Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive, Epic Course

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Today was the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive, starting at the lovely Somerly House Estate, near Ringwood in Hampshire.

This was the first sportive I ever took park in so far away from home this time last year and it’s a lovely route, so I was totally looking forward to my day.

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I arrived in plenty of time and with a weather forecast that suggested I might finally be able to dig my summer kit out. I opted for arm and leg warmers too as it was not that warm to start off. It was also forecast rain later so my Raiders gilet was essential.

I parked up and walked up the hill to the event village and registration. As it’s the New Forest, we also have to wear big rider numbers on our backs and were treated to an extended safety briefing, including all about the wild animals we might encounter on the route and giving them priority. Not a problem.

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There was quite a queue to start when I was ready but the Epic riders were being ushered to the front as they had to get off before 9:30am. That’s me, so all too soon I was on my way and getting into the ride.

The route was the same as last year, with one small diversion for a closed road just before the first feed stop at Boldre.  I enjoyed the ride southwards from the start, past Bournemouth Airport before turning eastwards to enter the New Forest itself.

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At the feed stop, I stocked up with water and had some welcome food as I was getting a little hungry by now. Then it was back on the road and I was soon at Beaulieu and the bit where the Epic Course heads for the coast overlooking the Isle Of Wight (one of my highlights of this lovely route).

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After re-joining the Standard route it was up into Lyndhurst. and then onwards to the second and final feed stop at Copythorne. I did not hang around too much here as it had started to rain lightly and I was getting cold not riding my bike.

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The final section of the ride contained the most elevation and we were soon heading up onto higher ground, including the main climb of the ride. I remember this being tough last year but did not think it was too bad today, indicating my fitness has improved a lot over the last year.

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It was then an easy ride over the top of the Downs, through Fordingbridge and back to the event HQ. Where I collected my medals and goodies. I laughed as these contained a Wilkinson Sword razor – what would a ‘bearded bloke’ want with one of those ;).

I was delighted later on to see I’d earnt a Silver certificate as I normally spend way too long socialising at the feed stops (isn’t this what sportives are about after all?) and get a Bronze.

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An amazing day out on my bike in one of my favourite areas to cycle. Loved it!

Route: click here

Sigma Sports South Downs Spring Sportive, Epic Course

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Today was the Sigma Sports South Downs Spring Sportive, starting from the lovely Plumpton Racecourse, just north of Brighton. The weather was looking much better than in previous weeks, with low winds, reasonably warm and a low chance of rain.

I arrived just after 8am and had to park up in the middle of the race circuit before wandering the short distance to the grandstand and meeting up with Andy. I went off to register before we headed off to join the line for starting the ride.

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Like last week, Andy and I got a shout-out in the pre-ride safety briefing, which was lovely. The first part of the ride was pretty flat and reasonably easy going with my legs warming up nicely and ready for a long ride.

The first feed stop at 20 miles in soon came and we stopped to top up with water, eat some food (I was getting pretty hungry, despite having breakfast earlier) and have a chat with fellow riders.

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The route trundled on as before with some gorgeous countryside, before the first split off to the Epic Route. This immediately went uphill and my front disk brake started squealing like crazy as with riding uphill I was putting more pressure on the front wheel.

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After a while trying to work out exactly where the noise was coming from (it was not happening on the flats) I stopped and used my car keys to try and pull the disk callipers apart a bit. This sort of helped but did not fix things that much and the noise and extra effort to get up hills continued – ouch!

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As we were coming back out of the hilly Epic section, the BikeFixer.com van drove past and he asked if I was ok. I explained what was wrong and he said he’d pull over in a safe place to look for me. Turned out the brake callipers were slightly out of alignment with the disk and a quick tweak by him fixed the issue. As soon as I got back on my bike I could really feel the difference!

The course was still a bit up and down for a while but gradually settled out to a more flat route and we started to eat the miles up.

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The second and final feed stop was at 58 miles and we spent way too long chatting and admiring this gorgeous vintage 1962 bike the mechanic had on show by his van.

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As we neared the final Epic Course split, not far from the venue, we noticed the Epic sign had been turned around the wrong way and nearly missed out the last Epic Course extra miles. It was only when we spotted a UK Cycling Events guy nearby that he explained what had happened and said to carry on the Epic Course as normal as all the signs were still out.

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We arrived back at the venue with just over 80 miles on the clock and a really good ride with some testing early season climbing in the bag.

Another fabulous sportive from UK Cycling Events and all on roads I’d never cycled before.

