This weekend was the Blenheim Palace Sportive, the climax of six months training from road-bike-virgin to fully-fledged ‘Mamil’ (Middle Aged Man In Lycra). I was competing alongside Meg’s Uncle Tim, Aunt Philly, cousins Tom & Sam and my Alp-climbing mate, Gatesy. The day before the race, and unbeknownst to the rest of our crew, Meg had been further proving her artistic skills by knocking up a surprise banner to show her support.
While this artistic creation was taking place I was reassembling my bike from its travel bag. Over the last few months I have gained a good basic understanding of bike-tinkering and now think nothing of removing and replacing wheels, pedals, handlebars, etc. However my rate of purchasing essential bike ‘stuff’ still does not seem to have abated – I now need a plastic crate to supplement the bike bag!
We were up early on Sunday morning for a carb-dense breakfast and some strong coffee before heading to Woodstock. The start of the race was a relaxing one mile spin through the grounds of the palace before heading out into the Cotswold country lanes. The first few hills were easy going as the route mostly descended its way towards Broadwell. From Broadwell we started the ascent of the first long hill. I had been expecting to see Meg all set up with banner, camping chair and a thermos of hot tea at the top of the hill, but unfortunately she had been waylaid on the essential business of photographing flowers in the back garden and so had only made it halfway up the hill. Gatesy was first to pass Meg and managed to alert her to unfurl the banner and start cheering! We passed Meg giving congratulatory high-fives while Gatesy circled round to take a good look at the banner and probably to enjoy some bonus hill climbing.
At 40 miles we passed a sign saying “20 miles to go” which raised the spirits as we struggled up another long Cotswold hill. At 50 miles we passed one saying “10 miles to go”. At this point we were tearing along through villages in a long peloton and I was amazed to look down at my speedo and see we were clocking 27mph. Confusingly, at 53 miles we passed a sign saying “5 miles to go” which meant that either the Sportive was only 58 miles, or that someone had put the sign in the wrong place. My tired mind concluded that it must be the former; unfortunately it was the latter and so the last few miles started to drag on. Fortunately the last mile of the route was flat through the grounds of the palace which allowed for a fast and satisfying finish (despite the marshals’ waving protests against sprinting across the line!)
The was my first taste of a Sportive and first real experience of cycling in a group and it certainly wont be the last. The event was a great day out and a great excuse to eat like a king all weekend.