A Tale of Two Sportives
Like buses, I hadn’t taken part in a mass start Sportive ride for at least a year or so, then 2 came along that I really wanted to be a part of in the space of a fortnight. With very different courses, atmospheres and purposes, this is the story of both rides….
One very sunny Sunday morning, I wondered what I was doing as I shrugged off the covers, gave my wife-to-be a kiss on the cheek as she continued to sleep and slipped quietly out of the house at 5am. The balance was very quickly back in my favour however as I sped down a largely deserted M6 with the sun-rise like something from a particularly optimistic Cornflakes advert off to my right as I headed south (other corn-based breakfast cereals are available!). So, powered by a quick stop for a Chai Tea Latte (they’re my favourite) I motored south to Stratford Upon Avon for this years Cyclists Fighting Cancer Wheel Heroes Ride (www.cyclistsfc.org.uk).
Without meaning to go slightly off-topic at this point, what is the new fashion for asking you your name when you order a Starbucks these days? I was the only person there! – However, in a rare moment of quick wittedness I started playing a game to which I am now whole-heartedly committed. From now on I will try to give a different and as un-realistic name as I can every time I am asked. I will only stop when a Starbucks employee realises what I am doing. Anyway, having remembered to respond to the shout of “Roy!”, I picked up my drink and headed for Stratford Race Course and the start of the ride.
My parents were already there when I got there as they had offered kindly to help run the event, so a massive thank-you must go to them for all their support. I on the other hand was a bit of a spare part as far as registration was concerned, so it was time to get on the road.
After an initial 15miles or so of cheery hellos as I caught up with people and a chat to a fellow cancer survivor before he equally as cheerily dropped me, I started to push on a bit. No sooner had I decided to press on, than a bee decided to fly down in the inside of my fingerless glove and assuming himself a goner stung me on the hand. Now, I probably shouldn’t admit to this but the pain of the sting was remarkably distracting, and despite some extensive medical training, all I could think to myself at the time was “well, if they give you an adrenaline shot for reaction to a sting, then why don’t I just put the hammer down and create my own adrenaline shot!”. It seemed perfectly logical at the time. Consequently, the rest of the morning past in somewhat of a blur as I flew past feed stations, the greetings became less cheery although I tried to make the effort and as the pain subsided I realised I was almost back at the start/finish location.
On the last couple of smaller climbs, we started to ride the same route as the ‘mini-heroes’ route for families and kids. I’m still not sure whether the kids dressed in Leopard Trek jerseys liked my cries of “it’s Frank and Andy Schleck!! Go Boys!!!!” and I apologise if it was more scary than encouraging, but I was quite delirious by this juncture.
I arrived back at the racecourse sufficiently spent only to realise that there really weren’t all that many people back yet, I was really chuffed to have caught and passed so many people since leaving almost last at the start, I didn’t tell anyone I was powered by the pain of a bee sting!
On the whole though, I had a fantastic day, if you ever get the chance to ride a Cyclists Fighting Cancer sportive I guarantee you’ll not regret it. When I did look up from my stem long enough to have a look round, the ride passed through some truly incredible scenery and beautiful villages and we hardly saw a car all day. The weather was a bonus, but it would have been a great day out regardless.
The second of my double header sportive rides was the Great Manchester Cycle (www.greatcycle.org.uk) on the bank holiday Monday of the Jubilee weekend. The weather once again made a great effort and after a Sunday bbq that was effectively a wash-out, we awoke to partly cloudy skies and a bit of a blustery wind but in general a great day for a bike ride.
On arrival at the ride HQ at Manchester City’s Etihad stadium, we couldn’t quite believe the volume of cyclists that had come out to ride on some closed roads in Manchester. We didn’t arrive late, but still we had to start from the back and try to keep as good a pace as possible whilst weaving through the see of cyclists enjoying the traffic free streets.
And these weren’t just any streets that were traffic free, this was the shortest motorway in the country. The elevated section of the Mancunian way, which forms part of the inner ring road but is classified as a motorway was shut to motorised traffic and it was just us self-righteous cyclists sounding like a swarm of angry wasps buzzing along the road. This was the main reason that myself and a clutch of other Cancer Fighting Cyclists (www.cancerfightingcyclists.org.uk) wanted to ride this ride. We simply wanted to experience a road that was normally clogged with traffic and very much off-limits to cyclists. We wanted to blast along it at 25mph and swing off the slip-road before swinging through a high speed corner and setting off up the wrong side of another dual-carriageway on our way to the new Media City and back past Old Traffic, to complete the set of Manchester based premiership stadia (apparently it’s quite a treat if you’re into football and many shouted their allegiance as we rode past their chosen Mecca).
Over the first 2 laps 5 of us settled in to a truly awesome Team Time Trial formation (at least that’s how we imagined ourselves anyway!). Others attempted to join us, by trying to catch a ride on our train or even coming through and doing a turn on the front, but then we were back to 5 as they dropped back again. All was going swimmingly (not literally of course, open water swims on Salford Quays are only on Saturdays), until disaster struck and I found myself dumped onto the tarmac. I am usually the first to admit if my bike handling skills desert me, but this time I truly had no chance. The rider who was inches in-front of me, although not in our group, wobbled and then went down like a sack of spuds. As he skidded along the tarmac I applied a generous handful of brake and had slowed to a respectable 15mph or so. Just as I was thinking I may have got away with it, the bike that had been sliding along the floor with the rider attached flipped up vertical again and tried to wedge itself between my own front wheel and down-tube. At this stage everything took on a more ‘Alice in wonderland’ perspective for me as I spiralled over the top and landed under my bike, with most of the forces borne by my own ankle. It smarted, I have to tell you.
After a full systems check of both body and bike, the relief that I hadn’t broken anything that would either require time in A&E or a small fortune to repair, I was happy that I could carry on, albeit at a somewhat more pedestrian pace. I tried to push on and stay up with the faster lads, but it had been an effort to stay with them without an ankle that felt like Mint-Choc Angel Delight and in the end I watched them creep away from me up the road (again, other mousse based desert treats are available).
In the end I posted a respectable 2hr32 mins for the 52miles which given the initial slow lap due to a bottle-neck and traffic, and a few minutes scraping myself of the tarmac (with the help of Mr.Andy Waugh, thanks Andy!) meant a good average speed was maintained and it was actually a good training ride as well as just a lovely morning out riding roads we wouldn’t normally get to ride.
See you at both events next year!