This sportive was 100k – shorter than recents one but with more hills.
Ian was doing this one too although he was meeting up with his speedy friends. But we set off together from home, at early o’clock. It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining and the sky was blue but it was only 1C, brrrr. Hopefully it would warm up as the day went on. We have done this event on numerous occasions and have experienced, rain, hail and snow. Looked like this was to be the best year yet. Probably helped by the new organisers moving it from mid March to mid April. The course was also slightly flatter than previous years although there were still some tough climbs.
We arrived at Longleat at 7.20am. Although our start time was at 8.50am, everyone had to be parked up by 7.30am as the ride went back out on the same road we drove in. Longleat house looked stunning in the morning sunshine, it’s a great location for an event.
Ian scooted off fairly quickly when we got there to meet his friends. My friends were starting at different times or like my friend Jo doing the 100 mile route. So, another ride on my own. Had a chat with a few people in the car park – helped one guy load his Garmin map because he couldn’t see the screen – talk about the blind leading the blind lol. Was also asked by another couple to take a picture of them with their tandem! Crikey, would not fancy the Lionheart hills on a tandem. Well, maybe if Ian was at the front!
Managed to start by 8.30am. There were a lot of people at the start who had not got their registration details in the post. The general confusion in the start area meant I could just walk through the masses and get off early. For this event we were given FIVE stickers and numbers to put over ourselves and our bikes – apart from an Ironman I’ve never seen an event with so many numbers. Usually you get a timing chip and maybe a number for the front of your bike. It was nice though to see which distance others riders were doing. Green for 100k and Red for 100 miles.
The first few kilometres are through the grounds of Longleat safari park and if you listen carefully you can hear the lions, they make a sort of huffing noise…. huff huff huff. Didn’t see any though as we whizzed past their enclosure, guess they were having breakfast. The first climb comes while you are still in the park grounds at 5km. It’s a bit of shock if you are not prepared for it but it’s good to warm up the legs. I saw a couple of my tri club friends Kay and Gill going up the hill. We cycled together for a short while as the course went out onto the main the roads and through the country lanes of Wiltshire. They whizzed past me down the hills and I caught them back up going up. There were more ups than downs so after a while I was on my own.
Although it was a different route from previous years I recognised many of the roads from other events. One particular hill from the Tour of Wessex – the last time I climbed it, it was raining hard and some poor man was receiving CPR by the side the road ( he was ok, by the way). This time the road was much quieter, the weather much better and all riders ok.
The signature climb on this ride comes around 50km – King Alfred’s Tower. I have attempted this climb many times and never made it to the top. This time was no different. There are so many cyclists on the hill weaving around, often grinding to a halt when they could go no further and sometimes just falling over when they stopped pedalling – it’s seriously steep. I saw my friend Juliette just ahead of me and we walked up together. Nice to have company – the last time I saw her was at the Taunton HM, I had been feeling poorly that day and forget to get a photo with her. So when we got to the top we took a quick selfie to mark the occasion. Let me tell you, walking up that hill is bloody hard too – think screaming calves – ouch.
From the top there is lovely long down hill to recover 🙂 Shortly after this I saw my trainer Max, his first sportive and he was doing well having got up Alfred’s Tower. We said Hi and he whizzed off.
There were three feed stations. I didn’t stop at any of them as I knew Ian would finish well ahead of me and I didn’t want him to have to wait too long. The third feed station is at the 100k/100 mile split. I have done the 100 mile route before with my friend Tara (we had a lot of weather and it was a tough ride). Today I was glad to be only doing 100k.
Having said that, the 100k route then goes straight up a long steep hill unlike the 100 mile route which flattens out. Up, up, up we all went. Easier than King Alfred’s Tower but still a serious climb. There were also a lot of cars trying to overtake and then pulling in front of cyclists – not their fault really, only so much room on the road. But I saw quite a few people have to stop because a car was in the way. Quite hard to get going again too on that gradient. I was lucky and managed to keep going. At the top a man who had followed me up said “Good climbing do you want a jelly baby?” I mainly heard “do you want a jelly baby” YES PLEASE!!! He told me this was the hilliest sportive he had ever done.
From there it was only 15k to the finish and this bit was easier than previous years – there used to be another drag climb just before the end. Glad it wasn’t there now. I saw one poor woman who had come off her bike after going over a huge, deep pothole. She was with others and waiting for help. The roads were pretty awful on the whole ride and sometimes in the sunshine you can’t see the potholes coming up. I hope she was ok.
The final stretch was through the gates of the park with Longleat House looming in front. Ian was waiting for me, having finished over an hour before, and gave me a big hug 🙂 I got my medal and we headed home.
PS… A big shout out to my friend Jo who completed her first 100 miler at the Lionheart. She finished strong and happy. Go Jo!!!!
19 down, 31 to go!!! Next week, the London Marathon.