Posts Tagged ‘sportive’

The Flat 100 2019

Thursday, June 6th, 2019 | Sport

The Flat 100, formerly known as the Flat n Fast 100, is a sportive that starts in South Yorkshire and takes in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. Last year I achieved my longest ever ride when I rode the 100km (technically a 106km) route.

This year, I was aiming for the 100 miler, which would make it my equal longest ride with the one I completed just five days before.

It was a busy event: 1,300 people registered a time. This meant the queues were big, too. I arrived at Thorne shortly after 7am but between queuing for the car park, queuing to register (the S-W surnames line was way longer than all the others) and then queuing to cross the start line meant that I didn’t get on the road until nearly 9am, almost two hours after arriving.

It was colder than expected. Foolishly, when I checked the weather, I had put in “Thorpe” rather than “Thorne”, so was surprised when it started raining. Luckily, it did so just as we arrived at the feed stop and stopped just as we were leaving. After that, it brightened up and I had to re-apply suncream at the second feed stop.

I rode with Bogdan for the first 80km before he peeled off onto the medium route. After that, I surfed a few wheels. One group kept yelling “Chris, are you there?” until I was forced to answer “yes” before pulling alongside them and explaining that I probably wasn’t the Chris they were after.

I clocked in with an average speed of 26.7 kph, which is a good pace for me, especially as I rode fairly conservatively for the first 100 km or so. The whole thing took less than six hours of cycling and 6:39 including breaks, which bodes well for The Yorkshireman.

Tour de Yorkshire 2019

Friday, May 10th, 2019 | Sport

Last year I completed the medium route of the Tour de Yorkshire, making it the longest ride I had ever done by some 10km and the highest I’d climbed at 1,200 metres. This year I was planning to do a similar thing: the long route features 123 km and 2,400 metres of climbing.

It was decisively colder than last year when I came away with sunburn. I wasn’t planning on too many layers but in the end went for a full Under Armour base layer top and bottom with my rain cape in my jersey pocket. Thank god I did. 20km in I had to pull over and put the rain cape on, and it stayed on for the rest of the day. I should have taken my winter gloves, too.

I met Bogdan at city square at 7am and we cycled up to the start, getting through the queue and onto the load about 7:45. The first section of the ride was easy, although I did find myself needing a rather urgent bathroom break as we approached the first feed stop.

Things were reasonably flat (Yorkshire flat) until we reached Summerbridge, at which point we encountered our first real challenge of the day. The road went straight out of the back. And straight up. Arguably, this was the hardest climb. it started at about 11% and just kept on getting steeper. Even at the top you simply found yourself on a false flat of 5%.

The road continued to go up and up in stages as we headed around Brimham Rocks. Finally, it dropped down into Pateley Bridge where the second feed stop was located. I stuffed my face, which was a bold choice given what was to come next: the legendary Greenhow climb.

I did Nidderdale triathlon in September and drove home via Greenhow. I remember thinking at the time “fuck me, wouldn’t want to do this on a bicycle.” Well, here I was doing it. It was hard. But, thankfully, the toughest gradients come in four distinct segments, and you get a chance to get your breath back in between.

One woman was going up on a mountain bike. I told her I was jealous of the gearing. She laughed and told me that pretty much everyone else that had gone past her had said the exact same thing.

The top of Greenhow was a cold, lonely place. We turned and headed towards Fewston Reservoir where we would join up with the medium route. By this time, everyone on the medium route had finished, though. As we struggled up Snowdon Bank, the clock continued to tick and the race looked over: almost everyone else left in the course was pushing their bike up the hills with a defeated look on their face.

The descent into Otley was a fast one. They close the pro finish line at 3:35 to get ready for the peloton coming through. And I was determined that I wouldn’t miss it because of comfort breaking. I certainly didn’t set any records, but the 56.8 kph I managed really pushed my comfort zone.

Then it was out of the back of Otley and onto East Chevin Road. The long 11% grind. It felt easier this year than it did last year, even on tired legs. It hurt but it was manageable. There was no fear that I would have to give up, only that I would have to enjoy a lot of pain.

By the time we reached the top, we had less than an hour to get to the line in time. We both gritted our teeth and put the power down and steamed down into Leeds, cursing every traffic light that made us stop. Then we hit Tinshill and found ourselves with yet another climb. This was too much and we had to take a short break. Within 10km of the line, we had almost made it. One last effort would see us through.

