Roles Reversed

Being a Breeze Champion has been a bit of an eye opener for me really as well as being incredibly rewarding.

I quickly got involved with road cycling after a switch from mountain biking nearly 3 years ago now. I still mountain bike, but road cycling has just been easier to fit in for the past few years. Whilst my endurance has taken a while to get it to where it is, it’s easy to forget about the rides you previously struggled with.

When I first started riding with Ryan I could just manage a ride out to a cafe and back. Call it fitness or just pure grit, I just like being out now. But on a Breeze ride with Lucy today I quickly realised how the roles had reversed. It use to be Ryan pushing me up the last hill to get home. On the same route with Lucy, we were both cold and ready for a cup of tea. So close to the end, the last stretch of road is always a bugger and they chuck a deceiving climb in at the end too! All of a sudden I found me encouraging Lucy to get past the last few hurdles back to the start.

Every ride is a learning curve as a Breeze Champion. Not every ride will be perfect, but you’ll always take a funny memory away from it.

Cake Power vs Steam Power

Cycling in the winter requires a huge amount of motivation! With winter upon us, finding that motivation is hard! After hanging up the best bike until next year, putting all of the summer kit away and pulling out the winter kit you get really sad that you can’t top up your epic tan lines (or show them off) for a few months. 

When it’s cold, rainy and windy all you want to do is curl up by the fire, but you have a little voice in the back of your mind reminding you that if you don’t keep riding all your hard work through the summer will go to waste. There’s the turbo option, but realistically where’s the fun in that? Besides, how many times have we promised ourselves we’d do a session on the turbo then never do!

Cycling in the winter doesn’t have to be a chore, find a buddy and just ride! You’ll soon forget how cold you are.

A few weeks ago even the thought of going for a ride in the winter months was laughable! “Do I want to go out and get really cold or do I want to sit in bed watching YouTube?” For me, riding the same roads as I would do in the summer in the winter is dull! However, since getting to know Lucy all I’ve wanted to do is ride my bike! 

This was the third time I’ve been on a ride with Lucy and it might just have been my favourite one. With two GCSE Maths exams last week for me and another busy week for Lucy, a ride was much needed to clear our heads for the following week. 

We left Alf’s at 10 then chatted about anything and everything(with the mudguards making as much noise as us!) on beautiful country lanes with the misty views even more beautiful, until we reached Old Ma’s Coffee Shop.

Even though it’s mid November, it’s unusually warm, so we made the most of it and sat outside. We both had a lovely warm drink and a big piece of cake to fuel us for the way home.

A while later, we left Old Ma’s and realised we had both come down with a bad case of ‘Post Café Legs’.

After shaking the café legs off it was more relaxed pedalling along the country lanes in the winter sun until we got back to Alf’s with just over 30 miles under our belts… I mean bibs.

Lucy is going to be putting on Breeze Rides for girls aged 16-20. Come along and meet new people to ride with. You’ll have a great time!

Read about it here Breeze rides I’ve been on here:

Breeze Poppy Ride

Breeze Ride to Hill Climb in 7 Days

 

Breeze Poppy Ride

Breeze Poppy Ride bpMeeting up with Lucy for the start of the ride at Alf Jones Cycles, we were pretty swift to get out on the roads. With a ride planned just short of 20 miles, it was a relaxed ride on country lanes and a lot flatter than the rides Lucy was use to doing. Setting off at half 11, it gave us chance to take part in the 2 minutes silence for Remembrance Sunday.

For mid-November it was surprisingly warm, so I didn’t need to pull out my thick Winter Mavic gloves like I did on our last ride over towards Llangollen.

Having not seen Lucy since the Horseshoe Hill Climb a few weeks ago, it was good to catch up and hear if she’s managed to get back on the bike since and how she felt after her first Hill Climb. With an exam looming on Monday, the ride out was a well-deserved break from all of her Maths revision.

After a quick coffee at Cleopatra’s Coffee Shop, the country lanes soon brought us back to Alf Jones Cycles. A relaxed ride in the Winter sun is the perfect way to clear your head for the following week.

I’m going to be making these rides, which are aimed at 16-20 year olds, a regular thing, so if you want to hear about future rides just drop me a message. Otherwise, you can follow me on social media to keep up with what rides are coming up next.

