Last weekend was the Wiggle Bournemouth Sportive and I opted for the Epic distance, 103 miles, a large circular route from Bournemouth airport, up to Salisbury, across to Shaftesbury, down to Blandford before return to Bournemouth Airport. I'm starting to feel quite at home on these events now, geared up in lycra I know the routine and what to expect so I can almost take it in my stride - amazing how 6 months or so changes things!
The Wiggle Bournemouth is perhaps one of the easier rides I have lined up for training, so I was hopeful of getting a silver medal time, although that would mean an improvement of over 40 minutes compared to my last time out. A lack of wind and less hills meant I was a little more confident of achieving that, but you never know.
Most of the ride was a bit of a blur to be honest, there were plenty of quiet country lanes and nice scenery but I wasn't really taking it all in, I was concentrating on my pace and trying to bank minutes by my first stop at the 56 mile point. Normally on these rides it's easier if you ride in a group, the slipstream that you get behind a lead rider make an incredible difference to the effort you need to put in, but sadly everyone was either a lot faster or a lot slower, nothing in between, so I plodded on regardless. As I headed to the second feed station (and my first stop) I had well over 10 minutes in the bank so I was feeling pleased, all going well. I quickly filled my drink bottles, grabbed some flapjack, jelly beans and banana before jumping back on.
Next up was Bulbarrow Hill, Dorset's highest point and a tremendous climb and could derail my medal time if I tried to push it too hard. Nothing quite sets you up for a big climb as well as the sight of a para-glider at the top getting ready to soar over the rolling valleys below. According to Strava I was climbing the hill for over 17 minutes at 7.7mph, a long slog, but worth it when you get to the top, the views are amazing as you can see from the pic below (not taken by me):
The usual aches and pains had cropped up from about 40 miles onwards (a bit later on than usual, so perhaps I'm getting used to it), my back in particular aches so much the thought of getting off the bike is incredibly seductive! After Bulbarrow I started to pass a few people who were suffering from the ride, some on their first long distance ride, others who had pushed themselves too hard on the earlier stages. I feel for people who are struggling along like that (having been there myself enough times), so I try and give some encouragement to them and, if I can, help them out (although I'm no technical cycling genius, so my help is somewhat limited).
Luckily for me I had some support out on the course, when you're cycling for 7-8 hours and you're exhausted it does give you a real boost and it really helped me push on and build on my 10 minute advantage. Carla and her mum passed me cheering away and then parked up ahead of me so they could get out of the car to cheer me some more, this was repeated at several points. I'm fortunate that my grimace looks somewhat like a smile, so as they cheered me on I appeared to smile gleefully back!
Further up the road I spotted a rider who had stopped and was carrying his bike along. At this point he was around 2 miles from the 3rd and final feed station and 80 miles in to the ride, so a long and weary walk if he were to get to the feed station for a lift (if one were available). Fortunately Carla had seen him struggling as she had completed her latest drive by and was already on the way back to pick him up as I signalled her to slow down so I could ask her to do the same.
The poor chap was absolutely shattered, his first long distance ride and sadly his chain had snapped so he was no longer able to continue. He was absolutely delighted to get a life to the finish line, approximately 23 miles away, although I gather he was told, at length, all about my epic LEJOG journey for his troubles. In fact I know he was told all about it because no sooner had he got home had he written a lovely message as he donated £100 to our cause! Sadly I don't know him and have no way of contacting him to say thanks for such a kind and generous donation, so if you know of Ian Hudson, please let me know, I'd like to thank him.
I'd like to think if I hit the same problems someone else would try to do the same and help out, on this occasion I happened to be in a position to help out (I also carry a spare chain, so I could have provided that as a last resort too). I think it's moments like this that you can be a friend to someone you've never met and don't know but can feel genuinely good about it. What a lovely gesture, I'm so touched!
After the drama and a very brief stop and the final feed station I began the final 20 miles return led, and I pushed on knowing that I was well within the target time so I should be on track for a silver, my legs pumped and slowly but surely I began overtaking groups of riders, I really belted out the last 20 (at least by my standards) and felt pleased with how my stamina held out, and here's my certificate to prove it, over 26 minutes inside the Silver time and if I'd pushed a little harder (and been a bit quicker at the feed stations) I could have saved the extra 16 minutes I needed to get to Gold!
Lastly, and by no means least, many of you will have seen Brendon and I in Saturday's edition of the Echo, what a lovely write up. If you missed it, check out here:
Daily Echo Article
That's it for now, happy riding and don't forget, if you can lend a hand, why not, you'll feel all the better for it and you never know how someone may repay a kindness.
Thanks for reading