So this was it, the time for the Tour de Yorkshire sportive, the long version, a Grand Day Out!…
It is official, Yorkshire does not have flat bits!
After a 4:15am alarm call I hit the road and headed off to Sheffield for the Tour de Yorkshire 100km sportive. I thought I had plenty of time, but unfortunately it took over 10 minutes to get in to the car park, which meant it was a bit of a rush.
Not a problem though as there was a delay at the start. I was in a wave behind the one I was meant to be in, but they got us out quickly once the technical problems with road closures had been sorted.
It did mean that I was a bit colder than I would have wanted to be, but that was soon sorted out with the first climb after a few hundred metres, Pea Royd Lane, which has been used for the national hill climb championships! You can see why from the graphic why it has been used!
So the approach was to take that steady and then take it from there, but to my surprise I found it comparatively easy and was overtaking people. Staying in the saddle all the way up the 1.1km at an average of 12%! That woke the legs up.
It was then down to riding, chatting with a few people, surviving the constant rolling terrain and trying to push on, without overdoing it.
The first 40km were good, not easy by any means, but I felt OK. I had a decision though, stop at the feed station or pedal through? I made a calculation and thought I had enough fluids, just, to get me through. I had plenty of gels so that was not an issue.
There were some great descents and I was hitting just under 80kmh. I would have liked to get over the 80kmh mark, but riders in front and eyes streaming from the cold meant I could not quite make it.
One thing that a few riders commented on was how good at descending I was, I like that, it is my favourite thing!
I would get dropped on the climbs and then catch and pass them on the way down.
The 60km to 80km stretch was a bit of a slog and some of the climbs towards the end were brutal! The average grades do not really do them justice, like Walker Edge Climb which was 1.6km and 10% average, that was a real tough one and kicked in at 75km. That was the point I was starting to struggle but it was great to be riding with Michael at this point as it really helped having someone along side.
The next 25km were going to be tough, not just physically, but mentally as it felt like a constant slog going up hill.
Adding to the problems through the ride was the wind, not so much at this point but some downhills I was having to pedal hard and the only time that I have experienced it like that before was in Peru 18 years ago!
So we were getting towards the end and had passed the 2000m of expected climbing and I was hoping that was it, but no, we kept going and going.
By this point there were massive gaps between all the riders and it was very much a case of every man from himself and survive!
The last climb on Bolserstone Lane did for me, just a 100m or so from the top the body just had enough and I had to pause for a minute. I would say that was as much mental as physical as I could not force the body to keep going. It was only a brief pause and the encouragement from the crowd really helped and I got going again and managed to crest the climb.
I did not know it at the time but that was the last of the climbing and it was downhill to the finish.
On the way downhill I had my furst technical problem where I shipped a chain. I hit a bump and it did not sound good, but looking down I realised. I tried to flick it back on, but at the speed I was going I could not do it so when I turn a corner I pulled over and got it back on.
From then on it was push the body and mind to the end.
Turning back in site to Fox Valley I was directed back down to the start finish area and as I turned in to the finishing funnel the experience was amazing. The crowds were all banging the boards and cheering people on and the commentator was giving it everything saying sprint finish, so I was out of the saddle for one last push and I even managed to get my highest power output on the sprint.
It would be incredible doing that with a massive crowd, but even with a few hundred it was incredible.
So that was it, the Tour de Yorkshire finished. It was just outside my target time of 4 hours, but 600m more climbing than I have ever done! Amazing experience and I was be keeping an eye out for any TV coverage. At one stage I havs a TV bike just riding along filming me on one of the climbs. This was about the 30km mark and on a constant 11%! I doubt I looked good!
Post event I have reflected on the experience and I loved it. I think it was the hardest thing I have done. I did Ride London last year and while that was 60km longer the climbing was so much less. Tour de Yorkshire said it was the hardest sportive to date and it felt like it! It is pleasing to have done it and pretty quick (for me), but I would like to say a heart felt thanks to the people on the route for great support and all other riders, everyone was so friendly and welcoming.