Breeze Ride to Hill Climb in 7 Days

 

DSC_1246.jpg

Photo: Robert Riley

Hill climbs. One of the most feared events in cycling? Riding full gas up a hill for fun. A few minutes of pain for an hour of feeling sick. “You’d never catch me doing that” I always said, yet here I am getting ready for my first ever hill climb… the Horseshoe Pass hill climb.

Lucy and I were talking when she hit me with “fancy the Horseshoe Pass hill climb in a couple of weeks?” Absolutely not I thought!

1, I’ve only been on my bike a couple of times in the last month.

2, No way am I fast enough.

3, The Horseshoe Pass? No way!

Nevertheless here I am entering just a few hours before entries close.

Monday 1st October

The realisation hit me like a bus that I’ve only been on my bike 4 times since August and I’ve only got 6 days left until race day! So I did a 15 minute HIIT session on the turbo… like that was going to help!

Sunday 7th October

It’s the big day. It’s hill climb day. And it’s 4⁰C!

Warm up HPHH

Upon arriving at sign on, the sound of turbo trainers echoed like a swarm of bees. My nerves quickly erupted, my stomach was full of butterflies and I didn’t want to do it. Why? Because of the fear of coming last and looking like a fool. Thanks to Lucy who reassured me that it’s all about getting to the top and not how quickly you get there I collected my number, did my warm up then rode down to the start. With every tick of the seconds hand my start time was drawing nearer. My nerves were creeping up on me again.

Then it was time…

30…15…10…5…4…3…2…1…GO!!!!

“UP, UP, UP!”

A few minutes in and my lungs were already burning, my legs were heavy and I wanted to stop. The road felt steeper than it had ever done before. I was passed by a couple of people who flew up the hill, making it look easy. Spectators on the side of the road were clapping and roaring shouts of encouragement to every rider who passed. Over ¾ of the way up I felt like I was drowning. Trying to take in oxygen but it was never enough and the cold air made it hard to breathe.

HPHH 44 Sprint

Nearly there and there’s people everywhere! I could see their mouths moving but all I could hear was my heart pounding. Looking down at my Garmin I saw my heart rate was at 204bpm!

100m to go. So close.

75m. Don’t stop now.

50m. Keep going.

25m. Final push.

Done!

It took me a while to catch my breath and my words were few and far between. The wave of relief which was more like a tsunami washed right over me. I did it. Despite the unpleasantness of the ride to the top, I loved it and wanted to do it again. We stayed at the finish for a while cheering the other riders on.

Overall, I came 113th out of 144, won the prize for the fastest mixed team (vet, lady and junior) with Oswestry Paragons and was treated to the biggest (and nicest) piece of cake known to man at the Ponderosa Cafe afterwards! On the whole I had a great day and can’t wait until next year.

Lucy and Lucy 2

The thing I loved most about it was that it didn’t matter how fast/slow/young/old you were, everyone was given the same amount of encouragement. Everybody was so kind and helpful, reminiscing on their first hill climb and wanting you to do your best. It didn’t matter what time you did it in or what kind of equipment you had, it was all about getting to the top. Everyone suffered equally and were all praised for how hard they tried. I learnt that it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, the fact that you just put the effort in to do it is something to be proud of. And at the end of the day, no matter how slow you go, you’re still overlapping everyone on the sofa!

Were you in the hill climb and haven’t found any photos yet? Click here

Race Report: #GirlsAtMarshTracks

With a rapid turnaround #GirlsAtMarshTracks took over the closed cycling circuit in Rhyl. Quiet for entries online Lwsi and Lauren took to the track in the Under 16 categories and were pushing hard on the pedals right to the chequered flag.

Then it was time for the busiest race of the day for the U12, U10 and U8. 13 girls took to the track and for many it was their first time. They raced round the shorter version of Marsh Tracks and were getting cheered on by their parents at the side of the track. Girls from Hafren CC and North Cheshire Clarion has a strong presence at the race and definitely represented their clubs well. Many keen to learn more about road racing and tactics used by the pro’s!

North Cheshire Clarion took the top spots in the U10 and 12, but were beaten to the podium in the under 8 category by Hafren CC rider Isobel.

All of the girls did remarkably well and all got round to the chequered flag. I couldn’t be more impressed by them all. They all kept pushing on right to the finish line.

Come half 12 it was time for the senior races to hit the track, with the first being the E123 race. A field of four, it ended up being a photo finish to see if Emily or Jo got the coveted first place. Emily pipped Jo to first by a lunge for the line.

