Woodcote sportive

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As anticipated, today’s 135km Woodcote sportive was hard and fast. On a technical, hilly route with lots of gravel, many flatted – but my Conti GP4000s once again proved their worth.

By my reckoning my average speed was 18.6 mph, compared with 18.2 mph on the 100-mile Great Western sportive in June. It was a shorter distance, so this makes sense, considering both events were similarly hilly. However, being in a smaller group today meant doing more pulls on the front – so the speed increase is encouraging.

I left with the first group, eyeing up the field for handy riders. Not really seeing many, I hit the front, and before long was part of a fast-moving 5-man grupetto. Some grizzled veteran did most of the work for the first 90 minutes, powering calmly along in the big ring. Myself and another rider – whose name turned out to be Ben – got in there for a few turns, but the vet seemed indifferent to what anyone else was doing. This was confirmed when he rode away from the first feed stop without waiting for the rest of us.

Etiquette

A note on sportive etiquette.

  • If you form a group with other riders and ride together with that group for any length of time, you should consider the interests of the group as well your own. This applies to drafting and sharing the work, and is as much about fair play as about the obvious point that a group of riders working together will always go faster than if those same riders rode alone.
  • When working as a group, the goal is to instil a rhythm for sharing turns at the front of the group. I reckon with a group of 5 you should be aiming for max. 2-minute turns on the front. When you’re done, move out from the line, so that the next guy knows he’s up. If you just sit there grinding it out, you are indicating that you’re happy to keep on working – and no-one’s under an obligation to help out.
  • If you are a machine and have the strength to take the wind for miles – then great.
  • If you aren’t feeling that strong, and can only manage a 20-second turn – also fine. It will be clear to everyone else that you aren’t that strong, and you’ll probably be off the back soon anyway. Just don’t sit on the front and slow down the pace, because someone will have to take the initiative and overtake you. Overtaking requires a jump of pace and is a drain on resources.

I know sportives aren’t races, and perhaps I shouldn’t take them so seriously – but even so it should be obvious after you’ve done your first few events that there’s a better way to ride one.

Anyway thanks for reading – now back to the write-up.

Classy

The vet who blew us out at the feed got a flat shortly afterwards. This karmic reckoning would be repeated twice more, each time somebody quicker overtook our heroic group. Both the other two guys were really classy riders, impressively strong and quick, who finished a good 20 mins quicker than me – even after a flat tyre apiece.

For the second half of the event, our breakaway group was only three, and the pressure of having to power the trio forward every 5 minutes began to take its toll during the last 20km. Thankfully, we caught riders finishing the mid route. When Ben and I had dropped our third man on a climb (I didn’t say you couldn’t do that), we found one of Ben’s teammates, a Useful Big Guy (UBG) who towed us both in to the finish.

Looking forward to the results.

Results update:

I got 8th out of 220. The initial results were revised after I pointed out a few anomalies to the organisers. I won’t go into it here but suffice it to say that the guys behind the Sunday Sportive series were happy to amend their results. They admitted that the current timing software still had loopholes, but that a future upgrade would flag up suspicious split times.

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