some general pictures for the next ride, in February. I was one of 70 finishers, completing in 2 hours, 58 minutes, for an average speed of 16.5 mph (26.6 kph). I’m looking forward to next month.

Erik

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