Chiltern 100 – Hilliest Sportive Yet

On Sunday 15 July I took part in my hilliest sportive to date when I did the Chiltern 100, which as its name suggests, is a 100 mile bike ride round the Chiltern Hills.  For those of you who don’t know, the Chilterns is a beautiful area of woodland and fields north west of London and quite rightly designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It includes some fantastic estates including Ashridge Estate, the Getty family estate (Wormsley Estate – the starting point of the Brewin Dolphin Ridgeway Rouler this year, see my post in April here) and probably most famously of all, Chequers, the country residence of the Prime Minister which has been in the news about Brexit and the visit to the UK of President Donald Trump.

The ride itself took us passed the Ashridge Estate and was the only time in the ride I stopped to take a photo.  We did pass two entrances to Chequers, however the gates were closed and traffic cones were placed next to the road so I didn’t think it would be a very good idea to stop for a selfie !

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Ashridge House, near Gaddesden Row

As the “Hills” in the Chiltern Hills suggests the area is very hilly!  The Chiltern 100 was advertised as taking us up 10 named hills – take it from me, they could have added a few more names to the hills we did go up, including a climb to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon (part of the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate)!

The route took the participants of the 100 mile route on 2,438 m of climbing or 7,998 feet.  I am sure I could have found an extra 2 feet of elevation to get to 8,000 feet.  My ride time was 6 hours 20 minutes which I am very pleased with considering that the the temperature went above 30 degrees in the full sun.  I think we were lucky that a lot of the ride took place on roads through the stunning woodland which gave some much welcomed shade, although the tree cover may have stopped some GPS units from getting a signal.

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View south from the top of Bledlow Ridge (taken on Saturday)

I went on a ride on Saturday up some of the hills (including Whiteleaf, a climb local to my mother’s home) and my GPS said I had stopped moving at some points on the climbs when I definitely hadn’t stopped to walk.  I changed the settings on Sunday to avoid the annoying beeps! You can see my Chiltern 100 ride in a fly over mode here thanks to a nifty app from Relive Just check out the elevation graphic plus when my heart rate maxes out on a climb!

To put all this into perspective, the Deloitte Ride Across Britain will involve 52,009 feet of climbing.  Fortunately only one day will have more climbing than the Chiltern 100.  The bad news is that is that it is Day 1 going through Devon and Cornwall (or should that really be Cornwall and Devon?) when we do 8,232 feet of climbing.  There is no warm up day on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.

The good news is that I felt remarkably fresh this morning and think I could have managed another long ride.  In addition, I very much doubt I will be riding as quickly in September (an average speed of 25 kph or just over 15 mph on Sunday) and I hope it will not be quite as hot, although I’d still prefer no rain (or a northerly headwind).  My recovery was also aided by a great sports massage at Agile Therapy in Cardiff – well worth it to get the knots out of tired muscles.

It will be back on the bike tomorrow for an easy session as proper recovery from a big ride is very important at this stage of training.  I’d hate to pick up an injury now with seven weeks to go.

As a reminder, I’m not doing the Deloitte Ride across Britain purely for my own benefit and fun (although I am fully funding the ride).  I am trying to raise lots of money for Dementia UK, a charity that provides support to families caring for someone with dementia.  Dementia UK does not fund research (unlike other dementia charities) but focusses purely on the “here and now”.  Have a look at my post on 26 June for my personal reasons for supporting Dementia UK.  My running total is now around £2,200 which is fantastic although there is always scope for more donations – reaching my target doesn’t mean I will not accept more donations (I may increase the target a little bit)!.  You can support me via my Virgin Money Giving page here

Ridgeway Rouleur Sportive – more training

On Saturday I took part in the Brewin Dolphin Ridgeway Rouleur, a 93 mile sportive in south Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.  I was lucky enough to be invite by Brewin Dolphin’s Cardiff office as my firm has mutual clients who receive wealth management advice from Brewin Dolphin.

The sportive started off from the Wormsley Estate, located just outside Stockenchurch and owned by the Getty family.

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Last minute bike checks

The estate is huge – we had three miles of riding on private roads before joining the main roads!  It is also “hidden” in a valley and was very quiet despite being less than a mile from the M40.  I think it will be a while before I see a nicer place to start a sportive.

The sportive was organised by UK Cycling Events and I have to say it was superb (other than a 20 minute queue to get into the Estate which probably proves how popular the event was !).  As  guest of the sponsor I had the option of riding with a bike guide, Tom, to aim for a “Gold standard” finish of under six hours (including feed stops).  Last year on the same sportive I sneaked in under the time limit with less than two minutes to spare.  Once we got on to the main roads and dealt with the first main climb out of the valley the pace shot up.  A group formed and proceeded to ride my fastest ever 50 miles in 2.5 hours!  I have to admit I hid in the pack apart from a very short turn at the front – there were some very strong riders who seemed happy to do all the work keeping the pace high.

The main hills kicked in at around 55 miles and and it turned into a bit of every rider for themselves.  Much smaller groups formed as we went at our own pace up the hills – at times it was a bit like being attached to riders with a bungee cord.  A rider would disappear up the hill and you would catch them up going down.

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The climb to come in the distance

I caught up with the leading group at the second feed station, tried to keep up and then got dropped on the first slight incline !  I only had 20 or so miles to go – the same distance as a coffee ride from Penarth to Llantwit Major.  My speed now dropped and I was glad of the traffic lights and cars in Goring and Watlington as recovery time.

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View to the west with 15 miles to go!

The last main effort was Hill Road out of Watlington up to Christmas Common at a gradient of just over 6%, just three miles from the end.  All riders in the event had to do this hill and I managed to keep going rather than getting off and walking; a real grind of an effort.

The event finished with a brief but very welcome sports massage on my weary legs from Six Physio (thanks Harriet) as part of the Velo Club package and a delicious chicken curry plus brownies to start refuelling.  All in all it was a great day and a good test of what it will be like to cycle over 100 miles a day in September albeit at a slower pace.  The second part of the route was over the same roads as last year and I managed quicker times in most cases which is a good sign for my fitness.  After a great nights sleep – my answer to “Did you hear the thunder last night?” was “What thunder!”, I felt remarkably fresh today.  A short 30 minute easy cycle and then cleaning the bike ready for the next training ride.

Oh, my time for the 93 miles, 5 hours 24 minutes.  Well within the Gold finish time and according to Strava, 22nd out of 225 participants – I’m absolutely delighted!

I’m doing the Deloitte Ride Across Britain to raise money for Dementia UK.  If you would like to sponsor me, please visit my Virgin Money Giving page here