Sadly, no monkey looking for a new home

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Uffington White Horse – the last of the four White Horses on the route, after about 80 miles

The White Horse Challenge has been a monkey on my back for a while now. The sportive is about 90 miles (144km) and – according to my Garmin – has 5738 feet (1749m) of climbing.

I first rode it in 2011 and took just over 6 hours. Since then I’ve chipped away at the times and managed 5:05 last year.

I seem to be a year older this year (!) and with some injuries and the rubbish weather the training outside has been poor – just one ride of 100km (62.5 miles). Accordingly, my grand target of beating 5 hours was a very long long-shot for today’s edition held in quite warm weather but with a nasty breeze.

…. and so it proved – I did it in 5:17 which is my third best time but not exactly what I wanted. It started well and I was cycling with some friends from the club for the first 32 km (20 miles) but we were then overtaken by a big group travelling at about 24 mph (nearly 39kph). Three of us managed to latch on – I knew I couldn’t keep up with that for long but I thought I’d at least get a good tow for a while and I might be lucky enough to get into a slower sub-group if the main group split up.

Sadly, the only splintering of the group was me falling off the back – which was bad news as I’d also lost the group I’d been in originally. For some way I cycled alone or in smaller groups before the same thing happened again – latching on to a fast group before being dropped after a few miles.

A sub-five hour ride needs an average of 18mph (29kph). At the 40km mark I was averaging 30.7kph (19mph after 25 miles) and I was still on the 18mph average after 3 hours (87km – 54 miles). Unfortunately it seeped away a bit after that as the groups became fewer and further in between and I had to ride more by myself – by 4 hours I was down to 28kph (17.4mph) and I finished with an average of 16.9mph (27.2kph).

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After 80 miles (129km) I never think I need this climb up the Uffington White Horse – about 1km (0.6 mile) at 9% average. The organisers even make it a timed King of the Hill ascent

I think the work in the gym and on the turbo has been very useful but the absence of long rides outside meant that I was lacking the stamina to keep the early speed up. I can’t say it was down to any lack of groups to get into – the problem was simply my inability to stay in the ones that were just going too fast for me. A younger (and better cyclist) friend who managed to stay in the first fast group that passed us went round in 4:51 – chapeau Richard!

I seem to have finished in the top 80 of about 600 entrants and 6th out of about 40 in my age category (60+). My category ‘Gold’ standard was secured by 43 minutes – indeed, I achieved Gold standard for the 40-49 age group.

All in all, lots to be pleased about … but I’m still (a little) disappointed – just not good enough on the day.

Another year before I can get that monkey off my back and leave it looking for a new home.

5 thoughts on “Sadly, no monkey looking for a new home

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