The other two riders in the E123 race actually had MTB XC backgrounds, which is how they gained their 3rd cat licences. Polar opposite to what their use to in the forests, they both rode really strong races.

When the 4th Cat race lined up on the track, we had a mix of riders wanting to gain points for their 3rd Cat licence and complete beginners. Catrin rode a strong race, even for her first Crit race, but just got beaten to first place by Leonie. Again, that had to be decided on photos taken at the finish line!

The biggest part of #GirlsAtMarshTracks for me was seeing girls race for the first time and giving it a go. I think it can be so daunting turning up to a race sometimes, that people listen to the voices in their heads that say they’re not good enough. You won’t be great from the offset. I’ve found this year that racing is just one big learning curve. But I’m hoping events like #GirlsAtMarshTracks break the barrier even if women (and girls!) want to try racing even just the once. They can say they raced and stepped out of their comfort zone.

The most prominent memory will be the smiles on the faces of those in the youth races. That’s what I wanted to do the event for also. To give the opportunity for the youth girls to have the track to themselves. Normally thrown in the mix with the boys, they often end up near the back, but for this race the Under 12’s (and Lottie from the U10 believe it or not!) were at the front. Seeing young girls so passionate about the sport and racing was great to see, especially the friendships they’d formed in their clubs. You can’t go wrong with having friends you can share a sport with.

The first race I’ve ever organised, it was a big learning curve for me too. Even one of the Hafren CC Dad’s was showing me how to do a gear check for the youth riders! I’ve learnt a lot and hopefully I can take it to the next race I organise, which I’m hoping to be next Spring.

I hope all of the riders have a good Winter, whatever training they get up to. If you’d like to hear direct about the future races, then drop me an email and I’ll email any information about dates etc as it becomes available. I really hope I can grow the events next year, especially with how many new racers came to the track.

Maybe a British Cycling race licence will be on your Christmas lists this year!

If you have any questions about the event, or about getting into racing in general. Feel free to drop me a message.

A massive thank you to everyone who helped on the day, especially to Jasmine for coming to be the Commissaire for the race. She definitely had a busy day working out positions for the U8, U10 and U12 race!

Tactical Numpty or Bad Luck?

The past two weekends have seen me racing, which I’ve not done anywhere near enough of this year. The first weekend was Welsh Road Champs, but in hindsight I should have tried the TT instead. This weekend was a crit race at Darley Moor Motor Circuit.

I probably should have written about Welsh Champs sooner, but I come away from it slightly embarrassed if I’m honest. I went down with Ryan the day before as he was doing the TT too. Around the HQ I was surrounded by girls much stronger than me and I started to wonder what I was letting myself in for. Some might not be staying around for the road race the following day, but I still felt I was in a little too deep.

Phil Bulkeley Photograhpy

I entered Welsh Road Champs thinking we’d be going round the course on our own. Getting to the start line I found out we were starting with the Veteran men. Needless to say I got dropped 5 miles in…

But I still can’t work out if it was bad luck or me just being a tactical numpty.

Had I just sat behind the wrong people, or was I just not fit enough to be in the race?

When the race convoy passed and a number of women dropped off the back of the field, I couldn’t work out if the race convoy passing meant we weren’t in the race anymore.

I ended up riding round on my own for a lap at a pace I don’t think I’ve ever ridden at before. I wasn’t sure if I could still get to the finish line and place, or if once passed by the broom wagon that was it.

Long story short, I bailed after one lap as I still didn’t have a clue if I was suppose to still be on the course or not. So I finished with a big fat DNF.

When I went to Welsh Champs to at least finish, that was a bit gutting.

To get me out of my grump, Ryan found a race at Darley Moor Motor Circuit. 16 laps in a field of 20 women.

Something I didn’t do for Welsh Champs was warm up, so I made sure to chuck the turbo in the car for Darley Moor. I may have only loosened my legs for 10 minutes, but it definitely made a difference.

My headphones and turbo just get me in the right mindset for racing.

Whatever race I go to now, I need to make sure I’m armed with my turbo to warm up. I could use rollers…but I definitely haven’t mastered them yet! Maybe I should work on that over winter!

The field was strong whilst we were on the track and I was just hoping I could stay on the back of the group!

A far cry from what I ended up doing at Pimbo a few weeks ago ha!

After getting too carried away in the corners and seeing how far I could lean my bike over, we were soon on the finish straight in a bunch sprint.

