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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The word is getting out….

Had a positive few days with some of my fundraising ideas and really feel like momentum is now building.  You can find out first about these developments through twitter. Follow me @paulweald

The successes include:

  • LV= Liverpool Victoria – the Heritage Call Centre team are holding a dress down day in May and are donating the monies raised to my causes
  • Nottingham City Homes – the Customer Service Centre team are planning some fund-raising ideas
  • F3 events – a local triathlon event company – have agreed to provide a donation based on the participation of Cycle Slam Riders in two cycle sportives they are organising in April. This is a real win-win for me as it is not only a fund raising opportunity but also a training opportunity for my fellow participants
  • London Midland – the Customer Relations team are organising a collection, a charity bake sale and a sponsored fancy dress.

Donate now

So where is all the money going? The funds raised is going to three fantastic causes:

  1. the Dallaglio Foundation is supporting a cutting edge research project that will help develop more effective and personalised treatments for prostate cancer;
  2. the AF Foundation is developing and improving Child Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy Units
  3. and Virgin Unite is helping people tackle tough social and environmental problems with an entrepreneurial approach.

To bring this to life, here is a motivational message from Rachel Roxburgh at the Dallaglio Foundation. This is what it is all about.

You can always find out first about these successes through twitter. Follow me @paulweald

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.