Tag Archives: Cotswolds

Cotswold Edge 2016

Right then.  Time for my second sportive of the season organised by the Southern Sportive team.  Last time it was the actual Southern Sportive.  This time it was the Cotswold Edge Sportive – a new one to me.  Well, variety is the spice of life right?  Although I seem to have spent quite a lot of time cycling around bits of the Cotswolds this year, so it’s definitely variety, not novelty…

I spent the weekend prior to the event having a life.  Which was a great deal of fun, but not conducive to proper preparation.  You know that thing about proper planning preventing piss poor performance…?  I really should bear that in mind.  Getting enough sleep and eating properly would have been a good idea.  But hey, old dog, new tricks, some people never learn ūüėČ

Still, the morning got off to a good start.  Ish.  The alarm went off at 6:30, and I left at 7:30 as planned.  Pain levels and sleep deprivation meant that the motorway drive was a little…interesting…but I managed to stay awake.  Just.  It’s a good thing it was only a 50 minute (very cautious) drive on fairly empty motorways to HQ at the Renishaw site at Wotton-under-Edge.  Which turned out to be a very nice location.  Picturesque.  With lots of landscaping and the like…all of which was enhanced by the early morning sunshine.  I was marshalled to park up in the car park and since I could see registration from where I was sat, I decided to go and register before faffing.  The short walk over there revealed that although it was sunny, it was far from warm, and that there was quite a lot of definitely not warm wind to add a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to that.  Marvellous…  I gave the team my signature, and in return received my skewer timing chip, a couple of rather short cable ties, my bike number and a waterproofed map.  I really don’t like skewer timing chips…as I mentioned when I wrote about the Southern Sportive…but as this is run by the same guys, at least this time I was expecting it.

1-lake-at-renishaw-site

Time for a trip to the facilities, which were around the other side of the building.  I walked past the start line, and bumped into organiser Martin, who was busy getting ready to start things going.  We chatted briefly, and he promised to try and turn the wind off ūüėČ  It may have been a little walk to the toilets, but it sho’ was perty – past a very lovely lake and views over to what might have been the Hawkesbury Tower.  And the facilities were very lovely too, so no complaints all ’round really.  

2-start-line-1 3-start-line-2

Back to the car then.  Time for faffing in the sunshine.  Clearly this was going to be a cold day, and if it wasn’t going to be a cold day in hell, I was going to need layers.  Which in this case ended up being winter longs, s/s base layer, s/s jersey, rapha winter jacket, head scarf, neck scarf, ear protectors.  This was quite a lot more than quite a lot of people seemed to be wearing, but I know what I’m like with cold, and I’m starting to learn that getting cold or being cold seems to go with the territory when I’m in pain so…lots of layers it was!

4-hazy-morning-views 5-ribbon-and-shadow

While I was faffing the tannoy system had been sharing the stream of rider briefings with us all.  I arrived at the start line just as the latest group was leaving so although I didn’t actually officially get a briefing, I didn’t need one either.  I tagged on the back as we all carefully went over the timing mat to make sure we all beeped properly.  Apparently the position of that timing chip thing is important – vertical positioning is better than lateral.  Mine was fine, natch, but a couple of others had to stop and readjust before heading off…

6-green-bends 7-tower-views

The first thirty miles, minus the odd early drag, seemed fairly flat to me.  I could have been imagining it though, as I really couldn’t get into it somehow.  I couldn’t get properly warm, even if the neck tube did need to come off about 10 miles in.  Things hurt.  Being all wrapped up, and dosed up, with the low sunshine and long shadows, with eyes constantly having to adapt from light to shade, seemed to make it all a bit surreal.  It also made the signs harder to spot.  I didn’t get lost though and even if I had I’d probably have been ok – I’m starting to know my way around here.  Bits of the route were from the Severn Sportive but in reverse, so familiar but not familiar.  I’d have figured it out somehow.

8-first-food-stop 9-narrow-country-lanes

Since I was on my own and mostly the only rider in sight, and there wasn’t too much challenge going on, I got a bit bored, and what with the bored, tired, cold, ouchy and medicated, I kept zoning out, and doing that nearly falling asleep thing.  Not good, as I’m sure you’ll agree.  And man I hate being cold!!!  Still, at least my iPod shuffle was working this time, so I had music for company, which was a big improvement on the last sportive.  And it was mad pretty out there.  It is the Cotswolds after all.  It’s not often than you nearly get knocked off your bike by a Bentley, right? ūüėČ  Pretty and posh then…  Pretty, posh & prosperous doesn’t translate into money being spent on the roads though – there were some really nasty road surfaces along the way, with a lot of gravel and mud around.  There were also less signs warning about this than I was expecting, after such roads being marked so well on the Southern Sportive.  There may have been less of those signs, but at least there were still plenty of repeater ribbons, which I still love.  There’s nothing like the sight of a little orange ribbon blowing in the wind, just when you’re starting to wonder if….and then there it is, reassuring you that you’re going in the right direction.  And that wind was still there, blowing them around, and it was cold, and making cold even colder.  Sulk, whinge, moan.

10-posh-country-estate 11-up-hill-under-cover

I didn’t know which route I was going to do.  I knew it wasn’t going to be the Short (37 miles) route though, as the split for that had come 4 miles in.  I still had time to decide.  Which brings us to the first stop, around 29 miles in, at around 11:00am.  It was next to a playing field and tennis court and fairly exposed.  There was certainly nowhere to hide from the wind, and any bits of me that had managed to get hot and sweaty quickly got cold, clammy and unpleasant.  Still at least there were toilets this weekend, in a little changing room block.  Not that the lights worked, so you couldn’t close the door unless being plunged into pitch blackness is your thing…luckily no-one came along at the wrong time!  Back to the food table and supplies were really sparse.  The mechanic was doubling up as staff, and helping anyone who needed it, wrapped up and looking warmer than seemed fair.  I put my neck scarf back on, topped up my water bottle, and grabbed a couple of orange quarters.  Considering how I’d been feeling I decided that a Powerbar smoothie might be what was called for, in case lack of food was any part of the problem.  Whilst sat on a curb, mulling things over, I also took the next dose of pills and rang a rather distracted Matt for moral support.  And managed not to burst into tears this time around, which probably counts as progress ūüėČ

14-modern-tower 15-route-split

Right then, time to head off again.  Straight into the biggest climb of the day – which was a real killer compared to everything and anything else today.  It was hard painful work.  It came with a silver lining thought; it got me a little bit warmer for a while!  And up there, on top of the world, there were some amazing views, when you could see them.  It was a bit bowl like up there, and a lot of the time those views were frustratingly just out of view beyond the current horizon.  Tantalising…  But it’s a bit churlish to complain about that really isn’t it?  When those you could and did see were so fabulous?

