My big 2017 challenge – done!
Last May, I went the full MAMIL. You know the cliché, I turned 45 and decided that the one thing missing in my life was a carbon fibre road bicycle. Having thoroughly enjoyed a summer of coffee rides and medium-length sportives in 2016 I set my goal for 2017 – a century ride.
I have ridden 60-80 miles in a day many times, but I’d never ticked over into that magic 100. How hard could it be? Well, my target wasn’t just any 100 miles, but the 106 mile (171 km) Cyclone cycle challenge route with 7800ft (2350m) of climbing. Think of riding a bike over the top of Mt Snowdon and Ben Nevis in the same day and the Cyclone pretty much does that!*
I trained hard, but three things were worrying me on the start line. First, I’d had my bike in the bike shop four times in the previous two weeks for repairs, including replacing a broken gear cable at 4pm the day before (big shout out to the Edinburgh Bike Co-op for sorting me out). Second, it was very hot (24°C). Thirdly, I glanced down at my front tyre and saw a gaping hole which hadn’t been there the night before (I quickly whipped out my puncture repair glue and filled it the best I could while we waited for the off).
The first half went pretty well, but I found I’d made the really stupid mistake of putting suncream on my forehead which was starting to sweat out into my left eye. The tears and squinting made descending a bit more interesting than usual (I’m a bit of a chicken at the best of times). Then, on the longest climb of the lot, I forgot my mantra of dropping down a gear whenever the going got tough to preserve my legs.
By 75 miles and my second pit stop, I was really starting to feel cooked. By 90 I was riding with both legs almost rigid with cramp, following my slowest ever time up the last tough climb (the notorious Ryals). Fortunately everything loosened up about the 95 mile mark so I could roll in to the finish with a little more élan (and bring my average speed up to a respectable 15mph/24kph).
My friends who had done the 64 mile route were waiting for me, cheered me in, and got me a cold beer which has never tasted so good![I exaggerate only by 75m!]