In the run up to the Prudential Ride London, Mr Smith took on his first ever sportive, The Beachy Head Sportive, the long one!  Find out how he got on…

As part of the preparation for the Ride London 100 mile road ride Mr Smith needed to get some serious training and practice in doing some sportive.  The first of which was the Beachy Head Sportive, the long version at 100km in length and getting on for 1200m of climbing.

Ride London will add another another 60 plus km but only about another 200m of climbing.  This was going to be great preparation.

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Not knowing what to expect Mr Smith got himself prepared and headed off to Eastbourne for an 8am start.  Parking found, bike put back together and arriving at the start, the nerves started to kick in a bit.  The final prep was done and Mr Smith was ready for the off.

The basic plan was to not push too hard to start and to try and stick with a group.  Mr Smith was in one of the first groups and had found some local club riders, so hopefully would be able to stick with them.

The ride out of Eastbourne was nice and flat and a good warm up for the legs. Yes, there was a breeze, but not too bad.

Initially Mr Smith was off the back of the group, but was easily able to get on to the back of them and held that place, going past people that were starting to struggle.

The first hour zipped by, with 29.3 km covered, much better than expected.  The hills were starting to roll ion, nothing too severe at this stage.  Mr Smith is not a fast climber, but he will set a good steady tempo on all climbs.  He tended to drop off the groups a bit on the ups, but easily caught on the downs, to the extent that he actually went flying past the group he was with and pushed on.

Joining up with other cyclists the pace was very good and everything was going great until a fast but very bumpy downhill section were one of his bottles came flying out.  A very quick stop and pedal back up the hill the bottle was retrieved.

This gave a problem though, there was a very big gap to the next group back and the one he was with had obviously disappeared.  It is a good job that Mr Smith trains alone a lot as he just got his head down and hit the rhythm again.  At this point the thoughts were that he wanted to catch back up with the the people that he had been riding with.  More on that later.

After a few more miles Mr Smith joined up with 2 other cyclists and spent time with them cruising along and chatting.  This took them through the half way point in 1:41:30, well ahead of schedule.  The main target for Mr Smith was to achieve the silver standard for middle aged men of 4:15, but secretly he wanted 3:55 which would be gold.

At the half way point this seemed very achievable, but he knew that the climbing was back loaded.

Next up it was time for climbing and hitting Bo Peep.  This is a well known local climb and it was going to be a case of getting in to Granny gear and working your way up the gradients in excess of 16%.  On the climb Mr Smith left the 2 guys he was with, the only way you can do these is to find your pace and stick with it.

Surprisingly, Mr Smith did not find the climb to tricky.  Yes, it was hard, but not too bad.  The advantage being that it is not long, but steep.

The feed station was at the top and after filling the water bottle and having a Jaffa cake Mr Smith decided not to loiter and head back down Bo Peep.

This was good cycling and Mr Smith was feeling good.  He was alone and it remained that way until reaching Beachy Head, about 45 minutes of solo cycling.  A good tempo was being set.

Eventually Mr Smith started to catch riders in front, some of whom may have been doing the medium route, but it was good to be catching and passing them.

The big grind came towards the end, Beachy Head & Birling Gap.  The wind was more in the face and after 90km this was not the best.  Much longer climbs, but not quite as steep, but well over 10% gradient.  Again, a good tempo was being set and no real problems.  There were a few people walking by this stage but Mr Smith kept going.

At this point he thought he could see one of the people he had been riding with when the bottle came out.  Off in the distance but the chase was on.  Mr Smith had seen him coming down Bo Peep so was very pleased to have closed a big gap.

After the last bit of climbing it was time to head down in to Eastbourne.   A good and quick decent with Mr Smith chasing both a time and the man in front, who was also chasing a time.  Both of them out of the saddle off the corners and putting the power down.

It was a bit hairy heading in to Eastbourne with cars doing their own thing and not really paying any attention to cyclists, but when they were clear the sprint was on down to the finish.  Mr Smith could not quite catch him but would have only been a couple of seconds behind.

The beep crossing the line was a good sound and Mr Smith stopped the clock.  Looking down he could not quite believe it, 3:40:56, with a moving time down in 3:37 (Mr Smith did not stop the clock during the feed station).  Not only was that more than 20 minutes quicker than expected, it was gold standard for middle aged men, but also gold for the 18-39 age group.  Stunned!  And jsut to add to it, the 40km best was broken by about 6 minutes and overall averaged 27 kmh (16.77mph)

Not only was he stunned by the time it was great to have bumped in to @5ussexgirl After some tweets last night it was great to meet 🙂

Mr Smith is now looking forward to the London Sportive at the end of the month and is now feeling more confident for Ride London.

Massive thanks to all @Velopace and the Eastbourne Cycling Festival for putting on a great event.  The only thing Mr Smith would change would have been the trafic so he could have been even quicker, but there is not much you can do about that on a sunny Sunday in Sussex.


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