Sunday, 14 April 2013

Thirsk Sportive

I've only ever done two cycling sportives. One of these was in pretty hostile, sub-zero conditions at the Captains Cooks event last year. The Newcastle Cyclone was my second. The Thirsk sportive was my third. I took loads of kit down with me to protect my from the elements out in the North York Moors. Having checked the forecast the night before it wasn't a bad outlook. It was even quite good.

The event offered 3 possible routes...or if you were with me, four. As we set off in small groups I got talking to a local bloke who was only doing the short (35mile) event.  After eight miles or so we climbed up past High Kilburn, a cheeky little 3rd category climb that had a few off their bikes. Passing the spectacular skeletal remains of Byland Abbey, a victim of the reformation, the fog lifted a little, but it was still grey. Around 300 were doing the event. Over the course of the route there were relatively few sizeable groups to sit in with, but early on I found myself with a group of eight and we soon turned north up Farndale. There was a little more climbing but nothing thankfully too taxing. However, the group split, leaving only 3 of us to together arriving at the first feed station (Church Houses) and passing a lad with a nasty head injury who looked like he'd misjudged the fast and gravelly descent and was being tended by two others.  One of the lads with me asked 'you alright?' as he rode by. Patently not, I thought.

There was little perceptible wind through the lanes which were lined with mossy, drystone walls and budding hedges. There were a lot of sheep and slurry spreading was in full flow on the farms. Bit of an assault on the nose. After the first stop, the road split and, as I'd only signed up for the medium route (77 miles), I turned right back down the valley. I soon passed a couple of lads on a short climb and found myself on my todd coming out of Hutton Le Hole, but making sure I gave the photographer an exaggerated thumbs up.

The sun was breaking through now and the clagg burning off and, as I pedalled, I wondered how I was going to fill the next 2 hours. Following a nagging cross wind, I turned into a useful tailwind at Malton and with the smooth B1287, a flattish road with smooth tarmac, the speed went up and I clocked along at around twenty mph. By then I had reverted to imagining I was in the Tour, a small group were trying to catch me and I was out in Breakaway Land. Every motorbike that came past had an imaginary blackboard and I spent 10 miles waiting for the team car to pull up. I wish.

As I came through Hovingham I noticed a second feed station on the right in the hall, but no bikes were parked up. I cracked on for a mile then pulled up, wondering if I should have turned in the village. I turned back and stopped to ask in the hall. Yes, it seemed I was on the right route and as I came out, a small group came powering past not stopping for drinks. The signs suggested riders were to u-turn back on themselves. As there were a load of kids sitting around I thought they had been messing around with the signs.

I caught the group of eight up and ploughed on leaving them behind at Stonegrave village. After 3 miles the road began to climb and with Oswalkirk in sight, a motorcycle marshall passed and pulled up in front of me.
-'Sorry to inform you but your off course, lad' he said.
I turned back and 5 miles later back in the village, the turn I had missed became evident. 

The urgency had evaporated now and progress was slower. The sun was now out and things were pretty warm.

After 70 miles I drained the last of my bottle and was rewarded with a little cramping incident on a sharp pull, but rode through it and was pleased to see the signs for Thirsk shortly afterwards. The last 10 miles were in a southerly tailwind and I crossed the line with a couple of lads from Darlington Tri.  Having rode 87 miles, the time was really academic, but it had been a good day out. It was warm and dry. After loading up the bike and grabbing an Americano, my cheeks were rosy and burning, but given the mileage and time in the saddle, I'm not sure its my face I'm talking about.
Good event made great by the weather. Not many daffodils around. Loads of sheep.  Upwards and onwards.

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