The focal point.
Date: Saturday 21st February 2015
Distance: 129.4km | Elevation: 1,149m
Start kms: 412.0km | Finish kms: 541.4km | % complete: 5.4%
It was as far back as October 2014 that I signed up to a Wiggle-organised event known as the No Excuses Sportive, which a couple of friends had entered two years previously.
The concept is an excellent one: participants are invited to sign-up for a 130km Sportive in the middle of February, a time where it’s widely expected (and accepted) that you won’t have been putting in all that many miles given the weather. It’s an opportunity to take part in your first substantial ride of the year and get in some much-needed base miles. By way of incentive, Wiggle not only ensure a relatively flat route, but also wave the entry fee if you actually turn up. If you don’t, it goes to charity.
There really are no excuses.
That said, fast forward to January 2015 and I was doing a pretty good job of finding one. With my leg as it was, the prospect of taking part in this felt far off and somewhat unrealistic.
I think my physio sensed this and, rather than pander to my pessimism, chose to capitalise on it. He suggested that I use it as the incentive that justified the painful and time-consuming daily exercises he insisted I endure.
I fell for it hook, line and sinker. This became my focal point.
His methods may have been somewhat underhand, but the results spoke for themselves.
When the Saturday morning came, I was on the start line. Flanked by three of my friends, Gorrod (who I’d be riding with), Hendo and Jamey (who would be riding it together and meeting us at the finish as this was Jameys first Sportive event), we were all ready to go.
The ride itself provided an excellent circular route that took in the flat and expansive countryside that surrounds Huntingdon. Although uncovered and unprotected for the duration, the weather was generally on our side and Gorrod and I only had to contend with the headwind, although at times this felt relentless.
That said, there were was one point where the wind we cursed briefly became the wind we thanked. As we turned a bend, we found it firmly behind us, pushing us along at over 40kph for several kilometres. It was such a welcome break that it almost felt like we were floating along.
As important as the race route and the scenery, though, were the rest stops: a chance to uninhibitedly fill your face with all manner of sweet and savoury snacks whilst not worrying (or at least not caring about) the effects.
Jelly beans. Nachos. Bananas. Peanuts. Dairy Milks. Flapjacks. Powerbars.
You name it, I probably threw one back whilst I told myself it was essential in getting me on to the either the next stop or the finish. I was sure, too, not to overlook what has become a signature Wiggle event snack: the fig roll.
Show me a ride snack more potent or perfectly formed and I will not believe you.
I didn’t set out to break any records on the day and, crossing the finish line after 130km, it’s safe to say that I didn’t. What I did do is confirm that I was definitely capable of tackling longer distances again – Gorrod is deserving of considerable kudos for having the patience to stay with me throughout
I was also lucky enough to see Jamey cross the line of her first Sportive in an outrageously respectable time of 06:04:16. This is made all-the-more impressive by the fact it was approximately twice the furthest distance she’d every cycled before the day itself.
As we packed our bikes onto the back of the car before packing ourselves inside it, it immediately started to hail heavily. We dodged a round, ice-shaped, gravity-propelled bullet there.
And on which note, final thanks are owed for the shouldering of responsibility for driving to and from Huntingdon. That fell to the ever-reliable, closet One Direction fan, Hendo: