I was due to the do the Brewin Dolphin Wye Tour sportive today, starting in Chepstow and had received a complimentary Velo Club entry during the week, courtesy of UK Cycling Events, so was really looking forward to it. Plus it’s somewhere I’ve not explored on a bike before!
As I was nearing the venue Andy let me know he’d just arrived and it had been cancelled due to forecast bad weather. I was half expecting this as the forecast really was not great and the start time had already been out back an hour. Never a good sign.
On the plus side, the Velo Club was still open so I parked up and met up with Andy before wandering over.
What a lovely set up too, with a fabulous Velo Club cycling jersey and lots of other goodies included, including some very welcome coffee and breakfast.
The highlight of things for me was the 2 pro cyclists (Yanto Barker and Matt Rowe) who were there and the talk they gave. Some really interesting insights into training, life doing cycling for a living and then a fabulous Q&A with all sorts of interesting areas being addressed.
As people started to leave we said our thank you’s and both headed off home.
I believe they might try and run the event later in the season if it’s possible and I’ll definitely be back to do it then.
Today was the Sigma Sports Wiltshire Wildcat Sportive, an 81 mile pretty hilly route starting and ending at Salisbury Racecourse.
I know the area from the Wiggle Bournemouth Sportive last year, which used some of the same lanes and was a tough one for me. Admittedly I was doing it on only 4 hours sleep, which is not recommended!
Andy and I had time for breakfast at the hotel before setting off for the event on the other side of Salisbury. When the 100 mile routes come in later in the season, this will be a luxury that will fall by the wayside though as it’s always an early start and I bring my own porridge for before the ride.
Arriving at the venue, we parked up and walked down to register with our bikes and helmets. I think we had missed the initial wave of riders as registration was really quick and we were soon lining up to start the ride. Bonus!
On the way, I had a chat with various event staff who are getting very familiar with me by now from all of their events I’ve been to!
The first part of the route took us westwards towards Shaftesbury with the knowledge that the biggest hill of the ride was at about 15 miles in. As we got closer I remembered it from the Bournemouth Sportive and went for bottom gear and span my way to the top. Some fab views all around were my very welcome reward.
Not long after was the split for the Epic route and then soon afterwards the first feed station. Here we got chatting to quite a few riders and enjoyed the very welcome tea and coffee facilities. Always a bonus on a sportive, even in the summer when it’s hot. Caffeine-fuelled cycling, what’s not to like ;-).
The terrain then settled down for a while and we were zooming around some lovely country lanes to the east of Shaftesbury, before hitting the next big climb at around 40 miles.
This turned out to be not too bad and we were soon back on flatter roads and heading towards the second feed station at Witchampton. We spent way too long chatting here, but part of the fun of sportives is the social aspect, so it’s absolutely not a problem.
Not long afterwards we joined the short route and were heading towards feed station number 3. A marshall at a crossroads told us it’s only ‘a mile away’. He must have been very optimistic or having a laugh with us as it turned out to be about 5 miles further on!
At the final feed stop we were joined by the other riders we kept bumping into throughout the day and had more chat. Love the social aspects of a sportive like this!
One of them was kneeled down on the floor looking like he was praying. I’m not sure if he was praying this was the end of the ride or that the final 13 miles would be flat, but neither was true!
From there it was an easyish run into the finishing line at Salisbury Racecourse, with a longish climb about half way and then the final climb up to the racecourse.
At the finishing line, we got our very nice custom medals and goodie packs, which were very much appreciated. We then went off to the BoMo Coffee Bar for some well-deserved caffeine.
A fabulous day out and it feels so good to be back into sportives again after the winter break. I’d almost forgotten how much I enjoy the challenges they present and the fun social aspect of it all. Bring on the rest of the season now!
I was supposed to be riding the Wiggle Chalky Chaser MTB Sportive today with Andy, but it was cancelled a few weeks ago due to un-passable tracks on the route and the likelihood that the rain in the meantime would not improve conditions.
We hatched a plan to go MTB’ing in the New Forest today instead and Andy came up with several routes from old Wiggle MTB sportives in the area. We settled on the Falling Leaves MTB Epic Course from (I think) 2012.
This started in lovely Brockenhurst, so we arranged to meet at Brockenhurst Station late morning. After kitting ourselves up, off we set.
This is the first ride of my new MTB, a Scott Scale 925 and a replacement for my GT Zaskar Carbon Expert as the chain would not stay on that any time it got muddy. Ridiculous for a MTB I know, just makes no sense. Thankfully they agreed to a return from my excellent local bike shop, Nova Cycles.
All was going swimmingly until about 4 miles into the ride, on an old railway track that had been converted, when I got that sinking feeling from the back tyre for the second time in a week. Sure enough, I had a puncture. Hmmm!
This turned out to be a pinch flat, but the tyres were so tight on the rims we managed to puncture the new inner tube 3 times trying to get the tyre back on! Eventually, it held and we were back on our way.
I really enjoyed the rest of the ride, on a mixture of quiet lanes, old railway tracks and forest paths. At one point the route took us down this 1ft wide path between gorse and I had to concentrate extra hard as this was effectively my first ever proper MTB ride. Really good fun and very different than road riding.
