The joy of sportives

I rode my first sportive not long after I completed my leg of the 2010 Dallaglio Cycle Slam – and have used them as a regular part of my cycle training plan ever since. They are great – you get to ride scenic new roads; take on some challenging climbs; enjoy the company of like minded cyclists; and have a great excuse for eating plenty of cake!

You can choose a distance to suit your training needs – I typically opt for 50-60 miles which makes for a great morning’s ride – although there are longer options if I need more miles in my legs.  Even the weather doesn’t really get in the way of the ride. I have ridden in beautiful sunshine; a howling gale; torrential rain; and even in sub zero temperatures alongside snow covered fields… but not all the same day’s ride I hasten to add! The point is, that once you decided to do the ride i.e. paid your money and built it into your training plan, then you might as well turn up and go for it – whatever the elements throw at you.

In terms of my weather related memories, the following stand out:

  • Beautiful sunny weather – King of the Downs sportive (May 2010) which was my first sportive, and a fantastic introduction with 5 testing climbs in theNorth Downs
  • Howling gale – Chieveley sportive (January 2011) – a nice circular route through the Berkshire Downs/Chilterns where half the time you battled crosswinds; a quarter was a slog into a headwind and the remainder a spin session
  • Torrential rain – no contest – that was the Magnificat sportive (June 2011) where Half Ironman Training meant I entered the 80+ mile course and got so wet in 5 ½ hours of riding that I needed a complete change of clothing at the finish. Now nudity isn’t allowed in Triathlon transition, but that didn’t matter in the deserted car park at Newbury racecourse that day!
  • Snow covered fields – now that would be my most recent sportive at Watlington (February 2012) where my team mate’s Garmin registered the air temperature at 30 degrees the whole way round!

However, with the spring bulbs starting to show their face, and British Summer Time just around the corner, now is the time to plan a few sportives in April as preparation for the Dallaglio Flintoff 2012 Cycle Slam in May. And the really, really good news is that, this spring, I can combine my training with fund raising as well.

How is that? Well, I have got agreement from F3 events that they will offer discounted places in two of their  April Sportives to Cycle Slam participants (which I will also offer to team mates at Thames Valley Triathletes as well).

And the more participants we get for the two events, the higher the donation from the organisers for our charitable causes. A true win-win! The dates for your diaries are:

  • Sunday 15th April – at the iconic Dorney Lake venue (home of the Olympic rowing) with 60 and 100 mile routes available into the Chilterns
  • Sunday 22nd April – from a base at ShiplakeCollege (between Henley and Marlow) with 60 and 100 mile routes across theThamesValley region

Now I did the Dorney Lake sportive event last spring, and the route was so good I borrowed parts of it for summer training rides that I then led with TVT.  So a good days riding is guaranteed – whatever the weather.

Entry discount codes to follow. Please contact me for details.

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Dallaglio Cycle Slam 2010 – my story

So what sparked my interest when I saw the Virgin Media advert offering sponsored places at this years Dallaglio Flintoff Cycle Slam challenge? Well, I actually took part in one day of the previous Dallaglio Cycle Slam event, which turned into quite a memorable adventure.

Early in 2010, a work contact at one of the event sponsors (The Listening Company), knowing that I was a keen cyclist, suggested the event to me. I could not spare 5 days to participate in a complete stage, but I could do one day, so I gratefully accepted the opportunity to participate and raise the required £500 amount.

Fundraising page established, I set about networking – Friends & Family; Triathlon club mates; Gym Buddies; Work Colleagues and customers were all made aware of my exploits. I even made a video (with the help of my son as cameraman and producer) which, thanks to the wonder of Youtube, is still available to view. You can even check it out for yourself – it is really quite good!

But, that was nothing compared to what actually happened to me when I took part on the day. My leg was a 123km ride starting close to where I live in Berkshire. I am a keen triathlete, but at the time was more used to a 40km race distance which only involved a two hour training ride. So an all day ride was certainly a step up from what I was used to.

So the March day dawned bright and frosty, as I set out to ride the 5 miles to start point. And that’s when the challenge really started… as I arrived at the start 50 minutes after everyone had already left! The length of the ride meant that the organisers had taken a decision the night before to bring forward the start time by an hour – but as I was arriving ‘on the day’ no one had told me.

Now given that 40+ people had already sponsored me, there was no way I was going to let a false start affect me, so I started the ride, trying to follow the balloon markers towards the first check point. Two hours later, deep in the Berkshire countryside, I had to admit to myself that I was lost. Without a map, I had no directions to follow, so veered off to the nearest main town (Wantage) where I purchased maps, along with a coffee and a large slice of cake (the staple diet of cyclists).

I reckoned I had about 5 hours of daylight left to complete the remaining 90 km, which was just about manageable, so with renewed vigour, off I went. Well another two hours later, and just west of Swindon, by coincidence I came across the back of the cycling pack at the second checkpoint. So with communication with the event re-established, I forged ahead and was even able to ride the last 10km as part of a group of riders – enjoying the shared joy of finishing the leg with fellow participants. And what I story I had for the bar- that night!

So for this years event, my first resolution is to definitely get to the start on time – as I don’t really fancy riding all the way from the middle of France back to the UK on my own.