Ben’s National Cyclo Sportive experience

Spot the cottages4you shirts.

Up at 6:00 so I have time to let a big breakfast digest, don’t want to be sick on the first climb. Realise it’s very hard to force a big breakfast down at 6, so I have a normal size breakfast and hope for the best. Being worried about my legs turning to jelly, I decided not to drive to the start in case I wouldn’t be able to operate the pedals later in the day. Consequently I enjoyed a really easy spin to the start on more or less deserted roads. If I could be bothered, I’d ride at this time more often.

After a bit of confusion in the start village over signing in details lost in the post I make way my way to the start line with colleagues Garry and Nigel who have also decided to do the 95 mile route (Nigel had only decided that morning, damn fool.) We by-passed the queue and went straight to the front, we weren’t being European about it, we just got lucky. We crossed the line first wearing our nifty cottages4you tops in an event sponsored by cottages4you. Nice

Immediately as we hit the first hill, which was only 100 yards after the start(!), came the first dilemma of the day. Do I carry on riding at the sensible pace that I started at, or do I sprint past the guy with incredible B.O. and tire myself out almost before I start? I chose the third way and slowed down.

It was all easy peasy for the next 20 miles or so. Then Garry crashed into his brother (who was riding with us) and broke his bike. This was a bad thing. Wayne (Garry’s brother) was our golden ticket. Unlike Garry and I, Wayne is a good cyclist and we were hoping to shelter behind him for pretty much the entire ride (and then sprint past him at the end, obviously.) Post crash, Wayne was left bleeding and with only 2 working gears. I was left with the prospect of having to ride in the wind for 75 miles. Oops.

After the initial excitement we could settle down and plod around the Lune valley. I’ve never been through it before, but I’ll go again. Wayne wasn’t enjoying it so much though. To add to his bike woes, he was getting cramp, probably from having to pedal twice as fast as everyone else, and our first feed stop couldn’t come soon enough. Luckily Garry’s wife Alison was waiting for us there with a stash of goodies, and we didn’t have to drink the same strange milkshake that everyone else did.

It was only after the feed zone that I noticed it was hot. Then the doubts set in, would I get cramp, would I go the way of Tom Simpson? Worse still, would I end up with cyclist’s tan? Luckily the terrain for the next 30 miles or so wasn’t too tricky (obviously it was tricky for Wayne, but we have to blame Garry for that) and I could enjoy the scenery and the sunshine and chat to a couple of the other riders.

Then we had the next 10 miles which went over Jeffrey Hill (never been  up it before, don’t want to go up it again) which were hard. I cursed the sunshine. Then we had the last 10 miles which were just horrid sadistic torture. I cursed the organisers. Wayne had to stop at the top of the Nick o’ Pendle climb as the cramp was stopping him from turning the pedals. Garry stopped with him and I rather selfishly carried on (sorry fellows, but if I’d stopped I wouldn’t have got going again.) I finally got cramp on the very last incline about a mile from the finish but thankfully was able to just ride through it.

When I turned the corner to cross the finish line I was amazed to see Warren from I.T. (let’s just say he’s not a cycling fan) applauding me in. Cheers Warren. Thanks to the other colleagues who turned up to cheer us on too. I was feeling pretty good about myself, cocky even. Then my son asked: ‘Daddy, why did you finish so far behind all those other riders?’ Fair point Felix, fair point.

Ben rode in the National Cyclo-Sportive at this month’s Pendle Cycle Festival. Find more info on the event website.

The cottages4you team are raising money for Pendleside Hospice. You can sponsor the team on their Just Giving page and find more info on the hospice website.

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