A tale of two sportives

I like cycle sportives. They allow you to discover new routes, countryside and scenery that you didn’t know existed. And in the past 7 days I have experienced two such events, as part of my training for the Dallaglio Flintoff Cycle Slam.

Today was great. A stunning early morning cloudless sky, moderated by a chilly breeze, which woke me up on the ride to the start point at the iconic Eton Dorney venue – home to the Olympic rowing regatta.

Whereas Easter Monday was, as forecast, a wet and windy day as an Atlantic depression rolled in as I drove round the M25 to a start point in North East London. Now let’s get the negatives of this cycling day out of the way first. Yes it was wet, but no worse than I have encountered before. The route explored Essex countryside with plenty of twisty lanes, but all a bit flat and featureless. And then, 50 miles into the ride, the signs ran out. With only a route card provided, that meant orienteering around the green lanes without a map, which led to 45 minutes riding around in a circle to end up at the same point to where we first realised that we were lost. Luckily, the Home Counties are not the Bermuda triangle, so we re-emerged from this minor crisis. But the good news of the day was 75 miles of riding into my legs and 5+ hours in the saddle.

Now onto the positives of today’s ride.  F3 Events are a professional triathlon event company whose triathlon and cycling events have helped me prepare for several of my sporting challenges over the past few years.  So I turned to them as part of my preparation for this years Cycle Slam. The training programme today involved cycling 15 miles to the start point of the sportive; then tackling the 55 mile undulating route; and then completing the loop by cycling home. The significance of the distance is that I wanted to cover at least 80% of the longest stage distance that I would encounter on the Slam. Job done!

The sportive route today was well marked – plenty of clear guidance signs telling us to go left, right or straight on – and whether to exercise caution ahead!  The information provided in advance of the event was equally as comprehensive and media savvy. As a new exponent of the “MapMyRide”application, I can’t wait for my iPhone case to arrive next week from Amazon so that I can securely fasten my phone to the bike so that I can plot my progress as I ride along.

The route was a good mix of country roads – undulating and criss-crossing the Berks/Bucks Chilterns with several cheeky hills, followed by technical twisty descents. The weather was kind throughout – sunny and bright with an occasional chilly headwind. Typical British spring time really; in the sun and sheltered from the wind was lovely, but swap those two variables around and it was less pleasant!

And we made a new friend today. My Thames Valley Triathletes training buddies were Wayne and Tony who were using the sportive as preparation for their fist Half Ironman event in June. Not long after the start of the ride we were joined by (the delightful) Emma, a native of Sweden, who sounded more Surrey than Stockholm to me. She too, was using the sportive as part of her triathlon season spring training. It was the first time she had tackled this cycling distance and, with mutual support, we all covered the distance in comfortably under 4 hours of riding time. For me, that just left the cycle ride home, which following a carb filled peanut-butter sandwich and a cup of tea, was duly achieved.

So does this sound the right type of training event for you? As luck would have it, F3 Events are running another cycle sportive next weekend, on Sunday 22nd April, staring fromHenley-on-Thames.

Join me if you can.

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