I still don’t know what position I finished, but I finished…which was an improvement on Welsh Champs.

I even finished the weekend with a loop I made up as I went along, which ended up being a hilly ride to start with, then levelled out a bit. I felt weirdly good on the bike.

How have you got over races you’ve performed badly at?

#GirlsAtMarshTracks – What You Need To Know

If you’ve been following me on social media you’ll know the next event I’m organising is #GirlsAtMarahTracks. A day of crit racing for women at the North Wales’ closed cycling circuit, Marsh Tracks in Rhyl.

I’ve not been road racing (or road cycling!) long, but it’s clear to see that women’s road races are hard to come by, which can be understandable when they’re not always the easiest of races to fill to make them viable to run. But I’m taking the jump and doing a full day of women’s racing anyway!

For anyone new to road or crit racing, what does this all mean?!?

First off…Criterium Racing,

More commonly known as ‘crit racing’, this is essentially closed circuit racing, whether that be on closed roads or closed circuit. You race for a certain amount of time, then so many laps after that. For example, the 4th Category race is racing for 40 minutes plus 5 laps. So as soon as you reach 40 minutes you know you’ve got 5 laps left! You’ll know you’ve got to the 40 minute mark as a board will appear at the finish line counting down from 5 until the last lap is indicated by a bell!

But what do all the race categories mean?

I’m not going to lie, the race categories alone can be enough to put you off giving racing a go! The senior women’s races are either the E/1/2/3 or the 4th Cat.

E/1/2/3

How road racing works with British Cycling is you buy a licence and depending on where you come in race you can get points, eg you win a race and get 10 points. Over the course of the year these points can build up and a certain amount of points will mean you move up at category. For example, I’ve been chasing 12 points this year to go from 4th Category to 3rd Category. I’m nowhere near, but you get the picture!

To put it all into context, I’m a 4th Category rider and I’ve just started road racing. The women racing in the OVO Energy Women’s Tour are in the Elite category, so ‘E’.

4th Category

If you’re new to racing then the 4th Category race is the one for you! You can enter with a day licence and give racing a go! 4th Cat is also for those chasing those 12 points to get to bumped up to 3rd Category if you already have a British Cycling race licence.

So, how do you go about entering the 4th Cat race if you don’t have a British Cycling race licence? To put it simply, you need to enter on the day by paying for the entry to the race and for a day licence.

Day Licence Fees

The 4th Cat race is a Regional C+ categorised race. If you’re a:

– Bronze British Cycling Member, Ride British Cycling Member or not a member of British Cycling, a day licence will cost £10.

– Silver or Gold British Cycling Member, a day licence will cost £5.

Obviously if you have a British Cycling race licence you won’t need a day licence, you just need to check what race category you are and enter the correct race accordingly.

For Junior and Youth riders it works slightly differently. If you’re child is under the age of 16 they will be a Youth rider and therefore a day licence will only cost £1.50.

Over the age of 16 will class them as a Junior rider and they can race in the 4th Category race with a day licence. These will follow the same guidelines as the adult prices, but be half the price. So:

– Bronze British Cycling Member, Ride British Cycling Member or not a member of British Cycling, a day licence will cost £5.

– Silver or Gold British Cycling Member, a day licence will cost £2.50.

You won’t be able to sign up online if you need a day licence, so just drop me a message if you’re planning on racing so I can get an idea on numbers! Drop me an email at lifeandbikesblog@gmail.com.

What bike can you ride?

For various safety reasons, British Cycling stipulate what bikes can and can’t be used in road and circuit racing. For the senior races, so 4th Cat and E/1/2/3, a drop-bar road bike will only be allowed to be ridden in the races. Working gears and brakes are a must too! Don’t forget to check the tyre pressures, high tyre pressures make pedallig so much easier!

A drop bar road bike looks something like this…

These rules apply for the Under 16 and Under 14 races also, but allow cyclocross bikes to. Drop bars are a necessity though.

When it comes to the Under 12’s, 10’s and 8’s, British Cycling allow any type of bike to make it easier for younger riders to have a go! I must say these bikes have obviously got to have working brakes and be in good working order. Again, for safety during the races.

What category will my child race in?

