Friday, 7 December 2012

Wight Winter Sportive 02/12/12

Firstly, thanks for visiting the blog, all visitors, new or returning are gratefully received on this blog! Please feel free to tell your friends about it if you find it even remotely interesting or it simply passes away 20 minutes of the working day :)

Secondly, this has turned into a somewhat large post, so here's the the executive summary for those of you who don't want to read all of this blog post. The Pixie has completed another sportive, this time on the Isle of Wight, accompanied by some great friends, he did the 100k route and completed it in a "cycling time" of 3 hours 57 minutes.

Here's the full version of the post, settle down with a cup of tea and a slice of cake....
It's Sunday morning on the 2nd December, it's 5:30am and I'm sitting in my car at the "ferry port" at Lymington waiting for the first ferry over to the Isle of Wight to take part in the Wiggle Wight Winter sportive. I'm also wondering the following;
  • Why did I leave home quite so early?
  • Why did the AA route planner lie to me and say it would take me 2 hours and 20 minutes for a journey that at best took 1 hour 30 minutes?
  • Can I claim financial compensation from the AA for the hour of much needed sleep that their route planner has deprived me of?
  • How many layers will I need for today's ride, given that it is plainly and literally freezing cold outside?
  • Have I got time to grab an hours sleep while I'm waiting for my 6:45am ferry?
I'm also feeling quite pleased with myself as I make myself some instant porridge with hot water from my newly purchased thermos flask. This is taking my sportive event planning almost to a professional level with me being able to eat my breakfast at the optimum time before the start of the event to ensure that I have adequate energy reserves for the ride ahead - If your reading this Mr Brailsford, feel free to pinch this marginal gain technique for Team Sky and feel free to ring me about my other breakthrough in nutrition timing, which involves bread, peanut butter, a banana and a sandwich bag.

As it turns out I end up going over on an early ferry with the event organisers and find myself with about an hour and a half in which to get the bike ready, finish putting my upper layers on and get myself signed on for the event. Hmm, that's about an hour more than I actually need, it's amazing how much surfing you can do on an iphone in an hour when there is nothing else to do.

Ok, I sense that you the reader might be more interested in hearing about the actual event rather than my start to what was a really quite long day, so I'll cut to the chase and get on with it.....

One of the great things about making the effort to ride sportives in different parts of the UK is the fact that not only do you get to meet some really nice people, you also get to ride through some great bits of the UK with pretty stunning scenery. The Isle of Wight was no exception and the sunny weather we were blessed with was an added bonus. It was cold though, have I mentioned that yet?

The Wight Winter sportive is part of the Wiggle series of events and it provides for two distances, Standard 43 mile and Epic 62 mile (100k). As is becoming the norm for me at the moment I had entered the 100k Epic as part of my training for next years l'etape, I was meeting four other people at the event Alex and Jane who were going to do the Standard route and Simon and Dave who were going to do the Epic route. The loose plan was to all start together and try and stay together until the route spilts into two different directions with the Epic route going off on one of two additional loops that would add the additional 20 odd miles to the Standard route. 

It was particularly cold (have I mentioned that before?) and the pre event riders briefing contained warnings of difficult and icy conditions throughout the course, great, not only was it cold but it was also going to be slippery out there. Cautious descending and keeping a constant look out for the tell tale shine of ice would be the order of the day for the first couple of hours.

The event organisation was really slick and groups of riders were allowed to set off as soon as they were ready. This worked particularly well as riders were arriving in large groups just after each ferry arrived from the mainland and an added bonus was that there was much less bunching out on the route than is sometimes evident when riders are released in large groups.

After a bit of messing around which involved two of our group missing their ferry and one of our group having to dash off and buy some medicine for an "upset tum" we managed to get away in a fairly small group of riders and headed out onto the course, as predicted it was really, really cold and the roads were showing evidence of frost and black ice. Despite the cold weather (have i mentioned that before?) everybody was in good spirit and their was plenty of banter in the "peleton" as the group made its way towards the first proper incline of the day.

Simon and Pixie enjoying some banter

The first incline of the day was the point at which our small groups plan to ride together for the first part of the course fell apart. The three of us on the Epic route were all feeling the cold and as a result our pace up the first hill was shall we say "fairly brisk" resulting in the "Epics" and "Standards" getting spilt up much earlier than anticipated. following some deliberation at the top of the hill when the "Standards" arrived it was decided that the "Epics" would push on at their own pace and hopefully see the "Standards" either out on the course later in the day or at the finish.

First real hill of the day for Pixie

So what was the first part of the route like? The Epic and Standard routes are exactly the same until a short distance after the first feed station and to be honest I think the early hills took a few people by surprise and there was much heavy breathing, panting and even some cursing on the first few hills of the day. The first part of the route is a good balance between long(ish) gradual inclines and flat(ish) stretches culminating in what one fellow competitor was heard to describe as follows "Christ, how did we end up in the Alps on an alpine climb complete with hair pin bends?" I'd have to say that whilst it was a long and at times steep drag, I suspect the Ventoux maybe a touch longer and harder to climb up. However, it certainly made the Pixie sweat and resulted in a quick stop at the top to take a layer of clothing off. By now it was just Simon and myself riding together as we seemed to have inadvertently dropped Dave without realising it. 

