Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Leeds Big Bike Ride 2013

On Sunday I did the Leeds Big Bike Ride, '100' miles for charity - the Leeds Children's Hospital. Thank you to those who sponsored me!

The ride started and finished in Roundhay Park, and there were two route options - 100 km or 100 miles. In actual fact by my GPS the 100 mile option was 98.5 miles. This was a bit of a disappointment in a way since I had hoped this would be my first 100 mile ride since the accident. That will now have to wait until October 26 in Rutland, unless I go and do one round here first of course! I did think about doing a lap of the park at the end to make it 100 miles, but that's not right somehow is it?

For the weekend I had hired a car, to make getting there and back less stressful, and I stayed Saturday night at Clair and Matt's house (Clair is my cousin). That was good too as I got to see them and their new place and Seb of course, their 1-year old son. I got there around 1930 and Matt made us a risotto which was tasty and good carbo-loading for the ride too!

Sunday morning was an early start, 0600 Weetabix and a coffee, then hop in the car to the start. Matt was going to do the 100 mile route with me, but he changed his mind due to the weather forecast (more in a moment) and decided to do the 100 km route instead. It is true that the weather forecast had not been good for Sunday - heavy rain and local gale force winds was the prediction. I was a bit worried to be honest but it would only make it harder, not impossible! And I'm always a bit skeptical about the power of the weather forecast, especially when it's made 4 days out. Even one day out, weather forecasting in England is pretty rubbish. Small land mass, lots of hills, etc etc. 

A look out of the window on the morning suggested it might rain, but it didn't look too bad. It hadn't rained overnight and it wasn't raining currently. About as good as you can hope for! At Roundhay Park it was a simple matter to get my rider number and fix it to my bike. We had to fill in a card and exchange it at the start for the route map. One of my criticisms is that the route was not published, except in cartoon form, ahead of the ride. More on that later!
My lovely Focus bike, ready to go number 260. New bar tape, done by my own fair hand. OTE sports bottles. Lights in anticipation of bad weather!
I had made some allowances for the impending apocalyptic weather though. I put my lights on, just a frog on the front but a proper Cateye one on the back, in case it got really rainy and poor visibility. I used my saddle wedge to put my tools and spare tube in - don't normally do that. It allowed me to wear my Paclite jacket without it getting stretched and uncomfortable around my jersey - the same one I wore for the Ride with Brad, but with hardly anything in the pockets. I put gels and drink sachets in one of the drinks bottles, so I was only carrying one bottle of fluid - the rest stops looked quite frequent (every 17 miles or so) so I wasn't too concerned about that. I put some snacks and my car keys and stuff in my jacket pocket which was a bit bulky but not too bad. Ready to go!
The start line, Roundhay Park.
The ride started off quite simply, a drop out of the park and onto the A58 up the hill out of Leeds. This road I have driven many times in my life on the way back from Manchester to Mum and Dad's before the M62-A1 link (M1) was built. But I've never ridden it obviously because it's quite a busy road! After the roundabout turn right onto a smaller lane, that's better. Matt and his friend Nick had gone off like the clappers and this was the last time I saw them! I had to let them go, they were doing 62 miles and at that pace I would have buried myself in the first 50 of my route. So off they went! On my own, pacing is a lot easier anyway.

The weather wasn't bad at all. It was windy, but so far, dry. The first rest stop that I stopped at was in Naburn, at the pub there (name forgotten!). I ate a chocolate bar and refilled my bottle. If this was repeated at all the rest stops everything would be fine, I felt sure, fluid and food-wise. 

The split point of the route was in York, which we approached from the south through Church Fenton. This was all pretty flat, as expected. In York we did a strange little loop around a roundabout where the shorter route split off, and us 100 milers went for a little cycle through the streets of the city. That was good - I love York, and have been there many times on those streets, but never on a bike. And I knew we'd be coming back to York later on too, so much the better! On the way under the city wall on the way out, it started raining!

Here's me on the start line.
and here's Matt. Sunglasses not really necessary!

I stopped and put the hood of my jacket up under my helmet to keep the water off my head. I started the ride with my new Northwave overshoes on, so my feet should stay reasonably dry and warm. Was this the apocalyptic weather we'd been promised?

