You know, I wish that before I signed up for this sportive blogger job, someone had told me I'd be dabbling in the mysterious and terrifying realm of the paranormal. I still don’t know what exactly went down last Saturday.
It was Wiggle’s ‘Long One’ sportive, and over 124 miles I managed to lose just about everything I came with, including but not limited to my ride partner, my spare inner tubes*, 90 minutes of my life, and my faith in everything I thought I knew about physics and the laws of time and space.
Before you accuse me of tripping on energy drinks again, ok, I admit I took advantage of the free nutritional supplements (I even attached a second bottle cage to my bike). It is also true that the official video of the event captures me apparently deep in conversation with invisible daemons. But don’t let that distract you from this fact: behind the spandex and carbon, sinister forces are at work in the world of sportive cycling.
It all started shortly after we set out from Fontwell Race Course. After a couple of miles, my ride buddy Mo began complaining of mysterious pains in his leg and insisted that I ride ahead.Mo never usually feels pain, but events soon took a yet more sinister turn when I suddenly realised I was quite alone on the road. What’s more, I hadn’t seen another cyclist, nor a sign, for several miles.
The sun slipped behind a cloud, and a cold sweat crept across my brow. Had I missed a turn? Impossible! Dosed to the gills on scientifically proven juices, I was confident my senses were at their sharpest. I rounded a corner, and was relieved to see a fellow cyclist pulled up at the roadside studying a map.
‘Are you Irish?’ I asked hopefully – this being my standard opening line with strangers.
‘Canadian,’ she replied, as a third cyclist pulled up. Our phones had mysteriously lost reception – a clear indication of occult activity – but using the map, we deduced that we had missed a turn some miles back;despite all agreeing that there had been no sign.
Glancing fearfully at the sky, we turned around, retraced our route, and found a road that would allow us to rejoin the course.
So far, so what; perhaps you’re thinking there’s a rational explanation here, involving magnetism; or even that I’m just an idiot who can’t follow signage. That thought did cross my mind as I trundled to the first feed stop at 38 miles. From the map, it looked as though my detour hadn’t added any distance to the route; if anything, it had been a slight shortcut. So, I sat down in the uncanny sunshine to wait for Mo, assuming that he must still be behind me. But here is the weird thing: although I waited at that feed stop for a ful 30 minutes, Mo did not appear.
One of the puncture stops. Mo nowhere in sight.
In fact, not only did I fail to see him there, but I never saw Mo again. I tried texting and calling him throughout the day, but to no avail. It appears from the official timings that Mo, or at least someone – or something– wearing Mo’s timing chip completed the course a good two hours before me. But this is clearly impossible, because although I spent 45 minutes at feed stops waiting, and suffered two punctures which needed 40 minutes to repair, and, craving real food, took a further unscheduled stop for lunch at a roadside café (where I was nearly licked to death by a dog) – even despite these setbacks, I should have finished first. Why? Because I am a gold standard sportive rider, remember?
But here’s the other weird thing: it turns out I’m not a gold standard sportive rider. According to my Garmin data,backed up by phone records, I started the sportive at 7.45 am and finished it at 6.00 pm, for an atrocious time of 10 hours 15 minutes. This is well outside the Gold time of 8 hours, and even the Silver time of 8:51. Sportive bloggers, sorry: I have brought shame on our people. But whatever: when I checked the official timings on the event website, there is my name, clear as day, with a time of 8:43:44 and SILVER printed alongside it.
When I saw this, I almost choked on my energy drink – yes, I took a few extra bottles home; don’t judge me.
Have you seen a sportive rider looking for answers? Don't worry, it's just Oisin.
Some big questions need answering here: like, why are the organisers trying to airbrush 90 minutes out of my life? Am I just saddle sore, or did something more sinister happen out there on the Downs? Have Wiggle, in their insane quest for ever-greater thrills, routed a sportive through the middle of the South Downs’ answer to the Bermuda Triangle?
And where, for the love of God, is Mo?
I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I do know one thing. I’m sorry, but things are getting a little too weird in sportive land. I need a holiday. And so, for the next few weeks, I will be focusing my incisive reportage on the murky world of night-time cycling.
First up is a 271-mile spin from London to Paris in 24 hours. I’ll give a squashed croissant to any reader who correctly guesses how many of those 271 miles I manage before collapsing into the broom wagon. In the meantime, happy cycling, and remember to line your helmets with tinfoil people…because the truth is out there.
*In fact, I only took one spare tube and I’m very grateful to a complete stranger on the ride who gave me his spare at a feed stop, just before my second puncture.