Again we climbed into the bikes and powered up to the hill before turning to descend onto Spen Lane and Burley Road. Burley Road itself goes up and down. The groupetto that has formed around us quickly worked out I was lying when I said this was “definitely the last little hill” but chose to believe anyway so that they could convince their bodies to make the cut-off.

As we entered the barriered section on The Headrow, the large crowds that had already gathered cheered and banged on the barriers as we crossed the line with just 10 minutes to spare. By the time we had collected our medals and chatted to Elin and John, who were on hand with some much-needed chocolate and beer, they were already clearing the tents away. But it did not matter: we had made it!

I had set a new longest ride ever, beating my previous best by 13 km. I had set a new climbing record, more than doubling my previous attempt, which was in fact last year’s Tour de Yorkshire medium route. And my lower back hurt so much that I could no longer bend down. But who needs a working back when you’ve just smashed the Tour de Yorkshire long route?

My official time was 7:40:26. We had two feed stops, and I spent some time catching my breath at the top of the climbs. But the total elapsed time since cycling out of my front gate was closer to 8:30. A tough day in the saddle but a very rewarding one.

Festive Fifty 2018

Sunday, December 30th, 2018 | Sport

My first ever sportive was the Festive Fifty on New Year’s Eve last year. So, it was fitting to close out 2018 by taking part in the Festive Fifty this year to raise money for Children’s Heart Surgery Fund at the Leeds General Infirmary.

It was great to be riding with Bogdan again, as we haven’t had a spin since August. It felt easier than last year. Last year there was a hill. This year, I wouldn’t even call it a hill. It was over before I realised it. The long road back home was once again a massive headwind but didn’t feel quite as long, either.

Doing the 50-mile route was certainly an option this year, but I haven’t dialled in my position on the Bianchi just yet, and with Venla being rather unwell at the moment, I wanted to get back to her as soon as possible. So, I settled for the 50km route, which was nice as it meant my toes stayed warm the whole way around.

Flat n Fast 100

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I completed the Flat n Fast sportive in Thorne, South Yorkshire. As you may guess from the name, it is about completely a century in either kilometres or miles. I went for the slightly easier route, which totalled to 106km.

It was the farthest ride I’ve ever done. That said, it really is flat. There were less than 250 metres of climbing over the entire distance. Compare that to the more than 1,300 metres in my 90km Tour de Yorkshire ride. So, by comparison, this one should have been slightly easier.

I felt good for most of it, although the constant rain did gradually sock my feet. By the last 10-15km I was starting to feel the fatigue and that is the point we ran into a headwind. Luckily, I was riding with Bogdan so we could take it in turns to sit on the front.

The event organisation was so-so. It was well organised in terms they had a venue, signposts and marshalls. But the route was a bit rubbish. There were lots of industrial estates and busy roads. Maybe it is difficult to avoid them if you want flat ground but it doesn’t match up to the quiet roads and country views of previous events. There was one feed stop and one “tea, coffee and biscuits” stop. There was a big queue to get started, but that seems to be the case at all sportives.

Plus, two local residents had a go at me for being there. Apparently, they don’t like the event. “You can shove that bike race up your arse; waking us up at this time in the morning” one woman yelled. Because what human being is up at 8am on a Saturday morning?

Overall, I enjoyed the event. Sportive HQ make their events pretty affordable.

Up North Yorkshire sportive

Friday, May 18th, 2018 | Sport

Up North Yorkshire is a sportive organised by Fat Lad At The Back. It starts from Ilkley and goes and out and back route, with a little loop at the top, around Burnsall.

We signed up for the 40 kilometres route (the other routes were loopier) as I didn’t want to take too much out of my legs before the triathlon I had the day after. This route had a modest amount of climbing in, 523 metres, so a lot easier than the Tour de Yorkshire.

The organisation was good. There was no queue to register and toilets and changing facilities at the rugby club. The feed stop was well stocked: sausage rolls, pies, sandwiches, cakes, fruit, and we got a hot hog roast sandwich when we returned.

It took us just over two hours to complete the loop, excluding stopping at the feed station. I enjoyed doing the short route as it wasn’t just me being overtaken by a lot of faster cyclists all of the time; I did my fair share of overtaking, especially on the hills.

