So reading bits of advice the day before I kept hydrated, despite the fact England were playing USA I didn’t even have a beer (and lets be honest it might have made the match bearable). I had a mountain of pasta, sorted my gear out, a cpl of gels and cpl of energy bars. Cleaned the bike and all in all I was ready to go.
Getting up wasn’t an issue – I slept badly not sure if it was nerves or excitement or something but 7am arrived and I was up and getting sorted. First thing was the weather, the forecast was mixed throughout the week so my heart sank a little to see the fact we had had rain but the clouds were light and things were looking up. I packed up and then ate a huge oaty breakfast, slow release carbs being all important. Made my way to the start – and I immediately could tell this was a relaxed sportive with a variety of riders of different shapes and sizes and a variety of bikes, which was a huge relief as didnt really fancy being among too many serious riders. I registered and got my timing chip, all fairly straight forward and I was ready to go. I hung on for a bit and eventually some guys I have been riding with locally arrived with 4 of us in total to group ride the route and give each other with moral support. There was no grand start just go when you were ready so again a nice relaxed feel to this sportive – and with the sun peeking around the clouds we set off with optimism over the coming 52 miles. The route was well known to me as I have lived around he area all my life so I knew he first 5 miles or so were going to be a little nasty with a few short sharp climbs, and very quick descents and, with the earlier rain, the greasy roads. However the scenery around Rivington and Anglezark more than makes up for the pain in the legs as the place is beautiful. Our group split at this point but two of us continued on as we had discussed this eventuality and been told we would be caught so not to stop.
As we moved past the 25 mile point the thought about eating little and often came to mind and the first small energy bar came out, eating whilst riding is something I dont often do, my training rides have involved the odd stop to refuel and this is one thing I realised too late. Almost choking on a mouthful of oats I battled on. The group came back together before halfway – we all chatted as we moved forward with purpose. A quick stop at the halfway point for lovely homemade lemon drizzle cake (perhaps I was craving food nope it was truly delicious) others grabbed a free banana, refilled water bottles and off we went.
As a group at this stage we really gelled and for the first time since I have been riding with others I saw the benefits of drafting – I took the lead to start with and became conscious how close everyone was, from reading I knew to hold a good road position and keep my speed constant whilst watching out/signalling for potholes etc. After a while I moved out and dropped back into the line closed up on the wheel in front and the difference was dramatic at one point I found myself totally coasting and keeping pace with the front guys. A great little breather.
As we were close to home I had the last of my gel packs, and pushed on the pace. I realised I had dropped the other three guys and at this stage I had a strange feeling. Do I slow up and we form up to complete the last 8/10 miles together as we started or do I take on a challenge of staying ahead of the pack? Although we had agreed we weren’t going for a time I pushed, sort of half assuming that the 3 of them bunch riding would easily catch me after a couple of miles. But a couple of miles came and went I checked back but nothing, a small part of me felt guilt in case something had happened but the competitive streak soon kicked in and I flicked into a higher gear and started to push on. The last push really started to hurt, the back road from Chorley up to Rivington is a constant long climb and although compared to early climbs is a relative piece of cake, after 48 miles with me feeling like a rabbit at a greyhound track the legs started to burn. However I was soon back in Rivington the finish not far – back on the big ring and a push to the end. Paranoia set in and I was constantly checking my back – how some of the pro riders manage with a large peloton chasing them down and the team radio counting down the splits with a stage win in their grasp is beyond me. However I made it back with a whole 6 minutes of time over my “peloton” tired but with so much adrenaline flowing I honestly thought that I should of opted for the 100 miler (way beyond my fitness but perhaps next year). Best of all the rain held off throughout the event (although on the ride back to the car the heavens did open).
Overall I loved my first sportive – its difficult to rate this as it was first one and therefore I have no comparison to offer. However I enjoyed the whole day the relaxed approach with different elements to challenge yourself with, I can guarantee it wont be the last I do. For those in the North-West I can recommend the Rivington 50/100 wholeheartedly, good signage, helpful marshals the staff at the start/end/feed points were friendly – oh and they make great cake. If it’s run next year get signed up. So if after months of training you need a challenge or some added motivation to keep pushing onwards then get looking for a sportive and hopefully your experience will be as positive as mine.