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June and July are very busy months for me this year after a slow start to the season.
Starting off with the Tour of Cambridgeshire, a Gran Fondo World Series event & also a World Championship qualifier (essentially the world road riding champs for amateur riders) later in the year. This was reserved for the top 25% of finishers in each age group.
I was fortunate enough to be offered a ride in this year’s event & it’s one of, if not the largest in the UK of its kind on closed roads with around eight thousand riders participating.
The event is open to anyone & everyone, with the main event being a race at the front & a challenge event further back with a choice of a shorter leisure course for anyone not wanting to attempt the full 130km (80miles or so) distance.
Everyone was there for their own personal challenge & I met up with an old friend who was taking part as it was the longest ride he’d ever attempted & also only his second ever group ride.
I decided to enter the ‘race’ section to push myself, but also to use it as a training ride for my next adventures.
The day came & to my surprise & relief, the weather was on our side, with the sun shining & a slight breeze it looked like everyone was going to have pretty much perfect conditions for it.
The organisation on arrival appeared excellent & we were soon parked up, registered & number attached to the bike, so time to chill for a while before the start & time to go & see the guys on the Sealskinz stand in the Expo area.
The event was due to start at 12, but the pens with the different age groups in for the race opened at 11 & I wanted to be as close to the front as I could be to ensure I didn’t get boxed in at the start.
Once in the pen there was time to have a look around at some of the other rides & see what bikes they were on (sad, but what can I say, I’m a bike geek) I was riding my amazing Cube Litening C:62 with a set of Enve deep section carbon rims, which not only look stunningly fast, do offer a measurable advantage on such a flat course due to the aerodynamic improvements compared to a conversional rim.
Eventually the flag dropped & away we went, 1200 riders in the race event set out on a main road out of Peterborough & into the quieter lanes.
The pace was quick to say the least, as I managed to go with the lead group of riders at around 27mph average for the first hour! I realised soon after that I’d be unable to sustain that pace for the full distance & so reluctantly had to make the decision to ease off the pace & drop out of the group.
The second group soon caught up, so I went on with those riders, as it is far easier to maintain a strong pace in a group than trying to ride alone, especially on such flat terrain.
The pace seemed as relentless as ever & riders started to drop out of the group at fatigue began to set in, especially as the heat had risen to around 25 degrees in the clear blue skies above.
Through some lovely little villages, it was great to see the locals coming out to support in such numbers.
The last 15 miles seemed very tough, the heat was taking it’s toll on me, along with the pace & I’d almost run out of water (I’d chosen not to stop at any of the feed stations to refill)
At last, the signs began in the run in towards the finish, with a count down at 5km, which seemed to be the longest 5k I’d ever ridden!
The showground soon then came into view & the last push for the finish.
I completed the ride in 3:32:59, with an average speed of over 23.5mph & average heart rate of 163bpm, so quite an intense ride. Maybe not the longest or steepest, but relentless because of it.
Later after having something to eat & a rest, a message came though of my phone informing me that I had in fact qualified for the Gran Fondo World Champs held later this year in Perth, Australia!
Whether I’ll go or not, I don’t yet know, but it’s a great feeling to know I was in the top 25% of my age group (which I’m at the top end of!)
A massive thank you has to go to Sealskinz as always for the incredible ongoing support & with the new summer road kit-the most comfortable gloves I’ve ever worn on a bike & the Trailhead Bicycle Co. for the bike & wheels, the pace & reliability of that machine is incredible.
My next challenge is this coming weekend with the Dragon Duathlon, which involves cycling & running the entire length of Wales from the Isle of Anglesey down to Cardiff Bay, including running over the three highest mountains in Wales in less than 24 hours. I think it might be a tough day…