On 21 October 2012 I completed my first ever sportive. What a great day it was.
I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'd heard good things but I was a little bit apprehensive. I'm a bit new to this cycling thing after a back injury put me out of my usual sport of rowing earlier this year. So I've only really got involved recently and have spent most of the year hanging onto friends wheels trying not to get dropped.
But today I was doing something for me.This was my first solo effort. I felt like a chick that had been released from its mother for the first time. It was sink or swim. What was I scared of? Punctures, falling off, getting lost, being too slow. Was I excited? Simply. yes!
I arrived at registration with plenty of time. I was given my ride number, a bottle of CNP and some energy gels. I also received a telling off from the event organiser from tweeting him the night before from the pub telling him I was having a pint as ride prep. He warned me he wouldn’t come to my rescue if a hangover kicked in. I sorted my bike and had a bowl of porridge made by a lady who had previously been on Masterchef! Then it was time to go. We rolled out around Rivington reservoir and we were soon rewarded with wonderful views. The early highlight for me was riding along Yarrow Reservoir. I thought that must be a good omen.
The weather was perfect. The sun was shining and the sky was blue. I felt a little bit invincible on the early hills and was enjoying riding in an area I've never been to before. I chatted to various people and heard some interesting and inspiring stories including one lady who had a paralysed leg so had taken up cycling to keep fit as she used to run but wasn’t able to anymore. Another guy was telling me about another sportive coming up soon that I should enter.
The first 20 miles passed by easily and quickly. The only mishap was my rear light falling off on a bumpy downhill. A short walk back up the hill and I was chasing the wheels in front again. I was never on my own and the signage was always there to guide the way.
The feed station was at 21 miles so we stopped for a bit of fuel. We were given the greatest selection of cake, bars, biscuits and a lovely chap was there to put powder in our bottles and top up our water. He even apologised for making a mess of my bottle. After a short stop we were off again. The route split straight after the feed station. I watched the guys heading off on the long route and was thankful that I'd chosen the shorter route.
Straight out of the feed station we were faced with a hard climb into Mellor. I was regretting eating so much rocky road but was a bit chuffed with myself when I managed to pass someone. I did find myself trying to change down a gear every few minutes only to realise I was already in my lowest gear.
I ended up in a bit of a void around 25 miles but the views were stunning and kept my mind of my tiring legs. I then teamed up with another lady and we peddled along together until the final climb. It was great to chat to new people who have similar interests and can teach you so much.
Passing through Pleasington at about 27 miles we joked that we were “pleased to be in Pleasington”. I however didn’t realise this was the start of a long climb from Tockholes up to Belmont. I climbed most of this on my own as I feared that if I waited for someone else I’d never get going again or if I tried to stick on someone’s wheel I’d blow. But I made it to the top.
On the final decent back into Rivington I was tired. My legs were a shot and I was glad to be almost home. The traffic around the reservoir was pretty busy with this being a popular place with the locals when the sun is shining. I was riding around a bend when I rode into a bunch of leaves only to realise there was a groove in the road.
My wheel went and the next thing I knew I was falling into my fellow rider’s bike. I have no idea how she managed to stay up as I hit the floor. I was fine apart from a grazed elbow, a bruised backside, and a bit of dinted pride as I’d fallen off in the only place on the route where there was anyone around. My main concern was my bike but that too was fine. Phew! I was back up on the bike and back at the HQ before I knew it.
The welcome from the event organiser was wonderful. We were given chicken biryani (from the lovely lady from Masterchef again) and even offered some free massages. We sat around in groups eating our curry and watching people return from their rides full of stories and a great sense of achievement. We all laughed at my little tumble, ate some cake and chatted about who ached most. It was a great day out and I met some fantastic people. I would really recommend this sportive to anyone that’s aspiring to get out there more.
Did I enjoy it? Yes! Would I do it again? Of course!
A massive well done to Mr Polocini event helpers... My next one will have a lot to live up to!