An entry to last years Lincoln Petit Grand Prix was my first sportive and the cycling around the traffic free fens and wolds was so enjoyable I did not need much persuading to try the 100 mile Sportive at the Lincoln Grand Prix weekend.
Contrary to myth Lincolnshire is not entirely flat, the course contained 4500 ft of climbing including a final climb to the finish up the cobbled street of Michaelgate. The forecast was for a bright start with the south-westerly wind picking up from mid morning and rain at about mid-day, just about the time we would be turning into the weather for the final 30 miles of the ride. Presumably all the 1800 entrants had also seen the forecast as there was a queue for check-in before the official opening time.
For some reason I always feel intimidated at the check-in, looking around at these super fit athletes in pro team replica kit with the latest carbon offerings from BMC, Sworks and Pinarello, fortunately there are also as many old codgers like me who are just grateful to be fit enough to finish the course. Formalities over and I make my way to the start gate with “C2C team mates” Dave and Jeremy for my timing chip to be scanned. We all agree not to race off but to conserve energy for the 100 miles ahead but as usual excitement kicks in and we are off trying to stay with a faster group that overtake us. From the start at Yarborough we head East out the city past the prison. The first half of the ride is with the wind and this added advantage enables us to sustain a good pace for little effort. Most people are in small groups but the sight of another target in the far distance slowly being reeled in raises the competitive spirit however when passed by faster groups I am content to tell myself it’s not a race.
The wind assistance continued until we turned at South Ormsby into a strengthening South Westerly but thankfully the first checkpoint and feed station at Tetford provided sustenance for the undulating part of the course. The second checkpoint was just ahead at the 45 mile mark and this preceded the point where the various rides split. The route continued until we reached Swallow, our furthest point from Lincoln before turning for home at the 65 mile marker. The final big hill was at Nettleton and then the drop down from the Wolds was steep and dramatic.
The relatively flat run home was made that bit harder as the rain started, light at first but after the checkpoint at Middle Raesen pushing into strengthening wind and rain tested the stamina. The last checkpoint was at the top of Scampton Hill and as we stopped we were entertained by a flypast, not the speedy Red Arrows but an old C47 Dakota, the irony was not wasted as it trundled across the airfield in front of us.
The final push into Lincoln and the prospect of the slippery wet cobbles of Michaelgate came to the fore, I remembered the organisers advice in the route notes to watch the decent before the climb and make sure you had a low gear before you start the hill. As I turned up Michaelgate there were crowds clapping, cheering and shouting, the legs were burning but the spectator encouragement and adrenaline carried me up, my biggest fear of stopping on the hill was avoided and although I would not say I powered to the top the sense of achievement at reaching the finish felt good.
My second ever 100 mile ride completed and an improvement of 30 minutes over my previous time was good enough reason to celebrate and replace some carbohydrates courtesy of a couple of pints of Triple X.
Sunday morning and the Lincoln Grand Prix “Pro Race” with 13 laps of the town and 13 climbs up Michaelgate, cue reality check as we watched how easy they make it look. I will content myself with the knowledge I was the fastest time in my age group, but I am not competitive!!