15th challenge completed – Cycling Road

Having transferred my mountain bike to a road bike a couple of weeks ago I decided I was ready to enter my first Cycling Sportive. Not because I felt I had trained for it but because I had ‘all the gear …….’.

I had come across the Financial Times London Sportive (A Humanrace event) a few weeks ago and it looked like an ideal opportunity to complete the Cycling Road part of my Olympic challenge. There were 3 categories. Short – 48k, Medium – 100k and Long – 100miles. I went for the 48k event and managed to persuade my uni mates, Jimmy and Katie to join me. We are all training for Thames Turbo Triathlon so I managed to persuade them that it was ideal preparation.

The event started in Dulwich, finishing at the Herne Hill Velodrome – venue for the 1948 Olympic track cycling. Having never entered a cycling race before, none of us knew what to expect. The start time was 9.20am, earlyish but similar to most of the running races I’ve taken part in. They set us off in waves, with the riders taking part in the Long race going first – they were all kitted out in their Garmin and Sky cycling gear and ridiculously expensive bikes. Cycling is definitely more ‘showy’ that running. It was a bit intimidating seeing them all go off, but the nerves were soon calmed once the medium riders had gone off and all that was left were the fellow short riders. There were still a few stylish looking bikes, however there were plenty of Hybrids and Mountain bikes included into the mix.

So we set off with our fellow 250 riders (think there were around 2,000 in total) at a nice leisurely pace. The first few miles were through built up areas, with plenty of traffic lights and roundabouts so you couldn’t really get into a rhythm. After mile three we decided to pick up the pace and Katie told Jimmy and I that she was happy for us to Cycle ahead. So off we went, slowly picking up the pace – although the first half of the race was mainly uphill so it was tough going. We didn’t really know how hard to push it, but in all honesty when going up hills you don’t really have much choice as you have to attack them.

We worked well together and gradually started to pick off some of the other cyclists as we climbed to the highest point. The views were pretty good, although the weather wasn’t so we couldn’t really appreciate them. We arrived at the half way point pretty tired but with the knowledge that there was a lot more downhill than uphill on the way back and how this showed in our times. Our average speed was around 11.8mph on the way out, with many miles averaging over 18mph (one at 22.5mph) on the way back. I really enjoyed the way back, including one really tough hill, which I had forgotten we had gone down on the way out.

We eventually finished the road race in 2 hours 9 minutes. But it wasn’t quite over – as you entered the Herne Hill Velodrome there was a separate timed race of the Olympic track. So not only have I taken part in my first ever Cycling Road race I have also taken part in an Track Cycling race.

It was great to finish and Katie came in shortly after. It was a great day, really enjoyable, well organised and definitely something that I will do again.

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14th challenge completed – Cycling track

The London 2012 Olympics was an amazing experience and my only disappointment was not being able to secure any tickets for the velodrome. Luckily the legacy plan has fully kicked into action and we attended the official opening of velodrome as part of the Lee Valley VeloPark. The first event was the ‘Revolution’ cycling series on 14th March, which included the likes of Jason Kenny and Laura Trott.

I had never been to a cycling track before and was amazed and how steep the sides were, the TV really doesn’t do it justice. The thought of doing it myself made me slightly nervous.

During the racing the atmosphere was incredible even for this low key event and I couldn’t help thinking what it would have been like during the Olympics. I was buzzing when I left the velodrome, the Olympic spirit had been reignited in me.

So today, Rhian and I went to VeloPark to take part in a track taster session. Thanks for Jan Steen for an awesome Christmas present. We didn’t know what to expect and in truth I half expected to end up cycling round the bottom for a few laps and that would be that. Thankfully I was very wrong.

There was about 12 other cyclists, most in a similar situation to us just wanting to give it a try but there were a couple of keenos dressed up in their full Garmin gear. We had a short briefing, picked up our bikes and helmets and started on the track. Unlike most bikes, track bikes are single speed and fixed wheel. Essentially this means no gears and no brakes – a new experience for both of us. We started on the lower level for a few laps just to get used to the bikes and the racing position. From this point on, every time we passed the coaches they encouraged us to go faster and higher. It was ok at first but as we got closer to the blue line (about half way up) my heart started to beat a little bit quicker. It didn’t seem logical that the bike could travel round on such a steep incline without slipping off. After a while my confidence grew and I reached the top of the velodrome and started to really increase the cadence. It was an amazing feeling, especially to be cycling in the venue where we won 8 gold medals.

The entire session was 1 hour long and we must have spent around 40 minutes cycling. Great day and I can’t wait to have another go. On my way back home I also picked up my new bike in preparation for the Thames Turbo sprint Triathlon series on 25th May.

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