17-see-the-signage 19-tyndale-monument

The next route split came along shortly – and it definitely wasn’t going to be an Epic day.  Which was annoying.  But I still wasn’t warm, and things were still painful, and I had an open Sunday lunch invitation if I happened to make it back home in time.  The Epic route might only have been 18 miles longer than the Standard 62 miles but things were painful enough as it was, so pushing it seemed unwise, even if the pills were starting (finally!) to cut in.

20-a-tower 21-rider-in-red

Standard route then.  And after a rather lovely down, came the second food stop, only 16 km after the first, but with 35km to go.  Or 10 miles and 22 miles if you prefer.  It was staffed by two very friendly and very chatty ladies who seemed to be really enjoying their day out in the sun and talking to everyone.  Mid chatting I ate orange quarters and jelly beans.  According to them the rest of the route could be summarised as one big hill ahead, then flattish along the Severn, then back up the escarpment to the finish.  Allegedly.  I decided another gel wouldn’t do any harm.  Which it didn’t.  Especially when there was indeed another big hill.  Up to the Tyndale Monument I believe.  Which the food stop lady, in tour guide mode, had informed us was dedicated to the Tyndale that translated the Bible into English.  Hm…   Regardless of what you might think about that, it wasn’t as bad as the killer hill before, and was in fact a nice climb.  Yes, yes, I know, I do like hills really.  By the top of that I was nearly warmed up.  In fact the day had nearly warmed up.  So of course not long afterwards it started to cloud over and cool down again…  Honestly…*sigh*.  

22-canal-break-view 23-church-is-open

Climbing done for the time being, it was time to go and see the River Severn.  Although I’m not sure why.  The loop out there and back seemed a bit gratuitous, especially since it involved going out there and back again along some of the same roads, and it was really confusing having riders going in both directions on the same stretch of road.  It tends to make you think you’re lost…which as I was on my own, I could have been.  Did I mention I was on my own for most of the time?  And hey, the Severn is pretty, but it wasn’t that pretty!  So when it was done, it was a relief to have looped that loop and be heading back to HQ.  Back into the trees ,where a suicidal squirrel played chicken with my front wheel…  Luckily I didn’t end up on the tarmac and it lived to spend the rest of the day looking for more nuts, not that it needed any…, which presumably is why it had had to cross the road in the first place.  But it was a close run thing!  

24-berkeley-castle 25-pretty-church

No running up the final climb up the Costwold escarpment though.  It was steeper than I’d expected, and longer, and it being later in the day, there just didn’t seem to be anything in the tank.  Bit like all the hills today.  They were fine, I kinda liked them – the legs worked, the lungs worked but…there was no zone, no push, no get up and go.  Still, at least I got up them, and I got up this one too.  Being near the end probably helped!

26-finish-line

Climbing over and done with, essentially, flat was better.  But busier.  The stretch to get back took in quite a few more major roads, which had their fair share of traffic on.   One example of which made my brush with the squirrel look like a mere bagatelle…and another of my nominal nine lives was shaved off by a motorist with absolutely no patience and even less driving skill!  After all that I got back to HQ in one piece for a rather anti-climatic finish.  Even though I’d bailed to the shorter route, there weren’t many people around.  It felt more like when I do the long route on an event and I’m nearly the last in…  

Cycling time: 4:25
Official time: 5:00
Distance: 62.5 miles
Avs: 14.1 mph

There were two people at the Finish line to take my timing chip, and then I took a short walk back to registration and refreshments, where those riders that were still around were.  The car park wasn’t empty though, and riders were still trickling in, it was just in a sort of dribs and drabs way, so I decided I didn’t feel too bad about things.  I also decided to start by getting the bike in the car and getting warm clothes on me – I never really had got warm all day!  That done, I headed back over and paid ¬£1 for a cup of tea to defrost me internally, tell Martin that once more I’d failed to do the long route I was signed up for, and to get my token finisher’s medal.  Which made it time for me to get back into the car, turn the heating on, and negotiate the busier and better drive home.  Back to having a life, and to having Sunday lunch ūüėČ  Cotswold Edge done.  Not great…but better than it could have been.  I’ll take that ūüôā

Meon Vale Spring Classic

Daffodil

Welcome to the first sportive of my season.  Which is actually the second review.  I’ve gotten all behind and out of sync and well…whatever…here it is.

I was a bit nervous beforehand.  The forecast had not been great, it’s early in my season, and all the other usual worries that bother me were bothering me.  I’d spent all week telling myself it was only 80k so not a big deal really.  So it’s just as well I checked a couple of days before and discovered it was actually 100k, not 80k.  This is fine when you’re prepared for it, but not when you’re out on the course, tired, and spending an hour not reaching the finish line you’re looking for.  That can definitely do your head and PMA in.  Forewarned, forearmed ūüôā

So, which sportive are we talking about?  Well this year I’m trying to do more events that I haven’t done before, which is why I’d picked the CFC Meon Vale Spring Classic – aka the Daffodil Ride – to start the season with.  (Sadly the page for the event no longer exists on their website, so I’ll point you at their Events page instead in case you want to do another of their events instead).  As with quite a few of my events, due to proximity and easy access, it’s in the Cotswolds – and in this case the northerly chunk.  HQ was at the new Meon Vale Leisure Centre, about two hours drive from here.

