Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Downland Cycles Spring Sportive, 10th April 2011‏

I’d spent all week planning the Downland Spring Sportive in my mind. In the post Flanders Sportive chat Steve had thrown down the gauntlet (winter glove), he was going to thrash Danny and me in the Downland 100 miler. Would we be able to hang onto his wheel? When would he make the break? Could we use the hills to our advantage?

I knew we would need to bring in the big guns, a text to Andy... Andy’s in, Richard was already entered, plus Danny and me gave us a strong team of four against Steve. Shame Bob was missing from the dream team as he had Rugby commitments.

I did my last training ride on the Thursday, the 75 mile round trip to work in Aylesford. That left me with just over a couple of days to recover and fuel up.

Sunday morning, 0730, Danny arrived, a couple of minutes later the car was packed and we were on our way to Canterbury. It was then that Danny broke the devastating news to me; Steve had chickened out of the ride. Oh no, nothing to aim at now.

It was a lovely bright sunny day, still a bit of a cool breeze in the air, but quickly warming up. We all decided against the full fleece lined thermals that Steve and Don recommend in this weather. I avoided the club colours for this ride, a tall ginger Thornton domestique got some bad press on the Muur-Kapelmuur climb the week before at the Tour of Flanders sportive. Danny, Andy and Richard weren’t put off and wore their Thornton tops with pride.

0850, the organisers announced that people could begin setting off when they were ready. A certain couple of people from the team took the last opportunity to visit the loos and then we were off… We handed in our timing cards and…. Richard found a handy stone to remove the remainder of a local dogs’ offerings from his cleat that he’d trod in earlier.

All cleats clean, off we set wiggling around the station before making a start on the first hill towards Blean. With a good climbing team we sailed by a group of around 8 riders and quickly got into a good rhythm, gradually passing more and more of the riders that had set off in front of us. It was then that I suggested that we aim at being the first 100 mile riders back.

The ride flowed well and before long we’d passed a 25 mile time trial rider on the A252 (towards Challock). Soon after this we did the long descent of White Hill into Wye. Once again the Thornton team showed their climbing strength on the climb out of Wye passing the surrounding riders. As ever I could not resist racing to the top and glanced back at just the right time to notice Danny creeping up on me. Thankfully several kicks out of the saddle was enough to get to the top first.

We caught a reasonably quick moving group of around 5 riders just after we’d been split up on a long descent. Danny had been caught behind a guy in Cervelo kit that descended ‘slower than my misses’. Once we regrouped we (Andy) lifted the pace again much to the delight of the riders that we’d now picked up. The large group stormed on primarily due to the efforts of Thornton (Andy) and one or two of the other riders that we picked up. The group broke up and rejoined a few times at some crossroads but otherwise stayed pretty much together until the end.

Richard was riding well and had done a fair share at the front, unfortunately we managed to lose him at the second food stop and I’m not sure how he got on after that.

The group battled on with Thornton riders doing more than their fair share, at one point on the marsh this became a little frustrating so I shouted out for volunteers but none of them came through. The few of us that had been working at the front dropped right to the back and forced some of the passengers to do some work. It was shortly after this that we overtook some casual cyclists just as they got in the line of sight between us and the event photographers. I guess it might look like they took us; I’m still waiting to see the photos.

The climb back out of the marsh was via Lympne Hill, then Blackhouse Hill and then up Peene Hill. Thornton once again demonstrated how to climb the hills. But it was at this point that we were starting to tire. After Peene I thought that was going to be the majority of the climbing out the way but somehow we still seemed to do loads climbing some of which was on some ropey gravelly roads. It was through these sections that one of the one of the guys that had been riding with our group got a bit of a lead on us, he was very strong and had done a fair bit on the front. We could see him in the distance on a long straight, Andy asked if we were going to chase him down. I answered ‘Of course, who’s going first?’, no sooner had I asked, Andy flicked the switch and we were back up to around 23 mph. Once again I was watching Andy ticking over in top gear. We swapped at the front and then swapped back and before long we saw him look back and realize he was caught. The group rejoined and we set about the run back into Canterbury.

It had not gone unnoticed to me that there was one (unknown) rider in the group that managed to get away without going to the front once. Just as we got to the downhill in Upper Hadres he went to the front, I’m not sure he’d realized it was going to be quite as windy as it was. However, we were soon back in the City. In the final run in Andy was battling it out at the front with the guy we caught earlier and I was doing my best to make sure that no-one came through behind them. Andy crossed the line first. The rest of the group followed through just behind once the traffic allowed us back into the access road to Downland.

As regards the results, no one overtook us and we put in the fourth fastest time at 05.36 (fastest time 05.24)


184 Wickens, Andrew 5.36

60 Frost, Danny 5.36

188 Wood, Nicholas 5.36

58 Foster, Richard 5.58

Thanks to Andy, Danny and Richard for another great ride.