Monday, February 11, 2013

Second Sportive - The Wrong Decision

Hello, I’m Pez - a member of Team Etape. This Sunday myself, Paul and James were meant to be “cruising” the 50 mile route of our second sportive. It didn’t quite work out that way.

James ducked out, claiming he was still recovering from a bug, so I and fellow Etaper Paul planned to head off to the Gatwick Ride It Sportive on our own.

This was considered to be a good test of fitness as the 52 mile route only had around 2200ft of climbing so we hoped to finish comfortably in a good time.

The weather had other ideas. For the week leading up to the event the forecast for the Gatwick area was constant light rain from 7am until long into the afternoon. It resolutely refused to change and on the day before we were due to ride a game of chicken ensued where neither I nor Paul wanted to be the first to call it off.

Sunday morning came and the weather where I live (about 40 miles from Gatwick) was ok, scattered showers and 4 degrees, so after a further round of phone chicken I headed off to meet Paul. This was the wrong decision.

As we drove towards the start the weather gradually got worse and talk moved from whether we should do the shorter 33 mile route to whether we should just turn around and go home. The decision was taken that as we had driven so far we would just do the short route and try to get it out of the way as quickly as possible.

The ride started well. It was a lovely route with relatively clear roads – even with the standing water and the deteriorating conditions we managed to get to the top of the first real climb, about 15 miles in, in around an hour. As we hid under a bus shelter with a couple of other people the weather gradually got worse. We sucked it up and continued on to the rest stop after 21 miles.

The descent following this climb made me realise how much colder you can get when everything is wet. My face was frozen and a lack of proper waterproof gloves meant that it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage the brakes properly. I could also no longer feel my toes, having destroyed my shoe covers mountain biking a few months ago and not got round to buying new ones.

We stopped at the next rest stop, fuelled up on flapjacks and carried on for six more miles. After a final regroup we headed off and despite some hairy downhills I managed to cover the final 7 miles relatively quickly and hurried into the event centre to try and warm up and wait for Paul.

I waited and I waited. 10 minutes in I got concerned and tried phoning him - he is usually a stronger rider than me and the idea I could take that much time out of him in 7 miles made no sense. After 20 minutes he turned up and explained that he was so late because he had to stop for 15 minutes to try and warm his hands up enough to physically squeeze his brakes.

With hands so cold we could barely work the quick release on our front wheels we loaded up the car and then sat in the parking lot for 20 minutes with our hands in front of the heater until Paul felt it was safe for him to drive.

Then we got lost.

After a drive which was an hour longer than it should be Paul finally dropped me off and I grimly rode the last 5 miles home. Putting my hands back in my wet gloves was one of the least pleasant experiences of my life but it was better than having no gloves at all. Upper Tooting Road is among my least favourite places to cycle in good conditions so doing it whilst shivering and wet was a particularly horrible way to end the day.

On reflection we should have trusted the weather forecast and realised that without serious wet weather kit this ride would not have been pleasant. The only positive for me was that after the 33 miles I felt absolutely fine, in terms of legs and lungs, and would happily have done the next 20 to finish the medium Sportive if the weather had been better.

Paul on the other hand described it as ‘the worst day of his life’ which I felt may have been pushing it a little bit but then again he did have a harder time on the ride than me and I didn’t have to drive afterwards.

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