The first test
Ridden by Craig Lockwood on 29th June 2014
As a kid, I lived on my bike. Big heavy BMX’s with brightly coloured pads and spokey dokeys were my rides of choice. In my teens, the BMX’s were replaced by Mountain bikes. These MTB’s were equally, or maybe even more weighty. They never saw a mountain, the closest they got to extreme riding was the occasional curb slam or a quick throw down when spotting an empty swing in the park.
Then came the discovery of beer & debauchery. The bikes never stood a chance.
…he revealed he was the European downhill MTB champion… we rode together just once and he broke me.
Fast forward ten years or so and I find myself with a new bike, a beast of an MTB after being convinced by my partners brother that I should go riding with him. Shortly after the ride he revealed he was the European downhill MTB champion. If I knew this I would have never tried to match his pace! We rode together just once and he broke me. I just didn’t enjoy thrashing down a mountain. I vowed to sell the bike and spend my remaining days hunched in front of the TV.
Thankfully, that mood lifted and I realised what I loved about riding; the time to reflect whilst riding alone. That was it, I needed a road bike, and to take things at my own pace!
This was just last year, and I found myself a lovely Trek 1.2 at a reasonable price. When I had the time, I went out; losing myself to the beautiful Welsh countryside. I rode alone for months before going for the odd ride with friends. After reading about others participating in Sportive’s, I decided to sign up for my first - The Merlin Sportive. 80k would be my longest ride to date, I was looking forward to it. There was a small problem though, those bloody hills. I am not exactly slim, so I struggle a lot on inclines.
So the day came, and the sun was beaming down on a beautiful West Wales. Around 700 riders were heading out on one of four routes. At 8:30am we set off, I found it strange to be part of such a big group. I had never experienced drafting before and didn’t really know the etiquette of a peloton, but after about 10k I felt quite comfortable.
Around 30k came the first challenge, a big bastard of a hill. I had held my own in the middle of the pack until the incline, I then seemed to be going backwards for the next 30 minutes. Eventually, after struggling with the incline I made it to the top where a feed station welcomed me with Welsh cakes and Mojito flavoured energy gels (don’t let anybody tell you that Wales isn’t exotic!). The next 15k were downhill and I loved it. Hitting 60kph when alone can be scary enough, but when rubbing wheels as part of a peloton it is poo-inducing. I remained focussed and managed to stick with the group for the next 20k or so. The peloton then split up and I was surprised to find myself comfortably sticking with the leaders.
Hitting 60kph when alone can be scary enough, but when rubbing wheels as part of a peloton it is poo-inducing.
A few more big hills were conquered before the final push for the finish line. It was great to be cheered by the locals as I finished, a real boost. I felt fresh and think I could have easily managed another 20-30k.
So that was my first real test of riding in company, and I loved it. So much that I have just signed up for my second Sportive - I just need to practice on those bloody hills!