This may well be the most beautiful sportive I’ve done. Tour de Yorkshire had some spectacular views, but some boring roads, as well. This was just beautiful rolling hills the whole way around.

I would recommend Fat Lad At The Back events. Of course, so far I have a sample size of one. But it was enjoyable and well put together.

Tour de Yorkshire

Friday, May 11th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I completed the Tour de Yorkshire sportive. The medium route, 84km (90km once I had ridden door-to-door) was not only the longest ride I had ever done, by some 10km, but also included a fierce 1,200 metres of climbing.

It started up at Woodhouse Moor, where they had a small event village and meeting point. Due to the number of people that took part, there was a long queue to get started. It took about 30 minutes from joining the back of it to getting on the road.

Once at the front, we were off. The route took us along Meanwood Road up and up to the ring road, where we crossed and headed up towards Eccup and then on towards Harrogate. We climbed through North Rigton and the rolling road towards Beckwithshaw where the first feed station was located.

It was a pretty crap feed station. There was around a 40-minute queue for water, and the food available consisted of crips, bananas and Jaffa cakes. Certainly not up to the standard of other sportives.

Back on the road, we turned west on Penny Pot Lane and then north again to Menwith Hill before starting the journey homeward via Blubberhouses. The scenery up there is spectacular. Once you get on top of the moors, you can see for miles.

The hills

The road between Blubberhouses and Otley is a hilly one. By this point, the long route had re-joined us and so the road was filled with medium and long route people. Even though these were all cyclists that had chosen a harder option than the short route, people began struggling. Many people got off and pushed their bike up Snowden Bank.

I miscalculated the road we were coming out of Otley on. For some reason, I had gotten it into my head that we were taking the main road. It had Tour de Yorkshire signs all over it, after all. But we didn’t. We went straight out of the back of Otley and up Chevin Bank. 1750 metres at an average gradient of 9.4%. It just kept coming.

And, after all of that, we then went straight back down the hill to Pool in Wharfedale where the second feed stop was located. This one was better, with sausage rolls, pork pies and jelly babies. And, more importantly, reasonable access to water.

The final stretch included another tough climb: Black Hill Road into Arthington. This one was only 1500 metres at an average gradient of 7.2%. But that is deceptive because it starts off shallow and them ramps up the higher you go. The 90-degree bend half way up is rated at an eye-watering 19%. This was probably the hardest climb of the day, although I suspect that was because I already had Chevin Bank in my legs.

The finish

Finishing on The Headrow was amazing. I had enough in my legs to open up my sprint. Maybe I should have savoured the moment, but it felt great to pretend to be a pro racing for the line. Unlike the big runs in Leeds, there weren’t that many people finishing. So, when I raised my arm in victory and everyone cheered, there was a cause and effect thing going on. Thank you to everyone who cheered us home!

Results

My official time clocked in at:

4:42:54

That’s nearly 12 hours ahead of the so-called winner Greg Van Avermaet. Some would argue that doing the medium route of a one-day sportive is a lot easier than the four days of substantially longer routes that the pros did. But he had teammates and a peloton to protect him, I did it all on my own.

My average moving speed was 19.5 kph, although that is door-to-door, not just the sportive. It’s pretty slow compared to the 23.4 kph I managed in York-Leeds-York (and any objective measure), but it was very hilly.

Conclusion

I think the Tour de Yorkshire is my favourite sportive so far. In part, its a number game. They claimed to have 5,000 riders taking part. It certainly was busy and it’s nice to ride with other people. A common problem with sportives is that, even if you have 500 people, when you spread them out over 100km, there are not many of them around. It gets lonley. Here there was none of that. The feed stations were poor, but the finish was excellent. And the scenery was beautiful.

York-Leeds-York sportive

Monday, March 19th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I took part in the Velo 29 York-Leeds-York sportive.

The name suggests that you ride from York to Leeds and back to York. Which you do, if you do the longer routes. However, this only being my second sportive after the Festive Fifty, I decided to do the short route. At 65km, this was still the longest ride I had ever done, albeit be only five additional kilometres.

There was a long queue to get to the start, so, with Bogdan stuck at the back of a slow-moving queue, I set off on my own.

