Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Change of Pace – 105 mile Great Shakespeare Sportive.

Well I suppose I should start of by apologising to all those out there who have been enjoying my posts over the course the course of the year because its been an age since I have posted anything. This is down to a factor of reasons and many of you regular followers who have read my previous posts may have picked up on the fact that as the year wore on I began to fade physically. This is unfortunately down to a fairy unusual medical condition which I wont bore you all with but basically it has destroyed my racing performance. Thankfully, after months of waiting, I should begin some form of treatment later this month which will put me back on a level playing field for next year and if all goes to plan, I will be stronger that I have ever been. Up until that point, I decided after the RAS that I would knock the racing on the head for this year so as I could have a break from it all and enjoy the bike with no pressure.

This doesn't mean that the team has stopped racing though, oh no! After his awesome victory in the RAS, Tony has been on winning form since and has taken 2 more wins in the weeks proceeding the race. August is typically a quite month on the racing front but the team should be back in action come September and then soon after that we will be back in to the offseason, re-jigging the team slightly and maybe even bringing in some new riders!

Although I have not been racing my bike I have still been riding it and I have also been hitting the gym to work on a few problem areas and also give myself a new focus. I have been really enjoying just going out and getting in the miles in an old skool fashion. As it was, I found out only 2 days before the start of the event, the Great Shakespeare Sportive was back in town with its 100 mile and 100km rides to choose from. Well what better way to enjoy the miles than with a massive group of cyclists of all kinds of abilities and take in a new route with some killer climbs. Perfect.

Winchcombe Highstreet
Before the day of the race, Oops sorry, Sportive! I went out for a good 4 hr ride with some nice climbs but on reflection i maybe did a bit too much considering my plan for the following day. My grand idea was to not only ride the 100 mile route in a decent time but to also ride to and from the event. Since I have now flown the nest, another reason why the posts have been scarce, the ride from home to the HQ would be 12.5 miles and the same again on the way back. This means that if all goes to plan I should finish the day with 130 miles on the clock, this will be the most I have ever ridden in a single day. I’m game for that!

With pockets over flowing with food and treats including Fruit loaf with Jam, Malt loaf, Muesli Bars, Fig Rolls and the French Version of “B’N” biscuits, I headed out the door in to the some what clear skies and rode the 40 minute route to the HQ. Arriving at the HQ I was quite amused with what I saw; Teams of riders setting up the bikes which were placed in pro style bike stands, A couple of guys applying embrocation and a couple of pre event tactic discussions. I’m used to seeing this all the time at races but at a Sportive? Oh well, fair play to them, they take it seriously and they ride as hard as they can, they are after personal glory and what wrong with that?

The village of Snowshill
After fixing a pre ride puncture I headed out after waiting for the mass start to clear. I set myself the task of working my way through the hundreds of riders and join my mate who started at the front of the bunch. After about 2 miles there was a massive crash which thankfully i didn't get involved in but this dis encourage me to keep my wits about. After departing from the Stratford Manor Hotel of the Warwick Road, the route heads over in to Kineton and it was a great site seeing all of these cyclists taking over the whole area and then when I came to a few of the early climbs it just looks like carnage as hundreds of riders all bunch up and struggle to keep in forward motion. I opted to ride on the opposite side if the road to avoid any problems and pushed on edging closer to to the front which was still along way off yet.

After heading through Kineton and brushing past Sunrising Hill, the route point in the direction of Stow on the world but it takes the very scenic route! Passing through some lovely villages and some nice descents mixed with punchy climbs, tis was shaping up to be a great route. Also on the way towards Stow riders were faced wit the split whereby going right would take you down the 100km route and going left would keep you on track for the 100 miles. I bared left sticking with my plan but as I would later find out, my mate who I was chasing and still continued to chase after this point actually took the right option which meant I was never to catch him. The big Girl!

