Wiggle Spring Saddle 2017 - Cycling Aviator

26th Mar 2017

I woke bright and early feeling pretty good, considering we'd lost an hour moving to British Summer time in the wee hours. Promptly prepared first breakfast, porridge and banana. A quick freshen up and double check of the weather before settling down to watch the first hour of the new F1 season, whilst trying to decide what of the plethora of cycling gear I'd packed, 'just in case', to wear. I'd taken the bike down to the car already and it was lovely and bright, but chilly. Actually it was just plain cold as there was a thin layer of ice on the windscreen. Banking on the predicted sunshine to improve the temperature, but mindful of the brisk easterly wind I put my faith in my Gore Windstopper top with a couple of base layers and hoped there wouldn't be too much standing around before the start.

The decision to stay in a hotel close by certainly seemed like a good idea as 15 mins and a second breakfast of cinnamon and raisin bagels after leaving my room I was parking at Newmarket race course where the ride would start and finish. Gary, my partner in the day's activity, as he will be in May, was already there and signed in so I went through the motions myself to get my bike number and timing chip, plus some freebies in the form of a water bottle and some energy products. No doubt the later will be of some heinous flavour that is clearly not selling because of that very fact. The pre-event paperwork suggested some fairly rigid start times depending on which course you were doing but the reality seemed to be, when your ready, on you go. Hence, once the numbers were attached to the bikes and final clothing decisions made we joined the start pen to listen to a how to suck eggs briefing on what the course direction arrows meant. Shortly after that we were rolling past the timing do dahs with 75 miles of unknown countryside in front of us.

The first 15 mile or so went really quickly with lots of little groups forming we found ourselves sticking with one for a while until a slightly quicker group would ride past at a pace we felt we could hold comfortably, so we'd hop onto the back of that. This has the effect of taking the big distance out of your mind as you are just dealing with short gaps between riders and the miles go by quickly. We were soon at the first feed station to top up bottles and partake in bananas and flapjacks, fine with me. One bladder topped up, the other emptied we were off again for the long middle segment that would also see us exposed to that easterly for a fair part of it. Somehow the pitstop had thinned the crowd so it was difficult forming groups of similar paced riders and no sooner had we joined a nicely paced peloton (loose use of the word there) the course split and for a couple of miles it seemed Gary and I were the only riders doing the 75 miler which was a pity as we were now primarily heading east into the rather annoying breeze.

We had just clocked up 37.5 miles, AKA the half way point and Gary picked up a puncture which was annoying but is part and parcel of cycling it seems. I risk tempting fate here, but I now run tubeless tyres that have some gunk in them to self seal punctures as they occur. So far they seem to do the job just fine. Stirling work from Gaz saw us underway after only 15 minutes, most of which was spent pumping. In hindsight, the unscheduled stop was a good chance of a breather as next 20 mile or so was probably the toughest due to the exposed nature of the scenery letting the wind do it's thing. There were still far fewer riders about so at times it was just a case of plugging away. Eventually a sole rider went past who we shamelessly drafted for a few miles. I did try to return the favour but for some reason he seemed reluctant to be passed. I'm not complaining as I'm not sure I could have held his pace for long in front. The second feed stop came at the 59 mile mark but not before a bit of a slog. It seems a little dramatic to call it a climb but after the rolling contours proceeding it and how it reared up unseen at a junction, it was a bit of a shock to the system. It did ramp up to about 6% at times so I was puffing a bit when we turned into the feed stop.

Leaving the feed stop that I naively thought was at the top of the hill we were soon ascending again, although now with the knowledge that we only had 16 mile left to go and more importantly, cycling west. Tailwind, yay!

Psychologically it felt like we were close to the finish so you tend to turn the wick up a bit knowing you don't need to save energy as much. It was a good plan as we rolled along nicely for a good few miles. What I was noticing at this point was I had far less left in reserve for those little pushes you need to close a gap or crest a short sharp hill, I'd stand up to kick on and nothing more than a change of position would happen. Also, the flaw in this plan is not knowing the route, as having happily burned the wick trying to out drag Gaz down a long straight descent with views of our tantalisingly close finish line it turned decidedly uphill for an equally long ascent. The combination of afore mentioned reckless abandon of pacing, the constant gradient and the arrow straight road it certainly caught me out, as it clearly had others. Soon enough though, we were riding down the entrance road that we'd driven down 5 hours earlier to our finish line.

Truth be told, crossing the finish was a bit of an anti-climax, although I'm not sure what I was expecting, it was hardly the Tour de France. We did get a medal and some more goodies so it wasn't for nothing. I achieved what I wanted, in that the London Revolution won't be a totally new experience, just a longer, larger one, and apart the brisk breeze it was a fine day to be cycling.

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