Have a look at the details below,

Under 16 if born in 2002 or 2003

Under 14 if born 2004 or 2005

Under 12 if born 2006 or 2007

Under 10 if born 2008 or 2009

Under 8 if born 2010 onwards

The obvious need for the Under 8 category is that your child can confidently ride a bike. British Cycling also stipulate gearing restrictions to protect young riders from using big gears that could be harmful to them. (ie too strenuous!) If you have any queries on gearing restriction or if your child can race, have a read of this document by following the link, or contact British Cycling via the details in this link:

Youth Gear Restrictions: A Guide for Riders and Parents

Facilities

From racing various cycling disciplines, I know facilities at cycling races can sometimes be an issue, so I just wanted to highlight Marsh Tracks has toilets and changing facilities.

For more information about #GirlsAtMarshTracks keep monitoring my social media pages and website for more blog posts! Thank you to everyone who has helped with the event so far, especially Cyced for designing the poster! You’ll be able to find out more about Cyced with a blog post that will be posted in the next few days.

Cyced: Where rides become cycling art

I’m also working with Andy from SDS Graphics on some stickers you’ll be able to take home with you! SDS Graphics have been supplying vinyl graphics and designs in the motorsport industry for 25 years. His vinyl graphics can be seen on Formula 1 cars, British Touring Cars and many others. So you’ll have F1 standard stickers you can put on your bike, to remember that time you took part in a day full of women’s crit racing.

I’ll drop some other useful links below, but if you feel like you can’t keep up to date on social media with the event drop me an email at lifeandbikesblog@gmail.com and I’ll email you any updates!

Facebook Event Page

British Cycling Event Page (you can enter via this link!)

Marsh Tracks Website

If you’re a company who fancies getting involved with the event, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Well that escalated quickly…

What the HELL just happened?

Rolling out of bed at 8am this morning I was unsure whether to race or not. A road race last Sunday and two time trials this week…I wasn’t exactly sure my legs would have anything left. Especially when those races haven’t exactly gone to plan.

I also felt guilty for dragging Ryan along because the men’s race was a 3/4 and he’s a 2nd cat now.

But my quest for license points needed to continue. I wasn’t going to get points if I wasn’t racing.

Getting to sign on for 11am, it was another lunch time race but this time organised by Croston Velo.

It was hot…obviously…and I was shaking with nerves so much on the start line I struggled to clip in when the start whistle went.

Off we went, a field of around 20 girls were making their way around the 2ish miles loop. 38 miles ahead…it was going to be a tough one.

Being my second road race, I just sat on the back. The massive faux pas that it is, I just wanted to finish really after dropping off the bunch last week. Just not getting dropped would have been an improvement!

The more the bunch eased off I’d end up rolling on the outside of the bunch to too the front. Girls tried to break away or tire the group out, but for most of the race the bunch stuck together.

I was at the back because I was only at the race to gain experience. Road tactics are all new to me, so I just wanted to watch really and see what the norm is in a road race. I’m use to racing through forests on Singletrack after all…

I’m not sure at what exact point in the race it was, but one girl had managed to break away. So I pushed to get on the front of the bunch to try and pull the group back across so we were racing as a full bunch.

So there I am munching my pedals…I had been for a while…only to look back and notice the group wasn’t behind me. I’d somehow managed to break away…by accident!

The group were reluctant to pull her back and my ego was not on for dropping back to the group with its tails between its legs. I was now committed to bridging across whether I liked it or not.

Catching up to her was SO hard. I’m not even exaggerating. It was like a max effort sprint for what seemed like for ever! I kept looking at my heart rate being 180+ BPM…I had no idea if I could hold this.

When I finally got across I wanted to work with her, but my legs just didn’t have anything left. So thankfully she let me get my breath back and then we got into some sort of rhythm. I had no idea what was a good stint on the front, so I let her lead and move behind me when she wanted to. I did the best I could to keep the bunch behind us.

With one lap to go we got told the bunch were only 12 seconds behind us. We thought about waiting for them with how hard it was to keep them at bay, but we’d come this far we may as well give it a go and see where it gets us.

So we pushed….hard. I thought I’d dig deep last week after I got dropped, but oh no….this was a whole new level of deep I’ve never been to before…

My head was that mushed by this point I couldn’t even remember where the finish straight was.

When I got my bearings again we we on the finish straight and I could see number 18 looking at me to see if I was going to sprint.

I just couldn’t!

And stupidly I forgot he bunch were likely to sprint too. So number 18 went to take the win but I lost second place to the bunch. But somehow managed to hold top 10 with 9th…provisionally!

