I’m going to be honest with you, six months ago I had never even heard of a cyclosportive. My road cycling world was either dominated by watching the pros, laughing at the fact my Dad shaved his legs more than I did, or was still aching from the psychological damage of watching amateur time trials in the 1980s (come on, they are boring. Especially when you are 6 years old). But having made the significant purchase of my first road bike (aged 34…) I needed some focus, just riding it on my own wasn’t enough. I wanted to participate, I wanted to be challenged. Step forward Cycletta and their enticing promise of ‘fitness and fun’, ‘female cycling revolution’ and a timed, organised, mass participation road cycle event. I had discovered sportives.
Two things appealed about Cycletta: Their choice of venues was astonishing – beautiful landscapes, stately homes and (my personal choice) national parks. You don’t have to ask me twice about spending a morning on my bike in the fabulous surroundings of the New Forest. I also was reassured by the fact they were female-only. Being a bit of a ‘tomboy’, I’ve never been normally attracted to female-only events. Nor do I want my cycling defined by my gender – if the boys can do it, so can I (just ask the Aussie about me out-sprinting him…). But this was different, riding a sportive was completely new and I didn’t want to feel like anything would stop me from doing the best I possibly could. Apologies gentlemen, but I didn’t want to be intimidated by machismo.
So I signed up and vowed to train. And did a lot of vowing but not much training, bar hacking around town on my folding bike. I knew I could just about ride 20 miles on the road bike, I knew I could just about ride twenty miles on the mountain bike. How hard could it really be? So on the last glorious Sunday morning, we drove to the New Forest, I pinned on my numbers and lined up with over 300 other women to take part in my first sportive. My first proper road cycling challenge.
And what did I learn? Firstly, that I really really need to learn how to convert kilometres in to miles – the last seven miles hurt a lot when you have given everything for the previous ten, mistakenly thinking those were the last ten miles of the course. Lesson 1: Know your distances and energy budget accordingly. Secondly, that you wear layers for a reason – if you are hot, take something off – don’t forget you are wearing arm warmers and carry on hot and bothered regardless. Thirdly, that mucking around on a single speed folding bike can count actually as training, when you are faced with a steep hill and a broken front derailleur. I could have got off and pushed, but I hung on in there and hacked up regardless – slowly, in the wrong gear, but I didn’t get off. And I’m really proud of that. I cycled it all, every single leg burning mile of it. And lastly, I learnt that Jelly Tots are possibly the greatest energy food known to mankind.
So that was my first sportive. 42 kilometres in 2 hours 26 minutes 55 seconds. A small but good start to hopefully see me on to bigger and maybe even better things. A proud new road cyclist with a heart filled with joy at what she achieved. Thank you Cycletta.