Some things in life are certainties. Some things in life are less certain. Some are a combination. You can, for example, be certain that where Mr Jones is concerned, you can never be 100% certain of anything.
In preparation for my first organised cycling event, accompanied by my increasingly cycling-mad friend Jonesy, I had done plenty. I’d been training up and around Epping Forest in all weathers on a route that takes you up three different climbs twice. I had been averaging around 200km a week and had given myself a three-day rest period prior to the Wiggle New Forest 100 on Sunday 6th October.
|Bikes loaded and ready for a midnight dash a New Forest Holiday Inn.|
As it was, as Jonesy arrived in his gleaming 'pearlescent blue' Audi at 10.30pm in Walthamstow, ready for the drive to our hotel just outside of Southampton the night before our 8.30am start, I could feel the preparation slipping through my fingers. After around four hours sleep in a reasonably comfortable Holiday Inn, we headed towards New Park Farm on the outskirts of Lyndhurst, stopping off en route for breakfast at McDonalds.
As we neared the event’s starting point, the steady line of cars pulling into the grounds began to play havoc with our collective adrenalines and we began nervously laughing at what we were getting ourselves into. There was time for registration, a quick check of the bikes, a quick read through of all the good luck messages and we headed off to the start line, still laughing like a pair of schoolgirls.
Lyndhurst to Godshill
Finally calm after around twenty minutes of laughing, we finally get towards the front of the queue for the start line. We are penned-in in groups of around twenty to thirty riders and given a quick safety briefing. At this point I must admit I am worried at my lack of practice clipping in and out with my new cycle shoes. Before I have chance to remember what I'm doing, we’re off.
The group snakes out of the grounds slowly and onto the main A337 road northwards. The slow rise of Clay Hill appears and already the riders are beginning to shuffle themselves into varying strength groups. A group of riders with super-expensive equipment flies past, Jonesy moves tentatively up the line of riders, and I get bored with the lot of them and push on, bringing Jonesy and a group of braver riders with me.
Just after Lyndhurst, the first mini-hill arrives by Emery Down. The hill is a small affair akin to Crouch Hill in north London. Jonesy and I go full pelt up the hill with others seemingly taking it a lot easier. Either we’re overdoing it, or they’re being overly cautious.
|Sasha in the hazy sunrise, awaiting the start of the sportive.|
Hitting 43kmh on the decent, we begin to get the sensation of being on a giant countryside rollercoaster, a series of small undulations keeping the momentum of the riders going.
A little after the village of Bartley, the road slowly starts to climb over the next 7km. Admittedly its not the steepest of inclines with only a few moments where the gradient hits the 5% mark, but given the trouble with any form of incline that Jonesy had in January it is a relief to see him keep up the pace. As we approached the little sting towards the end of Furzley Lane I shoot off, Jonesy not far behind and a fair few of the earlier starters are caught and overtaken.
Then it is out into open moorland for a while. Taking my role as super-domestique seriously, I take the lead, allowing Jonesy a tow, and every so often pass him an energy gel from my supply and bark at him to take it.
The lush greenery along the Roger Penny Way seemed without limits. For a while it is as if we’ve veered off course with very few signs of life except the occasional wild horse. Even after a while there are no towns to blot the view, only occasional cars passing by in the opposite direction, and the occasional club rider overtaking at high speed.
After what seems like only a short period of time, around 30km in, we reach the first feeding station in the village of Godshill. We’re feeling good and feeling like our target of a ‘silver’ time of less than five hours to complete the 111km route is within our reach.
❘ Part Two: Godshill to Finish ⇒
❘ Part Two: Godshill to Finish ⇒
My ride activity data can be found on Strava here: http://www.strava.com/activities/87350025
My Strava profile can be found here: http://www.strava.com/athletes/1271231