I don’t always look forward to sportives. In fact I can’t remember the last time I really did. But I was, oddly, looking forward to this one. After the last few positive rides I wanted to see how my form really was. Whether or not I could still do it. If I could do 70 miles yet. Mind you, however I thought I was feeling about it, someone had forgotten to tell my body, which did the whole dry mouth nervous thing for the entire way there…
…which luckily wasn’t far. Unsurprisingly the Evans Ride It Bristol starts in Bristol, which is only half an hour’s drive away. Again with the don’ts, but I don’t often do local sportives. I know these roads too well, there’s no novelty value, no real challenge to be had. But I signed up for this one as a hook to hang a longer ride on. To force me to get out of my 30 odd mile route rut and do something longer, with hills. And there’s a lot to be said for a 7:00am alarm call as opposed to a 5:00am one. So local isn’t all bad
Of course, with predictably bad timing, my pain chose Saturday night to flare up, making for an even worse than usual pre-sportive night’s sleep, and sadly it hadn’t gone away by Sunday morning. Tramadol was out of the question as, when not habituated, it tends to zombie me, and that’s hardly conducive to bike riding. So mainstream analgesia it was, with my fingers firmly crossed that would be enough to get by.
So, all that said and done, welcome to Hengrove Park Leisure Centre where, at around 8:30am I was marshalled onto the small free car park on site, being early enough for it not to be full. Which was good, because the other options were further away. I could have walked to and from registration before faffing, but being as it was freezing cold (there was still ice in the puddles), I decided I might as well get all kitted up and wrapped up and go with the one step approach. The forecast was for fairly bright, fairly cold, and fairly breezy, all of which it was currently being. So on went every winter layer and, bearing my still dodgy ears in mind, the winter hat was joined by a Buff underneath to make sure everything was covered up. Fairly efficient as faffing goes. Me and my practically clean bike headed for registration – eldest has his uses
It took a little while for them to find me since, thanks to my elevated VIP status, I got to be on a small special and exclusive list of free riders which was lurking at the end of the table. Oddly enough there was another female Trotman registered though…a DNS as it happens. The friendly bobble-hatted man behind the table stuck a timing sticker on my helmet, offered me a map and that was that. Which I refused. And then went back for on the basis that if I didn’t have it I might need it and just because I knew 95% of the route that wouldn’t stop me getting lost in and out of Bristol if I missed a sign. Plus it had all the emergency contact details on it which I thought I should have so as not to need them, like insurance.
Time for the requisite toilet break, and the facilities were inside the leisure centre along with a café etc. Cleats were banned, and getting the shoes on and off was a bit of a pain, what with all the overshoes etc, but hey ho, rules are rules. All necessities having been taken care of, there was nowt for it but to join the queue for the start in the cold. It didn’t take long though, and I was shortly penned in with the next batch of riders, being briefed. I wasn’t once told it wasn’t a race, but there was a sign saying so, which was nice. Well, tradition is important
Right then. Briefing done. Here I go again, on my own. Going down roads I definitely know. Well, I would be once I got out of Bristol anyway After a couple of miles of leisurely (i.e. not going off too fast too soon) bimbling through housing estates, getting out of Bristol meant going straight up Dundry Hill. Oh cruel world! I definitely hadn’t warmed up, even supposing that was ever going to happen, and t’aint an easy hill for sure. But…it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be? Sure, it was hard work, and it went on for ages, bend after bend, but I didn’t feel like I was dying. Well, ok, I was, we all are, it’s part of life, but I didn’t feel like it was at risk of happening imminently
Unsurprisingly I was overtaken on the way up, but I also overtook a few, and those who overtook me? Well I left ‘em for dust on the downhill afterwards *grin*. The roads were pretty dry and, cold though it was, there didn’t seem to be ice around, so I could enjoy the downhills today my way, though I was maybe a little more cautious than usual.
Right then, bye bye Bristol, hello familiar roads. Not flat though, not yet. We were off plane spotting, gradually climbing through Winford and Felton up to the airport. Which cheered me up no end because this meant we were going to go down Brockley Combe. Fun fun Although actually it’s not steep enough to be real fun, you can’t get fast enough and there’s always a headwind. But I did my best
I was on to Dad’s turf now, though sadly he wasn’t with me having left it late too late to sign up before it sold out. In the absence of his company, which would have been nice, I was actually happier with none, as I didn’t feel under any pressure to perform and could just take it as it came. And what came next was a nice patch of 10-15 fairly flat miles, enjoying the scenery, playing with the traffic in Yatton which is way easier on a bike than in a car, all the while getting closer and closer to the next big climb of the day, Burrington Combe. The first food stop was in the car park at the bottom, but I only stopped long enough to take the odd photo, it being sort of my job ‘n all. Tempting though the hot coffee looked, I was still cold, and didn’t want to get colder hanging around before doing that going up thing. That cold is also why there aren’t a lot of photos. It’s hard to use the camera in winter gloves which means either removing them (bye bye hands) or stopping to use it (bye bye body). So, more words, less pictures today.