It was not the nicest drive in the world.  It was early, I was tired, it was cold and grey and dreary and just, well…a bit snooze inducing.  I took a break at one of the usual M5 service stations, where the early morning tumble weed were blowing around the empty car park – most normal people still being in bed at such an ungodly hour on Sunday.  HQ opened at 8:00am and I was there not long after.  It’s a new leisure centre on a new housing development, all of which is shiny and new and clean and possibly just a little bit toy town, but hey, it’ll all age and bed in.  When the pre-event email had said that coffee etc would be available at the Londis shop/cafe in the village – the big purpose built shop here was not quite what I’d imagined…not that I’d be visiting it anyway.  I had my own very good coffee with me  ūüôā  Interesting the pictures your brain paints with very little information though… ūüôā

registration pack horse

I drove past the shop, into the leisure centre grounds, and was marshalled through a security barrier onto a gravel car park section, the small tarmac section directly adjacent to the leisure centre being full already.  Some poor marshal was having to make the barrier work every time, which struck me as a bit of a chore, so I wasn’t surprised when, walking back from registration later, I discovered they’d found a way to make it be open all the time.

There weren’t that many riders around inside yet, so no queuing for registration, or the toilets – all new ‘n clean ‘n nice ‘n all, but not very generous in number – there would be queues later…  As for registration, this is a charity ride – CFC stands for Cyclists Fighting Cancer.  So to keep costs down there was to be no official timing, though for those that wanted to compare times they’d set up Strava segments for the two routes available – 100km and 60km.  So, no timing chip to collect, just a map, bike number & cable ties, in return for a signature as usual.  Talking of costs, entry was just ¬£12 for 100km and ¬£11 for the 60km, plus it’s for charity…doesn’t that make a nice change?

heading to start ready

I headed back to the car, past that open barrier, to faff as usual.  It was COLD!  Even though the forecast was now actually ok, what with it going to be a fairly short ride, I didn’t think there was much chance of it getting too warm before I was done, so I had pretty much every winter layer I own on.  Having resorted to posting a photo of the bike on FB, as you do, apparently it looked like I was going on a camping holiday…oh ye who mock my saddle bag!  And top tube bag.  Well I’ll have you know they’re both very useful!  And if you’d like some better more sports related excuse, call it training under load or something…  Just think how fast I’ll be when the summer bike and summer wheels come out to play? ūüėČ  At least my pack horse was all clean and oiled and everything – yes, I do occasionally wash it.  And photographic proof is always good…as no-one ever believes me when I say that *grin*.

route signs 1 route signs 2

Getting the bike set up was a bit of a pain in the ar*e actually.  Or is that literally?  My new (ish) mudguards may be wonderful things, but they don’t like it when the bike gets put in the back of the car…and the front one had gotten all bent of shape.  I got all bent out of shape trying to get it back in to shape!  My hands were clearly freezing, as I somehow managed to cut a knuckle without realising it…until I realised I was dripping blood all over things!  Not a big deal – just one of those little irritating on a joint things – and it stopped soon enough.  I did finally get the wheel and mudguard to stop touching each other though, which was the main point.

The rest of my car park was full now, and the marshals were busy on their radios debating whether or not it was ok to park the still arriving cars on the grassier bits.  I guess they didn’t want to the the ones who trashed all the new landscaping if it wasn’t!  I’m guessing it was though because I didn’t see them turning anyone away ūüėČ  All wrapped up, both bike and me, I headed back to queue for the toilet, before queuing at the start line along with everyone else.  And it was as cold standing around as feared.  The guy next to me was doing his first sportive, having come back from Dubai last year…I bet he was feeling it, and I kinda felt for him!

hill ahead

We reached the front of the queue, and after a short safety briefing, were let go on our merry way.  The ride itself is a lot like the Mad March Hare, unsurprisingly as it covers a lot of the same ground.  That did add a nice degree of familiarity to it, without it being same old same old (I’ve done the MMH a good few times).  I recognised bits.  Hills especially.  All of which today turned out to be ones I’d done before, if not all on the same event, which was nice because I knew that they were totally doable.  It was all very doable really.  Pretty countryside, ploddy hills, bit draggy from time to time, not stunning, but pleasant enough.  I’d not studied the route too much and, it being the Cotswolds, I’d sort of been expecting it to be hillier, and it’s always nice when a route turns out to be easier than you’d expect!

pretty not busy more pretty

The route split came at the top of Dovers Hill though, which was one of the biggest climbs of the day, so whichever route you did, you didn’t get to get out of it.  I quite enjoyed it, in my own odd way.  I can get up hills.  And I like that ūüôā  I also liked the Snowshill descent afterwards which is long, fast, and straight, without a junction at the bottom – perfect!  Especially with there being no traffic on it – of any variety – not even horse riders.  Who are a bigger problem here than in some places, as we’d been warned.  It’s a popular area for equestrians, which is probably somewhat related to the affluence of the area! ūüėČ  Mind you, it may be affluent, but that doesn’t mean the road surfaces are better here than anywhere else.  By which I mean that a lot of them were pretty crap.  Which has nothing to do with this sportive in particular and more to do with the state of UK roads in general, and I spent quite a while from time to time hankering after the beautiful smooth Spanish roads from my training camp…*sigh*

Broadway Tower its a sign of course

The first food stop was due a little bit before halfway, in the very pretty village of Stanton, but my painkillers were wearing off well before then.  I was tempted to wait but…as it happens at the top of a long hill I found a car park that even had a toilet block so I took an impromptu break there to top up and unload, as it were.  I even went so far as swop the winter gloves for the summer ones…a decision which I reversed about twenty minutes later when I realised I was losing feeling in my fingers!  Yep – still cold out there then!

food stop portable toilets

That foodstop actually turned out to be at the 24 mile mark which, on a 62 mile sportive, really seemed a bit too soon.  That would leave 38 miles still to do…and after 24 miles I’ve usually only just sort of hit my stride.  However there it was, and it was well stocked, with a variety of food on offer, and a few portable toilets.  I topped up my bottle, grabbed a few jelly babies – my current foodstop fodder of choice – before heading off again.  It was, as I’ve probably said a few too many times, too cold for hanging around much.

