Wiltshire (Ups and) Downs Sportive

SOAS Aquarius cycling kit.

As the weather was forecast to be nice on Sunday (and the clock change made it feel like I’d had a lie in), I decided to squeeze in a ride at the Wiltshire Downs Sportive. There were 4 distances on offer:

  • ‘Fun’: 15 miles / 24 km
  • Short: 34 miles / 54 km
  • Med: 62 miles / 99 km
  • Long: 80 miles 128 km

I chose long as I wanted to get another long ride in before heading to Portugal for some training.

It was about a 90-minute drive to the start of the ride, but I didn’t mind. My car is too small to transport a bike, so I was riding in style in Stuart’s car. It has my favourite luxury – heated seats 🙂

My new SOAS aquarius kit
My new SOAS Aquarius kit

Freezing at Wiltshire Downs Sportive

Unfortunately, I hadn’t read the detailed weather forecast and had just assumed that it would be as warm as Saturday (13°C/55°F when I got to parkrun)… it turned out to be 3/4°C [37°F] and I was underdressed. Several times recently, I’ve worn full-length tights and have been too warm, so I assumed that I would be fine in my lovely new SOAS shorts and jersey. I had put on some plain black knee warmers and arm warmers. I also had the forethought to put on a buff to keep my neck warm.

When I joined the start queue I realised that I was immediately behind Ian from Southampton Tri Club. He told me that he was doing the medium route.

In the queue, I put on my waterproof jacket in the hope that it would keep the wind chill off. I didn’t want to get hot and sweaty, but I was chilly. We set off and after about 5 minutes I had lost all feeling in my fingers and toes. I was freezing.

In about 30 minutes, I had warmed up a bit and removed my jacket, which was a relief. I had been worried that I’d need to get the latex gloves out of my saddle bag and put them on!

Aiming for the feed stations

I got to the first feed station and glanced about to see whether Ian was filling up, but he was nowhere to be seen. This didn’t surprise me as Ian is a much faster cyclist than I am. I had the first of my peanut butter sandwiches and headed off again.

Shortly afterwards, I heard someone behind me and realised that it was Ian who had taken a wrong turn somewhere. We cycled along together for a while, which was lovely as I’d not been riding at the same pace as anyone else and hadn’t had any other opportunities to talk. It wasn’t long until we got to the medium and long split and said goodbye.

The next section of the route was ‘gently undulating’, by which I mean it was relentlessly hilly. At one point a couple of men came past and asked me how far we had gone. My new Garmin 810 was misbehaving and had turned itself off, so I’d had to restart it, but my Forerunner was still giving me accurate data. I decided to try to stick with the chaps for a while, as the route was a little lonely. It turned out that one of the men was a strong cyclist, whereas the other was a little more like me. He was finding the hills tougher. For quite a long way, we played a game of cat and mouse where I would gradually catch up with the slower chap on the hills and then he recovered more quickly than me and went past again.

Where’s the second feed station?

I asked one of the men whether he knew where the next feed station was. It turned out to be at least 12 miles away. Although I’d been doing my best to drink every 15 minutes and eat something every 20 minutes, I was starting to flag. I commented to the man that I was going to stop at the top of the hill and have a sandwich. Just as I was about to pull over, the chap pointed to a sign. The feed station had been relocated to the top of the hill 🙂 I ate my sandwich, had a couple of jelly beans and refilled my electrolyte bottle with an orange drink.

I heard another cyclist explaining that there was a steep downhill with hairpins coming up, so I decided to take it gently. Hairpin bends are not my friends!

After the steep downhill, the countryside was more rolling and I was feeling exhausted. I had a ‘flu injection on Saturday and my left arm was really stiff, which was making it harder. I pulled over for another sandwich and a quick text to Stu.

The last 20 miles felt like a slog, and I just had one aim: get home before it gets dark! I managed it, but it definitely wasn’t a quick time!

Brightside Cycling

Yesterday, I did the first of three sessions with Brightside Cycling. I had no idea what to expect, so I did my best to be early.  It is unusual for me to ride my road bike in the dark, so I spent about 5 minutes attaching as many lights as possible. I think I ended up with three white lights and three red lights. No-one could say they didn’t see me coming!

After Sunday’s experience, I put on winter gloves and a cosy jacket for the short ride, but I wasn’t too worried about my legs, after all, how cold can legs get in a <5-minute bike ride?

When I arrived at Brightside, I realised that my tyres were a little soft. I intended to inflate them when I got in, but then completely forgot about it – doh! In the car park, Graham was helping a man and a woman with their bikes. I assumed that they were a couple, but when we got inside, I realised this wasn’t correct. I knew where I was going as Vankru bike fitting used to be based at Brightside… and I also knew that the first test would be carrying my bike up a spiral staircase whilst wearing cleats. The studio is in a nice location, but that’s definitely a disadvantage.

What data did I generate?

After answering a few questions, Graham got the three of us onto our bikes which were rigged up to trainers. I’m not a fan of cycling inside as it’s usually quite warm. Unless there’s something to watch, there’s not a lot to distract me, so it gets boring. At least this time, there was a screen to look at. It took me a while to understand exactly what I was meant to be doing, which is why my graph is so wonky. (I’ve also had a good look at the data and see that my weight was incorrectly entered. Maybe this data will change. I’d be devastated if I weighed 77kgs/170lbs after all of my hard work!!!)

Pre FTP cycle

We then did a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test. It was a little off-putting to be sandwiched between two very able cyclists, but at least I’m doing something to try to get better.

FTP test

And finally…

As the clocks have now changed and it’s dark in the evenings, I thought it would be timely to share this video:


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