09 May 2016
127km – The Wye Valley Warrior
The Brutal Welsh Sportive
Following my last sportive (the 100km Cotswold Spring Classic) I was determined to learn from my mistakes. After slogging up the hills on the middle ring (because my front dérailleur was faulty), I was determined to learn some basic bike maintenance, so I did!
I now know how to adjust dérailleurs, fix brakes and build chains.
I took the Cotswold Spring Classic very steady as it was my first time riding in a group, so at the end it wasn’t right that my legs were fine but my arms were in agony.
I decided that it might be worth investing in a bike fit, a process where the components on your bike are adjusted (or replaced) to give you a more comfortable riding position. I did this at Tri Uk in Yeovil, using the high tech Guru system, and the Wye Valley Warrior was my first time really giving the new setup it’s fair day in court.
It only took about an hour to drive to Chepstow in Wales, and aside from having to pay £6.50 to cross a toll bridge, I was in good spirits, thanks in part to the favourable weather, which was lovely and sunny as I began the 127km slog at about 8am.
I felt more confident than before, and as such set off considerably faster than I had done at the last sportive, staying a few feet behind the leaders, rather than a good distance behind the back of the pack.
The scenery was beautiful and I took in as much as I could whilst enjoying whizzing down the initial descents.
After about an hour I realised that the bike fit had not resolved my arm issues, but continued riding rapidly. That worked out well for about 70km, at which point I came to a hill. I say a hill, it was really more like a fucking wall, and even in the lowest gear, climbing it was taking everything I had. At that point my chain slipped off! Never have I been so glad of a mechanical failure, as it gave me a legitimate reason to stop without looking like I had ran out of puff. By the time I had reattached the chain, I had enough steam to get to the top of the hill.
I would say that it was all downhill from there, but that would be a very confusing, and misleading metaphor. The truth is that the 6500+ ft of climbs, combined with my rapid start, were really taking a toll on my legs, and my arms hurt so much that they began to violently cramp, causing me to swerve erratically. The remaining miles seemed to be made up of never-ending accents and weather that had now turned wet and grey.
Finishing the Wye Valley Warrior
I could not have been more relieved to cross the finish line, 5hrs and 48mins after I had started.
What I learned
As I watched cyclists in front of me, they would occasionally look behind them to make sure nobody was right on their tracks before covering one nostril and blowing the snot out of it, then repeating the process on the other nostril.
That’s a good idea, I thought, as I too had been suffering with a runny nose for some time. I diligently checked behind me to ensure that nobody was in the firing line, as it were, and then attempted to perform the procedure. I evacuated the right nostril and then the left. That went quite well, I thought to myself. It wasn’t until the next feed station that I noticed the massive snot splatters on both of my shoulders.
I guess you have to lean out a bit more?
The Immortal Half
My next event is a half iron distance triathlon, which features a 1.9km swim, followed by a 90km bike ride, followed by a half marathon (13.1 miles).