pretty town houses small pile

As the miles ticked by under grey skies, the very cold continued.  However miraculously, around the middle of the day hints of actual shadows started to appear.  Both skies and spirits lightened, and by 1:30pm it was actually blue and sunny and even somewhat warmer.  Warmer I said.  Not warm ūüėČ  On the upside, there wasn’t much wind to speak off all day – and that’s always a very good thing!  I was glad of my kit choices; it’s always nice when you get that right.

slow blue straight

Country lanes, Cotswold stone houses, thatched cottages, cute villages, daffodils, snowdrops…sounds nice doesn’t it?.  There was the slightly busier, more developed and larger, Stow on the Wold thrown in though, and even the odd traffic light for us all to dutifully stop at…though I may have cut it close at one of those busier junctions…hope I made it!  Well, I know ALL cyclists jump red lights, right?  But… ūüėČ

The second half of the ride was flatter, and the last 15 miles even more so.  Flatter, faster, sunnier…oh go on then, this IS fun…and then all the miles were done, and there I was, crossing the Finish Line to be greeting by a small welcoming committee.  My number was clipped off for me, and I was presented with my bunch of daffodils – lovely.  Both nice touches, and I do like daffodils ūüôā  I grabbed a free bottle of water and headed back to the car feeling quite pleased with myself really.  I’d enjoyed it, and it was a great way to start my season.  I didn’t beat any records, but I did feel sort of capable out there?  Like this girl can?  The first sportive of the year was under my belt – a slow but solid ride.  Cool beans ūüôā

pretty pointy church finish line reception

I could have had a shower in the changing rooms.  I could have taken my bike number to the Londis cafe area and got a free hot drink.  But I didn’t.  Hey, I’m lazy…I just packed the car up and headed for home.  Back to the kids, to a cold beer, and to a nice roast dinner ūüôā

Cycling time: 4:31
Distance: 62.8 miles
Avs: 13.9 mph

daffodils for riders

 

Cotswold Spring Classic 2016

Easter Monday dawned with a 5:00am alarm call. ¬†I’d managed to get a reasonable night’s sleep but that didn’t stop it feeling early. ¬†And I woke up to the kind of weather that I wouldn’t usually leave the house in, let alone drive my slightly high-sided car anywhere in. ¬†However my normally rational brain fails dismally when it comes to sportives for some reason. ¬†Even with Storm Katie battering down the door! ¬†It’s something to do with having said I’d do it, and that I’d review it, and having a conscience and being stubborn I guess…

Regardless (clearly!) of the weather, I’d left¬†by 6:00am, in the dark, since the clocks sprang forward yesterday, robbing me of an hour of my birthday (rude!). ¬†I spent 1.5 hours driving in the wet, windy, slowly lightening dark, through standing water, clouds of spray, and roads covered in debris, clenching my insides¬†slightly every time the wind relocated the car on the road. ¬†Good core muscle practice…or something…honestly, I must be mad…(and yes, I know you’re all nodding, and agreeing, and thinking that the cycling has nowt to do with that..). ¬†All this, just for a sportive?!

Actually, oddly, one of the biggest challenges to sportives these days is getting me there and back in one piece, which has nothing to do with the weather. ¬†As with last week’s sportive (which I’ll blog after this – I’m a bit behind and out of sync), partially as a result of being tired, but far more to do with my drug regime, I found myself getting drowsy both on the way there and back, and even on the bike sometimes, which ain’t great! ¬†It’s sort of ok on the way home, because I can stop and nap if I need to. ¬†There’s no provision for doing that on the way there, other than getting up earlier to allow for it, which would just make me more tired, and somewhat defeat the object methinks. ¬†As for feeling drowsy on the bike…well that’s just plain weird. ¬†Still…I’m writing this right, so clearly I made it there, round, and back in one piece ūüôā ¬†However I am grateful to those of my mates who have volunteered to accompany me to some of my other sportives this year. ¬†Some of them¬†have even agreed to ride around with me too. ¬†That’s supposing they can stay vertical going that slowly of course… ūüėČ

wet windscreen

HQ for today’s Cotswold Spring Classic Sportive was Cirencester Deer Park School. ¬†Registration opened at 7:00am and I was there sometime around 7:20 ish. ¬†Well wrapped up and luminous marshals guided the small peloton of cars that I’d become part of into the car park. ¬†Having a smaller car than them I was pointed to a different aisle, marginally nearer to HQ – result! ¬†I was half tempted, having done this one before, to sort everything out and then go register when all ready to go, as it is a bit of a¬†walk and it¬†would be a walk in the cold, wind, and rain. ¬†So why do it twice? ¬†But if I did that I’d be far too early for the 8:00am start time, and hanging out, even inside, killing time whilst wet, cold & damp didn’t really appeal either.

registration desks route map & list

So I didn’t. ¬†I grabbed my camera, wrapped up as best I could, and made my way across campus to register in the hall. ¬†I was far from the first there, and there were plenty of people milling around, using the facilities, drinking coffee, and checking out the various stands in the halls. ¬†I bet any waterproofs for sale disappeared pdq! ¬†The registration desks were still pretty empty though, and having looked at the list of entries to get my rider number, I headed for ‘my’ desk. ¬†It’s possible that that look-up stage was unnecessary, as¬†my pre-ride event pack never reached me, as often happens due to the nature of my role/registration but, since the website had had all the requisite event information on it, I didn’t much notice its absence ūüôā

