The Wiggle New Forest 100 Sportive: getting across the finishing line

When I signed up to do the New Forest 100 Sportive, organised by sports retailer Wiggle, I was still buzzing from having completed the Surrey 46. I had enjoyed that ride so much I wanted to compete in a similar event before the summer was out.

And so that is how I found myself being chauffeured to the New Forest by Mr London Cycling Diary late one Friday night in September — destination Premier Inn, Ferndown, about 15 minutes drive from the venue at Somerley House, in Ringwood. (The things you do when you have a bike, a crazy idea to ride it 54 miles through unfamiliar territory and a willing enabler.)

car

When the next morning dawned it was warm (if not particularly sunny) and dry, the kind of conditions that are perfect for cycling. Well, that’s what I thought.

queue

start-line

When I eventually hit the road (after queuing for at least an hour to get to the start line), I realised I hadn’t factored in the wind; this event was going to be bloody hard work. It wasn’t exactly blowing a gale, but because much of the route was on exposed heathland there were a lot of crosswinds threatening to take the bike out from under me. And when there weren’t crosswinds, there were headwinds. And when there weren’t headwinds there were blustery winds. And… well… you get the idea.

The scenery, of course, helped compensate for the difficult cycling conditions, although I could have done with a few less hills.

I loved cycling through vast open heathlands, tall pine forests, small villages and productive farmland. I lost count of the number of free-roaming animals I saw — sheep, ponies, cows and even some big black and white pigs grazing by the roadside — but by mile 40 or so I was feeling more knackered than I had expected to feel at that point and the only scenery I really wanted to see was the finish line.

I had a burning pain in my left shoulder that wouldn’t go away and my energy levels had plummeted to zero. I’d basically bonked. And I was no longer enjoying the ride.

Fortunately, I had two cherry-flavoured gels in my pocket to give me a much-needed boost. Normally, I avoid gels because consuming them feels too much like swallowing thick snot, but these got me through the last 10 or so miles. And when I eventually turned in to the Somerley estate, with around 750 yards to the finish line, I went like the clappers — if only to fool all the onlookers into thinking I’d been riding at that speed for all of the previous 53 miles!

finishing-line

bike-computer

I have to be honest and say I was disappointed with my time (the official one is a lot longer than the 4:03 my bike computer recorded because it factors in the time I spent and the drink station), but it was a great feeling to reach the finish in one piece!

And the medal and t-shirt, provided by Wiggle, and the beer, provided by Mr London Cycling Diary, at the end made it all worthwhile.

medal

certificate

Total distance: 53 miles | Ride time: 4hr 23min 58sec (including stops) | Average speed: 13.2mph

Less than a week to go

So, this time next week I’m hoping I have a happy story to tell: of a 51-mile sportive successfully completed. But as the date inches closer I find myself worried that (1) I haven’t trained properly and (2) the weather’s going to be rubbish. It’s all well and good to cycle 46 miles in beautiful sunny conditions, but autumn has now arrived and while the past week has been unseasonably warm (it was 31C on Thursday), British weather is so fickle it wouldn’t surprise me if it was snowing on Saturday!

Just to be on the safe side, I’ve ordered some “longs” and a rainproof jacket that can be carried in a pocket. Even if I don’t need them and the conditions are fine enough to get away with wearing shorts and a short-sleeved top, they won’t go to waste — a girl can never have enough cycling kit!

On a separate note, I  got up early this morning to do a planned 20 mile cycle, only to discover that when I got to Richmond Park it was bloody well closed thanks to the London Duathalon! I ended up trundling back home, via Holland Park and Shepherd’s Bush, but I only racked up a disappointing 13.5 miles. Hopefully, I’ll be able to squeeze in a couple of longish cycles after work this week: I really need to put the miles in before Saturday’s extravaganza.

Signing up for another sportive

Logo for New Forest 100 SportiveHaving enjoyed the recent Ride London Surrey 46 event so much, I’ve signed up to do another sportive later this month (with a little encouragement from “my driver cum mechanic”, Mr LondonCyclingDiary).

The Wiggle New Forest 100 Sportive is held across the weekend of 24 and 25 September, and there are three different distances to choose from. I’ve gone for the short (and no doubt easiest) option — 51 miles — rather than the full on 100.

I’m looking forward to cycling through some pretty woodland landscapes and not having to worry about working out my own route: I can simply follow the signs and enjoy the ride.

I’ve booked a cheap hotel nearby for the night before, so I don’t have to get up at stupid o’clock to drive the two hours from London to the start line. I’ll still have to get up reasonably early, but at least it’ll only take 20 minutes or so to get there.

The only thing I’m slightly concerned about is the weather. It’s all well and good to cycle 46 miles through London and Surrey in lovely summery sunshine, but at the end of September it’s bound to be autumnal — in other words, cold, wet and windy. I supposed it’s a good excuse to buy some new cycling kit, if nothing else…