6.00 am, it's dark and I'm wearing lycra, must be a day to do a sportive, the Cheddar Cyclosportive in fact. A year ago I set off on the same journey but that time into the unknown this year I knew what I was letting myself in for, but I still went. The route had been tweaked this year so it wasn't exactly the same but still sixty odd miles. The car park was already busy when I arrived but it didn't take long to register, outside this year as it wasn't lashing down it was even bordering on the mild. Back to the car to affix number and faff whilst I waited to start and waited for some cycling friends to arrive. Unlike last year when I was Billy no mates this year I actually knew people that I can hopefully call friends. I met the Mayor and the Rouleur and other assorted members of the Axbridge Cycling Group in the shape of Martyn, Steve and Jenny's Dad aka the Captain. It was suggested I rode with Steve and the Captain as I might keep up with them, they obviously didn't realise my lack of blistering pace....or anything related to cycling quickly.
We were soon off onto the flat roads towards Wedmore and I was soon enveloped by bigger groups and soon lost contact with the ACG. It's really great when three people overtake then slowdown and sit abreast chatting in front of you, gripe over. Through Wedmore and up a short sharp hill and back onto the flat towards Glastonbury. I caught up with the Captain again and I hope I did some work as we headed through Glastonbury, we briefly found Steve who was kindly waiting. First route change and we headed around the town and up some hills towards Somerton. I'd done something like seventeen miles in the first hour which is a bit quick for me and the first dark thoughts of bad mamil were entering my head. Even going at what was a decent pace for me I still felt like I was going backwards as everybody else riding seemed to be passing me. I lost contact with the others again as I started feeling sorry for myself but found the Captain again as I reached Somerton. He was kindly waiting for me..... or fixing his chain which had come off , anyway I had someone to ride with again. Onto that bloody hill up to High Ham, I walked up most of it last year and this year I got off. My legs hadn't stopped pedalling for thirty miles and are not really used to it and they decided they didn't fancy that hill. I walked a couple of yards, took a breath, looked back at everyone else riding up and got back on. I need to revisit this hill and get my own back ! First feed stop at High Ham, well stocked with goodies, thirty miles done in about two hours, I should be pleased with that really.
Down the sweepy hill, smiled for my picture :) and then onto Pedwell Hill which we had to ride all of this year. Myself and the Captain tagged onto a little Gruppetto headed by a chunky bloke in Team Saxo kit who insisted on doing all the work, suited me. I was feeling better now helped by the stop and getting pulled along at a nice pace through the villages as we headed towards Highbridge. I think all the quick types had passed now so we didn't get passed that much, I took a turn at the front as we headed over the motorway, get me, cycling like a proper cyclist :) Another route change this year as we headed along a cycle path to Burnham to stop us playing with the Traffic towards Brent Knoll. Not bad really, everyone seemed quite pleased to see mamils out in force and everyone was pleasant and courteous, cyclists and pedestrians. Through Burnham and along to the second welcome feed stop at Brent, again well stocked, fifty miles done. Lots of shiny expensive looking bikes to look at but it did cross my mind, do any of these riders go out when it's wet and dirty ?
The last leg back to Cheddar was new to and wound its lumpy way to Banwell, and castle ;) and through Winscombe. I thought we'd missed a sign as we made our way along the lanes until I saw someone walking up the hill behind the castle, I rode up it though ! A quick blast along the main roads and back to Cheddar and the finish, a free cuppa and chance to get changed.
After getting a bit puffed out in the first thirty miles I really enjoyed the rest of the ride. It was nice to have company to as that kept me going and nullified any thoughts of stopping too much, I hope I didn't suck wheel too much.
Here's the strava bit http://app.strava.com/rides/22185404#
Last year I did this event in 5.21 over a different route in much worse conditions. This year I did it in 4.32 two minutes off a silver time! I blame traffic lights. That's fifty minutes off in sixty four miles which I should be really pleased with. After seeing my photos though I've still got a long way to go and really need to shift some weight.