Thank you to Croston Velo for putting on such a good race. The iced water at the end helped no end. Thanks to all the girls that were racing too, it was a pretty epic afternoon!

Back to Racing

Back to Racing

My first road race…where do I start?

The fact I got to the start line at all?

Almost losing the nut for the end of my axle?

Or, the fact I completely miscalculated the amount of laps that were left?

On the morning of the race I was a mess. I genuinely thought about just not racing at all. Why? The fear of getting dropped. In Welsh Crit Champs last year the group almost split in two. The faster girls were way ahead. I come to Pimbo to race…not get dropped again…ha!

I even said to Ryan who was with me on the side of the road at the start line, “I don’t even want to race anymore”.

I was dreading the start gun and the girls just disappearing up the road.

But the start gun went and I managed to hold on to the bunch.

Going round was a learning curve. I was constantly waiting for some sort of attack off the quicker girls, but nothing really happened. Holding onto the back was tough at times, but I held up better than I thought I would…until I sped up a lap early than the finish lap.

I picked up my pace to try and get myself in a better position, only to see the others stay at the same pace. When I realised we had one last lap my legs had already blown up. Embarassment or just genuinely feeling gutted at what position I could have maybe got, I was so frustrated with myself.

But either way, it is my first road race out of the way.

Back to Racing

Racing in general isn’t going great for me to be honest. I decided to try and make it in time for the club time trial this week, only to get a few minutes in and my bike pump fell out of my pocket. My only option was to turn back and get it in case it was in the middle of the road. I had riders behind me coming so I didn’t want them and their expensive bikes to hit the deck because of me! Thankfully they let me restart and I could get the frustration out of my system…ha! I even smahsed my target time too.

So pray that I’ve got all of the bad luck out of the way???

RAF Cycling and the CiCLE Classic

My adventure to the Cicle Classic started late last year when we decided that as 2018 was the 100th anniversary of the formation on the Royal Air Force, it would be pretty cool to get the RAF cycling team into one of the big races in the UK.

We asked the organisers of many of the UK’s premier races, but reduced field sizes and the large number of UK pro teams was making it difficult to fit us in. But then the amazing Colin Clews said he had space for a team of four riders.

Things had escalated; now we weren’t just racing a UK professional race, this race was part of the UCI European tour.

Time for some last minute panic training…

So what makes the Rutlan-Melton International CiCLE so special?

Now in its 14th year, it is widely regarded as the longest, hardest one day race in the UK, the CiCLE classic is contested by 36 teams over 117 miles. What makes this race unique in the UK is the 11 special sectors taking the race “off road” down farm tracks and dirt tracks. This makes punctures and mechanical issues very common, so spare wheels and support crew can make all the difference.

Race Day

We were the lowest ranked team in the race, and I was rider number 192 (the last man in the race). Turning up to the team area we realised just how deep we were. Team buses, following cars, mechanics, gazebos, turbo trainers for warm ups. All the riders had to do was turn up and get on their bikes. We on the other hand turned up in our own cars and set about sorting our bikes and kit out by ourselves.

We did have matching kit though…

We met our 2 dedicated helpers and passed them the array of random drinks bottles and spare wheels we had. As they made their way to points on the course, we donned our helmets and headed off to the start area to sign on.

The start area was buzzing with spectators. It was pretty cool to walk up on stage to sign on as we were introduced to the amassing crowd. Funny moment of the day, the commentator introduced us as the team of RAF Pro Cycling, ha, he must have been used to saying “pro cycling” at the end of every team. There is nothing “pro” about our team, we all have day jobs.

Lining up on the start line was a surreal experience; I was stood next to guys I have watched on TV! There were Olympians, former world and national champions and a handful of riders who had just returned from the Commonwealth Games. And there I was about to ride the same race as them!

So at 11.00 on the dot, the race started. The first mile was neutralised behind the lead car, which was scary as everyone was jockeying for position. The flag dropped and I found myself sprinting as hard as I could as everyone accelerated. I looked down at my computer and we were doing 45mph!!! It was at that point I knew we were in for a long hard day in the saddle.

The first 30 miles were on the wide roads around Rutland Water, and with the roads totally closed to traffic we had both sides of the road to ride on. I’ve never ridden in a group of 192 people, and I’m not going to lie it is rather scary, everyone was nervous and trying to move up towards the front. I was just trying to stay upright and not get dropped.

