My First Sportive.
by Jon Carver age 60 3/4 class 2c
We got up Early. We had a long drive. It was in Surrey. Surrey is a long way away. In Surrey a man gave me a number and a sticky label and a bag of drink. I rode my bike for a very very very very long way. There were lots of men and ladies who were huffing and puffing and saying rude words. The rude words made me laugh, so I said some too and nobody told me off. We ate biskits and drank squash that made me go a bit faster and we ate bananas and I did a wee wee in the bushes. We went up some hills that were very very very very steep. So steep that one lady said the F word and the S word and she fell off her bike. Then a man rode into her and he fell off his bike and he said the F word and the S word. at the end a lady gave me a badge on a ribbon, but I cried cos I didnt get a balloon.
OK. I shall attempt the grown up version which will say a lot more but will amount to the same thing.
In the beginning was an idiot. The idiot sat reading a weekly journal called Cycling Weekly. It’s called Cycling weekly because it comes out every seven days and not as the idiot believed when taking out his subscription, because it is aimed at people who cycle weakly.
“Oh! they still have spaces left on The Dorking original Sportive” said the idiot to the poor woman he had duped into spending her life with him.
“How much?” asked she with a malevolent glint in her eye. He was too much of an idiot to read the thought bubble coming out of her head in which was written….” he could meet with a painful end. LMFAO”
So the idiot explained the pricing structure. The cheapest option would have taken him on the shortest route but would still have taken one ascent of the fabled Box Hill the OLYMPIC hill, he told her proudly, feeling certain that she’d go for that.
“Only 30 miles!” she taunted from across the room so wasn’t taunting from Taunton. ” your legs wont even have warmed up”
The idiot was by now beginning to realise that it may well have painted itself into a corner. He reasoned that although it was a distance that he would ordinarily laugh at in their own locality, in the North Downs of Surrey the same distance might reasonably be described as
” a bit of an arse!”
Her riposte was to suggest an element of cowardice on his part. Idiot or not he was no fool so in a last ditch attempt at sanity he went for the two pronged attack of “can we realistically afford the extra expense right now? and 120 miles is probably daft”
His ploy was fifty percent successful. She was persuaded that 120 miles was too far and proffered her debit card with which to seal his fate. No, I didn’t mean fete.
Thus at the appointed hour he presented his bike and himself at the starting house armed only with some drinks gels two legs and a panicking brain cell. In the interim he had of course very seriously stepped up the training (oops, forgot the S off the start of that word) furthermore he had gone to the expense of purchasing the ordnance survey map of the area and attempted vainly to plot the route thereupon for the 78 mile torture that he was to subject himself to. he looked at the contour lines and had convinced himself that although it would be hard, he could manage it. Yes, I know. He is an idiot.
First thing about a sportive to notice, is that its like a gigantic club run. There are the Mikes and Kevins in their 40s who have grown up round Shimano and know it all. There are the Harrys and Wills in their 20s who are as fit as racing snakes, go off like rockets, all with the latest gear and no guile. There are also the Wendys and the Jillys on their pink Giants (No you filthy minded swine). Ethel who prattle on about sports bras and coming out of said garment whilst rattling up Mow Cop just to loosen the legs up mid week. In amongst these are the keen, the evangelistic, and the plain moronic, this latter group embraced the idiot and off they set to a chorus of ” Good luck..love you.. see you at the end….and more than the odd wanker or two from the surrey scallywags”
About 4 minutes into the ride comes the first hill. The day was cold. Nay, there were cannonballs rolling off their brass monkeys aboard frigging frigates in the harbour it was so cold. It was one of those days when the chammy bulge at the front of ones shorts is protecting absolutely bugger all. The anatomical parts having ducked for cover unlike the rest of the body over which the brain was denying all responsibility for. The knees were creaking. The lungs were on fire. The idiot had selected the wrong gearing because although the signposting was brilliant in most respects, the signage which said “Absolute shitter of a hill after next right hairpin” had been omitted. A brief moment of jumping up and down on the spot and off the bike selection of a more sensible gear and it was off again. Up the hill that is, not the bike.