The nice lady behind¬†the desk instructed me to fill in the usual¬†details on the list¬†and sign all liabilities away, whilst she dug out a plethora of things for me. ¬†One bike number, two¬†cable ties, one map, two High5 gels, and one large foam backed velcro wrap around timing tag thing to be affixed to the headset, handlebars or top tube. ¬†Which was a new one on me – apparently it’s a triathlon thing. ¬†Which is as close as I’ll ever get to being a triathlete… ūüėČ ¬†Time to head back to the car, get the bike assembled and outside the car, and to crawl into the boot¬†to get sorted, so as to keep out of¬†the inclement weather for as long as possible. ¬†Btw, did you know that weather can also be clement? ¬†No-one ever says that though, do they?

view from wet boot

It was pretty miserable out there, and not much better in here. ¬†As I faffed I realised I was losing feeling in my fingers. ¬†But I still didn’t know what to wear. ¬†The forecast was for improvement. ¬†And recently when things have been drier and brighter they’ve also been considerably warmer. I don’t like to overheat. ¬†I don’t like to freeze either. ¬†Oh dear… ¬†After much mental mulling over of things, I decided it’d¬†be best to dress for the weather that there was now rather than the weather that there might be later on the basis that I would at least be right for some of the time rather than risk being wrong all of the time. ¬†Which I did, with the odd nod to options and flexibility. ¬†Which meant…normal socks, shoes, shoe covers. ¬†Winter longs. Short sleeve base layer, long sleeve jersey, winter jacket, and waterproof. ¬†Head tube, head band/ear cover. ¬†Winter gloves on, with summer gloves in the saddle bag. ¬†And all the usual crap in all the usual pockets. ¬†I emerged from the car (chrysalis?) in reverse butterfly stylee! ¬†And once all assembled and riding across the campus to the start, it now being a little past 8:00am, I was glad of all of it. Hey, I know it sounds like way too much, but some of you know how cold I can get…

timing chip rider briefing

I think a lot of people had probably bailed today. ¬†Certainly there was no massive queue to start, and when I joined the latest small group of riders gathering to be briefed, there clearly wasn’t going to be too much hanging around. ¬†The briefing guy, Andy Kirk I think, actually thanked us all for turning out! ¬†Thanks to the weather the roads were clearly going to be horrible, and we were admonished to be extra careful out there. ¬†The cut-off time for the long route had also been brought forward an hour to make sure that everyone could get around and back safely and properly, and we were warned not to do that long route, which involves a lot of steep climbing, unless we were proper on one. ¬†As if! ¬†Besides, having done the long route last year, and having no real intention of doing it today for a whole heap of reasons, this didn’t bother¬†me too much ūüôā

So…shall we go and ride bikes then? ¬†Oh go on then. ¬†Out on to currently quiet wet main roads and heading into¬†Cirencester. ¬†My chain promptly came off. ¬†At which point I should mention that thanks to Chris’ expert tuition, I changed the cassette and chain on this¬†bike yesterday. ¬†And although the indexing had seemed ok then, it turns out that it wasn’t now. ¬†This was by no means the only time the chain came off today. ¬†And changing gear was sometimes ok and sometimes…well…not! ¬†I was tempted to fiddle with it, but forbore, as I stood as much chance of making it worse as better. ¬†Besides, I was having enough problems with my¬†mudguards which had to be readjusted a few times, and also got clogged up from time to time. ¬†What with stopping to change layers, eat, take pills, etc, there was going to be enough of that…the whole¬†point is to be moving forward not standing still!

It’s hard to take photos¬†when the weather is like this, so for a while you’re going to have to ride blind with me. ¬†The wind was mental, the roads were soaked, frequently flooded and covered in debris, mud and gravel. ¬†Riding was more of a case of gingerly picking your way through an obstacle course than looking at the scenery while making decent progress. ¬†At least it stopped constantly raining – soon there was more water coming up from the road than coming down on to it, which was an improvement.

I try not to talk to myself for the first 45 minutes as I know I haven’t warmed up yet and how I¬†was¬†feeling now was¬†not how I¬†was¬†going to be feeling later. ¬†So I listened to my music and took it easy. ¬†As things started going up, my left knee started twingeing which reminded me that it’s done that for the last couple of rides, and which¬†is not the old twinge, it’s a new one in a new location – ooh the novelty. ¬†So I spent some time fretting about that and if¬†it was going to get worse…until it didn’t and at some point it went away. ¬†The same cannot be said for the usual internal pain but I had that mostly under control, although keeping it that way was, as I said, making me woozy from time to time. ¬†Novel…

first break before hill climb timed stage 1 1

There were soon ups, but I was doing ok up them. ¬†In fact I was preferring the ups to the rest of it. ¬†Up kept me warm, ¬†Up has been going well lately – no records beaten but feeling good, if that makes any sense – so oddly I like to keep going up things to see if that’s still the case. ¬†Which it was. ¬†Plodding along as ever, admiring whatever views there were, dodging potholes and crappy road surface, and walking riders, and generally getting up them happily. ¬†My serene crawler gear was engaged, and a little bit of me was giggling at those going past me huffing and puffing like the Flying Scotsman! ¬†OK, so they were getting up the hills faster than I was but…*grin*

timed stage 1 2 timed stage 1 3

Although I’d been grateful of the waterproof for a long time, enough of those ups and I was feeling a bit ‘boil in the bag’. ¬†After a down that would have been a lot of fun in other circumstances, and the rude interruption of crossing a main road at its¬†bottom, I took a quick break about an hour in, in some pretty Cotswold stone village, to stash the waterproof, eat some flapjack, and take the odd photo. ¬†Just as well I ate¬†then, as just down the road was what turned out to be the¬†first timed stage – up a hill of course. ¬†Ha, ha, ha…as if that was of any relevance to little ole’ me! ¬† Still, it was kinda nice? ¬†At least I knew I was in for a decent climb. ¬†It was long, slow, with the odd almost hairpin, and kept going on when you went around the next corner…¬† So my kind of hill ūüėÄ ¬†I have no idea which one it was – Strava suggests it might be Lime Kiln or Hyde Hill…? ¬†But I enjoyed it whichever one it was, or even if it wasn’t.