It rained the whole time. By the end of it, everything was soaked. I had to dry out the money inside my waterproof jacket. My waterproof shoe covers had given way and become saturated. I tried my best to maintain a “make the best of it” spirit, but even that got wet eventually.

Velo 29’s event management

I only have Sportive HQ’s event management to compare against, but they seemed a similar standard.

There was lots of parking at the venue and it was easy to find a spot at York Auction Mart. This also created a large indoor space to set off from. They said there would be changing facilities, though this turned out just to be a few toilets with a long queue.

Setting off took a long time: I think Bogdan was 15-20 minute behind me, even though I had been hanging around for a similar timeframe from the start of the race.

The feed station was good. They had sandwiches, pork pies and cakes, as well as energy gels. At the Festive Fifty, they just had drinks and bacon sandwiches. However, I did miss the warm sandwich this time. When we got back, we got a small sausage in a bun. The medal and the free 5-minute massage were a nice touch.

The event was chip timed and matched up well to the time on my watch.

The course itself was a bit surprising. It was predominantly on-road, but sometimes we were taken off-road. This wasn’t a problem on my cross bike, but I would have been quite annoyed if I had been on a road bike.

At times the route was confusing. They make a big thing about the amount of signage they put out and there is a lot. However, there was so much that sometimes it didn’t make it very obvious which signage we were supposed to be following and which was for people going the other way.

My performance

I finished in 3:03:12, including a 12 minute stop at the feed station. This gave me an average speed of 22.8kmph and an average moving speed of 23.4kmph.

I was the 62nd person back overall (in a field of 1,139) but that is meaningless because most people were doing the medium or long route and most people were there to have fun rather than race (including me). Fair play to the seven people who finished the medium route (97km) before I finished the short.

Here is a comparison between my first sportive and this one:

Metric York-Leeds-York Festivity Fifty
Distance 65.13km 49.61km
Moving time 2:48:29 2:14:28
Elevation 221m 146m
Average speed 23.2 kmph 22.1 kmph
Average power 89 W 91 W

I’m not sure how to interpret these figures. I think they’re not great: I did maintain a slightly faster average speed and over a longer distance. And there are some good reasons I might have been slower: the weather was awful, there were some off-road sections, it was a new longest ride, I ran a half marathon the day before and it’s possible that Strava overestimated my speed at the Festive Fifty.

However, there are a bunch of reasons to be disappointed. My estimated average power was lower and there was no massive headwind this time. More importantly, both are just slow. I’ve done a lot of work on the bike over the past four months and yet I’m still barely making the triathlon cut-off pace even on courses as flat as York.

Conclusion

Given how wet and cold it was, I don’t think I did “enjoy” it. However, it was good enough that I think it would be a lot of fun in the warm and dry, so I will be signing up for more when the weather gets warmer.

Festive Fifty

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 | Sport

On New Year’s Eve, I took part in my first sportive. It was a 50km spin around Selby to raise money for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fun based at the LGI. Several hundred people turned out for it and the event raised £2,000.

As my first sportive, I didn’t really know what to expect. The race HQ was Squire’s Biker Cafe. It’s basically a pub with food options and seemingly unlimited parking. Both the pub and the organisers, Sportive HQ, did a great job in running everything. It was clear what was going on, there were no big cues and everything ran smoothly.

Plus, the photos they took were available for free. In contrast, you often pay £20-30 at events like Run For All (well, I don’t pay that, obviously, because I’m from Yorkshire).

I made great progress for the first 35km, averaging 24.6kmph. My theories that I was much faster on quiet roads than I was on the canal or the endless traffic lights of inner Leeds was all coming true.

However, for the final 15km, as we headed back to complete the loop, it became clear why I was making such great time: a big headwind, which had presumably been a tailwind on the way out. In the end, my pace clocked in at 22.1kmph, a full .4kmph below where I need to be for triathlon.

It makes you realise just how easy they have it when riding in the peloton in the Tour de France and makes what Thomas De Gendt does even more impossible.

I enjoyed the group riding. My friend Bogdan was riding it, too, and having caught me up at the feed station we rode back together.

I’m looking forward to doing more. Especially once it warms up so that I can take my hat off. I think I lost a few kilometres per hour by having the world’s tallest head.