Take time to enjoy the countryside was the advice given on the last email. Its hard not to. The scenery of The Surrey North Downs way is quite simply England at its finest. Leafy lanes and rolling hills atop of each there is a spirit lifting view that is beyond compare. That’s actually the British Isles all over. It’s as though someone initially took an aerial snapshot after which the counties were divvied up, so unique is the character of each one. As we rolled along I remarked to a fellow idiot (had you guessed that it was me?…..Oh! really? When? right away? Oh well) that it was as though we were riding along a tarmac carpet and when you least expected it some bugger grabbed the end and gave it a flick causing some of the most lung busting gradients to challenge the unsuspecting rider round the next bend. So it was that after that initial horror I found myself now warmed up pleased with my hill climbing thus far and munching on a piece of Swiss roll at the first feed stop.
*”Excuse me mate” asked a chap whom I was certain had not been formally introduced to me by my valet “have we done Box Hill yet?” I replied that indeed we had not and had the best part of 40 or so miles before we encountered that pleasure.
“Are there any other big hills then? ” he was probably called Dennis or Malcolm.
Hoots of derision came from a group of middle aged men in Cleckheaton Clarion skin suits.
“Tha’s got the legendary Lethal Leith and the OMFG make it stop White Down before Box Tha’ knows. Box is for girls” The remaining Cleckheaton clarion acolytes brayed at the humour of their leader (who must’ve been a Mick or a Dave) though more than one of them looked a shade of green that clashed ever so slightly with the three vats of Gatorpiss (sorry? Oh Gatorade apparently). Just my little jape. Actually I really liked it. refreshing and restorative…..no, seriously I am not trying to avoid a libel action.
“So which one of those is The legendary Leith?” I asked (knowing full well)
“That one” Said MickDave pointing.
” That’s not legendary” quoth I
” hows that then?”
” Well it cant be a LEGEND cos I can see the B**tard”
Gales of comradely laughter met my little joke cast for the benefit of the crestfallen Malcolm. Away went the Cleckheaton bike shop support group accompanied by one of the Wendys in Lampre kit whom I would have followed all day if I could have kept up with her.
And so to that freak of nature Lethal Leith hill. Yes it is an A grade cow. It is steep. A good 19% here and there. But although it is the kind of hill that makes you plead for a lung transplant it is the sheer length of it that gets to you. it’s one of those ” Yes there’s the top COME ON!” out of the seat mash the pedals kind of hills. We all know what they are and yes sometimes even when we’ve ridden them once they still catch us out don’t they?
“The banking is my friend” is the trackies mantra. Well the 20% banking on the inside of the left hand hairpin at what you thought was the summit is nobody’s friend and more than one of us misjudged it and shamefacedly had to walk round it and remount. It is at this point that one remonstrated with oneself. “Why oh why?” I asked myself “did I not put the compact chain set on?” 39/28 is not the ideal lowest gear to ride these walls on. Yep you read right…WALLS. Because Leith keeps on getting lethaler….yes I know and I don’t care. Not one, but a total of 6 false summits are littered along its slopes. So many in fact that I refused to be cajoled by them, especially when at about half way up, the organisers had installed a cheeky placard reading “Smile the worst is yet to come” Thus when a veteran told me we’d hit the summit (I knew he was a veteran because he was wearing British army 1942 issue battledress) he reached across and patted my heaving shoulders and congratulated me. I felt great. He turned his bike round
” What are you doing?” I asked.
“Im going back down to find my girlfriend” he cheerfully replied..” Keep going Just two more to go and Box is a piece of piss after the next one” my elation at cresting Leith was short lived then.
The minus side of a 53/39 chain set is when the gradient is in a straight up direction. The beauty of it is of course running out of gears on the way back down. The roads were moist that day and the recent rain had washed a rut of crud down the middle of the road and deposited soggy autumnal leaves hither and thither too. However the joy of being a big lad with big gearing and the heart of a lion and the combined brain power of 1 and a half goldfish means that those who passed me on the way up as I was praying to the God in whom I have no faith were hitting their brakes and calling out the C word prefixed by “Mad” as I hurtled past on my restorative “I’ve spun out of my 53/12 and Im lurvvin it!” descent.