second break for mudguards blue flowers

My next break came around two hours in. ¬†Something was making a noise, and it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t my¬†temperamental gears. ¬†As it turns out it was the front mudguard, something else that had been sort of repaired yesterday, and with all the bumps it had gotten itself misaligned. ¬†I also needed to take more painkillers, being a little overdue, and although I was feeling ok, letting them wear off more would probably be daft. ¬†They’re also cumulative and having had a couple of ok days last week, I had been playing catchup since then… ¬†I also swopped my winter gloves for my summer ones, because I was that bit warmer still, and¬†because it’s easier to take photos with those¬†on.

lurking photographer posh gate house

Fighting that wind had been hard work, which is an understatement. ¬†But¬†now for a stage in the middle of the route, it would be more behind us than anything else. ¬†I wasn’t complaining! ¬†This middle section was also¬†mostly flat, the roads were drying out, the sun was shining if not warming, and I was pretty much in my zone. ¬†As you could tell from the number of times I looked behind me as I hurtled along happily, to discover that I had APS (Acquired Peloton Syndrome) again. ¬†And not one of the f*ckers took their turn at the front! ¬†They either fell off of the back or enjoyed the rest and then hurtled off into the distance. ¬†Tut tut chaps, not very sporting…or even very sportiving? ūüėČ

first food stop ahead bike parking

It might have been brighter, and it was that bit warmer, but that wind was still really chilly. ¬†I unzipped a bit occasionally, and when I did get a bit warm I just pushed up my sleeves so that my wrists/pulse points could meet that cold air, which¬†pretty much had me covered. ¬†Onwards past the Cotswold Water Park, across the top, long straight and (blasphemous I know) just a little bit boring…which didn’t help dispel¬†the woozy that cut in as the pills cut in.

waiting to top up food stop goodies

Luckily this tedium would be broken up by the first food stop, which is also the only food stop on the medium route, at Performance Cycles¬†in Poulton. ¬†It wasn’t yet as busy as the staff were busy worrying it was going to be, but the bike stands were still full (extra were being added) so I parked mine up against a wall, and headed into the courtyard with an empty bottle to top up. ¬†There were a few portable toilets with no queues – result! ¬†And then also a variety of food and drink on offer, so I could fill up the bottle with water (I figured I’d add a Nuun tablet later if I needed to), and grab a few jelly babies. ¬†I know, I know, as ever I should probably have eaten more, but I wasn’t hungry! ¬†I didn’t hang around long, and headed back out for some more flat fun.

village junction wide open

All good things must come to an end… ¬†Which in this case would mean saying goodbye to that helping hand, and turning to face it and be slapped in the face by it again instead. ¬†Oh man!!! ¬†Not only was it hard work, but it also¬†so noisy! ¬†Every hedge, fence, coppice, or obstacle was a blessing. ¬†Was it better to be pushing into it head on, or to be being pushed sideways unexpectedly, and crabbing your way along? ¬†Tough call…! ¬†Still, even with that all going on, I didn’t really mind, because it was just so pretty out there ūüôā ¬†Wide open skies, blue cloud strewn skies, pretty villages… ¬†Actually¬†the whole route¬†was mostly pretty rather than stunning, but that’s The Cotswolds for you, and that’s more than ok ūüôā

property hill climb 2 behind

Of course there was more up to come, and the next section of ups included a¬†second timed hill climb. ¬†Still wasted on me… ūüôā ¬†Having slogged up things I’d really earnt the downs…and it was galling to have to be so careful today. ¬†Just as well though as at the bottom of a couple of them were nasty cross road trenches that if you’d hit them at speed would have definitely pinch punctured you. ¬†As riders strewn left and right were sadly demonstrating… ¬†Luckily at that point there were other riders around me and I’d been forewarned by them. ¬† Which is just as well, as it turns out that my bike was minus pump today. ¬†I don’t know if it’s on the other bike, has been taken off when this bike got washed and not replaced, or has fallen off but…it certainly wasn’t where it should be! ¬†Which left me worrying about the inevitability of a visit from herself and, when I did hit the odd log or hidden pothole, with serious puncture paranoia. ¬†I had to stop and check the tyres a couple of times to reassure myself that I was imagining it! ¬†A couple of those trenches could definitely have used CAUTION signs – which the worst descents and junctions all had – as they really were unavoidable ūüôĀ

cottages up hill not a selfie

Sometime in a¬†valley somewhere, mid puncture check, I realised I was stood next to a pretty water fountain which, at closer inspection, turns out to be a crocodile. ¬†Or maybe an alligator. ¬†As I was immortalising it, a rider pulled up besides me and asked if I wanted my picture taken with it. ¬†Well… ¬†No, actually. ¬†But since you’ve offered and I’ve been drug up all polite n’ sh*t, I said yes, so you know, here I am. ¬†I suppose it makes a change from the usual en route selfies..

cirencester church finish line

See you later, alligator…time for more ups, more pretty towns, more chilly sunshine. ¬†I reached the route split, around 60 miles in, at 10 to cut off and a little bit of me was actually tempted to do it, since I really was having a pretty¬†good day. ¬†But no – tempt ye not fate, enjoy the moment, don’t push it, etc… ¬†Sometimes it’s best not to carpe diem¬†ūüėȬ† Another time. ¬†Going right would have meant an extra three hilly hours or so before I’d finished and today that wasn’t for me. ¬†So very soon I was back negotiating a much busier Cirencester, without my chain falling off this time. ¬†I’d go so far as to say that the worst part of today’s ride, by far, was the last mile of so up the dual carriage way back to the school. ¬†Holy crap it was busy! ¬†Sod the wind at this point, it was the traffic flying past, very fast¬†and very close, that had me worried. ¬†It was properly actively¬†scary, as was trying to get into the right hand lane through it to go right at the final roundabout. ¬†Luckily a few other riders were coming up behind me by then and they did the hard work, thank goodness for safety in numbers! ¬†It was quite a relief to get back to the school, back through campus and over the Finish line. ¬†My timing chip was reclaimed and¬†I was presented with my goody bag containing a medal, various bits and bobs and, more importantly a Cadbury’s Creme Easter Egg ūüôā

