Tag Archives: sportive

Gym, gym and the club’s sportive. Back in the swing of cycling?

A sportive with some great countryside and lovely views

My usual gym buddy couldn’t do this week so I went alone Thursday. His plans then changed so I went with him on Friday. The afternoon was spent putting out route markers for the club sportive on Saturday.

We were looking after the 30 mile pre-loop for the 100 mile distance (it then joins the 70 mile ride) but it still took quite some time and effort. It’s surprising how much pressure you feel doing something like that which (although I expect most riders doing the long route will have their own satellite navigation) could make a big difference to someone’s enjoyment of the day.

The whole event went really well – and still features the best food I’ve ever seen at a UK sportive (admittedly the wine and stew on the Tuscany L’Eroica might run it close for the European title).

I rode the 35 mile route (turned out to be 36.6 miles – 59km) with my wife and another friend, acting as pacer. We had a very pleasant temperature with light rain on and off (the sort that is actually quite welcome and hardly seems enough to get you very wet) and the whole ride was really enjoyable. With the trip to and back from the start we rode a bit over 41 miles at a steady pace – which is pretty impressive as my wife had only done one ride of 13 miles (about 21km) since last summer.

… and all the route markers were still there, in the right places, and visible!

So, a very good few days, and I only have to do three times the sportive distance to complete the Ride London next Sunday. How hard can that be …?

Rain, wind, puncture – the recipe for a perfect afternoon in the saddle


From the top of Ashbury Hill – looking down on Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire

The only problem with signing up for the Cotswold Autumn Classic 100 miler on 1st October is that I’ve got to get the training going again and have to lose the few pounds I had started to put on to see me through the rigours of an English winter.

Domestic duties meant that I missed the club ride on Saturday to see the Tour of Britain so a run yesterday with Mrs Omil was followed by getting the bike out this afternoon, despite it being a bit wet and a lot windy.

I climbed the Fawler and Blowingstone hills and dropped into Lambourn (as far as I could see the horses were too sensible to be out today) and back over the Ridgeway via Ashbury – struggling to hold 15mph (24kph) on the flat into a headwind of at least that speed.

I thought at least I might be rewarded with some Strava PRs on the downwind sections. In the end I got 9 and 23 ‘achievements’ in all – but for being so shallow the cycling gods punished me with a puncture in the pouring rain, and then the realisation that the spare tube I’d taken with me fits Mrs Omil’s hybrid but not my Rose.

The ignominy of being picked up by Mrs Omil in the car ended another perfect afternoon in the saddle. Nearly 50km in 1h 45min with 461m of climbing.

I’m sticking with the tri bars at the moment. Learning so far:

  • they do help you go faster
  • they are not great in big crosswinds
  • your neck does stop hurting (quite so much)
  • your hands are a bit of a way from the gear levers (not too bad if you think ahead)
  • they are also not near the brakes (a big issue if you don’t have any thinking time)

On balance, I really like them.

I’d thought that 2017 was over for me and cycling – happily I was wrong


Yes, the grass does need cutting

With my main goals for the year being over by the end of July, and plans under way for 2018’s challenges, I thought I’d probably got to the start of winding down for the winter.

Then I realised that the Tour of Britain is coming within about 30 km and my club has organised a trip out to watch it for our Saturday ride. So to keep things ticking over I got out today for a solo ride. I wasn’t feeling 100% so was planning on a steady pace just to test out the adjustments I’d made to the tri bars.

After Saturday’s try out with them I had a slightly sore neck and shoulders. I decided that I should do some exercises to help, but on Sunday and Monday the pains were worse. Of course, now I didn’t know if I was hurting from the ride or the exercises – so that worked well!

By way of adjustment, I’d moved the armrests wider and back, and extended the bars although, frankly, I didn’t really know what I was doing.

As so often is the case, the competitive juices got flowing once I started so I pushed hard for a flattish (but breezy) 35.8 km. To my surprise I clocked an average of 32.1 kph. The tri bars do seem to be working (and were much more comfortable) as I’ve never managed faster than 30.9 kph before.

Happily, I’ve also had an email from a friend who said that he had entered the Cotswold Autumn Classic Sportive so I’ve signed up too. At present I think there are now 4 of us taking part.

It’s on Sunday 1st October and the current aim is to go for the 100 mile route (with 2005 metres of climbing) which starts in Cirencester (Gloucestershire) and heads up through Bourton-on-the-Water to Broadway before returning via Winchcombe.

