Standing at the side of the Leicestershire roads yesterday afternoon it hit home to me why Cycle Sportives had become so popular.
Here were a group of pro and elite riders suffering over the same roads as I had done one day previously.
Make no bones about it, the “Discover Rutland” sportive had been one of my hardest days on a bike. A ten mile detour over some route arrow confusion hadn’t helped my performance but I still felt a marked sense of pride coming back into Oakham to finish. And I wondered how many of the other Saturday riders stood out in the Sunday sun reliving their ride and watching some of Europe’s best have difficulty on the same climbs.
I loved the feeling of being part of something collective. A feeling that however much I love riding time trials you don’t get with them. I pushed on with a group doing the 100 mile event before splitting off with a cheery wave and exchange of “Good Lucks”.
The first challenge was Cuckoo Hill near the A606. It was narrow, tree lined at first and steep . But I was going ok and got over without major drama. Same with the next hill before going off course and getting on the race route proper for the Sunday. By the time I arrived at the mid way feed, I had come the long way round and 25 miles was actually 30 on my GPS.
The next few miles were hard as people started to overtake me and morale was in my boots. Launde Abbey came and went with a real struggle and three climbs with gradients of over 16.5% were in the legs before a bit of flat allowed me to recover.
The problem had been that in the hills I couldn’t get enough time between climbs to have a break. It was uphill really slowly then quick 2 minute descent before aiming for the next peak.
The final two major challenges were Nevill Holt (steep at first) and then Kings Hill (steep all the way). I found myself alone again going into the last 6 miles (after more arrow issues had seen some other riders go off course) with no water or food and legs and arms like jelly.
It was great to get to the finish and collapse on the floor!
To go out on the course next day was a special feeling and it brought all of the painful memories back into my mind. But also foremost in my mind was that I had trodden in the footsteps of some of the best riders we have, and that is great feeling to have.