Route: click here

Late afternoon ride to Whitchurch and back in the wind and rain. Rode right past Dearnford Lake but might have had a sneaky pint in Market Drayton.

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I really needed to get out on my bike this week, in preparation for the Sigma Sports South Down Spring Sportive on Saturday, but the weather forecast looked horrible and work was manic.

It got to mid-afternoon today and I spotted a break in work and decided to go for it. It was raining intermittently but I’m not a fair-weather cyclist so cracked on.

The route up to Whitchurch was along the normal way up Marchamley Hill, with the wind in my face most of the way. I planned to ride past Dearnford Lake and as it turned out it was 5pm by the time I went past and I suspect they have closed already anyway.

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I headed down through the gorgeous Brown Moss Nature Reserve and onwards via Ighfield and Calverhall. At the latter, I decided to turn left and go to Market Drayton via my alternative route as it’s a lovely road and scenic.

In Market Drayton, I could not resist popping into the Joules brewery tap for a quick pint before carrying on to home.

After the last two trips out where my legs felt tired, they were on fire today and absolutely fine the whole way around. I held it back a bit as I did not want to ruin the weekend sportive (paranoid like that, probably totally unnecessarily) I realised I must have had a bit of a bug along with conjunctivitis and now it has cleared my cycling is back to normal.

Route: click here

Exploring local lanes on my MTB. Got a bit lost in places but it worked out in the end! Eyes still sore but improving thankfully.

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My eyes were starting to improve over the weekend but I still felt a bit fluey, so had not planned on a ride at all today. I was tinkering with my MTB and in the end, could not resist a quick trip out to explore some local lanes.

I set off to Ercall Heath and took an old track across the heath to Holy Well and then down to the River Meese before taking another track with the intention of ending up in Tiibberton.

This did not quite work out as planned as I must have taken the wrong farm track somewhere and I ended up coming out onto the road where the Adeney road meets the main Newport to Shrewsbury road.

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Not a worry as I could head down to Adeney and then down the track that joins it with Kynnersley. Great fun so far and the bike was more than capable.

Once in Kynnersley, I decided to explore Dukes Drive as I’d seen it on the maps but never been down it. The first part was easy and paved, but it petered out into a kind of dyke on raised ground between two very low lying fields. Nothing too taxing and I eventually came out on the A442. Loving it!

It was getting close to teatime now, so I opted to take the main road to Waters Upton and then the lanes back home.

A really good fun hour or two exploring and something a bit different than my usual longer road rides.

Route: click here

Late afternoon short ride to spin the legs a bit

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I’ve not been out on my bike all week as I picked up conjunctivitis and a bit of a virus and have thus not been feeling 100%. The cabin fever was settling in though and by late afternoon today, I could not resist a quick ride out.

My plan was to ride my usual Dearnford Lake route but not stop at the cafe. I set off on the normal route but by the time I was approaching Stoke on Tern I still was not feeling 100% and was debating about cutting the ride short and going out for a leisurely curry instead.

The curry soon won the day and instead of heading off up Marchamley Hill, I took the Market Drayton road instead. I was intending routing home via Cheswardine and adding a few extra miles in but by the time I got the Drayton I was feeling it and took the more direct route home.

On the way back I did extend the route slightly via High Hatton to mix up the roads a bit and enjoyed the change of scenery and views over to South Shropshire as I went up the hill.

I arrived home in loads of time to go out for some food and feeling much better for the ride.

Route: click here

Wiggle Spring Saddle Sportive, Epic Course. First 💯 Century ride of the year.

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Today was the Wiggle Spring Saddle Sportive, starting in Newmarket and heading south through the Cambridgeshire and Essex countryside to near Stanstead Airport, before turning back northwards to Newmarket.

I was booked on the 100 mile Epic Course as usual and was looking forward to my first century ride of 2018. I knew it might be tough going as with all the bad weather we’ve been having, my training is not exactly progressing as planned!

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I arrived at the venue about 7:40am and parked up before wandering over to register. I checked where Andy was and he said he was by the starting line, so I headed past the racecourse grandstand to there.

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The pre-ride briefing was fun as there was a “shout out to John and Andy, who ride most of our sportives” by the announcer. Not that I like the attention or anything but I loved it :).

The first part of the ride took us out of Suffolk and into Cambridgeshire almost straight away. Essex soon followed and we were to be in Essex for the majority of the ride. I’ve only ridden a tiny corner of Essex on the London Revolution before, so this was all new for me and full of quaint little villages everywhere. Lovely!