Euphoria is a fickle friend though, for whilst the drop down from Leith’s summit (highest point in the South I’m told) is manna to a speed merchant like me, it has the sting of hubris in its tail, for the next big challenge….THE big Challenge, greets one at the bottom. There is a little teaser then a full stop. Probably the only silly crossings on the entire route are the two over the A31. There is no option but to come to a grinding halt and wait for a chance to cross. It’s a long stretch with good visibility on the plus side. On the negative side is a little piece of road furniture. A street sign upon which is stencilled..WHITE DOWN LANE…at this point dear reader insert a blood curdling zombie sound track from Resident Evil or the anxious violin chord from the shower scene at The Bates Motel.
By this point I had teamed up with Mark. A 19 year old lad, really pleasant who had just got back into riding following a broken ankle and a lady called Marie who was wearing the kit of (sic) Cleckheaton Clarion
“Is this one Box?” she asked
“‘Fraid not” I replied as we each selected our lowest gear, which in my case would have got me a tolerable time in the over 60s 4k on the track!
I’d read up on White down in the wonderful little pocket guide 100 Greatest cycling climbs. thus, when it plateaued out after about half a steep mile later, I was able to caution my companions as some people changed up and zipped past us over the railway bridge. Ahead, a man with a battery of cameras sat snapping away at the strange creatures migrating their way across Surrey on Bicycles. He cupped his hands to his mouth and called up.
“The next batch are on their way Mike”
“Cheers” came Mike’s reply some 100 feet above us and parralel to us as well.
We were not in the slightest bit encouraged at the prospect of going from flat to 15% straight off a left hand hairpin I can tell you. That little run is about 500 yards to a right hander at which sat Mike digitally recording our torture and offering words of encouragement. It was the most agonising 500 yards of the entire ride, mainly because I knew what was coming. I rounded the corner…JUST, before unclipping and giving in. My lungs felt fine. So too did my legs actually, but they simply did not have the horse power to turn that far too big gear over another inch.
So Mark, Marie and I attached crampons and attempted to scale White Down on foot. its about 600 metres to the top. A top that was littered with several terminally ill bicycles and riders who were at best only marginally better off. There was blood on the road. More than one as I said came off. You quite simply cannot hold a track stand on a gradient of between 22%-25%. Joy of joys though. Hubris again. Remember Dave from Cleckheaton Clarion? There he sat, a forlorn figure at the side of thee road a red leaking chunk of road rash on his calf and his front wheel in hand.
“Two effin tub’s blown out now” he called out to Marie “You carry on love don’t wait for me I’ll see if I can cadge one”
When we were out of ear shot Marie revealed two things the first of which was that she wasn’t going to wait for the obnoxious bully (well thats not quite what she said) the second was that it seems she used to work for the now defunct Trans World Airlines for she called back and offered him some T.W.A. tea..How nice of her.
And so back to Dorking for the assault on Box Hill. Now don’t get me wrong. It ain’t easy. By Christ it ain’t easy. However, after Leith and White down it is relatively a pussy cat. I didn’t need to get out of the seat all the way up. That bit with the squiggly art work that you’ll remember from the Olympics? That’s half way and the steepest bit comes after. The sheer joy of reaching the top is incredible. Not only have you conquered the last hill, but you’ve the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve also ticked off three of those hundred greatest climbs in one day. And another that really ought to be in there, who’s name escapes me right now. Your reward? The reason why Box Hill is owned by The National Trust. The entire county of Surrey spread beneath a frame of trees and bathed in autumn sun. It would have been breathtaking but I had none left.
Sadly Mark and I lost Marie half way up Box she punctured and insisted we carried on, another of her club had joined us at this stage I point out before you think me unchivalrous. So Mark and I rolled off Box and through the last feed stop oddly 6 miles from home for us but twenty if one had ridden the short fun route. There was one last cheeky short hill before the roll in to Dorking and a little sprint to the line which I won and despite his age, I should have too. Racing someone recovering from a broken ankle is not cricket. No its bike racing and I loved it.
