Blenheim Breast Cancer Charity Ride

60 mile Sportive 3rd October 2010

I was able to register on the Saturday afternoon, prior to the event on the Sunday. You received your number for the front of your bike and a disposable, self-adhesive timing chip for your crash hat. I was then staying over-night with Dave Elliott in his parents’ house at Bladon, which was ideally situated only two miles from the start.

I was up before 7am to eat porridge to prepare for early start which commenced at 8am. The plan was to start as early as possible to avoid the rain that was coming later and ride and draught with the more sensible faster riders who should be starting first. I was to ride with Dave and Paul Martin but Dave has a bad back and can not possibly ride. Paul has to stay at home as a close relative has been taken ill and is in hospital.

The plan has faltered, the rain has arrived over-night and it’s blowing a gale. The roads are flooded already. I have two bikes with me, one with mudguards and a lighter one without. I decide to ride lighter bike as I recon you are going to get wet whatever bike you are riding and it looks as though it will be a challenging ride.

The final check before setting off, – I have read the 10 pages of guidance including the does and don’ts and I have everything I need, two inner tubes, puncture repair kit, money, phone, camera, emergency food (banana and chocolate bar) and I am wearing my waterproof cycling jacket. Also you need your brain as the instructions say “do not leave this at the start”. Presumably you have to engage your brain at the finish and remember that further instructions say “do not sprint for the finish line unless you are an ELITE cyclist to avoid too much stress on your heart”.

At 8am a large number of riders, in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, are queuing along the road before the start line. Dave and his farther have walked over and are to wave me off. I set off in one of the earlier groups of 150 riders. We ride a mile and a half in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, shoulder to shoulder, and out onto the road. The marshalling is good and there are big yellow arrow signs as well to indicate turns. The group quickly fragments into small number of riders going at their own pace but no large groups to shelter behind. There is a strong cross-wind from the southeast and it’s raining. I am riding fast down all the hills, overtaking riders and speeding at 25, 30 and up to 40 mph. I am not free wheeling, must get back to Blenheim and shelter as soon as possible. Going up hill I am being passed by younger or fitter riders.

The route is generally eastwards through beautiful country lanes up and down hills passing Stonesfield Charlbury, Spelsbury, Cornwell, Broadwell and Stow-on-the-Wold to Lower Swell at 25 miles for the first stop at the village hall. The food and drink are good and includes bacon butties, trays of solid chocolate bananas, apples, bottles of orange, cups of tea and coffee and energy gels. I recon bacon butties are as good as energy gels so I eat them and everything else. Have a drink of coffee and fill my drinking bottle with orange.

There a choice at Lower Swell to ride the loop and complete the 100 distance. I keep to the 60 mile.

It’s tough; it’s gruelling, I’m counting every mile. The legs are cold and feel as though they could cramp-up. It’s still raining the wind is as strong but now it’s a head wind or cross-wind back to Blenheim. 25 miles have been completed and there are 35 to go! The route is through Lower Slaughter, Burton-on-the-Wold, Great Rissington, Great Barrington. Tayton, Astall Leigh and Minster Lovell. No riders to shelter behind until two riders overtake me. I jump in behind and we do a couple of brisk miles. I do a turn on the front down hill but we hit a long hill and I am blown away. They disappear over the hill in front of me. On a long exposed hill there is a head wind and I am riding at 4mph. If the hill was any steeper or the wind stronger I would be going backwards! A little young lady, riding a MTB, overtakes me on the hill. I am too big and heavy to keep up with her. However I overtake her down hill going at about twice her speed.

Ten miles from the finish, at Hailey there is an additional rest stop this year and there are bottles of orange drink, bananas, apples and trays of the solid chocolate pieces. The attendant was asked if it was flat to the finish. No he said there were some hills but also there was some flooding. Sure enough a few miles down the road, in a dip, there was what looked like a lake with water about 6 inches deep across the road, passable at a low speed. The route is through East End, Long Hanborough and Combe before turning into Blenheim Park at Ditchley Gate where we had also exited.

In the Park, with about 2 miles to go, there is a long dead straight road towards the Column of Victory; on top of the column is a statue of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. It looks like Nelson’s column in London. Riding here is similar to standing on the top of a cliff facing the sea with the rain and raging storm blowing in your face. The arms of my waterproof jacket are flapping violently, progress is slow.

At the finish there were some people clapping and saying “well done”. I had been away from Blenheim for 4hrs 42mins. For the riders there were the usual drinks, the slabs of chocolate and most appropriately hot soup. Also you collected your free bag.

Back at Dave parents’ house I was able to have a hot shower and another bowl of hot soup – most welcome. After this, Dave’s mum, Mary, noticed I was nodding off so suggested I rest on the bed. Two hours later, all refreshed, we drove home!

Statistics moving speed was 15.1 mph, 303rd out of 808 finishers. 9th in the 60+ group of 30 riders, climbed over 3000 feet.

Would I ride again next year? If you had asked immediately after the event the answer would have been “no way”, now “may be” but come next year I will probably be keen to ride again! After all it is for charity.

Done it got the T-shirt, Bag!

Click on “View Details” to see visit the Garmin Connect site and to see a larger map and to view timing, elevation, heart rate and cadence in tabular and graph form.

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