Dark surrounded me. Then it hit and it hit hard, right in the stomach. It made a right mess of me. As the lights flicked on that fist of nerves making a mess of my stomach did not disappear. It was the morning of the Wiggle New Forest sportive. Today was the day the 100-mile ride was finally (hopefully) going to be conquered.
The 100-mile (or century) ride had remained elusive to me despite being determined in the New Year that at least 10 would be completed. Fed up of not achieving any of my set fitness goals and needing a challenge myself and Tom signed up for Wiggle’s New Forest Epic ride. At the time it didn’t seem like a bad idea to spend a day cycling through New Forest’s beautiful rolling landscape.
Now the day was here and I wasn’t so sure. Looking at the clock 5.30AM glared back at me. There was no time to be hanging around – although collapsing back into bed seemed the more appealing option.
Arriving at the venue the queue of cars to get in was huge – this was obviously a popular event. It took us another half hour to pull into a car parking space and by then it was 7.30AM. Hurrying to get the bikes out of the car and collect all the kit we needed we walked up to registration. The queue for the start was pretty big when we checked in but after the necessary toilet stop it had doubled. Yet, I’m glad we joined when we did as it then doubled again behind us in no time. With 15 riders being let loose every 2 minutes we crossed the line at dead on 9.15AM, which seemed slightly absurd – we had to be back by 5PM.
We started fast – much faster than I wanted or even thought I was capable of. We didn’t stay much below 20mph for the first 15 miles as the crowd dragged us along. Wary of going too hard and then bonking I attempted to slow up but it just didn’t work. The roads were beautiful and rolling and speed just came too easily.
It was my first sportive and to this day I’m not convinced that I really enjoyed riding with all those people close by. There were some really bad cyclists – just like you get bad drivers – these people had so little regard for other road users that there were moments that I became quite angry. My main gripe though was that many riders had a tendency to overtake and then slow down – WHAT? WHY? Many cycled so close to me, too, that I felt like I was being pushed into the ditch. This also meant that, upsettingly, I did not film much as I needed both hands securely on bars and brakes.
My stuffed pockets soon became much lighter as I ate and ate and ate. To start with it felt like I was forcing cardboard down my throat – I just did not want to eat. It served me well though as my energy levels were high throughout the entire race and even managed some singing to boost Tom along in the last 10 miles. Tom and unsuspecting unfortunate fellow cyclists were treated to a sterling round of Grease’s You’re the one that I want.
Quite honestly I was surprised by just how good I felt throughout the whole thing and part of me thinks I could have continued. In fact, I was online straight away as we drove off to see whether there were any more to sign up for. In some respects it seemed like a lot of effort but the overall thrill of succeeding and being a part of a larger community was so fulfilling. It was so wonderful seeing such a range of people there and having a go. We even passed a few doing the Epic ride on mountain bikes. Well, my lovely fellow cyclists, kudos to you because it’s certainly something that I wouldn’t even consider. I hope you managed to get back before the 5 o’clock cut off.