CTC's Greg Woodford rides the Chiltern 100 sportive
It was only a matter of time, I thought, as I saw fellow rider Paul’s back receding into the distance. We were climbing a steep hill and he can always get me on hills. I looked around to see Nick was still there grinding away, his whole body heaving as he forced his bike up the steep section. He looks like I feel, I thought. But good, we can catch Paul up on the flat - he had always soft-pedalled a little waiting for us.
This time however, there was no Paul as we flung ourselves straight down the tricky descent, only to be confronted by another steep hill. At that point, I think the fight went out of both of us and we resigned ourselves to meeting up again at the end of the event.
Well, this was a sportive, it was in the Chilterns and we should have expected hills!
Four of us started the Chiltern 100 Sportive, working well together, absorbing riders and then dropping them. After ten miles or so we had a tail of about ten other riders and no one coming through of course. Paul did the lion’s share at the front, I kept coming through as did the other two, but he always ended back there clearly feeling strong today. We dropped Mike after about 30 miles as he found another strong club rider and they stayed together. This left me, Paul and Nick really going well till we came to the hills. Well, this was a sportive, it was in the Chilterns and we should have expected hills!
Once Paul had gone, Nick and I worked well together, but again very few riders helped. The ones that did did not last the pace. Every time we looked back, the group of riders tucked in seemed to be different.
One does recognise riders by strange things; once they are in Lycra, helmet and glasses they are completely anonymous. I pick details up about the bike, the team, or even silly little things like their seat post.
Over the top and flying down the long twisty descents, riding a nice bike fast is such an exhilarating feeling that you don't want it to stop.
However the route was fantastic: bluebells still out, amazing climbs, smiled on by a beautiful sun and a day so clear you could see fantastic views for miles. Not that we had time to admire them. Over the top and flying down the long twisty descents, riding a nice bike fast is such an exhilarating feeling that you don't want it to stop.
1400 riders entered the three different routes of the Chiltern 100: short, medium and long. I opted to ride the long one, 105 miles with 2500m of climbing. Well, if I am going to get up at 5.00 am and drive to a cycling event, I might as well make it a decent day’s riding!
I do like sportives: they are normally run with good sign posting, food and water stops and spectacular countryside. The routes are usually pretty tough but they have also become quite popular amongst cyclists. It allows us to ride without thinking out a route, in company with like-minded people and provides a challenge to all with the different route options available.
Nick and I rode on together till the second and final food stop. Nick wanted to stop to refuel but I was carrying sufficient food and water. We parted company. I rode on, the hills definitely getting harder, so I decided to ride comfortably up the hills and work hard on the flats. I also had to eke my food supplies out as I was actually getting hungry. After about 80 miles, I started thinking is this never going to end? It is funny how during the first 40 miles I was riding well, singing to myself, but by the last 20 miles each turn of the pedal felt like wading through porridge.
Normally sportives count you down the final few miles but the Chiltern 100 didn’t - I had to guess. A sign post came up for 4 miles to Chesham, where the HQ was. Hooray! A tailwind. Till I got to Chesham, where the HQ was on top of a hill!! That’s a crazy place to put it. Dragging my sorry legs up the hill then left turn and the final beep of the timing machine. Paul was there looking rested. A wonderful smell of grilling bacon was in the air. We had done it!
The Chilterns is a stunning area, fantastic for cycling with gorgeous scenery and quiet roads. You really feel the climbs as they are steep and some quite long for the south of England, but the reward is well worth it.
As an aside, I completed the ride in 5 hours 40 mins coming 11th overall. But it is not a race so technically I didn’t!