About 2/3 of the way round we were conscious the sun was going down and we needed to be back at the start before dark as we’d forgotten to put lights on our bikes. We made the executive decision to return to Brockenhurst by road.
This turned out to be fortuitous as the quickest route took us down Ornamental Drive, one of the prettiest parts of the New Forest and one I’d enjoyed on at least two sportives before.
We arrived back well in time for dark and had had a fabulous ride with a mixture of terrain, views and fun. Can’t wait to get out on the MTB again now!
I’d got my first MTB, a GT Zaskar Carbon Expert a month or so ago and was planning on using it for various MTB sportives and also round home when the roads are not fit for road cycling. The problem is the chain just would not stay on!
On my first ride on it, home from Nova Cycles in Newport I went down a very muddy farm track and the chain came off. Not a worry I though as I can easily put it back on. The problem is it came right off again as soon as I started to pedal. This happened repeatedly and I had to call for a lift to take the bike back to the shop.
A MTB that does not work in mud makes no sense at all but that’s effectively what I had!
We tried changing the chain in case that was it but when I tried to ride it in the South Downs soon afterwards, the same thing was happening with the chain. Hmmm!
I took it back again and they got in contact with the manufacturers/suppliers who could not really offer a solution so I asked for a full refund so I could choose a MTB I knew would work as I’d lost all confidence in the Zaskar.
Thankfully they readily agreed and a few weeks later I’m the proud owner of a drop dead gorgeous looking Scott Scale 925.
I’ve now ridden this on an old sportive route in the New Forest and I’m totally happy with it. It’s a very capable bike and very easy to ride. I’m a happy camper!
The only thing I’ve changed is I took the tubes out of the tyres (the tyres and wheels are already tubeless ready), added some sealant and am now running tubeless so I don’t get any pinch flats.
With a doubleheader weekend of Sportives coming up, I needed to get out today and get some miles into the legs as I’ve not been out for a week and a half with all the snow we have had.
It had all cleared thankfully by this morning so I set off on my usual route to Dearnford Lake for lunch. I had planned a quick ride and not stopping long at the cafe so I could get back to the office and work. That was not to be…
All was going really well and I was enjoying using the Shimano XTR MTB pedals and my winter MTB boots on the ride as it means I don’t have to mess around with over-shoes, which I seem to wear out ridiculously quickly.
Just as I emerged onto the Wem to Whitchurch road from the really mucky lane over the railway line, I had a sinking feeling and the back tyre did not feel right. Sure enough, I had a puncture. I run tubeless and this is not supposed to happen, but happen it did.
I found a slit right across the tread and the sealant had obviously not got to it in time. Not to worry, I had an inner tube with me, so I’ll put that in to get me home. Wrong! The Schwalbe Pro One tyres I use are so ridiculously tight I could not pry it off the rim far enough to get an inner tube under it.
I resorted to phoning home and Sarah agreed to bring my Scott road bike to the cafe and swap it for the poorly Roubaix. At least it’s a chance to have an unexpected lunch with my lovely wife.
After a nice lunch, I set off on the Scott homeward and had an uneventful ride back.
Today was the No Excuses Cambridgeshire Sportive, starting at the East Of England Showground on the west side of Peterborough. Id travelled down the day before and was feeling a bit ropey if I’m honest. I put it down to too much coffee that morning as it felt just like a caffeine high.
In the morning I was still feeling rough but it was more like a hangover, with me feeling a bit queasy. Thankfully I was ok to ride but I was glad UK Cycling Events (UKCE) had closed the Epic Course due to ice on the road, as the way I was feeling, the 52 mile Standard Route would do just fine.
I took my time getting ready as I knew the event had been put back an hour due to below freezing overnight temperatures. I thus arrived at the venue around 10am and by the looks of it, everyone else had had the same idea as it was heaving, with cyclists everywhere!
I registered and headed off to the start line queue, chatting to a few other riders while we were waiting. The lady from UKCE who was in charge spotted me and shouted over a cheery “Hello John”.
All too soon we were off and riding out into the countryside to the west of Peterborough. The Standard route had had a route change too due to early morning ice but the signs were spot on and really easy to follow (guess who had forgotten to load the route onto his GPS!).
The countryside was lovely and rolling, but nothing very steep and with big wide vistas everywhere you could see. Lovely for cycling through, especially as I was not firing on all cylinders today.
About 37 miles into the ride we arrived at the single feed stop on the route in a lovely village called Great Gidding. I was loving the village names in the area, all very quaint English names – my favourite was Orton Brimble!
After the feed stop, it was a relatively easy 15 miles back to the finish line. The only tricky bit was a very strong easterly wind and no hedges to hide behind, which made parts of the route hard going.
Back at event HQ, I was delighted to be presented with a custom event medal which looked very nice indeed. I was expecting a generic WIggle medal so this bodes well for the rest of the UKCE events this year, fingers crossed.
I had a nice latte, chatted with a few other riders and then headed off home, happy at a great ride and my first sportive of the year complete.