Sunday, 5 April 2015

You shouldn't have to pedal down hill!

You shouldn't have to pedal down hill!

That was what I was thinking after 4 hours of cycling up and down the Meon Valley in the wind and rain last Sunday 29th March!

Once again the British weather got it completely wrong on the day. The previous couple of weeks had been beautifully lulling me into a false sense of hope that I would be able to smash my time, and put to bed my disappointment from 2 years ago.

Yes, the Meon Valley Riser sportive had come round again.
This is the write up of my attempt two years where I had just missed the 4 hour mark, finishing in 4:07.
I wanted to smash 4 hours this time.

During the week leading up to the event the weather was slowly turning worse, with rain and strong winds forecast for the weekend. Regular checks of every weather website I could think of made no difference, it was going to be bad.

To make matters worse I was due to be sharing some of the pain with Nick, but sensibly he got food poisoning a few days before and opted for the shelter of his en-suite.
His brother Chris was doing the event, but was going with his even madder mate and doing the 104 mile route.

The event is quite small, with usually only about 300 riders taking part, so when I turned up I was quite surprised to see so few cars. As it turned out only just over 100 people were stupid enough to battle 30mph winds.

Check-in was nice and easy, I didn't have any of the porridge on offer as I had already eaten. While I was getting my bike ready Chris and Rob turned up. I thought about waiting for them so we could set off together but decided there was no point as they would disappear into the gloom as soon as we hit the first of many hills.

The dream was to fall in with a group of riders, all going at a similar pace, so we could all share the work load, but it never really happened. I managed to hitch a ride every now and then, fully prepared to do my bit at the front, but I always got left on the hills.

After about 22 miles you come to the feed station. On the 47 mile route there is only one, on the longer routes there are 3. As I said it is a small event, and the feed station consisted of a couple of old blokes on a village green, with a table handing out bananas, flapjacks and sports drinks. I was more than happy with this, but Chris did mention that by the third feed station he was bored of the same choice. Another criticism is that there weren't any toilet facilities, which meant you had to make another stop somewhere on the course.

As the name suggest, the Riser is quite hilly, combined with strong winds, which, as always, seem to be head winds, it was relentless. I had to stop to stretch a few times, but I still thought I was in with a chance of beating my previous time of 4:07.

I actually seemed to get stronger towards the end, and even started over taking some people. I have been doing quite a lot of strength work in the gym at work, and that seemed to be helping.

But then I got the dreaded back wheel wobble.
Yes, I had a puncture. It's not surprising as there was so much rubbish and flint on the road. It happened right out side a farm, which had a proper, smell of nature which meant I was gagging while trying to change my tyre.

It didn't take too long, and I set off with about 5 miles left to go, including Crooked Walk Lane, which is an horrendous hill.
There was someone in front of me, and I had to fight the urge to try to catch him, and settled down to a nice, slow, steady rhythm. I find that counting out the pedal turns to ten seems to work for me, and just focus on the road directly ahead.
I did look up and saw that the person in front had just got off at the steepest part.
This wasn't going to happen to me.

I've done the hill before, it hurts, but I know where the end is.

1, 2, 3, shut up legs, 3, 4, 5, bloody headwinds, 6, 7, 8, is that the end? 9, 10 yes it is I'm at the top

Well chuffed!

Only a couple of miles left, most downhill so should be easy.

The wind had other ideas.
The last bit is along the top of Portsdown Hill so very exposed, and this is where I had to pedal to keep moving down hill.
The route turns right half way down the hill, but I didn't have to brake to slow down for the junction, just stop pedaling and the wind did the rest.

Eventually got to the finish line, heard the reassuring beep that my timing chip had worked, and went to get my time.
A lot slower than two years ago.

I put my bike away and then went to hand my bits in. I wasn't planning on having any of the food provided, but there wasn't a queue, so why not.
So I was sat in a school hall, on a chair a bit too low for a adult, eating beans and toast from a polystyrene burger box, with a plastic spoon and drinking a hot, sweet coffee from a plastic cup.
One of the best meals I've had in ages!

The company does a few other events throughout the year. I would recommend them. Similar to the Wiggle events, but a few hundred riders rather than a few thousand

Part of me is gutted about my time, but another part of me is impressed that I made it round at all considering the conditions.

There is always next year.