wrist band post ride food fest

I pootled my way over to HQ again where lots of people were taking advantage of the free hot food (mostly pasta as far as I could tell) and hot drinks – courtesy of the arm bands that entitled them to such. ¬†I walked around the hall a bit, and discovered I could print out my time, which was kind of cool, even if the data recorded wasn’t ūüėČ ¬†I decided I wasn’t in the market for pasta,¬†even had gluten-free been an option (I didn’t ask). ¬†Instead I opted for a cup of tea to take¬†to drink outside in the sunshine. ¬†I wasn’t in any rush so, tea drunk, I ambled me and my bike back to the car to reverse the process started around 5 hours before. ¬†Back into the boot to get changed, chill out, load up, and head home again, complete with Orangina – the post-ride drink of queens ūüėÄ ¬†It’s a bit short on caffeine…so it didn’t do much to keep me awake on the way home… ¬†But I made it. ¬†Cotswold Spring Classic done. ¬†Slow, but solid, and I felt good. ¬†And that’s what matters¬†ūüôā

post ride refreshment goodie bag

Cycling time: 4:30
Distance: 63.1 miles
Avs: 14.0 mph

timing print out

Santini Cotswold Spring Classic 2015

Oops, I’m behind again. ¬†Three rides behind.¬† But since two of them were cake related coffee runs with Alan, and I’m a busy bunny with a stinking cold, I’ll stick to just telling you about the sportive I think. ¬†In this case, as the title makes obvious, the Santini Cotswold Spring Classic. ¬†Which, having gotten my Cotswold’s sportives all muddled up in my head, it turns out I’ve not done since 2011, rather than more recently. ¬†What can I say, I’ve done a few sportives now, occasionally they all blur into one… ¬†At least I could look back through this blog and refresh my memory. ¬†On the other hand I’m not sure that helped. ¬†I did it with Guy, it was long and hilly, he danced up the hills, and I walked up them! ¬†Oh good. ¬†*gulp*.

Ah well, too late now, or something. ¬†I’d signed up, had nowhere else to be, no-one to see, it was Easter Monday, and the weather forecast was good. ¬†And walking up a hill is not the worst thing in the world. ¬†Worse things happen at sea. ¬†Etc…

The Cotswold Spring Classic HQ is at¬†Cirencester College, and the car park opened at 7:00am. ¬† I left a little later than whichever route planner suggested I should so I could play beat the TomTom, which is always a good game. ¬†As I headed up the M5, the sun was coming up, and the street lights were going out one by one as I went past them, which was a little spooky ūüėČ ¬† Having duly won the TomTom race, I arrived at the car park just after 7:00am, one of the first to do so, with the proximity thus garnered¬†putting me a just a short walk from registration in the main school hall. ¬† Sunny it may have been, but it was a bit nippy out there. ¬†Mind you, it was still very early for a Bank Holiday morning! ¬†There was a short queue for the few portable toilets outside but, having read the pre-ride pdf, I knew there were some inside so I nipped in to use those instead first. ¬†My pre-ride email had also told me I was rider 740, so I found my registration desk, signed my life away, and was given my map, bike¬†number with timing tag on the reverse &¬†two cable ties, and a couple of edible¬†things.

registration

Back to the car for much faffing. ¬†What on earth to wear? ¬†The forecast had said 14C, sunny, no wind. ¬†Apparently it had leapt up to 18C overnight which I was unaware of, but it was already feeling like warmer than had seemed¬†likely. ¬†But… ¬†Oh dear. ¬†Decisions, decisions. ¬†I didn’t have summer kit with me. ¬†And it was only a forecast? ¬†After a few trips to and fro killing time and wondering, I did the best I could. ¬†I left the base layer and winter collar in the car, and took the shoe covers off. ¬†Which left winter bib tights, toe covers, long sleeve warm jersey, versatile winter jacket, head Buff, and mitts, with gilet and over gloves in the saddle bag just in case. ¬†And that was that. ¬†Nowt more to be done. ¬†Except to ride back to the start line again and queue up of course.

start queue rider briefing

Start times for the mid (100km) and long (160km) routes were from 8:00am and even having done that to-ing and fro-ing I was still near the front. ¬†I then¬†had a disagreement with the Garmin as to whether I not I should be allowed to do the activity I’d downloaded for once, or whether it would go on strike. ¬†It went on strike. ¬†So, this having happened before, I stepped out of the queue, reset the darn thing, and decided to settle on just recording what I did. ¬†I’d wanted to have the route so as to be warned when the hills were coming, but hey, if it wasn’t to be…

yellow

So I was away, post rider briefing, in the third of the groups of 50 or so riders being let away at two minute intervals. ¬†At which point the Garmin told me I was actually doing the route, by beeping route instructions at me slightly too late for me to ever actually do them. ¬†There was no way I was going pressing any buttons though, either to stop that, or to see if it was actually working – I wasn’t going to risk it throwing a strop again! ¬†So I left it to its own devices, figuring if I did get lost it might come in useful anyway, and headed off into the just slightly chilly Cotswolds.

colourful start tree lined church

I’d done my research. ¬†Well, kinda. ¬†I’d sort of looked at the route profile anyway. ¬†So I knew that the first few miles, out through Cirencester and then beyond, were ok, then the hills would start. ¬†A fairly hilly 15 miles in fact. ¬†And they were hilly. ¬†And I was not warmed up. ¬†There were two really big climbs. ¬†But…I wasn’t walking. ¬†Yes they were steep. ¬†And frequently also long. ¬†But I seemed to be grinding up them in survivable style. ¬†I even sort of enjoyed one of them ūüėČ ¬†A good start. ¬†Not that this stopped me worrying…as if I was going to do the long route, which was still up in the air, the majority of the climbing would come¬†in the last 40 miles! ¬†Which seems a little unfair but does mean that the organisers can run two events for two audiences. ¬†It’s an early season event so anyone looking for a reasonable ride can do the 100km. ¬†Anyone looking for a real challenge can do the longer route. ¬†Which was I?