Lessons? from my point of view. Long fingered gloves next year and overshoes. Also light coloured lenses. You need your glasses, I had an infected eye from something that hit me at speed, but most of the route is through an arcade of trees and dark glasses aren’t clever. From the organisers point of view. I know its difficult but Marshalls at the second crossing of the A32 (or whatever it was) would be a help. You’re tired, Dog tired at thise point. You’ve still got a long way to go and a bit of assistance crossing that Leatherhead road would be good. Bit of advance warning about the uphill gradients would be good too, to help plan gear selection. There were plenty of cautionary notices on the descents. Lastly, they completely screwed up the nutrition packs (which were promised at the start) and the so called Goody bag was a choice of two magazines. I did feel fit to whinge and in fairness received a lovely apology and a bag of very useful stuff in the post 3 days later.
Will I do it next year? You bet. I reckon I could knock at least an hour and a half of that time with the compact on. As it was I was pleased at 7 hours for one hell of a ride and my first Sportive of 78 hilly miles.
Bristol Oktoberfest – Better than Munich…
Aaa, summer. How beautiful while it fleetingly lasts, and how sad to see it go. Still, if there’s one thing to look forward to when the nights grow shorter and the ambient temperature drops, it’s the approach of October, because when the tenth month starts, that means Oktoberfest is not far away.
The Bristol Oktoberfest is the second of two classic annual events held at Ashton Court, a stone’s throw from the mouth of the Severn – an eight hour mountain bike endurance race, there are categories for teams of four, pairs, or (for the truly masochistic) solo entries in male, female and mixed forms, with further subdivisions for single speeds and old git racers. As such, it attracts a wide variety of abilities, including the returning Team NTG MTB, back to have a second crack at the excellent single track on offer after our great (if tough!) endurance debut at June’s Bike Fest.
Instead of putting ourselves through the grinding pre-race endurance test of camping, we set some early-morning alarms and charged down the M5 first thing. An early start, to be fair, but given the fairly grim weather in the build up, it was the better choice – on arrival we were greeted by a cheerful Oktoberfest-hat-type-wearing-type who guided us to park on the access road as the camping field was having some hydration issues. Team captain Jonno stepped up to the batter’s plate first of all, taking his place for the Le Mans style running start amongst the hundreds of other riders – I held his Stanton as the galloping hordes charged back up the hill, with more than a few entrants somehow accidently arriving a little late and giving themselves somewhat less of a distance to run. Strange how that happens.
As nine o’clock passed us by, the race started and a great torrent of riders came sprinting past me, a train that ran for maybe ten minutes before the last stragglers pottered by. Jon got a solid midpack start and battled his way through the traffic to complete lap one in under 43 minutes, a lap quicker than some teams who ended up 20 places or more above us – Steve went after El Capitan and logged an even quicker lap, with Luke putting a great performance in position three and me pottering nervously about on the peripheries as the anchor number four. By the time Luke handed over the team scrunchy, I’d been watching bike racing for almost ninety minutes and was tortured by a mixture of performance anxiety and a sense of gagging to get involved. No matter – time to suck it up and get stuck in.
Job number one was to charge through the rock garden, and I wasn’t in there many seconds before a most welcome experience occurred – I caught someone up. This was a bit of a new one for me, as I spent most of Bike Fest getting out of people’s way, and the rock garden’s not an easy place to pass. Consequentially, as traffic backed up behind the pair of us, I felt the onset of a needless touch of pressure and ran ride on a slick section, out of everyone’s way. Cursing under my breath, I joined the back of the snake as we pedalled out of the woods and into the field that loops up to where the finish line was or Bike Fest – and I overtook a couple more riders. Me! Overtaking people! It was just great.
Ashton Court was every bit as wonderful as it had been earlier in the year, the flowing single track largely impervious to the wet weather – the sole concession to the elements was the rather impressive construction of a wooden bridge over a particularly marshy section of trail, but the track rode really well and was little the worse at the end of eight hours of racing. Team NTG MTB’s one lap stint policy worked well once more, the 5.7 miles round the course plenty for the likes of our legs (although again, there were lunatics doing the whole thing on their own – madness, I tell thee) and working out so that we each had three laps, but by the time I rolled into the transition area for the final lap, we were up against it. In a desperation move, I left the saddle bag, Camelbak and pump at the van to save weight and took off needing to lap about five minutes quicker than I had done all day. I gave it everything, I swear, I left it all out on the track – by the time I
started the last climb, I was done for. Then some clown , with a dazzling sense of humour, shouted out that there were ten seconds left – gritting my teeth, I turned myself inside out over the last 200 metre climb, came close to stacking in front of the crowd on the finish line jump, then had to invest five minutes or so in serious hyperventational recovery mode. I’d missed the cut by, oooo, five minutes or so which made the last minute or so of torture entirely unnecessary. Thanks, Mr Clown Man.
