The cord snapped. Cycling is a cruel sport. Watching a group of cyclists moving in harmony rotating turns on the front can be mesmerising. It all seems so fast, so smooth, so effortless. Pity then that you couldn’t read my heartrate monitor trace which was rapidly heading upwards to a point where there was only going to be one outcome. That point came one hour and thirty eight minutes into the Jodrell Bank cyclosportive. Until then I had been working hard with a couple of other riders on Treks. They were strong; their winter’s had obviously been better than mine.
My last minute decision to ride the 50 mile version of the Jodrell Bank came about due to a change in plan for Mother’s Day. If I could get around quickly then it wouldn’t upset the day at all, and since the start was only 5km from my front door and the weather forecast was good, there was no excuse. I started hard from the off and quickly fell in with a rider on a BMC who was pedalling as if the hounds of hell were after him. I hung on grimly for about 10km until he headed straight on for the 80 mile variant and I swung left for the shorter version – if he kept that pace going then he would set an amazingly quick time! I could see a single rider a few hundred metres ahead and I worked really hard into a headwind to bridge the gap – it took me another 10km or so of redlining the heartrate to finally latch on to his rear wheel. A brief respite, then it was turn and turnabout at a good pace until the first feed stop at Goostrey. Here we picked up a third rider and my problems started to magnify. He was even stronger than my partner, and every time he took his turn on the front the pace quickened. My turns became shorter as my legs started to suffer. I was working too hard to eat and as we hit a gentle incline towards Macclesfield the inevitable occurred.
The efficiency of a group of cyclists isn’t immediately apparent until you feel it at close hand. That gap between you and the back wheel of the guy in front goes out to a metre. A moment’s lapse and it’s 5 metres. Your heart is hammering and you need a breather, suddenly it’s 50. The guys in front become aware that you’re not there. There’s a cursory glance back, an unspoken, “Are we going to wait?” “Nah, fuck it, let’s ride.” and that 50 metres grows to 200, 300 then they’re out of sight. Cycling, as I say, is a cruel sport.
The enforced breather at least allowed me to neck a couple of gels, grab a drink and look at my watch. I was almost back onto my standard 40k loop (in reverse) and from then I would know every incline, every cobble, every pothole and could dose my effort efficiently.
The Jodrell Bank Sportive is a new event on the calendar and they have sensibly opted for a season opener feel to the route. It’s largely a flat runout through the Cheshire lanes with a few hills thrown in at the end to catch the unwary, none of which are too daunting, though. The weather was kind: it was cold and dry with a stiffish breeze which seemed to remain a headwind throughout (odd how that happens so often) to provide a decent first event for the season and a good preparation for the Cheshire Cat coming up in a couple of weekends time. The signposting was excellent, except at the split where it wasn’t clear which route went where unless you had memorised it beforehand or stopped to check your route card. The feeds seemed to be well stocked and the organisers made it clear that there would be food to purchase at the end. Sportident timing chips gave an accurate readout and printed ticket at the end, but at ?25 I thought it was a tad expensive for a relatively short ride without free food at the finish. It is, nevertheless, a welcome addition to the northwest calendar.
I recovered fairly quickly from being dropped and was soon covering the familiar ground back to Woodford Memorial Hall. No riders caught me up and I started to pass a few of the early riders on the 30 mile route. I rolled in to the finish in 2:43:25, 3rd rider to finish the 50 mile circuit. I saw one of the two Treks and asked him what his time was – he finished in 2:37, gapping me by 6 minutes in the last hour. The efficiency of a group of cyclists isn’t immediately apparent.
I am, however, delighted by my time. I have rarely ridden a 50 so quickly, especially so early in the season and it has given me renewed hope for the forthcoming season.
Here is the organiser’s video. The eagle eyed might spot me a couple of times: