Saturday, 20 August 2016

The foothills of Yorkshire

So today I did my first official 'sportive', as non-competive cycling events organised by a third party up and down the country are generally known. Sportives are all the rage these days, and include following a pre-planned route on a timed basis, but are not races. I know there are a lot of arguments for and again sportives but they definitely have their pros and cons. It's easy to appreciate the mechanical support and route signage on offer as well as the food stops en route where you can replenish your supplies and grab a bite to eat to recharge depleted energy reserves. Naturally this is covered by the price of admission, where-as some people would say that cycling should be free - which is true to a point, but sportives can be a good way of exploring undiscovered areas with little to no thought needed.

Anyway, onto the detail. The sportive I chose to do was the Yorkshire Tour sportive in North Yorkshire, starting in Thirsk and taking in some of the roads used in the Tour De France Grand Depart that took the UK by storm two years ago. I travelled by train to the event, meaning I had to get up at 5:15 in the morning just to be there in time. I had originally planned to stay overnight in Thirsk in order to be prepared, however at £50-80 a night for a single room I decided against it. I changed trains in York with a strong coffee on route, and arrived at the registration point for the event in good time, having visited the toilet 'facillities' at Thirsk station beforehand.

It has to be said at this point (and look away now if you're faint of heart) but going to the toilet in full cycling gear is not a glamorous experience. In fact, it's the very opposite. You essentially have to strip down to the bare minimum of clothing just to do a No. 1. And there I was, doing it in a chemical toilet at Thirsk station, since the other makeshift toilet building had had a drainage failure. A small aside there, but I'm sure you get the picture.

Anyway, I took my place to start the ride around 8:50, which saw different groups depart at 2 minute intervals in groups of 15-20. The weather was fairly dry and clear, although dull to start with, with the sun occasionally breaking through the clouds long enough to brighten the route. It had originally been forecast to be heavy rain from 7am in the morning, and I had strongly considered not coming at all rather than get up at 5:15am on a Saturday just for the purposes of discovering a new area on my bike. However, having made a cup of tea and 'proper' porridge with honey and banana mixed into it, I decided that since I had paid for the event and the train ticket I might as well give it a go.

The route itself passed through numerous small villages mainly on B-roads and minor roads, with little to no traffic visible (perhaps helped by the early morning start). I'm pleased to say that there was very minimal rain with only irregular and sudden showers that left me un-drenched and dry enough to enjoy the course. Having had a big bowl of porridge and a tasty coffee at York station meant I was able to cycle a good 20 miles before stopping for a snack - drinking I did whilst cycling. When I looked at my phone to see how far I had cycled up to that point I was pleasantly surprised to see I had already done 19.6 miles, which seemed to have flown.

Having said that this was a fairly easy course with barely noticeable elevation, and only a few descents (this part of Yorkshire is quite rolling). Not being in any kind of national park in Yorkshire, and having opted to to do the Easy route (39 miles), I shouldn't have been surprised however. Having had my snack and a drink I figured it wasn't actually that far to the feed stop, so I didn't stop for long and pushed on for another 7 miles. The feed stop was in the church hall of a methodist church, and offered both hot drinks and water, together with a replenishment of my sports drink. Snacks ranged from energy gels to flapjack, cake and biscuits, and offered welcome respite.

It was nice to see so many cyclists in one place, and I spent around 20 minutes there (half of that time spent waiting in the queue for the toilet once again). With 26.5 miles in the can at this point, I headed out to do the last 13 miles, which saw the headwind increase a fair bit and also another brief downpour. Fortunately I was motivated to continue by the finish line which started counting down at both 10km and 5km to go signs on the roadside. I finished the ride exactly where I had started, collecting my medal and free t-shirt (as well as a protein recovery bar) from the staff on hand at the finish point.

I didn't hang around to use the free bike-wash facilities or get a massage, but instead headed back to the train station to head back to York as I figured it was best just to get back home and rest, as I had already been up and awake for nearly 7 hours by that point (which is a lot when you consider it was only quarter past 12!). Luckily I made it back to York just as another train back to Doncaster was pulling in, so I asked the conductor if I could jump on it and luckily they had a bike space for me and I made it home two hours earlier than planned. Following a shower and some much needed food, I settled down for a quick snooze, and feeling very pleased with the day's efforts. Now it's on to the Grindleford Goat near Sheffield next month (maybe)!