Sunday, 22nd May was the day of the 2011 Bournemouth Sportive, starting and finishing at Poole Grammar School, and taking in 72 miles of rolling Dorset countryside (100 miles for those on the Epic route, but that would have been too much, too soon for me).
There was plenty of parking at the venue when I arrived at about eight o’clock, and it was all impeccably organised – one of the reasons that Wiggle’s Super Series is so popular. Lots of activity in the car park as folks got their bikes off their racks, and got their equipment together. Looking around at all the beanpoles was a bit intimidating… yes, there were one or two lardy types around but not very many lardy old codgers like me. Great to see that road cycling is enjoying such popularity these days, as the mountain bike craze dies down a bit. There was a time a few years ago when bike shops had hardly any road bikes in stock!
After picking up my RFID tag at registration, I was soon ready to start. No-one was hanging around, as although it wasn’t raining there was a strong, cold wind blowing. A pity really, because on a circular course the wind is bound to be in your face for at least half the time (it always seems a lot more) and, along with gravity, air resistance is one of the main factors that makes cycling hard work.
With 350 or so starting in groups at two minute intervals, each group was quite big. The first couple of miles I took quite steadily, because there’s nothing worse than blowing past people only to have them pass you easily a few miles later. Eventually though, I decided to pick up the pace and shot off up the road after passing the main bunch that had started with me (a couple of whippets were already over the horizon). The route was really well marked, so that the download on my Garmin satnav was hardly necessary, other than for checking my pace.
After Wimborne Minster, we really got out into the countryside, and started running through villages and hamlets with typically quaint Dorset names. The first feed station was just before the course split at Gussage All Saints. The second feed station was at Okeford Fitzpaine, but there was a long way to go before that. The route contained two serious hills. The first, in the Cranborne Chase area after about thirty miles, was a few miles long and nearly 1:10. The organisers showed their sense of humour by putting a sign at the bottom that said “Cheer up, the best is yet to come!”. The second, after about 45 miles, didn’t rise so high, and wasn’t so long, but had a profile more like a cliff than a hill. Halfway up was a sign saying “Pain is temporary, but glory is forever”. When my heart monitor alarm started going off, I thought they may have got that slightly wrong!
After that second big hill, I didn’t have that much drive left in my legs but modern energy drinks and snacks really do work so that you shouldn’t completely run out of steam. Gone are the days when cyclist used sugary drinks and crammed their pockets with fig rolls. These days it’s all electrolytes, fructose and malto-dextrin. The supplies I carried, together with what I picked up at the feed station, kept me going to the end where my Garmin told me I’d burned up a couple of thousand calories. I was thankful that the wind – which had been a pain all day – was at last mainly a tailwind for the run back around Bere Regis and Lytchett Matravers to Poole. A time of 5h 25m wasn’t too bad, with a moving time of a couple of minutes under five hours for a moving average of 14.3mph.
The finish was just as well organised as the whole day had been, although a few more showers would have been handy. Some people were having sports massages, but after a shower I felt fine. The only lasting effect of my ride was that for ages afterwards I couldn’t face anything sweet. Five and half hours of consuming intensely sweet-tasting energy products took some getting over.
I’ve signed up for two more sportives in this Super Series, both in July. The first is around the Meon Valley, which will be similar to the Dorset event I expect. The second is a more intriguing prospect as it involves riding through the New Forest to Lymington, and taking the ferry across to Yarmouth for a circuit of the Isle of Wight. The ferry to and from the island is going to be a challenge for the organisers, so I hope they’re up to it. Time will tell…