Going into the first special sector at 30 miles there was a huge acceleration, nearly 200 guys were going to do a 90 degree left turn from a 2 lane main road onto a single lane farm track. It was hairy to say the least.

I found myself about 2 thirds of the way down the bunch. Just as I thought “this isn’t too bad” 2 riders from the same team collided in front of me and went down forcing me onto the grass to get round. Thankfully it was dry and not muddy. So from then on the field would only thin out further.

Ian, one of the other RAF riders, was not so lucky. He punctured mid sector and then had to wait for the neutral service car to get a spare wheel.

Leaving the sector I was just relaxing and commending myself on surviving when the bunch accelerated and I was forced to sprint to keep up. I saw the gap get bigger in front of me and thought it could be all over. Thankfully the small group of riders around me wanted to work hard to try and get back on. We eventually made it back to the main group, which was now noticeably smaller than it was a few miles earlier. I saw my two remaining RAF teammates who were equally as shocked as I was.

The next 20 miles consisted of me hanging onto the rear part of the group as we went over hills and down narrow lanes. Every couple of miles I would see someone crash or puncture. Including one rider from a European team go careering off the road into an electric fence with barbed wire on the top. That looked very nasty.

In the early part of the sector at 53 miles the worst happened, I punctured. My heart sank, this was not good. The only thing to do was keep pedalling. I rode the rest of the sector on a flat, my rear wheel sliding all over the place as riders shot passed me.

Now puncturing is bad luck, but this was the luckiest puncture I could have had. As I excited the sector I saw an RAF jersey at the side of the road. Of all the places for Silky, one of our two helpers to stand it was here. After a slightly fumbled wheel change I was back on my bike and beginning the chase back on. Soon enough I was back in to convoy of cars following the race and working my way up. The convoy is a scary place, the vehicles can be unpredictable, especially on narrow roads. Team cars suddenly stopping to help their riders, riders being dropped and going backwards, and all in a cloud of dust kicked up by the 40+ vehicles.

After 10 miles of chasing I finally got back to the back of the bunch. As I made it back on who should I see sitting pretty at the back, Dan, one of my teammates. We had a quick chat and swapped drinks bottles (I had one of his flavoured powders and he had one with just plain water).

Back in the bunch I was sitting fairly happy and then just before the 80 mile point I cramped bad on one of the steep climbs losing contact with the back of the bunch. Bizarrely, Dan suffered the same fate at the same time. After giving each other a quick pep talk, we decided to not give up and press on as a pair and try and get back.

We spent 10 miles weaving through the convoy trying as hard as we could; we got within 25m of the bunch as it hit a sector. The acceleration was too much for us to live with and the bunch disappeared into the distance.

We kept working, knowing that if we could get to the finishing circuit after the 100 mile point we could finish the race. The only thing stopping us was the broom wagon, the last car in the race convoy. Once this car catches you, you are eliminated from the race.

As we pushed on Dan cramped again and dropped back. Now on my own I had the painful experience of carrying on as best I could, all the time passing riders that had been dropped and given up.

Then the inevitable happened, I was caught by the broom waggon at 97 miles. So close to the finishing circuit, but part of me was relieved that the suffering was over.

I took the straight line to the finish to watch the last part of the race. And eventually meeting up with Dan and Ian. Both of us stood there, covered in mud/dust and totally empty. We must have looked bad, the photographers all started taking photos of us and the state we were in.

Incredibly, Antony, the remaining RAF rider, was still in the race. He’d hung in there as the race exploded and was in one of the chasing groups. We all stood there to cheer him on, it didn’t matter that we were tired, cold, hungry and no longer in the race.

We started as a team and we would finish as a team.

Antony came down the finish straight leading his group, about 8 minutes down on the winner. But just surviving and finishing this race is a major achievement. That day, over 100 riders didn’t finish, many of them full time professionals.

In summary, that was the hardest 4.5 hours of my cycling career, and I’ve never been so proud of a DNF. This race is something special, totally unique and incredibly hard. I may never get another chance to ride it or even compete at this level, but I’m proud to have been part of it.

The CiCLE classic takes place at the end of April each year, and if you find yourself in the Rutland area I’d thoroughly recommend going to spectate. The crowds were amazing, and with the race making several passes of the same area, you can watch the race several times from one location.

The RAF 100 Baton Relay is currently on its way around the country, so go and find them on Facebook and see who how they’re celebrating 100 years of the RAF.