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It was easy cycling at the start and we soon arrived at the first feed stop after about 22 miles.

The going started to get tough for me not too long after this as my legs just were not playing ball at all today.

By the time we got to the second feed stop at about 45 miles I was totally worn out and wondering how I’d get to finish the 100 miles today. It’s just one of those days as I know I’d fuelled myself for the ride and was eating the right things on the ride. I hate it when this happens!

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The section from here up to 60 miles started to be a real struggle but I plodded along hoping to come out of the other side of the bad legs. On the way, we passed through a lovely town called Finchingfield which had hundreds of motor bike riders all socialising on the village green. I bet there was a great cafe somewhere and the temptation to stop for a coffee was strong, but we plodded on.

The third and final feed stop was at about 84 miles and we stopped for quite a while chatting away to various event staff and other riders. This is what really makes a good sportive for me. This feed stop also had tea and coffee, which is always welcome.

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I’m not sure if I was just in need of caffeine after the hour less sleep last night (the clocks went forward an hour) but after the feed stop my legs returned to normal form and I knew I’d have no problem finishing the ride. Phew!

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By the time we were approaching the finishing line, I had 99.7 miles on the clock, so rode around the area just before the finishing line to top up to 100 miles as you can’t leave it so close and not finish the job and get to 100 miles.

A really enjoyable ride in the end, in a totally new area for me and my first Century ride for 2018 in the bag. Here’s to many more.

Route: click here

Dearnford Lake for lunch, then home via Wrenbury in Cheshire. Lovely spring day!

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With not having time to go out on my bike last week and then the cancelled Brewin Dolphin Wye Tour Sportive last Sunday it’s been a week and a half since I was out on my bike!

My legs are aching not because I’ve ridden too much, but because I’ve not ridden at all and they are used to powering me around the area. I was desperate to get out and fix this and today was the day as I was ahead with work, so could afford some time out of the office.

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I’m also conscious I’ve got my first 100 mile sportive this Sunday and so needed to wake my legs up. I thus planned a ride up to Dearnford Lakes on the normal route. That would change a bit later on though…

I arranged to meet up for lunch with my wife at the cafe, so set off with plenty of time to spare. An uneventful ride up to Dearnford along the usual route via Marchamley Hill.

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As I arrived at the cafe I noticed lots of bikes outside and it turned out to be the Newport Cycling Club on their Wednesday club ride. What a lovely surprise and I had a chance to catch up with friends for a chat.

After lunch, I decided to extend my route by heading up to Wrenbury in Cheshire, before returning home via Aston, Wilkesley and Market Drayton. A fab choice as I love the quiet lane up to Wrenbury from Whitchurch, with great views over the whole area.

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I got caught at the level crossings by Wrenbury station, which is always a pain as they must be the world’s slowest barriers and take ages to go back up! I think they have a radar to check if I’m approaching as I ALWAYS get caught by them!

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I needed to be back home in plenty of time to collect the Jeep from the garage as it’s been in for a service today, so did not stop for a sneaky pint in Market Drayton, no matter how tempting it was (not really done enough miles to warrant a stop today anyway!).

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Nearing home I realised I’d be just short of 50 miles on the clock, so extended the ride round Ercall Heath and Bolas Heath to make up the extra miles.

A lovely ride out in nice spring weather. It was even warm enough to wear my summer short fingered gloves, which is always a bonus. Can’t wait to be able to get out in summer kit now.

Route: click here

Brewin Dolphin Wye Tour Sportive – Cancelled

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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.

 

Wye Tour Sportive – Complimentary Velo Club entry!

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I’m absolutely delighted. I’ve just been given a complimentary Velo Club entry to the Brewin Dolphin Wye Tour by UK Cycling Events this Saturday starting in Chepstow, South Wales.

I was booked on the event as a normal entrant but have transferred that to their Brewin Dolphin Ridgeway Rouleur event in Oxfordshire next month now.

Included are many extras including:

  • Custom Brewin Dolphin Jersey (rrp £65)
  • Coffee & Breakfast on arrival
  • Lunch and drink on return
  • Goodie bag
  • A chance to ride with VIP celebrity guest
  • Q&A with VIP guests
  • Mechanical support
  • Complimentary post ride massage from Official Physio Partner Six Physio

So excited I’m fit to burst!

Sigma Sports​ Wiltshire Wildcat, Epic Course. A great route and another perfectly organised event. Loved it!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

Route: click here