My introduction to road biking was riding round the Peak District trying desperately not to fall off my oversized, rickety, single speed Peugeot Carbolite – which was probably better suited to a hipster in London. I soon realised I needed to upgrade to something a little more hill friendly! So with the help of Pinkbike, I soon found myself a shiny new toy.
Jumping forward about a year, yes I love my road bike – it’s very pretty, very clean and likes to go fast, but we have had a few ups and downs (literally!). The main issue has been the transition to clip in pedals – I just kept falling off, and I am too stubborn to change them back. The result of this is, despite running and mountain biking in any conditions, I am very much a fair weather roadie.
Entry to the Heart of Yorkshire Sportive was a bit last minute, to say the least. I was meant to be running V3K two weeks after so had initially ducked out of the opportunity. However after having to differ my entry I fancied a replacement challenge! Organised by the Yorkshire Mafia, the Heart of Yorkshire Sportive seemed the perfect fit – 107 km of beautiful countryside and a promised cake and coffee stop at half way. Plus it would be ticking off a milestone – I’ve only ever ridden about 50km on the road bike before.
About a week before, my idealistic view of the weekend was slightly shaken when I read an article on preparing for your first 100km ride. Unsurprisingly they seemed to suggest you needed a little bit more training than I had done – my road bike had remained hidden inside all of the winter..!
So a tad panicked I decided to drag myself out on a training ride around the Peak District the weekend before. The first 5 km were brutal – I had forgotten that to go anywhere in Sheffield you have to cycle up a massive hill first. There is also nowhere to hide fitness-wise on the road bike; it’s tough. Luckily things picked up and I soon actually found myself enjoying it – I managed 75 km before having to dive into the nearest cafe, which was just long enough to feel that the sportive might be feasible.
On a side note – I do not recommend this training plan, there is loads of great advice out there on how to build up slowly!
The day of the sportive Tom, Kris and I arrived in Leeds nice and early. The whole event had been very well organised (we were very well prepped on the email front!), and there was no trouble getting our numbers and timing chips. Soon we were off – admittedly it was an odd start, weaving in and out of city centre Leeds. Although well signposted, I was hoping it was going to get a little more scenic!
After about 20 minutes we found ourselves out of the city and into the rolling green hills. Whizzing along it all seemed to be going smoothly until Kris firstly managed to slice his finger on a spoke and then had to stop as his pedal fell off! A lot faster than me, I will admit I was secretly very glad of the breather. However, the bottom bracket of his bike was not in a good way, and for a moment I think the three of us thought our ride might be ending after 15km! Luckily he managed to patch things up (finger and bike) enough to get back on.
Luckily we continued without drama, settling into a nice pace and enjoying the beautiful views around us. The whole route was very clearly marked which was great as it was nice not to have to think about navigation. Before I knew it, we were approaching the mid-way point and the highlight of my day – the coffee and cake stop! It did not disappoint – sat in the sunshine eating a homemade scone, drinking a cappuccino, I was totally sold on the whole road biking thing! I mean I had even begun to mastered the clip in pedals.
After our leisurely break, we were off again. Not quite a spritely as the start, I could certainly feel my legs had gotten a little stiff during the rest. At the back of my mind, I was a bit daunted at the prospect of another 53 km or so. By 80 km the energy was dwindling, and I was starting to tire, although the route was still very picturesque, the miles were not going by as fast!
Just I was beginning to lose a bit of momentum we reached a very friendly group of bikers taking part in the same event. They were in high spirits and moving quickly, so trying to absorb some of their energy, we made an effort to keep up. This was so much fun – I have never actually ridden as part of a group so had not experienced the efficiency benefits of a mini-peloton. Soon I was going about 54 km/hour and felt like I was back in the game!
Eventually, I just couldn’t spin my legs fast enough to keep up so had to drop back, but it had got me just far enough to be able to focus on the finish and getting back. Soon we were back in the city and winding along some very random cycle paths/tracks towards our goal. The only slightly negative comment on the whole day would be to say – change this bit – the rest of the route is so lovely it seems a shame not to be able to finish on a nicer section (I stress this is only a minor point though).
Crossing the finish line, I felt really happy and a great sense of achievement. I couldn’t quite believe how fast the time had gone. Not including the break it had taken us 4 hours and 20 minutes, a time I was very pleased with.
All in all, it was such a fantastic day, I would recommend giving it a go. The setup and organisation made the whole thing stress free, and the friendly atmosphere meant it was approachable for both beginners and the more speedy.
I really hope this is back next year – it will certainly not be my last sportive. 100 miles next maybe..?!