Position: 2nd place!
I had been eyeing up the inaugural Tayside sportive for a few weeks, but I held off entering until the last minute for a few reasons:
- I didn’t have a guaranteed ride (Ian wasn’t convinced that the course justified the entry fee, much of which went towards charity)
- I wasn’t convinced my knee would hold up – after the Glasgow to Edinburgh ride, which was relatively flat, my knee locked out and was painful for a couple of days
- The course was touted as a hilly one, and hills seem to aggravate my knee pain
With a decent forecast, and a few Fleet Feet triathletes signed up, however, I took the plunge, and despite my ill-advised beer and Prosecco mix the previous evening, was up bright and early on Sunday morning.
Ian eventually folded, and offered me a lift to Errol airfield, near Perth, where the event started. When I arrived I quickly found Roz and Ny, and a couple of other Fleet Feeters, and we went about the business of registering, which was relatively quick. The only minor complaint was that there were no more zip ties to attach our numbers to our bikes with, but as it was the first time the event was held, there are bound to be things to iron (ha ha) out for next year.
Although there were suggested start times depending on which of the 3 routes on offer you were cycling, the atmosphere was very relaxed, and we could essentially start when we wanted to, as we were being chip timed. Once our group was assembled, the photographer snapped a few photos and then we set off at a fairly brisk pace along the relatively flat first few miles.
Quite quickly, the group split up, with the men going ahead, Roz, Ny and myself in the second cluster, and everyone else in the third group. The three of us established a pace that worked for us, and soon the flat miles were over and we were glaring at the road sign declaring an elevation of 20% at the start of our first big climb of the day.
What goes up must come down, and we flew down off the first hill. The descent was quite windy, and there was one butt-clenching moment when another rider braked abruptly in front of me and to avoid a crash I swerved and skidded downhill for a few seconds, but I managed to right myself, and I probably took the descents with a bit more caution for the rest of the day. At the very bottom of the first descent, and with a neon-clad marshal directing us, we turned left to be face to face with hill number two: no rest for the wicked, I guess.
What followed were some more cracking descents and some undulating road before a long, slog of a hill began. Roz, Ny, and I considered stopping to have a snack, as we were starting to feel energy levels slumping (we had been riding for an hour and a half or so), but we decided to crack on to the feed station which was meant to be around 29 miles in.
After the summit at around 25 miles, it was a fast, flat (downhill) dash to the feed station, which was a van and a couple of tables adorned with a smorgasbord of delights. I had a tracker bar and some jelly babies, and necked a bottle of water as I realized I had barely touched the bottle on my bike. We also ran into Colin here, and stopped for a snap before setting off again.
Roz and Colin mainly led the way, taking turns at the front while Ny was subjected to a view of my (colourful) butt for the next few miles. We were going along at a decent speed, and then my turn for the front came – right at the start of the hill… It was during the first short ascent that we lost Colin, who was struggling after running the Crathes half marathon the day before. It was back to just the Dream Team for the final climb before a delightfully smooth road presented itself for our final, blissful descent!
Once off the hill, we all knew it was flat for the final stretch, and as we knew we didn’t have too far to go started picking up the pace, encouraged by the soundtrack of Ny crying out in pain every time she went over a rough section. Roz pulled away, and Ny and I stuck together, struggling to go much quicker. Eventually, familiar landmarks from the drive to the start began registering, and we got a real sense of exactly how far we had to go. Whenever I get a sniff of the finish I seem to be able to find a last reserve of energy, and over the last mile I started to pull slightly ahead of Ny, ending up with a chip time a mere 6 seconds quicker.
We found Roz in the massage tent, and after grabbing our goody bags, t-shirt, and medal, headed back to the parking area and parted ways. When the results were later posted, we realized that we had a Fleet Feet ladies podium sweep, taking first, second, and third place for the Aluminium length ride! There are benefits to taking part in inaugural events, clearly!
More importantly, my knee held up, and I could actually get through a 45 minute spin class the following night with no real issues. When I first tweaked my knee at the beginning of July (my good knee, as far as running goes, the other knee is still a wreck), I was limping the next day, and couldn’t cycle for more than 15 minutes without pain for a good few weeks. At least one part of my broken body seems to be improving…
Overall, definitely a great event, and one that’s sure to grow in popularity. I could even be tempted to try out the Steel route next year, but I have some work ahead of me if I’m to convince the Dream Team to reunite for that one.