sunday lunch country house

Ok, so the first chunk of hills were behind me, and I knew the next 30 miles would be a lot easier. ¬†The scenery was lovely, especially in the sunshine. ¬†Well it is The Cotswolds after all! ¬†Chocolate box villages, cute cottages, country piles, all glowing yellow in the sunshine. ¬†With flowers and trees and green countryside. ¬†All very pleasant, all getting warmer and warmer…and I really don’t like too hot. ¬†So by the time we got to the first foodstop at Performance Cycles HQ (event partners & also mechanical support) at Paulton, around 35 miles in, it was time to take action. ¬†Well, once I’d negotiated the cattle grid to get in…which was easier said than done with riders coming in and out. ¬†I cheated and walked the bike through the side gate next to it! ¬†I topped up my bottles, grabbed half a banana, and queued for quite a while for the toilets – 2 portable toilets and one urinal cubicle was not cutting it. ¬†It was however the best place to do the obvious as well as taking off the jersey from underneath the jacket. ¬†Sure, I’d have like to have lost the jacket, but my storage options were limited. ¬†The jersey fitted into the saddlebag, displacing the gilet and overgloves into pockets, and that was all I could do really. ¬†That and pull the jacket sleeves up a bit, and unzip the vents it has. ¬†I did say it’s versatile ūüėČ

first food stop country pile yellow smiley rider

Time to head off again, all the time debating my options with myself. ¬†As I understood it the route split was at around 70 mile, at which point we’d be nearly back at HQ, so it would be a choice between 72 miles or 100. ¬†I really wanted to do the 100 miles, having failed to do so at The Lionheart, and I was feeling the need to have that first 100 miles of the season under my belt, before I got a real mental block about it. ¬†But I still really didn’t know what was going to happen. ¬†Sometimes these things are, as we know, out of my control. ¬†In the meantime I was feeling pretty good. ¬†I was eating regularly – testing out Clif bars and bloks – and I was drinking my Nuun as I sweated my way around the countryside. ¬†The weather was gorgeous, and so far it was all pretty much working.

riders behind on hill riders ahead on hill dual carriageway

Somewhat to my surprise the route split actually came at 60 miles, a little while after things had started going up in the world a little more often, and before I’d decided what to do. ¬†And it just felt too early to go home. ¬†So as it happens I didn’t even think about it, I just took the long route¬†right turn. ¬†It was in fact a non-decision. ¬†So, for better or worse, I was going to get that 100 miles done. ¬†Which, although I knew a whole heap of hills were coming, was quite motivating. ¬†PMA!

second food stop  smiley climbing rider town on hill

They weren’t lying about the climbing though. ¬†OMG and holey moley! ¬†There were lots and lots of big long steep hills. ¬†Hard work, especially being so warm. ¬†And I had a way to go… ¬†So I broke it all down into chunks to deal with. ¬†40 miles to go. ¬†Last 6 miles flat. ¬†So that’s 34 miles really. ¬†More than two hours of ups, less than three. ¬†With as much up as down, presumably. ¬†I took a break every hour, just to kick back a little, eat and drink, and recalibrate, and the second food stop broke things up too. ¬†I chatted to the photographers lurking on hills – nice to see you again Phil. ¬†Twice! ¬†I grinned, or gurned, at other riders, depending on the gradient. ¬†And I enjoyed the downhills of course. ¬†It all worked out. ¬†And I didn’t walk. ¬†A great many others did which, as ever, always makes me want to keep going that bit further…although walking might sometimes have been quicker! ¬†And those last 6 miles back along the main road to Cirencester were pretty flat, as promised ūüôā ¬†I was pretty close to bonking about two miles from the end…hot and tired I guess…but it seemed a bit late to eat anything. ¬†Luckily I made it in and over the finish line without losing it completely. ¬†First century of the year done, with around 7000 feet of climbing!

Cycling time: 7:15
Distance: 100.5 miles
Avg: 13.9 mph
ODO: 8773.4 miles

a sign of course flowery cottage cotswold stone

Having done the ride on my own, and with the mob being away, it was a little bit of a downer to have no-one to ring and be proud of myself to. ¬†But hey, I’m a big girl, right? ¬†I can pat myself on the back ūüėČ ¬†And of course it was all worth it, because the goody bag included not only a voucher for free hot food, a well-earned medal, and a cycling cap but also an Easter Egg! ¬†A¬†Cadbury Creme Egg Easter Egg – my favourite. ¬†‘Rah! ūüôā ¬† And I could also have had gluten free pasta bake but it was taking so long to sort the gluten free pasta for me and another rider, that I realised I was running the risk of falling asleep sat waiting for it, even having had a can of full fat coke, which I didn’t like but probably needed. ¬†So having had a chat to Andy Kirk, who’d sorted my place, I headed back to the car to load up and go home. ¬†I’d have had a shower first, the option was there, but I¬†decided I’d rather sort myself out chez moi. ¬†Well, there was cold beer in my fridge ūüėČ

not all hills

It was a very good day out on the bike. ¬†Sunny, scenic, well-organised, and a real challenge, that I think I rose to. ¬†I am still a happy bunny about it. ¬†Not the Easter Bunny though ūüėČ ¬†Disappointingly I was slower than I thought, as according to the results I was further down the pack than usual. ¬†But hey, on the upside there were far more girls than usual too, which was great to see – around 10% on the long route and more like 25% on the medium¬†route – which is very rare. ¬†It wasn’t all great out there today though. ¬†There were some pretty grotty lanes¬†out there, a couple of¬†dodgy descents, and some interesting patch resurfacing which was leaving the puncture-stricken parked up left and right, if not centre. ¬†I didn’t enjoy the two stretches on the A419 much either, as it had far too much holiday traffic on it, and didn’t compare well with the quieter scenic country lanes, even if it was faster and flatter! ¬†But let’s face it, where do we get good roads over here these days anyway? ¬†Overall it’s a really good event. ¬†And it only cost ¬£28… ¬†Just saying ūüėČ

very goody bag finalists medal