Our sportive blogger Gavin gets the first sportive of the 2013 season under his wheels.
I don't want to talk too soon - whisper it quietly but as we enter March it seems that the long, bleak winter is entering the death throws. After months of huffing and puffing along dark, gritted, pot-holed roads - the light at the end of tunnel - for once - isn't the flashing rear light of the poor soul in front. Presently, when the clocks go forward, at least one commuting journey can be completed in complete daylight and another stepping stone to balmy summer days will be reached.
This can mean only one thing. It's out with the marker pen, diary and consolidated listings of (local) Sportives. Some among us may also wish to include an optional bunch of flowers, box of chocolates and booking number of local spa/restaurant. It's the time of year when the cycling equivalent of the Sunday Pub Players look forward to the upcoming fixture list and reaping the benefits of the strict winter turbo training and stricter diet regime. Many have been convinced by the Winter Sales that there really is a pro-peloton rider bubbling away just under the surface and will be eager to try out all the latest acquisitions and Christmas presents which in my case - is a new bottom bracket and a go faster helmet.
"It was nice to see some friendly faces on the ride - even though Darren had bravely opted for fingerless gloves - a choice I believe he was to rue as he needed to repair a puncture later on."
Gavin on gloves
For me - the first sportive of the season could not come quick enough. An unpleasant winter of commuting has taken its toll on my morale and a few falls and scrapes have left me with a scar on the chin and an injured shoulder. When the forecasters predicted reasonable weather for the Evans RideIt at Sandown Racecourse, the chance for a civilised Sunday ride was too good to miss. The pen was out the event was circled and the water bottles were washed down from last year's grime and goo.
The morning of the ride was icy enough to warrant defrosting the windscreen - leaving me in no doubt as to the type of clothing that would be required. That's right - it's head to toe in Merino!!!
Despite the cold - the sun was out and within a few miles, the dark nights and bitter days were a distant memory. The first fig roll of the year was within touching distance - and it was as if there had been no winter at all. This event did not have the attendance that I was expecting - with free admission to the Triathlon Show included with the Sportive entry - and a mild forecast, I would have expected to have seen more riders. Hats off to Evans for running the events both on the Saturday and Sunday of the Triathlon Show and for offering the choices of Fun (15 miles), Short (30 Miles), Medium (50 miles) and Long (70 miles) routes. In the ever rising list of sportives in the calendar - the choice of a Saturday ride seems to me to offer a refreshing alternative, it also offers the chance of one more day's recovery before the working week recommences.
The fifty mile route was taxing enough to let me know there is still a lot of work to be done before the Dragon Ride - but the winter's commutes have not left me too exhausted and I managed to get around in three hours. The ride presented a number of steep climbs - but nothing too outrageous - I clocked just over 1000m of climbing, which included the tricky Whitedown climb, which Strava happily informed me I managed my personal best on.
It was nice to see some friendly faces on the ride - even though Darren had bravely opted for fingerless gloves - a choice I believe he was to rue as he needed to repair a puncture later on. Brooksy - who was on his first sportive, rode in a frighteningly high gear throughout - finished in three hours and even managed to field a phone call from his wife whilst milling up the steepest climb of the day.
So back to the diary and the list of ever increasing Sportives on offer. The summer has started.