bikebritain News October 21, 2014

wiggle's New Forest Autumn Sportive

Background

Over the last 12 months or so, Emma and I have ridden 4 sportive events in and around the New Forest locality. On each occasion the weather had been wonderful; blue skies, comfortable temperature and a light breeze. The countryside too had played its part, treating us to terrific landscapes across the New Forest, bathed in sunshine. This time around it was all slightly different.

I surmise that pressure from local residents meant the ukcyclingevents have had to change their route through the Forest. As a result this route only took in a relatively small amount of the Forest. Indeed for 25 miles of the standard ride, the route traversed the westerly perimeter of the forest. Although pleasant, this did not offer the views from last time around. Nevertheless, cycling around this part of the country is hardly a chore and it represented a weekend away for us both. Staying just outside Burley at the delightful ‘White Buck’, it was within 10 miles of Matchams karting circuit where the event was based over Saturday/Sunday. We both planned to cycle both days; I had entered for 2 ‘Epic’ rides and Emma for 2 ‘Short’ excursions. This would potentially be the biggest weekend cycling for me this year – 100 miles each day. Emma, who tends only to ride her bike at cycle events would be tested over a slightly longer 54 mile course than she originally signed up for. Despite some recent illness, I was hoping that my stint in Oregon a month before would help me through consecutive days riding. We would see…..

Saturday

Rather than recant the same tale twice, I’m going to pick out some highlights on Saturday’s ride and go into some more detail on Sunday’s outing……

According to iphone weather, Saturday looked to be the most inclement, so carrying some wet weather gear was in order.  Getting to Matchams, however, proved to be our first challenge. Ironically due to the traffic management lights it took nearly an hour to crawl down Hurn Road towards event parking. Eventually we arrived and readied ourselves. Signing in was effortless and soon we were lining up to start. I had taken the Trek single speed and Holdsworth with us. Emma had taken her Specialized and Bianchi. We had both opted to go ‘non-racer’ today, for different reasons. I wanted to see if I could manage more than 65 miles on the SS and Emma felt the wider tyres would offer more grip and be safer. Briefing over, we were off.

I felt quite spritely and as per usual soon found myself ahead of my start group but behind the group ahead, cycling in no man’s land. The beauty of the single speed is its simplicity. Keep the pedals turning, the bike will do the rest. This, combined with a relaxed riding posture meant I could spend more time enjoying the countryside than chasing the next rear light. Some riders were over-taking me, but not many. Whilst I could not tell for sure, I felt I was keeping a steady speed, standing up where needs be to ascend the sneaky hills which appeared every so often. 

The first stop came and went and I had already decided I would be sticking to the standard loop for today. Getting 81 miles under my belt would be sufficient. The second section was more challenging and I’ll go into more detail on Sunday’s ride. With the feed stations evenly spread, by the time I had refuelled on jaffa cakes and jelly beans, there was just 23 miles to go. I was, however, wet. The overcast sky had finally given way to rain. With my single speed distance record (previously 65 miles) clearly in sight, even this was not sufficient to dampen my spirits. Riding on regardless I arrived on the outskirts of Fordingbridge. I was now in familiar territory. There were a couple of fords to cross, one on the brink of covering the road, the other, well and truly flowing over it. I ploughed straight through, soaking my left foot.

Roughly half an hour later I was tanking up the road towards Matchams. The bike had performed well and the rider had not done badly either. I had no idea how long the ride had taken, but I was happy the end was near. I caught up with Emma who was on the final leg of the short route. Waving/shouting a “Hello, see you shortly!” I rode through to finish in 5 hours 14 minutes total elapsed time. That was enough for one day……….

Sunday

I would use the single speed again. The question was whether I would attempt 100 miles? Legs were fatigued but I felt buoyant. Emma was not so sure. She was not firing on all cylinders and were it not for the fact we were meeting her sister and daughter I am not convinced she would have ridden at all. Having already signed we went straight to the start line. I left first with the girls in a group behind. The legs did not have the energy in them that they the day before but it was a case of keep them ticking over and see how it goes. The temperature had dropped considerably overnight and I layered up accordingly. The benefit of day 2 was route knowledge. I broadly knew where the hills were, when to put the power down and when to coast. There were only a couple of places where the gears slipped on Saturday, but when they do it makes for some noise and some irregular pedalling. And that is really the precursor to stopping……

There were ‘significant’ inclines (in a single speed sense) in the first and second sections. The third and final section was fairly flat other than for very minor undulations. The first notable hill prior to the first food stop came in a woodland section. The road gradually climbed and at the top of the first rise were a clutch of photographers busily photographing as many riders as possible. The road continued to snake its way through the forest until it bent right then left. This time I knew what was coming. I stood up and banged out a few hard revolutions to increase approach speed. My momentum was quickly lost but I had done just enough to carry me over the crest of the hill. I rolled on. I had taken off one layer, but the air was still chilly. There was no sign of the sun.

I figured it would take about 2 hours to get to the first stop. One local chap out on a ride shouted “3 miles to the rest stop,” which stacked up. At the end of the road the feed station came into view. A handful of jaffa cakes and jelly beans later I was off again. I wanted to keep my stationary time down to a minimum. Unfortunately the ground underfoot was soft and had clogged up my cleats. I had to stop and dig out the grime so I could clip in properly. Judging the state of the cleats I also made a mental note to change them.