Final climb idiocy aside, Oktoberfest was every bit as much fun as the Bike Fest earlier in the year, with an easygoing atmosphere and plenty of riding on a wonderful course. I said it after Bike Fest and I’ll say it again here – if you’ve never done an event like this, don’t be intimidated, your fellow competitors are all lovely people (even if some of them are much, much quicker ), the track is superb, and you will have a brilliant time. Can I add a proviso? I was a bit fitter for the second race, and it definitely made it more fun, but you absolutely do not have to be Thomas Frischknecht to enjoy it. I was more like Thomas the Tank Engine, and I still survived….
So, with the number of Premier Calendar races at just 6 events in 2013, you would think that road racing has hit an all-time low. I am glad to say that in the North West we are actually working hard to show that is not the case, and I am pleased to be involved with the inaugural Cycling Development North West Women’s Road Race League next season. It is not unique in that it is the first women’s road race league to exist, not at all, but it is unique in that it gives women in the lower categories an opportunity to race at a competitive level over a reasonable distance.
“How is that different?” I hear you cry. Well, for a start, due to the various costs of organising a road race, and the relatively small numbers of women riders that compete, most road races are open to all categories of women, from Elite to fourth, and many are over a distance in excess of 50 miles. The remaining races that women can compete in are usually circuit races which can last anything from twenty minutes up to an hour, covering a distance of say approximately 20 miles. So, if you’re a fourth or third category rider looking to make a move into road racing for the first time, you could be totally unprepared for what is waiting for you when you get on the line at the road race.
Yes, there is a big difference between finishing a circuit race over 15 to 20 miles and being able to be competitive in a race over more than 50 miles when you’re not used to it. Unfortunately, some women have to travel hundreds of miles to get a ride in a road race, only to get shelled out of the back on the first lap because it is totally different racing on the open road than it is riding around a closed circuit. Worse still are the crashes that can occur because some riders can lose concentration because they are not used to riding in a bunch/riding over such a long distance (compared to your 40 minute circuit race), tiredness and fatigue sets in and you either get shouted at for nearly knocking somebody off or you just get really disheartened because you aren’t as good as you expected to be and you think, “why do I bother?” All the fun is taken out of the race and you forget why you are there in the first place.
The CDNW Women’s Road Race League is only open to second, third and fourth category riders, with the longest race being over 65km (40 miles). The courses being used are not hilly or too technical however they are well-suited for practising your race technique, and are races that will provide the stepping stone up to the longer road races, including the National Series Road Races. There are two main reasons for these races – they assist younger (Junior) riders who are making the move from Youth “A” circuit races on to the road for their first season as a Junior, and they are also to assist women who are new to the sport of competitive cycling (as opposed to sportives, etc).
Unfortunately, women’s cycling will not continue to develop unless there are these “stepping-stones” to help women riders build up their confidence to move on to the next level. I understand that there were over 15,000 women riders on the Breeze rides this year, many of whom may want to take the next step with their cycling “career” but don’t have the confidence or inclination to mix it up with the elite riders at this time. The CDNW women’s races aim to be all-encompassing, where encouragement is the theme of the day.
The road race league events will be held as follows:
#1) 3 March 2013 – Pimbo Industrial Estate – 50km
#2) 17 March 2013 – Nateby/Pilling, Lancashire – 65km
#3) 21 April 2013 – Great Budworth, Cheshire – 65km
#4) 7 July 2013 – Pimbo Industrial Estate – 65km
#5) 1 September 2013 -Nateby/Pilling, Lancashire – 50km
In order to ride the events, it will cost £5 to enter the league itself, with each event being £20 in advance. I have had a number of people telling me that the price is high, however these races are on open roads, with National Escort Group motorbike marshals. The cost of first aid has risen by 100% for next season, and the men’s events will also be the same amount (as opposed to £17.50 plus online entry processing fee this season). I would prefer for people to concentrate on the fact that these are five new races, which are aiming to attract people to competitive road racing, as unfortunately, if the grass roots level doesn’t develop, there won’t be a sport in a few years’ time.
