Two sportives in eight days wouldn’t be my normal schedule, but the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive was rained off back in April and rescheduled for 1st June. I was already booked on the Wiggle Bournemouth event the following Sunday, 9th June, hence the mileage overload.
On the rescheduled New Forest event, there were only two distances on offer to the 1500+ riders, Standard (60 miles) and Epic (87 miles), starting from the New Forest Showground just south of Lyndhurst. In April, when the event was supposed to have been run, I’d regarded 60 miles as the most I was ready for at that point in the season, and because several other events in this miserable Spring had also been rained off, I wasn’t ready to change for the re-run. The predominant feature of this ride was the cold N/NE wind. When I go out on my own training rides, I quite like to plan on having the wind at my back at the end, but on this occasion the home run from Portmore Pond via Hatchet Pond and Brockenhurst was a seemingly uphill ordeal into a chilly wind. Not what you expect, even in early June.
Just over a week later, the Bournemouth event (starting from East Parley, on the edge of the airport) had fewer riders, though still over a thousand, and the usual three standards: Short (48 miles), Standard (75 miles) and Epic (102 miles). True to form for the weather so far this year, we again had a chilly N/NE wind to contend with. I’d paid for my entry a while ago, and had conservatively picked the Short route. On getting to the first course split, just north of Fordingbridge, after 22 miles I took the Short option and then after a couple of hundred yards asked myself how this was going to help get me ready for the London ride now less than two months away. I quickly doubled back to the main route, to go ahead and tackle the Standard course.
Because of the headwind, I soon started to regret the impulse, but thankfully a few miles further on the course turned the corner (physically and metaphorically) at Combe Bissett. The headwind became a tailwind as we spun through quaintly named places like Fifield Bavant and Ebbesbourne Wake, where we found – at last – the first feed station, with nearly 35 miles covered. Not long after this came the biggest climb of the day, around Donhead Hollow, and I was pleased to find that I was fit enough to take it in my stride. On the short route I’d have been nearly home after this distance, but on the Standard route there were still almost forty miles to go. As usual, Wiggle spaced the feed stations very well, with the second one twenty miles after the first (between Horton and Verwood), with twenty miles still to go.
I wouldn’t say the last twenty miles were a breeze, but I was pleased with my fitness progress as I was able to attack the remaining uphill bumps all the way back to the finish. Because both my heart monitors have been playing up (probably not able to make sense of the non-standard signals), I didn’t bother wearing one on this ride. Even on the hardest climbs I’m as sure as I can be that my heart was OK. The limit was in the legs, where it belongs. It was good to feel fit enough to jump onto the wheel of some faster riders coming by, and quite pleasing to find quite a few people following my wheel in the headwinds. Best of all, for the first time since I started doing sportives a few years ago, I easily made the silver medal standard, getting round in a riding time of 4 hours 50 minutes. That’s progress!