My rider number for the ToW (44) showed just how eager I was when I signed up for this event last year! As one of the only multi-day sportives in the UK and with 335 miles and 25,168 ft of climbing, it is the ideal training event for the Race Around Ireland. Deputy Crew Chief John Mews (a.k.a Moose) and his wife Georgina live 12miles and couple of hills away from the start in Somerton, so my intention was to commute to and from the event each day for some extra mileage (and the mental training of getting back on the bike each day after what everyone else would consider to be the end!) Whilst the event put on well stocked feed stations, my parents came down to support and helped with drink replen so I could avoid the queues for water.
The first day dawned clear and I headed off to Somerton. With the breeze behind me I negotiated my way to the start and enjoyed one of the bonuses of there being far fewer women than men in the longer cycling events….. shorter queues for the loos! Once away, we headed out towards our first challenge of the day, Cheddar Gorge. It’s a long climb and definitely hard enough to stretch the legs and lungs whilst being watched by some nonchalant goats! The day’s ride was a tour of Somerset and Wiltshire with the other big climb of the day being King Alfred’s Tower. This is a real test against gravity but I was pleased to find that I ascended it slightly more comfortably than I had done earlier in the season. The sun came out, sun-cream was reapplied and the 112 miles proved to be a good day in the saddle. After a quick stop at the finish, I headed back to Chez Moose for a good dinner and much needed stretch.
Day 2 saw us heading down to Purbeck and Swanage to enjoy some of the best of Dorset’s countryside. At 116 miles, this was the longest day. The climbs through Lulworth were long and grinding, although we’d already had our legs and lungs tested with shorter, harder ones. The views as we flashed down past Durdle Door and along the coast were certainly worth the effort. The weather forecast had promised rain but this luckily held off until the middle of the afternoon when it settled into a hard drizzle for an hour or so before coming down in earnest. I was trying my new Velotoze waterproof shoe covers which seemed to keep the water at bay. Unfortunately the rain and country lanes proved a dangerous mix and on one descent I came upon a nasty accident involving a lone rider. After ensuring he was being well looked after (if you’re going to crash, do so in front of a nurse and neurologist!), I headed off to ride to the finish with Tim, a neurologist from Winchester who had been the first on the scene. We took turns taking the wind, chatting and kept each other company until the welcome sight of the finish line. The sun did shine for the ride home, but it was a head-down slog into the wind to bring the day’s total to 140 miles – further than hubbie Kyle and his friend Martin Barnett rode on their motorbike tour that day!
At 112 miles with 10,560 ft of climbing, the third and final day was always going to be the toughest as we headed out towards Porlock in Devon. The climb out of Porlock was spectacular – I took it nice and steadily to digest my egg roll and enjoy the beautiful view before we headed across a windswept Exmoor. The legs were tired but made it up hill after hill before we finally left the moors and had a fast and flowing ride back to Somerton (where a few more hills were there to sap every last bit from the legs!) There was a real feeling of camaraderie amongst the riders, particularly those that had completed all 3 days and the mood heading to the finish line was one of relief and satisfaction in a job well done. As I still had to drive home to Reading that evening, I headed straight off into the wind back to Westonzoyland where Georgina once again refreshed and refuelled us.
All-in-all it was a great 3 days of training. I covered 413 miles and in excess of 26,000ft of climbing. It was a test of my nutrition and recovery strategies and whilst the legs were tired each day, they responded well to the challenge. The Assos shorts and chamois cream also ensured that the bottom didn’t suffer too much!
Huge thanks to:
- My long-suffering parents for their encouragement; it was a hard 3 days of driving, waving and getting used to be “endurance supporters”
- John and Georgina for their hospitality to both me and my folks
- The Tour of Wessex for a great event! I will definitely be back next year…