After reaching Stow on the Wold, the highest town in the Cotswolds, another challenge arrived to make the ride that little bit more interesting; The Rain! for the first 30 minutes it just trickled from the sky but it did make some of the steep twisty Cotswold descents pretty hairy. After stow I rode with another chap all the way Winchcombe, this was nice because although I had been passing riders for the last 3 hrs I was essentially on my own so a bit of company was nice. As we rode along the ridge high above the town of Winchcombe, the roan began to hammer down which made the descent in to the town a very nasty experience. Although my companion was beginning to suffer, i thought it best to stay with him until we had made it to the bottom, this way if one of us had an off there would be another rider there to help. As it was we both got down safely and pushed on through the town centre, passed the feed zone and turned right to take on the first main climb of the day; Castle St.

The well know sight of
Broadway Tower
I rode this climb for the first time few weeks ago a suffered like a dog but on todays rid it would be quite so long because after the steep section the route turns left which shortens the climb up somewhat. As I hit the climb I waved good by to my companion of the last few miles as I power on. The amount of water that was flowing down the road was unbelievable, it was a waterfall, not like one but actually was one, If you rode in the current you could actually feel it impeding you forward progress! Once over the top, rain still pouring, the arrows took us over to Stanway which is another great climb but today we would be going down it.

At the bottom of Stanway, heading toward Broadway High-street, I meet a rider in Node 4 Giordana kit. I rode with him for a while and talked about al sorts but he was mainly asking me about racing as he was looking to start racing for the first time next season. Scott if you reading this, Go for it, you'll rip it up! As it was he was suffering from cramps and when we hit the 2nd main climb of he day, Snowshill, which is one of my favourite training climbs, I waved goodbye to him and pushed on on my own. Now with a good number of miles on the clock I was beginning to feel it my legs but i was determined to keep a good pace and finish in a respectable time.

After passing through Chipping Campden and right past the RPC Headquarter, we were lead over to Hidcote Manor and eventually to the foot of the last climb of the day; the infamous Marmite climb that is Larkstoke! you either love it or you hate although i don't know to many people that love it that's for sure. Its a real Cotswolds climb which takes place on a deserted road which is very rugged and has some crazy steep pitches and drags on forever over the top. I should mention that a few miles before this climb, the 100km and 100 mile route join back up so now there were lots more riders around. When i turned on to the climb I looked up and it was like the cycling equivalent of WW2! Masses of riders lying at the side if the road, loads opting to walk and other swerving violently  across the road.  To be fair it is a really tough climb and coming after 80 miles I also found it hard going. I grappled the tops of my bars, pulling hard as i thrusted my legs downward in an effort to keep the bike moving forward. Actually it wasn't as bad as I though and one at the top the route pointed you back in the direction of he finish.

The view from the top of Larkstoke looking back towards Quinton
The next 20 miles of so were a bit of a haze because but I know i was riding pretty hard to keep under the 5:45:00 marker and with a bit of Fabian Cancellara invisible TT bar style riding i did indeed make it back to base in a time of 5:43:00 which I was pretty happy with. The whole event was amazingly well organised, a lot of people think that the entry fee for sportives are expensive but bearing in mind what you get; Timing Chips, 3 food stations, perfect signage and marshalling the whole way round, a medal, a BBQ and massage, its not really that bad and its all for a good cause.

So at this point I had 117.5 miles on the clock and all i had to do now was ride the 12.5 miles back home. Sounds easy but my god was it far from it. Hungry, tired and faced with a headwind, I had to ride most of the way back in the small ring and after what felt like a life time I pulled up outside my converted Wagon Shed (yes you read right!) and was filled with content after looking at my Garmin; 130.9 miles in a time of 7hrs 20 minutes, the longest I have ever ridden and not exactly the easiest of routes. For the next 3-4 hrs after finishing I don't think i actually stopped for breath whilst munching my way through my entire houses contests of food but it was worth it. I’ll be back next year, I might even officially enter it as well!

Ride Stats:
Total Distance - 131.0 Miles
Total Ride Time - 7:22:17
Ave Speed - 18.0 mph
Ave Power - 184 watts
Norm Power - 205 watts
TSS - 395
Energy - 4722 Kcal

Time taken to complete Sportive - 5:50:00 (Gold Medal, Get In!!!)
Sportive Ave speed - 18.1 mph.