Last Saturday, I rode the Ordnance Survey Cobbler Classic. I did the middle distance, the Standard ride, which was 65 miles or about 100 km, starting from Turweston Aerodrome in Brackley and weaving through the Northamptonshire countryside. We went through Weedon Lois, Aston-le-Walls, Chakmore and Lillingstone Dayrell, to mention only some of the villages with amazing names we buzzed through. Got to love England!
When I got up about 6:30, it was drizzling lightly, and I had my usual pre-ride breakfast of porridge and yoghurt. We packed the car with my gear and our four dogs and loaded our bikes on the roof. The Aerodrome is great for parking, but the access road to the ride start is a mile and a quarter of fractured concrete. The road will eat cars for breakfast and bicycles as a snack, so my group stayed under 10 mph till we got onto the open road.
I chose this ride and distance to suit me: the organisers rated it as 4/10 in difficulty, and I accept my limitations. I like the 100 km distance; it’s challenging but do-able, particularly if the route isn’t too hilly. It was a lovely route, largely on quiet country lanes. There was an incident in the first 10 miles, with a cyclist off his bike in the road. It looked to me like it might have been a failure of group riding. Except for the sportives I do, I don’t have much experience of riding with others, so I’m nervously careful at the beginning of rides, and I hope other people will be so as well. I’ve ridden only a few sportives with mass starts, but even the staged starts have twenty or thirty people of unknown but probably varying abilities and experiences setting out together.
If you ride on quiet lanes, you have to be prepared for some rough surfaces. Many of the roads had surfaces almost as poor as the aerodrome, and when we were squeezed by cars on single track lanes, the rutted gravel edge was particularly intimidating.
I try to hold in my mind the beautiful villages we spin through, as well as the ideas that well up as I ride. The truth though is that, while my training rides are great opportunities to think, it’s hard to hold a though for a four hour ride, especially when I’m pushing myself. I see these beautiful thatched houses, beckoning pubs and lovely country views, but they’re whizzing by as fast as I can make myself go. I thought I was in sight of a “gold” finish for this ride, but the organizers located the second feed stop more than a mile off the official route, and, by the time I recognised that the signs I was following led only to food that I didn’t need and reversed myself back on to the main route, I’d gone an extra mile and a bit, ending two minutes outside of the gold finish time.
Nevertheless, it was a brilliant ride on a clear crisp morning. Kyla got lovely photos of my arrival, and after a brief circuit with the dogs, we headed home.
Last Sunday was the Dare2B Southwell CiCLE Tour (formerly called the Thoresby CiCLE Tour), starting out from Southwell Race Course in Nottinghamshire. With a drive of just over an hour and an 8.30 registration we had another early rise. I really like starting at venues like race tracks as they have great parking and facilities and are generally well signed so finding them isn’t difficult.
The Dare2B sportive started out in quite cold, cloudy conditions with temperatures around 6 degrees. At 30 miles I knew I would be able to do the sportive so that was helpful and Erik did this shorter ride with me on top of his longer ride yesterday. We rolled through a number of small villages and towns in the area – Fiskerton, Bleasby, Thurgarton and Hallam. All really pretty and very quiet apart from the occasional dog walker. While there weren’t many cars, there were lots of club cyclists on the road which was lovely to see.
After a short while the sun came out and it started to warm up. Fortunately I was wearing layers so it wasn’t a big deal to cool down and switch into sunglasses. It was quite a hilly route and I ended up walking up a few of the longer / higher hills. I find that the shorter hills aren’t so bad even if they are steep as I can get a run at them and keep going because I can see the end. I hate the long slow climbs that have a tiny levelling out bit and they go up again. I struggle to keep pedalling, even if I’m going at a slow steady pace. Counting my strokes helps a bit but sometimes it just seems easier to get off and push. I have learnt though that it is more effective to stop and have a drink then restart than to get off and walk.
The ride through Nottinghamshire continued with the villages of Edingley, Farnsfield, Bilsthorpe before we started to head back towards Southwell via Maplebeck, Caunton and Hockerton. As with my previous two and only sportives, the last few miles hurt a bit; not so much in terms of tiredness but mostly an achiness in my neck and shoulders. It was a really nice day though and doing these rides is giving me the confidence that I need for when I do the Coast to Coast route in May.