Last year another friend (a very strong rider) did the 100km distance and got silver so I guess that there was terrible weather or other bad conditions last year. It’s not a ride I’ve done before and I don’t know what the target times are for Gold, Silver, Bronze awards and I don’t know if they are age-related but I suppose the aim (without any confidence) must be for a Gold Award.

Tri bars are discouraged rather than banned – I’ll stick with mine for a while and then take them off for the sportive itself.

It all means that I’ve got to keep up the training for another few weeks which will be fun if the weather holds – and miserable if it doesn’t. I’ve ordered some new bib shorts that should be OK for longer rides, so at least it will be good to test them out.

The White Horse Challenge


The White Horse at Uffington on the Ridgeway


I’ve mentioned this sportive in my blog several times but thought I’d add a short review for anyone thinking about entering next year. A tip – if you are thinking of entering do it as soon as entries open (usually early December) as the c. 600 places sell out fast.

This was my 6th participation – and it was as good as ever. The route is excellent and the organisation is pretty slick and certainly friendly (as are other riders). For me, it’s a particularly good event coming as it does in late April and so forcing me to get a bit fitter earlier than I might otherwise.

The event starts at the Shrivenham Memorial Hall (West Oxfordshire, just off the A420 that runs between Oxford and Swindon). You can leave any time between 8 and 9, after a quick registration and picking up the bike number and bar code slip that sticks on the side of the helmet.

This year there were at least 15 taking part from my club (Farcycles, from Faringdon – just a few miles up the A420) but with different target times we rolled out in several different groups. That was my big mistake – I missed the group of our fastest riders while chatting to a couple of other friends.

That left me working really hard to try to catch them – although I never did as they latched onto a fast train very early on. Not knowing that I pushed pretty hard – the first 40 km (25 miles) are fairly flat (with a couple of leg testers) and I did them in just under 75 minutes, hopping from group to group. Then you hit the first White Horse at Broad Town – just after Royal Wootton Bassett.  The steepest bit is probably about 1km with a 90m climb followed by a potentially tricky descent and then another flattish 15km. I was on my own here working very hard to catch a big group in front, which then promptly disbanded at the first food stop.

So I was back on my own again to the second White Horse at Cherhill – a rather gentler 100m ascent over 5km and then on through historic Avebury and to the third White Horse at Hackpen, with sections at over 12%.  Then it’s another good long decent before climbing back into Marlborough and on to Ramsbury. Spring Hill, coming out of Ramsbury, isn’t a White Horse but is, in my opinion, the worst hill on the route. It’s short but steep – something like 50m in 0.3km. I remember the first time I climbed it – it was damp and the rear wheel was spinning if I stood in the pedals and the front wheel bobbed if I sat down.

After the second food stop, there are Ridgeway climbs out of Chilton Foliat and then again out of Lamborn (of horse racing fame) over Seven Barrows before the steep (potentially dangerous) descent of Blowing Stone Hill. Turn west onto the undulating road that runs along the bottom of the Ridgeway and then left again for the 4th and final White Horse at Uffington – a proper historic one dating from the Bronze Age.

That’s another 90m climb over about 1km and I found it really tough – despite the fact that I’d trained on it, doing a total of 70 reps up it in March and early April. Sadistically the Uffington climb is timed separately for a King of the Hill competition. I was feeling it by then and my time on Sunday was 50% slower than my PB of 4.19!

Looking down the lower part of the Uffington White Horse climb

Another solo ride for the last 9k back to Shrivenham for the finish. On my first attempt in 2011 I was just outside 6 hours. This year, it was 5h 05min for the 144.4km – gold standard by 55 minutes for us over 60s (and 4th in age group).

Just the 6 minutes to find next year.

My Garmin said 145km and 1862m of ascent but the ride website says 1400m and two other friends who rode it on Sunday made it 1627m and 1280m respectively. I’m very pleased that I will be using my Garmin for my everesting attempt in July!

So, a really good day in the saddle of the Rose X-LITE CRS 3000. I didn’t stop at either food station but I know that the food is good there and at the finish. I consumed just one gel, two banana bars and less than 600ml of fluid on the ride. That’s par for the course for me and I certainly didn’t bonk or feel that I wanted more – but I wonder if more intake might have improved the output.

My club sportive is on 29 July, starting and finishing in Faringdon, Oxfordshire. We have 35, 70 and 100 mile routes through some great Cotswolds villages (and on the Ridgeway too for the 100 mile route). It’s now in it’s 4th year and coincides with the town music and arts festival. It is very scenic and friendly – and with great home-cooked food. Highly recommended (in an entirely unbiased way, of course)! Come and join us!