04/06/2017 - Booked myself into the Gran Fondo Sportive at the TOC 2017 as I'd never completed a closed road sportive before. There's a whole weekend of cycling events/races and it bills itself as "UK's only UCI Gran Fondo World Series ". The Gran Fondo Sportive was going to be 80 miles of closed road joy.
As is my way I got there stupidly early, if you're wondering how early well the race started at 12:30 and I was parked up in the car park at 0600 am. Still it gave me time to register, have some breakfast and a little kip. By 12:00 (the official start) I've been waiting at the start line for about 15 minutes and hoping that it was not going to rain. 12:30 and we're finally off. I'd been hearing horror stories from last year about it being so crowded that loads of people were crashing. One chap said out of 12 of his group last year 4 of them crashed because of being bumped at the start. So it was with some trepidation that I started to wind up the speed. I need not of worried as the organisers had obviously taken note and by staggering the competitors into starting pens, based of expected average speed, and allowing time between gate releases I found my way quite happily through.
It felt very weird at first having both sides of the road to ride and going round a roundabout the "wrong" way was very odd. It was fantastic though and I had to stop myself from pushing too hard as I did not want to burn out. At first it was the usual thing of passing slower riders and being over taken by faster ones (some people I constantly met along the way where I'd over take them, then them me and so on).
After about 20 miles I was over taken by a pony tailed chap and I found that he was going at a pace slightly faster than I was so I kept on his rear and enjoyed the pull along. After a while I pushed in front to take my go at the lead to give him a rest but he seemed not to get this and just immediately overtook and took the lead again. Tried to lead a few times more then gave up as he clearly just wanted to be in front. About half way there though he bonked, dropped back, and I never saw him again.
I had decided not to use the food stops and sailed past the first one, then sailed past the second one but by the third one I was starving. So I pulled in and wolfed down a sausage roll and a chocolate bar. After 10 minutes I set off again. On leaving the food stop I had a laugh as I was held up a little by a lady who'd somehow managed to get through the road blocks etc to get onto the road. The motorbike police were not happy and were doing their bit to get her off the road - all quite amusing if somewhat dangerous. Still fueled up I set off with renewed vigor.
The last 20 miles were tough as I didn't want to lose time as I wanted to see how fast I could cycle such a large distance without road traffic to hinder me. When I get tired my mind starts to wander and as a runner at these times I'm not adverse to spotting a nice derriere to follow to keep me focused. On the bike I found myself admiring nicely turned calf muscles. Sad really.
So it's 15 miles to go, I'm tiring and the wind has picked up and Cambridgeshire is open and flat. I getting chatting to a lady and we push each other on. Suddenly I get a surge of energy and push on and pretty soon I'm on my own again .... relatively (there's thousands out cycling).
The finish seemed to take forever to appear but when it did the elation was incredible. I flew to the finish like I was winning the TDF and celebrated accordingly. The two ladies I passed on the finish line, my arms aloft, were clearly impressed (well that's how I;m choosing to read their expressions).
So what an amazing day. I finished in 4 hours 28 minutes - so taking off the 10 minutes for the food stop that approximately 4 hours 18 minutes so 19 mph on average for the day. Not bad for me, a long way off the good cyclists but I'm happy. What I did learn was that I'm nothing special on the flats, nothing special up the hills, rather fast coming down (no one overtook me and I overtook loads) and particularly fast on the corners (probably a lifetime of motorcycling perhaps?). So an excellent day and I'd do it again though it would be nice to find someone to rode with me.