Burrington Combe went pretty well, as it happens. As slowly as ever, but I felt ok about it. I knew the route split was coming up after and spent some happy mental time while pootling uphill, deliberating as to whether I was going to do the long route or the medium route. Sure, I was feeling fairly good, but I’d not done any long rides for quite a while, I’ve been ill, I couldn’t feel my toes, other than in that painfully cold sense, and my pain was making life…interesting, especially uphills. But I wanted to do the 70 mile route. That’s what I had set out to do. For once familiarity was a good thing. I knew where the route was going to take me, I knew which hills remained, I knew that what was ahead was theoretically doable, it having been done before. Who am I kidding? I was only mentally messing with myself really, I was always going to do the long route *grin*.
Besides, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get to go down Cheddar Gorge, now would I? Which I did, and did well, and enjoyed just as much as ever. I’d have had flies in my teeth, but I was breathing through my winter collar – downhill was even colder! My buoyant mood carried me all the way out to and through Wedmore and on to the next foodstop at the infamous Sweets. I barely even noticed Mudgeley Hill, other than to fly down it of course
Sadly there was no coffee on offer this time, just when I fancied one. Yes, I could have gone inside and ordered one, but that would have taken time I didn’t have. I did nip to the loo, and nab a couple of gels though, as there was one big hill to go and I was going to need ‘em! Time to get back on my steed, to ride further East. Sadly this also involved some North and since today’s wind was a considerable North Westerly, it was suddenly quite a hindrance. OK, so I’d been aware it had been helping before, but the thought of the remaining 27 miles being all into that was a bit depressing, and I did briefly wonder if I’d made the right route decision.
I’m pleased to say it turned out to be less of a problem that feared. The road out to Wells was in a more favourable direction and there were bigger fish to fry. Old Bristol Hill. Which I’ve never cycled up in the snow before. Yes, as I came into Wells it started snowing. I’d like to say the novelty value made the climb easier. It didn’t. But it’s just another hill right? A very long hill mind, so I engaged crawler gear, laughed at the snow, and reminded myself that I’d climbed up far longer hills than this and they didn’t take all day and neither would this. Which it didn’t. Although it may have felt like it
It was pretty breezy and awful chilly on the top of the Mendips but I knew it wouldn’t be for long, the snow had stopped without having settled, it was as scenic as ever, and I was going to get to go down Harptree Hill, another favourite. I’m very reward driven We’d been warned about the descent, which is probably quite fair if you don’t know it. But I do, so I got to fly all the way down happily, in my (joint) best time ever
I was expecting to hate the slog out across the exposed valley and past Chew Valley Lake but somehow that didn’t happen. I knew the miles were counting down, and that I didn’t really have that far to go and so I just got on with it. Once we got to Chew Magna I was in unfamiliar territory though, and those few miles left s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d somehow, as I ceased to know where I was in relation to where I needed to be, whilst also not knowing what kind of hill was going to be necessary to get me back into Bristol. And yes, there was one, but it was no Dundry. Apparently it was Maesknoll, if you’re interested. And then that was that, just a few more miles through suburbia and I was back at HQ to walk over the Finish line, or more accurately under the Finish arch, and be counted back in, still feeling pretty good. Evans Ride It Bristol – done
Cycling time: 5:19
Distance: 70.5 miles
Avg: 13.2 mph
ODO: 7741.8 miles
Fuel: 2 gels, one flapjack, 1 litre Nuun.
Before I set out I was guessing at around 5 hours ride time. Then en route I realised how slow I was and that there were hills involved, and I decided 6 hours was more realistic. And then as things went on, I thought maybe I might make it in at around the 5 1/2 hours mark. So I was very pleased with 5:19, and happier still with my official 5:30 when the results went up on the website the following day. A pretty good start to the season methinks
PS: I’m also pretty chuffed that the organisers gave me both the High5 sample pack that everyone was getting, and also the free High5 Pack that riders who sign up more than 8 weeks in advance get – High5 gels are my fuel of choice!