On Sunday, I took part in my first Evans Ride It sportive - I'd booked one of these to ride in 2013 (the Hatfield one) but due to illness, I didn't get a chance to ride it. So when I saw this one advertised before Christmas, I decided that I'd give it a go. I signed up for the long distance but saw that I could drop down to the medium on the day if I wanted which could be good if bad weather came in. The long was 117Km and the medium, just over 80Km. The ride was to start at 8:30 and finish at 17:00 so plenty of time to complete them really.
Prior to the event starting, I was wondering whether I was in shape enough to manage the 117Km. I know I ride daily but that's a much much shorter distance and my last long distance ride was back in October (the St Crispins Day Night Ride). Evans stated on the website that I could drop down to the medium route on the day if needed, so that gave me some comfort that if I wasn't feeling like my legs were up to it, I could take the shorter route (or if the weather wasn't great).
The second decision I had to make was whether to ride the full size bike or to ride the Brompton. Looking at how to get to Osterley and the plans for the weekend, I decided that the Brompton was probably the best option as I would end up getting two underground trains - it was possible to get there with a full size bike on the train using the tube but I thought it would be easier (as it usually is) to get the tube with a Brompton as I'm not restricted on where I go with it.
I was spending the weekend in Wimbledon, so it made sense to use the Brompton. There were also a number of people from the Brompton Club that were riding as well, so it made sense to take the awesome folding bike. However, the majority of the Brompton riders decided that the medium would be sufficient for the time frame and would ride that, rather than the long route. In fairness, it skipped half the hills! My plan then was to ride the long route, so I intended to be there early enough to start as soon as the course opened to give me the maximum amount of time.
After David raised the issue of timing, I spent ages trying to pour over the routes, figuring out my average speed on a Brompton over a total of all my rides of similar distance (in checking, I found out that Veloviewer gives bike summaries, such as total distance ridden on Strava and also, average speed per bike - very handy for the future!) and similar amount of climbing! I cane to the conclusion it was likely to take me six hours (so finishing about 14:30, assuming an 08:30 start). I'd taken less than four to get from Hatfield to Cambridge before and that was 80Km so I felt I was confident in my ability to count but I couldn't be sure! It is true that my average speed on the Brompton (and my hybrid) is less than that of my road bike - about 4Km/hr difference from Veloviwer stats so I knew the 100Km in four hours barrier was likely to be well out of reach.
I successfully got the tube and navigated from the station to Osterley House. It was early and registration had just opened so I dived in, grabbed a cup of tea and waited. I didn't have long to wait before a couple of other Bromptoners showed up. Jenny, James and Daniel soon showed up as they had the same idea as me - ride the long one and start early to maximise the time. Perhaps to my shame, I left them soon after starting - part of this ride was to test my endurance and speed for the year to give me a benchmark. That meant riding at my own pace, which was quicker than theirs. However, we stood around chatting and waiting for the start to open. Sign on had been painless and Evans provided us with the timing chips. High 5 were sponsors of the event and so some free hydration and nutrition boxes were handed out - I do quite like the High 5 drinks tablets as they make water a bit more exciting, though I've not really used them since getting the Camelbak as I also seem to misjudge the amount I need and cleaning the pipe on the Camelbak is a huge pain! Jenny had the full size pack for buying your place on the ride more than 8 weeks ahead and kindly let everyone help themselves.
We lined up ready for the off - my only complaint for the day was how long this took. We were herded into a paddock and given a briefing. However, we were the first group, so this briefing was given multiple time - I was in the second group to get off though. I guess this was a good method of pacing us out so a swarm of cyclists didn't descend on the local area at once (I've seen the mess of that at the London Bikeathon in 2013!) and getting us to all understand the signs etc. I guess my only complaint was that this start at 8:30 so I didn't get through and going until about 8:50. The cup of tea I'd had and the standing around in the cold meant as soon as we went, I made a detour to the gents!
