I can (cycle) for miles and miles and miles and miles……

April 21, 2017, 3:50 pm

We’ve now passed the halfway point in the training regime, and the first major test of the legs had been in the diary for a number of weeks – the inaugural MoD Rocker Sportive on Easter Sunday.  67 miles over the climbs in the Otterburn Ministry of Defence ranges, on roads closed off to the public.  A bit of nice weather and it would be a treat.


Before we get to that, I have to set the scene.  I always find Easter weekend a strange time of year.  Of course it’s nice to have a few days off but it does go pretty quiet.  Not like the May or August bank holidays which are usually heavy sessions, but Easter is a time for chilling, I think.


So, what better way to chill than a Good Friday evening kick off at St James’ Park, Newcastle versus Dirty Leeds United.  With Rafa’s juggernaut to automatic promotion spluttering towards the line, a nice comfortable home victory would be just the ticket…………despite the best home performance since before Christmas, the brain trust that is Newcastle’s defence conspired in the last minute to gift Chris “Cart Horse” Wood acres of space in the box and a fully undeserved point.


It’s fair to say I was slightly annoyed, and in this glorious age of bars which open past 11pm, I may have sank a few pints and let off a bit of steam.  Nothing too much of course, being mindful of the Sunday ride.  Guinness?  Only a couple, I’m riding on Sunday.  Vodka and lemonade?  Only a couple I’m riding on Sunday.  Single malt whisky?  Only a couple, I’m riding on Sunday……


Whilst I didn’t have a proper hangover, I was incredibly tired.  An awful night’s sleep followed by an equally awful night’s sleep on Saturday night…..I was up at 6am on Sunday ready for the sportive.


The MoD Rocker Sportive

The morning began as all other mornings before rides do……porridge, banana, breakfast bar, fluids, get the kit together, electrolyte drinks, chamois cream and out.  Then an hour long drive to the start at Clennell Hall (up past Rothbury) for an 8.30am start.


Registration, nee bother.  Get a number, lash it on the bike, nee bother.  And wait.  In the cold.  And look around.  Look around at the more expensive (and obviously much lighter) bikes.  Look around at the bulging calves and heaving thighs on men half my weight.  I’m totally up for this like….


Staggered starts in groups of 10, I eventually rolled out at 9am, only after realising that I had put my number 86 on upside down.  This was to be a theme….slowing down at every checkpoint to say that it’s actually 86 not 98 wears a bit thin after 6 hours in the saddle.


I didn’t realise at the time, but the first 12 miles were actually a long drag upwards towards the foot of the first (and biggest/steepest) climb of the day.  Given the lack of sleep, I nearly chundered a few times but managed to keep it together.  Fortunately I could see the climb looming in the distance, with the strewn bikes/bodies zig-zagging their way up.  I stopped at an appropriate juncture, necked an energy gel and tackled the climb.


It was one of those so steep that your front wheel was coming off the floor. Heart was pounding out of my chest, legs were burning……but this was where the experience comes in, pace yourself, keep turning the pedals, don’t try and go too fast, you’ll get there.  See action shot.  Easy man.


That climb actually woke me up for the middle third of the ride, which I must say was really enjoyable.  Quiet, smooth roads, great views, decent enough weather.  Plenty of climbing but I didn’t mind.

But at about 35 miles two things happened:


  1. The heavens opened – flying downhill, in the wind and rain at 35/40mph soon puts a freeze on your baldy heed. I got soaked (see pic 2).


  1. My saddle came loose – riding up hills (or down) with a loose saddle isn’t really ideal. Balancing something between your cheeks whilst undertaking quite strenuous exercise (not a euphemism) is very difficult.


So, I made my way around the rest of the circuit, wet and tired without too much drama (except the saddle).  The second feed station was at Rothbury, but by this time, knowing the road to the finish being only 13 miles, I cracked straight on and got the job done.


67.8 miles, 6877 feet of climbing, 5hrs33mins, not bad day out really.  I got a nice pale ale the goody bag, which was decent.  Shoutout to all the volunteers and organisers for giving up their time for cracking event.  Another shoutout to the idiots who stopped to take selfies next to tanks on the ranges.  Let’s hope their behaviour doesn’t jeopardise future editions.


However, more training needed.  Hill reps will commence soon.


The Quest to Become the Knightside Chris Froome continues…..

  • April 21, 2017, 3:50 pm
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On the 24th June 2017, the Tour de Force riders will start cycling from Dusseldorf. Whether cycling two or more days, this is a heroic undertaking. It will hurt!