A good saying that I tend to adhere to is, if it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is ! and I normally wont take a second look. So on reading that the Wiggle – No Excuses Sportive was free to enter, I was my usual sceptic self. To be honest I somehow missed the original entries and luckily spotted the release of an extra 250 places via Facebook. I still read the description sure that there was some catch but I couldn’t unearth one so I pressed the ‘enter’ button
I had an early start to drive the 2hrs to the HQ at Hinchingbrooke on the outskirts of Huntingdon. The Motorways and A14 had been so quiet that as I arrived at the car park I couldn’t believe the first 600 space car park was already full. There was some very busy, yet efficient, traffic directing marshalls that was to set the standards for the day.
A Sports hall housed the signing on and make-shift cafe area, The clear signs at the car park ensured that riders took their helmets to signing on, where a timing ‘sticker’ was attached to your helmet. Toilets were limited for the amount of riders but I think I missed the main queuing tbh Following some serious umming and arrrhing on what to wear, I go for arm-warmers, gilet, 3/4 bibs to accompany my usual base kit. There were others going for almost full winter kit. Now either I was going to be cold or others very warm
Just like the signing on, the start was smooth and seamless The timing ‘pads’ were head height on stalks, which answered my unasked question of, How the timing will be picked up at head height ! There was a great variety of riders, from club riders to fun riders on hybrids which I think is fantastic to see and proof (if really needed) that these events are attracting more and more people. In addition there seemed to be a high percentage of ladies compared to most events
I join the queue and roll over the start at 0845hrs, groups are set off approx 30 strong about 1min apart. I roll along but within a mile or so I’m on my ownsome, warming up the legs, trying to ease some of the aching in the leg muscles from their efforts from the previous days race ! Ok I’m GUILTY as charged, of having the stereo-typicial view that the area was to be pan-flat Once out into the countryside it soon becomes apparent that what initially felt like a slight breeze, indeed felt like and was in fact a strong wind !
A few miles in a rider clad in blue and yellow Peterborough CC kit, drifts by and I hop on his wheel. He is riding a beautiful Colnago :) I later find out that the gent is Alex Harrison but for now we form an unspoken alliance, working together, ableit he is stronger and doing longer turns on the front but I was determined to assist for as long as it lasted Passing Grafham Water I’m shocked at the sheer size of this lake. The wind has disturbed the surface water so much so that it looks distintly choppy. We catch a large group of riders predominantly CC Luton riders and the pace eases as Alex chats with a few he obviously knows. It proves to be a brief easing, as we pass the 1st feed station, two other riders clad in white swell our train to four.
At this point the undulations seem to flow one into the other and the two riders in white push on the climbs, ensuring I have to attempt to inhale oxygen through any orifice humanly possible. On one particular long drag I lose contact with the group surprised that one of the ‘white’ riders is also with me. As we work to re-join and as the junction is made the other rider is not on my wheel, we then turn into a terror of a cross wind, so we were down to three. The cross wind forces us to do short sharp turns before tucking back into our small but perfectly formed echelon Before long the second ‘white’ clad rider sits up and declares ‘I’ve had enough’ back at the finish I bumped into him and he had cramp setting into his quads and daren’t risk the consequences.
Alex and myself decide we have enough drink to continue through the 2nd feed stop, at which point he states he’d like to break an ave of 20mph :0 I knew we had a very long head-wind section before the dash for home passed Grafham Water, which made me think he was being slightly ambitious !! Riders jumped on our mini train for a tow but Alex set a tough pace. I took regular turns but they were short compared to my strong riding partner. Our efforts were interrupted when a Red Kite hops out of a roadside tree and soars along the hedge row almost within touching distance – awesome
As we re-joined the riders on the shorter 45mile route, we felt we were on the homeward stretch Arriving back at the finish, I’d thoroughly enjoyed my first ride in this area. I was given my goodie bag and we walked back to the Sports hall to collect our free cuppa and I bought a little celebratary cake – I’d averaged 20.8mph, Alex a little faster as he’d started about a minute and a half after me
I have got to say the route was brilliant, quiet roads through some beautiful sleepy village (until we all rolled through) and it dispelled my misguided view of being completely pan-flat (not a hilly sportive but enough to keep it interesting). An OS map was supplied at the start for quick reference and a medal for all finishers. The signage was excellent, probably the best I’ve experienced ALL FOR FREE, any non-starters that were charged for their no-show, it all goes to charity. Wiggle have obviously ran this as a loss leader and what a fantastic advert for their events/series I only wish they had some of their events a little further North
Thanks to all that made it a fantastic day on the bike