Leaving Osterley grounds, I pretty much left Jenny, James and Daniel there and continued on my way by myself - risky perhaps when I'm not 100% sure I'd be able to fix a puncture myself (I know how to, just that last time I did, I managed to break the gear cable on replacing it!). However, I wanted to set my benchmark so I pushed onwards.
The route was good - initially quite built up as we left London and then getting more and more rural. The really rural stuff came after the first food stop at 32Km. This food stop was well signposted and couldn't really miss it. In a lay-by next to a pub, it provided water and various food items. Hats off to the guys as the flapjacks were fantastic! I had taken my own food as well, so that came in handy (I do like jelly beans for a long ride). I did make the mistake of taking my gloves off though - I was wearing the Castelli's I'd recently bought. When I went to put them back on, I realised how cold sweaty gloves can be! I warmed up eventually (well, my hands did - overall the ride was pretty chilly)
The route was now quite rural, passing through villages. Roads were a bit damp and some of them were quite gravelly. However, I continued. A few remarks from roadies on riding it on the Brompton. Two comments that I was particularly proud of were:
> > Good speed! Hope you're doing the long one! > >
> > Does that have an engine in?! > >
I reached the medium/long loop split at about 10:50 - I'd been told they were closing this split at 12:00 so I was there with an hour and a bit to spare. I made a decision to go for it and do the lot.
There wasn't a huge amount of climbing up to the first feed stop - however, there was far more climbing in the long loop than in the medium distance. I struggled about the 55-65Km mark - that was probably the lowest point of the ride for me. I was wondering what I was doing and if I was on the medium ride I wouldn't be far from finishing! Anyhow, I carried on. It was lonely as well - not many other riders were here at this point. However, I caught up with some. Then at about 75Km we hit a hill. A nasty one. It started not to bad but then it kept going - it was pretty sharp as well. I dropped it into my lowest gear and spun the pedals - a couple of roadies got off half way up. I overtook someone on my way up. I made it! Leaving behind the roadies (some making noises of disbelief as I went past!) behind, I carried on. Surely the next feed stop was soon?! By my calculations it was.
It was nearby, but I had another hill to climb first! This, like the one before it, was nasty. This was made worse by it being a main road - I thought I would have to get off and push to stop myself veering over the road (thought I am allowed to take the entire lane if needed). However, I made it and was then able to coast to the feed stop.
I almost missed this feed stop! It was signposted saying food stop coming up and it took me a while to realise it was in a shopping centre location!
However, I made it. I'd been struggling a bit so it was time to bring out my secret weapon - I thought this was an ideal time to open it after getting it for Christmas! I was cold waiting as the Proviz jacket was sweaty and not being breathable, I'd worked up quite a sweat.
At the feed stop, I bumped into the London Brompton crew that had started on the medium route!
They'd been arriving as I set off in the morning - they started later than me so I'd obviously been ahead of them but I caught up with them with food. Evans took our picture for the website, considering we were on the famous fold up bike that most people assume are only for the short commutes to the station in the morning!
I left with the group - however, it rapidly split up with David and Orange shooting off into the distance and me leaving behind Chris, ZoomZoom and Anne fairly quickly as well.
I did manage to catch up with Orange in the end after we passed through Eton. David was pushing things hard at the front and the wind direction helped our speeds as well.
We didn't wait for the others are we pushed on for the finish. I rolled back over the finish line at Osterley some 5 hours and 52 minutes after leaving.
I chatted for a bit before I got to cold and headed back to the station to get back to Wimbledon. I was finally able to get warm once I showered!
Overall, it was a good route set out by Evans. It was well signposted and the feed stops were good. I'm thinking of signing up for another couple - there's the Hatfield one I've definitely got my eye on. The benefit of riding with the club was that a number of people asked if we were part of a club and have now signed up to our Facebook page.
I made it back quicker than I was expecting - I was thinking it would have been six hours but I'll settle for under! Perhaps some work and I can drop this down in the rest of the year.
Everything pretty much performed as it should - however, I'm having to take my Castelli gloves back to Evans, as they're already coming unstitched - in less than three weeks! Heart monitor worked fine and the Brompton had no issues.