I was off and running again. The second section was the most challenging with a succession of hills that required being out of the saddle and ‘getting gritty’. Here the Standard and Epic rides split and re-joined a couple of times. I had already decided not to attempt the Epic route. I knew I would get through another 81 miles but I wasn’t sure about another 19 on top of that. In the end I played safe. That said, 2 days and 162 miles on the single speed was easily the furthest I’d ridden on that bike. The undulations came and went. I got used to looking ahead further than usual, ready to spot the hills. I had a few instances where the belt slipped over a couple of teeth, greeted by comments of “That doesn’t sound right mate.” This was correct, but nor could I do much about it, other than get off and push. That was not happening. So much for belt drive being ‘silent’. It was making a right old racket! I was squeaking my way through the forest, prompting further comments that suggested the liberal use of WD40. I was sure you were not meant to lubricate a belt drive bike…..but it was noisy. 

The legs were jaded and I was happy to see the second and final feed stop. Same as last time; more jaffa cakes and jelly beans plus a water bottle refill and that was it. This was the final leg – 23 miles, mainly flat. The sky was getting greyer and greyer but it had yet to rain…..I figured I was about 90 minutes, give or take from home. The Ipswich Cycling Club roared past me and was greeted with shouts of “Respect mate” with reference to my single speed antics. I was charging along. I stayed ‘in touch’ with the club boys for a few miles (defined as they were still in sight) but I could not match their gearing with my leg speed. I was spinning as hard as I could. I was ignoring my legs (Shut Up!) in the knowledge that I was getting ever closer to the finish. A while later I got within spitting distance of two roadies making reasonable progress ahead. I slowly reduced the distance down to a couple of bike lengths and hung on. Suddenly one of the riders dropped right off the back. Overtaking him, I then overtook a further bunch of cyclists plodding their way home. I was flying, at the very brink of my cadence. I settled in behind the leader. I noted he was forever changing gears, looking, at times, a little erratic. We were no more than 6 miles from the end when I drew up on side and said I could not take up any of the work because I was going as fast as I could already! To that he said “I’m blowing up mate!” and promptly fell away. I ploughed on regardless. Unlike the day before there was no headwind to hinder progress to Matchams. I had clear road ahead and I continued, head down. Out of the saddle and over the A338. Right turn, then I was almost finished.

I got passed by a group of 4 and a group of 3 on the way back. I didn’t feel bad about that. I was going at my optimum speed, unable to squeeze any more out of either me or the bike. I had again forgotten my Garmin, so I had no idea how fast I’d gone. A few moment later I turned left and climbed the final hill to the finish. One last dash and I was done – finished 5 hrs 14 minutes 23 seconds total elapsed time, 4 hrs 55 minutes ride time. Legs were tired and bum was a bit sore, but I felt happy.

It transpired that Emma had gone her own way. Not enjoying doing the same route twice she decided to follow her own route, heading down to Christchurch instead. She managed to accumulate another 34 miles, making her weekend an 89 miles long – pretty good for someone who, by her own admission, doesn’t cycle enough outside of wiggle events.

Summary

Although I enjoyed 2 days cycling in now familiar countryside, the route was not as good as previous rides. The weather played its part too, being nowhere near as pleasant as last time around. Wasting nearly 2 hours in queuing traffic to enter the site was also not ideal, but dealing with that many cars on small roads meant this was inevitable. We probably would do the ride again, but I’m not sure we’d sign up for both days. I am glad I rode the weekend on the single speed and perhaps next time I’ll feel strong enough to tackle the Epic ride on that bike. Timing wise, my rides were separated by just 5 seconds in terms of total elapsed time. As I tweeted, pretty crazy considering a lot can happen over 81 miles. I would recommend using (Continental) GP 4 Seasons or Gatorskins; I reckon I saw 50 plus people at the side of the road nursing punctures. I am sure somewhere in the post script to this weekend there will be complaints from local motorists complaining about us on ‘their’ roads. I saw a couple of instances of poor group cycling where drivers were becoming aggravated. That said, just tooting your horn and driving extremely close to the group does not assist either. Finally I think ukcyclingevents should stipulate that cyclists must not use earphones whilst participating. I realise that’s a tough one to enforce, but with large numbers of riders of various abilities I consider the use of earphones to be unsafe.

Sportive Scores

Category

Wiggle New Forest Weekend Sportive

Website info

9

Event venue (Access, Car Parking, Toilets)

5

Sign in process

9

Event road signage (Directions & Warnings)

8

Route quality (Difficulty, Interest, Choices)

7

Food quality at rest

8

Ride Support (Mechanic Availability, Sag Waggon, Outriders)

10

Event Product Testing

8

Freebies

9

Post Event Timing (Accuracy)

10

Participant Friendliness

8

Ride-It-Again-Ability

7

Overall Value for Money

8

Total

81.5%

 

Words by bikebritain Ltd

Thumbnail and Slider image photos taken by Phil O’Connor at Sportive photo

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