We were eating up the road as I sat behind man mountain. I introduced myself as I came up beside him and he said he was Rob. Rob from York. Having set off at the crack of nearly dawn in the Wiggle Angel Sportive, we were making up a bit of a dream team. This substantial framed athlete in front of me was taking most of the wind, most of the time. He ate up the little and big groups we caught and duly spat them out. I took a breath at 12 miles and peered at my garmin. It announced 19.2 mph. Keeping this up was going to be a tall order.
There was a light shower just before the start of this 80 mile cycling sportive (other distances are available) and, after a moment of mild brain activity, I changed from the short sleeved top to my tracksuit. God knows why. Did I really think I was going to be cold or it was going to be that showery?
As we turned north from Scots Gap I was simmering nicely. I was certainly making inroads into my Robinsons mango flavoured squash.
It seemed like the pace was also taking its toll on Rob from York and he slowed slightly as the inclines became more regular and challenging. Given my slight frame and knowing the terrain, I moved on into the side wind and made good progress to Rothbury.
I was beginning to wonder where the drink station was when I saw the banner and flag on the left in what looked like an old church yard in Thropton. I filled up, took on some flapjack and saddled up. The road splits about 2 miles on and it looked like most of the field present were completing the longer 94 mile route. This left me on my own with no one in sight and no one to chase up Bilsmoor, one of the biggest climbs on the day. As it was, I ploughed on and enjoyed the little event signs along the road which implored 'don't give up now' and 'nearly there'...I thought in my sportive, I would have signs that said 'come on, pedal harder you loser' and ' this is what too much flap jack does for you'! Not PC, I'm sure.
As I came into the sleepy hollow of Elsdon, the route joins up with the shorter route (65 miles) and at last there were suddenly more riders on the road ahead.
The pull out of Otterburn and up toward Bellingham was predictably tough but had to be done. Thankfully, with a blustery headwind I was feeling a little cooler. It was a relief to turn east at Donkleyhead, where a very respectable tailwind was waiting for us. However, I began to cook again under my stylish SC Gothic top. I took on another bottle of water at the drinks station in Bellingham and was pleased to make good progress up the climb out of the valley and then up to Redesdale.
With 15 miles to go, there was a reasonable chance that I could crack 17mph for the overall ride, and it was simply a case of grafting to the finish on my local roads. Pleased to finish in 4:43 for 81 miles. All I could think about was a cool pint of lager tops but settled for my free cup of coffee. Enjoyed the challenge. Could have been quicker if I'd found a group to work with.
Three cereal bars, 2 slices of flapjack and 3 litres of drink. Wonder how Rob from York got on....?