We are still looking for a series sponsor who could help with prizes (for example, most improved rider, best 4th category rider, best 3rd category rider, etc), so if you think you could help with promoting the development of grass roots women’s racing, please get in touch.
Richard Towse – Buxton CC
A Few Minutes with… Richard Towse of Buxton CC
I have been looking at the “Wiggo Effect” in the North West of England, as I wanted to see whether Bradley Wiggins’ success in the Olympics and Tour de France has had an effect on the general public. I decided that one of the best ways to do this would be to speak to a cross section of cycling clubs/teams to ask their opinion, and whilst I was at it, to ask them for some information about their club.
The first one up is Buxton CC, and Richard Towse, organiser of the Buxton Mountain Time Trial for the club, has kindly answered a few questions for me. So without further ado, here goes…
1. How big is the membership of Buxton CC? Have you seen this grow since the Tour de France/Olympics? Are you seeing an increase in membership in general or are there more increases in particular areas (e.g. women’s riding, time trialling, etc)
Buxton Cycling Club has around 70 members with an age range of between 7/8 years old up to 70 plus. We haven’t seen a rise in membership since the tour or Olympics but we have noticed that more people are cycling in the local area. We expect an increase in membership in 2013 and attendance of our weekly time trials.
2. What type of rider do you cater for?
We mainly cater for the road rider (recreational, race or time trial) although we have members who ride at the Manchester Velodrome, go mountain biking or do cyclo-cross.
3. Do you promote events? If so, what type of events do you do?
We run a series of time trials during the summer months on a Tuesday night just outside of Buxton where anyone can turn up and ride the 9.8mile TT either for fun or to chase a time. These are followed up with a series of 3 hill climbs.
The club also organises 2 open time trials: a mountain time trial (follow @BuxtonMTT if you are on Twitter) which is probably the toughest in the country held on Good Friday each year and a 10 mile time trial in June (follow @BuxtonCCOpenTT if you’re on Twitter). There is also the Bole Hill road race we host on behalf of the CDNW [Cycling Development North West], which is one of the toughest circuits in the North West. We also host one of the first hill climbs of the season on Long Hill which hosted the National Championships in 2011.
4. Is there any development/coaching at the club which is available to all members?
We don’t have any structured development or coaching available in the club but we have a lot of members who have a vast range of knowledge who are willing to pass it on to those who want it. This ranges from the basic “how do I survive a club run” to road race or time trial training tips.
5. Do you still have traditional club runs? Are these well-attended?
The club has the Sunday club run every week throughout the year, usually we have about 6 or 7 riders (on good weather days). Due to the nature of where Buxton is club runs are hilly but are only as fast as the slowest rider, no rider is left behind.
6. If anybody reading this article would like to join Buxton CC, who is the best person to contact?
The best person for a quick chat is Sam at Sett Valley Cycles (www.settvalleycycles.co.uk), as our website (www.buxtoncyclingclub.co.uk) is undergoing a rebuild at the moment and should be back up and running towards the end of November. Full contact details will be on there.
7. Do you struggle to find marshals for events?
As with any event you always feel you’re marshal short, we are fortunate in the Club we have 2 qualified time keepers and a committed group of guys who want to see events run and be successful.
8. Finally, are there any riders at Buxton CC who deserve a mention? Any results that the club are particularly proud of?
Lee Baldwin had an impressive Hill Climb season culminating in 4th place at the National Hill Climb championships on the Rake, his result along with Chris Baines and Sam Mansfield contributed to winning the Team Prize, the Hill Climbers in the club have been chasing this for a few years.
If you would like to have your club [ no matter where in the world you are] featured please contact a member of the team we will be happy to chat and find out what you’re all about. Click to contact us.