One of my new year's resolutions was to only sign up for Sportives I had never ridden before. The Squires & Spires was the first of four I had chosen.
It takes place in Naseby Northamptonshire. The weather I experienced driving up the night before didn't look too promising with gale force winds and 'horizontal' rain !
The next day was pretty much the same though fortunately, without the rain. On arriving at the start, I decided to warm myself up with a hot cup of tea. By the time I had walked 200m from the burger van to my parked car, my piping hot tea had turned lukewarm . Using this as a barometer, I decided to put on an extra base layer, my rain jacket and two pairs of socks ! I am so glad that I brought a pair of winter gloves. I am also glad that I didn't get round to getting my hair cut as I didn't bring a skull cap! Looking at the other riders, it seemed more like a November reliability ride rather than a Spring Sportive. Some had obviously been keeping tabs on the forecast as many riders turned up in full winter gear and with winter bikes !
A few people obviously hadn't and turned up wearing short sleeved shirts and shorts !! How they got round without getting hyperthermia, I don't know. The organisation was pretty good with ample parking space and an organised queue to the start. I was a little surprised to see that the timing was done manually and that we weren't given timing chips. I did look out for i-team jerseys as I know a couple of you rode this one last year, but I didn't see anyone else. We were told that the route had been cut short by 5 miles to avoid a clash with the VW Camper Van enthusiasts who attend a nearby rally on the same day.
Total distance was reduced to 73 miles / 117km. The first 20 miles went smoothly. In fact, I couldn't believe that I was riding a Sportive. It was so flat and the wind was behind us meaning I was coasting along quite nicely. The number of riders thinned out after the turning off point for the shorter 50 mile route. I wasn't aiming for any particular time, but I started thinking that I would finish this one in a fairly fast time. An hour into the ride and a turn in a different direction onto the first hill and into a headwind made me think otherwise. It was pretty much like this for the rest of the ride, hill, headwind, hill, side-wind, hill, headwind, hill side-wind etc .
There weren't any major climbs, but every hill combined with the strong headwind felt like riding up Butser hill ! Everyone was feeling it and towards the end, there were even riders dismounting. I eventually got back in 04h15m (riding time) at an average speed of 17mph/27.3kph. Total elapsed time was 04h24:17 taking into account feed stations and toilet stops.
Before setting off back home, I thought I would treat myself to a bacon and egg baguette from the burger van and another lukewarm cup of tea. As I sat in the car tucking into my baguette with the heating on and listening to the football, some riders (not being content with freezing their b***s off on a bike) were having a 'warm-down' run in the car park ! By this time it felt even colder outside and it started to rain ! Overall, I am glad I did the ride and I imagine it is a good route to get a sub-4hour time on a sunny day with no wind. I saw on the website that 700 people had signed up for the event and only 570 managed to make the start line. Taking into account the fact that I rode 95% of the ride solo and 70% in a headwind, I think I did all right .