White Horse Challenge 90 mile Sportive – race report
The first 20 miles were gently undulating but remembered vividly with one big “Oh Shit!” moment. I was cruising along at about 20mph already delegated to the naughty spot for my hat fever flood rockets, when a fox darted from the verge and in-between myself and Mouse. Grabbing the brakes and gasping for my life and the foxes’ life we both were lucky that day as only his tail whipped around my front wheel so no bike and body contact, disaster averted. The two guys behind me gave enough commentary of Oh Fu*K, Shit, Fox etc that I didn’t need to or could say anything but get my heart rate down and realise how lucky a near miss and close fox encounter that had been. Basil Brush is one of my all time favourites and this day managed to dart off into the field and probably too counted his lucky stars – do foxes have nine lives ? Latter on the questions of the day were how many nipples did various mammals have stating with the fox ?!
Another week and another land mark for me as I rode my longest distance to date – 90 miles. Now I couldn’t just do a nice flat 90 miles no I had to hit the hills so had 5,550ft of climbing. The descents again not too quick as they has bends, loose gravel, potholes and often in darkness from trees so reducing visibility of hazards. Great organisation and warning of danger with signs and flag waving marshals.
Pre 6am alarm for my tried and tested porridge with honey, a banana and a cuppa tea. The bike was already loaded into the car and my bags packed. At 3c a down jacket and flash of coffee was required, the low sun was blinding as I drove wet to Shrivenham.
Parking was well organised and registration was signed posted, with a reminder to take our helmets. Greeted with a free hot drink and biscuits I then had my race number given and helmet timing tag slapped onto the left side of the helmet, still sticky from Lionheart race. Again the number of females was less than 10% of total riders so no toilet queues
While trying to keep warm in the sunshine I was approached by a couple of other Pirates – Flyaway, Mouse & Matt, I was in my bright yellow PSOF jacket, they were in disguise ! We chatted away until 8am approached then casually rolled to the start. Mouse had done the ride a few times before and was happy for me to join her & Matt to ride as it appeared we were about the same pace. I was soon relegated to the back of the group in shame as hay fever kicked in and I think my new forum name will be Snotball – sorry Mouse.
After the close encounter of the fox kind we hit our first hill and one of five chalk white horses. Broad Town which was a good warm up as whilst the sun was out we still were only at about 5c, the expected high was 12c that day. The feed station was agin a buffet of goodies and sports drink with my many of my favourite foods – Jaffa cakes, flapjack, High5 gels & drink, cakes, Ritz crackers. Quick loo stop and then the long haul of Labour in Vain Hill and Cherhill white horse and onto Hack Pen where my shifters decided not to like bottom gear – grrhh A bit of a grind up that one. The miles clocked up and the hills just got tougher. I walked two this time, the half a hill at mile 70 where the gradient was so steep and then the last hill & horse Uffington at 83 miles was a KOM timed section and a killer so far into the route !
6:18 riding time avg 14.2mph and 6:55 chip time avg 13mph which included two feed station stops. So if I can hold the 14mph on IMUK by grabbing drinks but riding through with only toilet stops as required carrying my own gels and food I should have enough left in my legs and time in hand for the run/walk at the end. This was good long ride and practise for IMUK which is why I am spending my weekends riding sportives. Compared to running races and triathlons they are so cheap to enter and you go so much back from them.
In fact this has been a good solid training week for me at 14 hours, over 150 miles training in swim, bike & run including a long 4km swim, running at the inaugural Chippenham Parkrun and getting on to the race track for the first time this year plus a mid week hilly 30 miler. The weather is changing and getting warmer, still in 3/4 tights and long sleeves so the silly tan lines are limited. Hayfever has started which is more annoying than anything else.
14 weeks to go – eeekkk. Two recci rides of the new bike course planned, by all account sits tougher and slower than previous years – great !