Last Sunday I took part in my first Cycling Sportive- the Essex Season Ender. My training plan includes increasing cycling mileage over the winter, so my triathlon coach suggested I find a sportive to get some more cycling experience in.
Cycling events are less frequent now that the weather has turned colder and the roads are slippery, but I managed to find a local event- the Essex Season Ender. With an option of 42 or 72 miles, I opted for the shorter distance along with 4 ladies from my triathlon club. Another 8 club mates went for the 72 mile option- hardcore!
|With Hayley, Laura, Amy and Kay from Havering Tri|
The sportive started at Redbridge Cycling Centre, a road circuit which was built as a training venue for the Olympics. I’ve blogged before about doing some training at Redbridge when I first started cycling.
The route headed out from the Cycling Centre through undulating Essex countryside lanes with plenty of steep hills to contend with. It was a cold, crisp morning and the roads were flooded in places and slick with wet leaves.
I’d treated myself to a new bike the week before the event, and this was my first long ride on it. It soon became apparent that the bike was not right for me after only a few miles into the ride.
I don’t want to turn this race re-cap into a rant about Cycle Surgery, but I’m pretty disappointed by their customer service. The frame they sold me was too small and the saddle was positioned far too low. My knees were aching and I was struggling to keep up with the group, as I wasn’t getting the maximum power out of each pedal stroke. It became disheartening as each cyclist who passed me said “do you realise your saddle is far too low?” The cycle computer which had been fitted to the bike at Cycle Surgery, also did not work.
After 26 miles we stopped to refuel at the food station. There was a huge spread of cakes, crackers, cheese, fruit and pretzels. I loved the flapjacks and banana cake!
At the rest stop, I was helped to raise my saddle by 3″ which made a huge difference for the final 17 miles of the sportive. I felt much more comfortable and could keep up with my club mates. I’d already decided however to return the bike to Cycle Surgery- it clearly was not the right frame size.
We rode as a group, stopping at each major junction to wait for the slower cyclists. It turned into a quite eventful ride. One of our group came off her bike twice, she wasn’t injured thankfully, just a bit shaken up. We also cycled by a horse being ridden, it seemed very nervous around cyclists, so we passed by slowly to avoid startling it!
The route was beautiful, I love exploring rural Essex by bike. Picturesque villages and rolling fields surrounded us on either side. The final push was up the aptly named ‘Hoe Lane’, a notorious stretch of slowly ascending hills.
Back at race HQ, we completed a 1km lap of the road circuit before crossing the finish line in 3 hours 48 minutes. Slower than we had expected, but a long stop for cake and a few incidents along the way had slowed us down!
After the sportive, I headed straight to Cycle Surgery to complain and return my bike. I didn’t really receive an explanation as to why I hadn’t received a proper bike fitting, and I’m still battling to get my money back. I’ll buy another bike soon, but I’ll go to a shop who actually know what they are doing.