Saturday 10 November 2012

The Impetuous Puppy Rides

It's 7:00am on a very cold Sunday morning as I scrape the ice of the car and lift my road bike up on to the roof rack. I had put the roof rack on the night before so that I wouldn't wake the neighbours in the early hours of Sunday morning.  This is the morning of my first Evans Ride It Sportive event in Nottingham and I have roped in my brother for what will be his first event as well as the first time he will have ridden more than maybe 15 or 20 miles.

I pick him up and we load his bike onto the car and head for Nottingham.  The car temperature reads 0C and the roads are little icy.  We are heading for Church Warsop in Nottinghamshire for the event and as we arrive and park in the field close to the Evans start line, the temperature still has'nt budged.  This is going to be a cold one.

In the car, my brother and I have decided our game plan.  His problem is pacing himself, whenever he goes out on a bike ride he belts off like a madman and is totally done in within 10 minutes.  A little bit like an Impetuous puppy that you take to the park and let of the lead for the first time.  He (or she) will belt around the field like a bat out of hell enjoying the freedom.Five minutes later it's back, sat at your feet panting, tail wagging and tongue hanging out signalling that the fun is over.  Unlike the wise old dog that will wander around, sniffing every blade of grass and maybe running for the odd stick but generally taking the time to enjoy being out in the open air.

So our plan is simple, I will take the front, set a nice steady easy pace and keep the puppy dog from killing us within the first 5 minutes.  As it's his first ride we also agree to do the short ride (35 miles) rather than the longer 50 or 70 mile rides.

So I head out, puppy dog in tow and set a nice gentle 14-15mph.  There's a few gently climbs and quite a few longer downhill stretches which my brother seemed to appreciate (at least until I mentioned that what we go down we have to go up to get back to the start).

The Evans event was well set up with easy to follow signposts, water stop with sports drinks, cake and goodies, timing chips attached to our helmets and times / photos available afterwards.  I would thoroughly recommend the Evans events.

After a few miles we hit the first route split when the riders on the fun distance peel off to the left and head around towards the start.  My puppy was starting to struggle a little bit at this point and as I drop back to him and say "you ok?" I got a couple of expletives, but coupled with that a pleading to slow down cos I was going much too fast.

I decided to drop in behind the puppy for a while and allow him to set the pace, it had two advantages, one he made an excellent windbreak and two the pace dropped off quite a bit.  My problem was, I just wasn't getting warm even with my Thermalite Bib, Base Layer, Jersey and Jacket (NOTE TO SELF: get warmer jacket for winter training rides) so needed to get the pace picked up a bit soon.

We are behind a couple of other cyclists and come to a ford with a footpath to the left.  The ford is quite deep and theres a lot of spectators to the right in a car park so I am sure some riders have ridden through.  However, the Evans sign instructed us to dismount and walk over a small bridge which we did.  The two guys in front then apologised for going slow but they had just taken up cycling again after 10+ years. One guys bike was 48 hours old and the second guys was 72.  Got to hand it to you, if not riding for such a long time to go straight in and tackle a sportive.

After a short while, I take the lead again and reach the next split. The Medium (50 Milers) and Long (69'ers) turn right, the Short (35'ers) go across at the cross roads.  I hadn't read the signs properly arriving at the junction to the right hand side but I suddenly heard the puppy squeal behind and insist that we go straight on.  We had also just passed a photographer and I had shouted to the puppy to smile as his photo was being taken, all I got back was a number of expletives.

Me Leading and my puppy behind
It was around this point in the ride that we passed a dead 'road kill' squirrel in the middle of road.  My brother studied it as we went past and mentioned "That thing looks in a better condition to how I feel at the moment".  I tell him that we are not far from the half way mark and there should be a drinks stop coming up.

We then turn and start to ride through Clumber Park, now in Autumn the park looks beautiful but the temperature under the trees seemed to drop even more. Over on the left hand side I spot an Evans van, with energy drinks, sweets, cake etc all laid out.  So we peel off and I quickly grab an energy drink and a large piece of fruit cake.

My brother (puppy) grabs a drink but refuses the cake. I mention to him that it will give him some energy and allow him to feel better when he gets back on the bike.  He replies "Look bro, I feel so bad if I try to eat I'm gonna throw up". The Evans guy mentions that it's only about 8 miles to the finish.  This I question because we have done 18 miles according to the bike computer and have 35 to do so by my reckoning we have 17 left.  He says that everyone is questioning it, but the puppy dog seems so much happier and we take off again after a 10 minute or so break.

We go back out to the road, walking through the leaves.  Note to self, walking through leaves with cleats on is not a good idea.  When we both mount up we both have tonnes of leaves sticking off our shoes. We look like a pair of shire horses with long feathers from our legs.  Lovely, maybe they can warm us up.

We then head out of Clumber park and I notice a larger uphill section.  I tell the puppy to move up to his high gears, take a sprint at the hill and it will help him get up. He says something, but I only catch the word "off" at the end of his sentence.  So I move up to the high gear myself and sprint down the hill  hitting at close to the 30 mph and then starting to climb.  As I get over the top of the hill I am still doing 20mph and I start to free wheel very slowly waiting for the puppy.  After a few minutes, there is still no sign of him and I stop cos I'm starting to get worried. As I wait I have a drink and bite of an energy bar.  People keep riding by saying good morning, but no sign of the puppy.

Then, like a hero out of an action movie in slow motion, the figure of the puppy comes over the brow of the hill and starts to descend the other side.  He rides by me and shouts "Bro, can't stop these legs because if I do I won't be able to start em again".

Heading in to Church Warsop the puppy is following and his pace has dropped a bit.  I notice a speed trap up ahead that announces how fast you are going so I sprint off quickly.  The sign duly says "27 MPH, Thank You".  Not sure why it thanked me but I then eased off again to let the puppy catch up.

At the end, I'm just a few seconds in front of my bro as we go through the timing tent and get our helmets scanned.

My brother has a tear to his eye as I shake his hand and say well done.  Now many people would think he was in pain, but I think he was just so proud of his achievement.  We did 35 miles in a total trip time of 2 hours 48 minutes, but with a riding time of 2 hours 24, meaning we had an average speed of a quite respectful 14.28 mph.

As I shake his hand I am glad I was able to share in his achievement (I remember also being a bit stuck for words when finishing my first event, that sense of achieving something that at first seemed so daunting, it's priceless).

So Bro, congrats on your first sportive and thank you for allowing me to share the privilege of watching you finish it. But next year, I am turning right at the junction and we are doing the 50 or the 69 mile routes cos you should be a lean mean riding machine by then.

BTW though, heres the photo I took of you at the end. Note to puppy: You don't wear anything over your lycra, those shorts are just too bad, honest !

My Bro, Peter "Puppy" Newbould after his first sportive
And me following my ride, did I mention, It was bl..dy cold !

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