Friday 29 May 2009

Tour of Wessex 24th May 2009

A glorious sunny windless day. This year I opted for the second day of this three day cyclosportive. We were released in groups of about 50 onto the road and I managed to get into the first 3 or 4 groups leaving Somerton at 0830. Initially feeling good even on the climbs, south through Sherborne and the gorgeous scenery of Lyon's Hill. I was leading the group around here though, looking back at my Garmin statistics, that may not have been wise as I was charting previously unknown (even on the Fred) heart rates. I was in a big group which slimmed down a bit at the first feed at Cerne Abbas where I and around 20 others went straight on.

We headed for the coast via the army firing ranges around Lulworth. I struggled with a few others to keep in contact with the group up to the clifftop. The bunch stopped at this feed, so I did, but I was too slow and by the time I had refuelled etc., I could see the group heading off into the distance and gave chase. For a long time they remained ¼ mile ahead but then they slowly vanished into the distance as we skirted Wareham. After a few lonely minutes, Mr White Assos kit came by towing three others and I suggested a through and off to catch the group. This eventually worked and we were all back together by Winfrith Heath, though the price of the chase was that I was now knackered. I first cracked on the hill out of Milton Abbas at mile 70. I managed the first steep part of the hill but had not appreciated how long it carried on after the left turn. I was one of four dropped on the hill and it was several miles before I could do any share of the work.

We four regained the group by the simple expedient of not stopping at the third feed. I hung on the back for a few miles. However I have not been doing enough long rides and was tired. As the road pitched up again at around mile 80, the one rider behind me overtook and I was dropped again but this time alone. For the next hour I was entirely alone save for a hail of acknowledgment when I passed two riders who had punctured. The last of these regained and passed me indicating that he wished to ride alone.

It was not until mile 98 that the next group finally came by. They were slower paced than my earlier group and were about right for me until in the last couple of miles they upped the pace for the dash to the line. I couldn’t go faster so was dropped for the third time. I pedalled gently to and then through Somerton, for the first time on this otherwise perfectly signed course, not quite sure where I should be going. Oddly the finish was not well signed and I had to ask twice to find it. Anyway I crossed the line at 05:45 for the 112 miles, managing my first Gold at my fourth Tour of Wessex attempt.

This is one of only a handful of UK cyclosportives that comes with my wholehearted recommendation.

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