Actually it didn't last long. I did get wet, but it wasn't so windy (or was the wind on my back?) and my coat kept me mostly dry. My overshoes were rubbing on my right leg a bit, but not too much. And because I was wearing shorts my feet were getting a bit wet, but it's OK. I'm tough.

North of York I knew that the route entered some less-than-flat country, the Howardian Hills. On the map I had guessed what the route would be from the cartoon map posted on the event web site, and there was only one bit with a chevron, somewhere around Sheriff Hutton (that's a place). There was indeed a bit steep bit, called Bulmer Bank, but it wasn't very long so I could muscle up it without too much difficulty. Some people were walking though, so this represents progress for me! After a further rest stop there was another steep bit called Dalby Bank, but again, I got up it without much of a struggle. Apart from rolling hills, these were the only steep bits of the ride, but I knew that it would be mostly flat, that was part of the reason for doing this one before Wales.

There were some really nice country lanes up there, and so it was a bit of a shock when the route dumped out on to a busier road, turned left at a sign saying York 13 miles, and I realised that I'd be on this road all the way back to York. Plus, there was a headwind. I had had a feeling that the wind had been on my back because the speed was quite high for not really pushing hard. And so it was that the next 13 miles were quite tough, this road has some long straight sections where basically I put my head down and got on the drops to try to minimise my cross section and reduce drag. But it was doable, and I managed to maintain 13-15 mph throughout. I did bemoan the choice of route several times though - long straights are bad enough at the best of times but worse when you're riding into the wind! At least it wasn't raining!!

Back into York, along the road that Mum and Dad always use that goes past the hospital, the same fun was experienced riding round those streets. The route went towards the station but made the sharp left after the bridge down by the river side and passed by The Maltings, one of my favourite pubs. I did stop to take a picture, and the thought of a pint flashed across my mind for a super split-second. Not today :)

After returning to York the route had us go to Tadcaster and then back to Roundhay Park. In Tadcaster I stopped at the rest stop and took the last of my energy stuff, save for one emergency gel just in case. I didn't realise how hilly it was between Tadcaster and Leeds. I remember thinking that Leeds wasn't at the top of a hill surely, so the downhill had to come sooner or later. Eventually it did come and I was back on the A58, the same road I'd left Leeds on, 7 hours earlier.

As I said, in Roundhay Park I did consider putting a loop in to make it 100 miles, but I didn't. There was a medal and certificate and a bottle of water. My bike looked like it had been off-road it was so covered in dirt from the wet roads. But I had finished the ride, in a reasonable time considering most of the second half was into a headwind, and it was another target reached, well, almost.

It did rain, I did get wet and it was very windy at times, but the weather warning stuff never came. Probably just as well but it goes to show you can't tell, the day before, let alone 4 days out.

Afterwards, after I had got dried and changed in the car, I went back to see Clair and Matt for a coffee. I was tired and needed a caffeine boost to get home safely! It turned out that Matt had been the first finisher for the 100 km! The winner. Just tells me really he should have been on the long route :)

When I got home I had a nice hot shower and some food. My scale told me I was 5 pounds lighter than I was on Saturday when I left. Cool!

Overall, I was pleased with this ride from my own body / recovery point of view, but in all honesty I was a bit disappointed with the route. It was for charity, of course, so I will keep my moaning to the minimum, but it was organised by an experienced bike event company, so I would have expected a slightly better (cycling-wise) route than the one we got. It was billed as being mostly on country lanes, and there were some lovely bits, but for me there was too much on busier roads - even if they're B-roads. The Howardian Hills are lovely and I have never biked there before. And riding through York was fun - I would do both those bits again happily. But over the rest of the course there was too much turning the pedals and not really enough to see! I'm sure one could come up with a 100 mile route starting and finishing in Roundhay Park which was much more interesting than that one. And if I'd designed it, it would have definitely been 100 miles long!

But as I said, it was for a very good cause, and I hope they raised a lot of money. I heard that there was about 1000 riders on Sunday. That seems high to me, I didn't see a whole bunch of people at the start, finish or going round, but maybe the majority were on the 100 km and they left after me and finished before me, it could be.

Would I do this one again? No, not unless they change the route. Maybe next time it could go the other way up to Harrogate and Ripon? Or towards Skipton and the edge of the Dales?

And a 100 mile ride has to be 100 miles. Sorry, it just has to be.

Next? The Autumn Epic on October 6, 95 miles but in the hilly Welsh Marches and Elan Valley.

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