Somebody has a sense of humour

Shortly after this climb was the first feed station, which I have to say was really well stocked with "eat me now" foods such as flap jacks, cakes, banana's etc and "eat me later" foods such as energy gels. Definitely the best stocked and best run feed station I've encountered in my brief sportive career. Whilst at the feed station Dave caught up with us and we were able to set off on the next part of the route as a reunited trio. 

The next part of the route was a little different from the first part and narrow roads and villages featured much more than on the first part of the route which had at times followed the wonderfully wide and scenic coast road. Within a short space of time the route was once more climbing in a relatively gradual manner initially through country lanes and then through a built up area, with some "interesting" intermittent steeper sections on junctions and bends. It was at this point that Simon and I realised that we had once more "dropped" Dave. After about five minutes of hanging around we decided that we would push on and we (sincerely) hoped that if Dave didn't catch up with us, that he would have found another group to ride with. (more of Dave's adventures at the end of this post)

"Where did you get that hat, where did you get that hat?......."
(lyrics from a very old song for those of you that are very young and don't recognise it!) 
After a while the Epic route rejoined the Standard route and Simon and I were reunited with Alex and Jane who were on the Standard route and making their way around at a comfortable pace. A short stop to eat a few jelly babies and flap jacks whilst having a quick natter with them was followed by Simon and I leaving them to wait a while for Dave whilst we pressed on with our "Epic" journey. Jane has said that she will contribute a guest blog post detailing how her first sportive went, and that will published on here in the near future. 
The "Standards" having a jolly time - Is Alex doing some weird Peter Crouch robot impression?
The rest of the route to the second feed station and beyond was a mixture of what I would describe undulating terrain interspersed with some climbs that were hard enough to make most people work reasonably hard whilst not being so long or steep that they would make the route unenjoyable and plain hard work. Road surfaces were pretty mixed in terms of quality and the threat of ice and slippery road conditions prevailed until around midday. Both Simon and I were agreed that the second half of the route was well planned and provided a challenge that was sufficient to keep the semi serious competitor or serious competitor working hard without breaking their spirit with relentless or steep climbs. One aspect of the second part of the route that we were both agreed on was that the road surfaces were acceptable, however they were in places poor enough to have a significant contributing effect to overall fatigue levels as the the end of the route was approached.  

I can't comment on the quality of the second feed station as Simon and I elected to ride on and get ourselves to the finish a little quicker (I would guess this probably saved us 10-15 minutes on our final finishing time) Judging by the size of the crowd that was gathered around it, I would say that in all probability it would have been as good as the first.

One aspect of this event that is worth recording is the real sense of camaraderie and good spirits that was evident from all of the other competitors that we encountered during the day. On the whole it looked like everybody was enjoying the ride and enjoying the banter which always seems to happen as individuals and small groups form up to ride as a bigger group until road conditions or pace split the group up again.

It was cold. Have I mentioned that before?
(Might have to re-think the fluoro beanie hat?) 

After a fairly concerted effort over the last 15 miles or so Simon and I finished the 100K Epic route in 4 hours 19 minutes, of which 3 hours 57 minutes was actual riding time. Alex and Jane finished the Standard route in 4 hours 10 minutes.

So, what about Dave? Dave had what can only be described as an eventful day. It turned out that the reason that we "dropped" Dave after the first feeding station because he suffered a puncture and lost time replacing the punctured inner tube with the spare one he was carrying. This first puncture was then followed by another one about three miles further up the road, which caused a longer delay as Dave did not have another spare and had to ring the Wiggle service van and ask them to bring one out to him which they duly did. Wiggle's excellent back up support for Dave continued, when upon arrival at the second feeding station he was presented with a spare tube to take with him in case he suffered yet another puncture on the last leg of the route. Understandably, as Dave had lost a significant amount of time waiting for the service van, he elected to join the Standard route rather than the the Epic route for the final run into the finish and he finished with a time of 5 hours 17 minutes.

Dave out on his own prior to becoming the puncture king

Overall impression of the Wight Winter sportive? A well organised event that provided a route which had just the right blend of hills, descents and undulating terrain to make the event a challenge without being a monumental challenge. Everybody I saw on the route and at the finish appeared to have enjoyed themselves and I didn't see too many people grinding cleats on the hills. Would I do this sportive again? Yes, absolutely. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, it provides the right balance of challenge with an enjoyable riding experience that is probably very important to a lot of riders at this time of year when fitness levels may not be quite as high as they were a couple of months ago.

Thanks to Wiggle and the team from UK Cycling events for putting on a well run and enjoyable event.  

As always thanks for taking the time to drop by and read the Pixies ramblings and I hope you are able to pop back some time in the future to see how the Pixies journey to l'etape 2013 is progressing.

Dha weles diwettha


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