Blog Post

This weekend the NEC hosted The Cycle Show and in partnership with The Tour of Britain the organisers included a brand new sportive. The Tour Ride Cycle Show Sportive featured two distances, a 96 km challenge ride and a 150 km pro ride. This morning I rode the 150 km pro ride and apart from the gusting winds I quite enjoyed it. The route took in some of the finest countryside and best known locations in Warwickshire and although it wasn’t particularly hilly, having not ridden my road bike since July meant the distance was challenge enough.

The ride manual for today stated it was an 8:00am start with riders setting off in groups of 50 at 3 minute intervals. I’m not sure how many people registered for today’s rides but when I got to the start at 8:30am I was one of only half a dozen cyclists. I’d expected this to be a busy sportive but perhaps the weather had put people off. The weather wasn’t bad, a bit chilly, a bit windy, but it was dry and pretty much what we’ve come to expect for this time of year.

The ride set off from underneath The Tour of Britain gantry, which was used by the previous evening’s SuperCrit race, and left the NEC for Meriden. Meriden is traditionally know as the centre of England and located on the village green is the National Cyclists’ Memorial, commemorating all the cyclists who gave their lives during the First and Second World Wars. The route then continued on back lanes to Kenilworth, notable for its castle whose origins reach back to the 12th century, and on to a long straight section that took the route south along Fosse Way towards the Cotswolds.

In the opening 10 miles or so I cycled with the small group I’d set off from the NEC with and although I enjoyed the company I had push on before we got to Kenilworth. I calculated that at the pace we were riding I wouldn’t finish until 3pm and I’d arranged to meet my wife outside the show at 2pm. Despite quite a strong headwind and a missed left turn (entirely my own fault, the signage today was excellent) by the time I reached the Cotswolds I was making good progress.

When I reached the halfway point at Shipston-on-Stour I was feeling good and a more respectable 1:30pm finish was looking likely. I continued to ride well all the way to Chipping Campden, the southernmost point of the ride, and the climb out of the village up Saintbury Hill didn’t pose a problem. The run down the other side was another matter though because on the descent I was stopped in my tracks, literally, when I was catapulted over the handlebars.

In my defence I’ve spent the last couple of months riding my motorbike rather than cycling and I simply misjudged my speed, or more precisely my braking. I never had a chance of making the left and right handers towards the bottom of the hill and the best I could do was scrub off as much speed as possible and look for somewhere soft to land. I was lucky. My crash was like a gymnasts dismount and although I was thrown over the bars and gambolled, once I think, I landed on my feet, unscathed. I wasn’t the only person to crash here though.

When I looked up there were two guys comforting an earlier victim of the bend who was sitting down few feet away from where I ended up. She’d over cooked the corner too and although a bit shaken she told me that she was fine. I picked up my bike, put my chain back on, and went on my way shaking my head and picking out hundreds of those tiny sticky balls you find in hedgerows. I never really regained my momentum after crashing and even with a helping tailwind the next 25 miles were a bit of a struggle and the ride through a busy Stratford-upon-Avon was a bit of chore.

In comparison the final 10 miles, including the run back into and around the NEC, were quite pleasant. I seemed to recover a bit towards the end of the ride but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a relief when I caught a glimpse of the finish line just outside The Cycle Show. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and given my lack of preparation I probably should have done the shorter challange ride today instead. Mind you I rode well enough and thoroughly enjoyed the route, plus I made it back in plenty of time to meet my wife and take a look at the show.

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