If a fellow cyclist says the phrase ‘don’t worry, it’s not hilly, it’s just rolling countryside’, don’t believe them.
I recently took part in the OxBucks Cycle Sportive, which is run by The Children’s Brain Tumour Foundation, with The Boyfriend’s Dad. I must admit, I didn’t do *quite* enough preparation as I should have done, my last biggest cycle being Ride London, and I didn’t really look at the route before signing up. The night before the race I was asking about the route, and was assured that it was “beautiful countryside, and was fairly flat, with only one nasty hill.”
Only the first half of that statement turned out to be true.
The rolling countryside was indeed that, constantly rolling. If my rolling you mean a rather choppy sea. It was worse for me, as I am rather bad at hills and am prone to a moan or three if I have to go up many of them in succession.
The very last hill (which I sweated and swore my way up) is known as Brill Hill. There’s nothing Brill about this hill, in fact it’s quite the opposite. It’s easily on a par as the infamous Leith Hill – perhaps not in terms of gradient, but it’s easily comparable with its narrow assent and false top.
My training for this sportive (or rather, lack of it) meant that I did find it quite hard going. I’d learnt a valuable lesson from RideLondon however, and paced myself properly, which meant that instead of feeling like I was about to die in the last 20 miles, I actually thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the race.
For me, cycling isn’t necessary about getting a PB, knocking seconds off my previous time or placing in the top ten (FYI, we placed 39 and 40 out of 49. Ho hum). It’s about getting out into the fresh air and enjoying good company with a fantastic backdrop. I loved the OxBucks Cycle Sportive as it had all of these things. The countryside was fantastic, and the route led us through picturesque chocolate box villages, over some fantastic ridges with amazing views and down little back country lanes. I’ve never cycled in this part of the world before, but I’ll definitely be returning (if my cycling pal can hack it again!).
The sportive was also organised remarkably well. There were two well stocked feed stations en route, and all the volunteers we met along the way were enthusiastic and helpful. I’ll be signing up again next year. But perhaps I’ll do a bit more training next time around….