It’s the experience you pay for. Why else would you pay to go for a bike ride? It’s easy enough to plan your own – and with much less fuss. There’s an undeniable happy buzz in the air and as I sit watching the first of the riders roll in, I’m left in no doubt that it’s the experience, organisation and community around the ride. These riders must have done the Short 35 mile route to be in so soon – I’m positive only some kind of super-human could complete the Standard ride (next available distance) of 80 miles in the time passed so far.
We had come up to ride the Forest of Bowland sportive, set up by UK Cycling events. Both me and Tom have (rapidly approaching) cycling events later in the year so we had signed up for the Epic ride – the longest ride available at 100 miles with over 8000ft of climbing. ‘Why are you sat writing this then instead of cycling?’ I hear you ask. Good question. And my answer is the reason why my reservation about these sportives has changed.
The day is beautiful and we didn’t even need to worry about pre-loading our Garmin’s with the route as it’s all laid out. There wasn’t even much of a queue – a completely different experience from the New Forest ride we’d been to last year. It’s much tighter today – maybe because it’s a smaller event. Anyway, everything seems to be running smoothly and the day is stonking. Although chilly, there’s no wind and the blue skies are endless. It is truly the perfect day to be riding.
There always seems to be a ‘but’ with me – something I truly hate. On our ride last weekend, my knee had a bit of a tantrum and basically decided it had had enough. Having had a week of resting it I hoped to be able to still ride in this sportive – even if I completed the Short ride instead of the Epic. It wasn’t to be and at about 8 miles in I started to feel a similar sensation in my right knee and by mile 10 I was struggling to put any power through it at all, placing all the stress on my left leg. Now, that is a recipe for disaster and I needed to make a decision. Do I struggle through the remaining 25 miles, with all the climbing involved with that, or do I turn back? Deep down I knew that if I didn’t turn back I would make it even worse so, swallowing my humiliation at only riding 10 miles, I turned back and let Tom crack on.
Pedalling extremely slowly and in a low gear I steadily made my way back. It wasn’t long before one of the event vans passed, checking all was well on route. He stopped immediately, realising something was probably amiss, if a bike with an event number was riding the wrong way. I’d at least thought I would make it back to the event site (make it up to a cheeky 20 mile ride) but the offer of a lift back filled me with a bit too much relief to say no to. To my detriment, I’ve learned in the past that saying no to offered help and struggling through simply doesn’t work. There’s no respect to be had in injuring yourself for the sake of it. So, I said yes. Packing my bike into the van, I was driven back to the start and had the chance to speak to the medic. I really can’t get away from needing to see a sports physio now…
This event has been a whole different kettle of fish to the New Forest event. Don’t get me wrong, the New Forest ride was one of the best I’ve had, but it was a big event and I think it showed. Today has been wonderful for how much smaller it has been and I was very appreciative of all the help they’ve given me with checking I’m good and it was great to know the van is there for support.