Surrey Cycle Sportive.

A great ride out with the Woking club today. We all signed up for “free” to do the Surrey cycle sportive. (As the club helps out with the Surrey half marathon we all get a free ride.) I got on the back of the fast group and the first 50 miles was at a crazy pace !!. Half the time it was all I could do to hang on. The 2nd half of the sportive I took it a a lot easier. On dismounting the bike at the second feed stop I freakishly twisted my knee. Just one of those stupid injuries you pick up. (its called getting old) I had to nurse the knee back to the finish and was quite glad to make it on two wheels.

On the other note, I tried out my new FLY6 camera, !! got some great footage from the front and rear of the bike.

Closed Road Events – Review.

I have been asked a number of times which was the best of the “closed road” events that I have completed. So let me sum up my thoughts on three of them.

Tour of Cambridgeshire
Velothon Wales
Ridelondon 100

Closed Road Events Overview.

If you have never done a closed road event it should be on your bucket list of things to do as a cyclist. These are always big organised events so you immediately get the feeling you are part of something huge. Banners, sponsors, tents and marquees will all get you in the right frame of mind for your ride. These events are always pre-register (you can’t turn up on the day and ride) So all your rides tend to build up towards the closed road event. Everything is classified as “training” rides being part of pre-work to the “closed road” event. Then there are the sheer number of participants. All different levels of cyclists with all manner of bikes and kit. Lots of nervous banter in the starting pens and everyone asking just how much training have you done etc.

So as you queue up to roll over the start line, you get the real sense you are participating in something different. Roll out the gate and you will notice a lot of people still riding on the left (the standard cycling position in the road) After a while people start to spread out and use the whole road. You soon realise the complete lack of motor traffic, just the gentle hum of the noise of rolling bike tires on the tarmac. The odd shout of “coming through” as a fast road train of bikes thunders through. Soon you find yourself on the back of a group of cyclists of similar ability and you look down and are staggered at the speed you are going. No traffic lights, the whole road to use for every corner, the group of cyclists who split into two streams to go around the roundabouts. (I always go the wrong way – just because I can). You can take every corner with the fastest line and with the size of the groups on the road you really get that “pro” experience.

The finish line is always the highlight, I defy anyone (even with smashed legs) not to have a little sprint down the final 100 meters with the sponsor boards and the gantry with the timing clock looming up.

So here is my take on the 3 rides….

Tour of Cambridge

The route:
Pan flat course out through the fens and flatlands around Peterborough. The roads are in good condition and off the beaten track. Lots of long straight open sections which are beautiful in the sun and light wind but could be every cyclists demise on a wet / windy day.

Organisation:
Not bad for their first event. Could do with a better checking in area and handing out your finishing medals etc. You can register on the morning, as it a 12:00pm start.

Facilities:
Nice big arena, plenty of parking. Needs to have more toilets and food areas as they were a bit oversubscribed.

The overall experience:
Cool “race” experience if you want it. Go off like a pro, get in a breakaway proper big UCI event or ride it as an “aggressive” sportive. Great experience if the weather is in your favour. Probably the easiest of the three rides (but not in a strong wind)

Velothon Wales

The route:
Flat 50 miles at the start followed by some nice big climbs in the 2nd half (including the iconic Tumble)
Roads in good condition with some fantastic scenery.

Organisation:
Well organised start pens, plenty of updates over email.

Facilities:
The expo was a little lacking, being outside and with only a few exhibitors and the food stops were a bit chaotic.

The overall experience:
Excellent ride, could be pretty hardcore in rain and bad weather definitely the most challenging of the three rides.

RideLondon 100

The route:
100 miles through London and Surrey. Three average climbs with one little kicker near the end at Wimbledon. Leafy lanes and some of the capitals iconic landmarks.

Organisation:
Very well organised, plenty of emails and glossy brochures.

Facilities:
Feed stations are very crowded, start and finish points are in different locations with a bag drop service.

The overall experience:
The gold event – due to the the number of entrants (25000) Its a bit of a pain to get to the start, and you are forced to register in the days before. The registration is in another part of the city. You get to sprint down the mall to Buckingham palace. !!! BIG EVENT ATMOSPHERE

Velothon Wales – 2015

So one week later we are up and at them again, another première closed road event the inaugural Velothon Wales. Another 140KM of beautiful closed roads through some stunning scenery and the bit that worries me the most – Mountains. I was riding this one with my brother again and with about 20 entrants from Woking CC. We stayed up in Cardiff the night before and got up early to stuff some energy breakfast down and then did a gentle ride up to the start. 100 meters from the front door of the travelodge my brother complains his rear derailieur is broken – DISASTER !!. It turns out that his fancy DI2 electronic gear shifters had become “unplugged”. After plugging the gears back into the electronic controller unit, things are up and running again. Hmmm all that fancy electronics – is the jury still out ?.

We meet up with the Woking CC guys and setup the big red road train out the start gate. The first 50 miles are pretty flat so it is not too bad to all keep as a group. The big hills then start to come thick and fast and we all splinter into survival mode. The Tumble climb was a deep long slog but the real killer was Caerphilly Mountain. This evil gradient comes right near the end and when there is little left in the legs I was hurting up there.

Another fantastic ride in some of the best scenery about. (shame there was one section someone had thrown pins on the road) but this did not ruin a brilliant event.

The Tour of Cambridgeshire Gran Fondo – 2015

Excitement mounts – the first closed road event of the year, The Tour Of Cambridgeshire. This is the first UCI sanctioned event in the UK, a continental Gran Fondo race over 135km. I have made the decision not to do so many cycling Sportives this year. The events are becoming so popular and on certain Sundays you can get two or more events using the same routes and this causes all sorts of chaos. The price of these rides has gone through the roof as well so I now pick my events carefully, choosing the “closed roads” events.

The Gran Fondo was a race, you get a timing chip, but your time starts from when the gun goes off, NOT from the time you cross the line. The top 25% in each age group get the option to qualify for the UCI world event later this year. I have no illusions of grandeur and my plan for the day was simply to have an enjoyable closed road ride. I was accompanied by my brother and friend from university, who was riding his first big event and would be the longest distance he had done on two wheels.

The course is pan flat with only a few inclines but the weather was fantastic with only a slight wind. The ride would be a very different affair if there had been a strong wind. My friend got the hang of drafting behind a group and we had a fantastic ride out.

An excellent event, and the video below tells the story.