Le Sportif Epic (AKA hurricane Bertha ride)

Le Sportif Epic (AKA hurricane Bertha ride)
10 August 2014 Janine
edibable medal. win!
Today I road  cycled in rain for the first time. I don’t like to do things by halves so I made sure that the first time I biked in wet weatherI did so in a hurricane. Well, ex-hurricane but that’s just details.Ok, it was actually because I didn’t check the weather forecast before I signed up, and spent the week putting the hurricane chat down to ‘scare mongering’. HA. The flick of the tail of bertha was in fact, most definitely on her merry way to lash the west country, roughly starting at 7am and finishing her show at around 1pm. Guess what? Ride, 8-2. Perfect timing.
Rosie picked me up, and there was an air of ‘what are we doing’ about the journey towards the sign up. Sensing a girl not too dissimilar to me, it wasn’t a surprise that we were in fact on our way to get through it and have some fun along the way. As she accurately pointed out to me, it was one of those days where you can feel you’re gonna have a story afterwards but you have to get through it first. 
We thought we had maybe 100 miles to cycle that day. It turned out to be 56 and around 3500ft of hills, but that was quite enough. Despite the fun, I had been fantasising about a hot bath from around 25 miles. I wouldn’t have changed it for anything though. Let’s just say that today was  MASSIVE confidence builder. Cycling through hard, relentless, heavy, driving downpours, gusts of cold wind and mist, down big gravelly hills dimmed by canopies of trees? Check!
I got my very first flat. My honest first thought was ‘hurray! I get to attempt to change my first flat!’ But Le Sportif Matt soon put paid to that silly time-consuming idea… before I could say innertube, he’d whipped off my wheel and tyre, yanked a giant grizzly stone out of my inner (and tyre), popped a new one back in and given my other tyre a squeeze just for good measure. Today, I realised, was going to be a good day, despite having my eyeballs lashed with rain and horse poo splattered all over me from catching a tow. 
So, cycling in an ex-hurricane.

The downsides: bascially, very wet. Constant squinty face undoubtedly contributing to the dreaded and illegal in the 1940s for women bicycle face, ocassional shivering that causes visable shaking, gloves so wet that when you squeeze your breaks you are in fact just squeezing out water, all manner of shit on the roads trying to wedge itself into your tyres. The upside, charachter building (apparently?), simply changing clothes half way through akin to the feeling of being wrapped in clouds and sung to by angels, endless cake and coffee to warm you up, breathtaking misty views that make you feel like you are going to be cycling into the abyss at the end of a wooded lane, and good old fashion ‘this is crazy, aren’t we crazy, oh how I feel alive’ sort of fun.

Le Sportif CC!
It’s not just your flats you get sorted when you go out with Le Sportif on an epic ride. Oh no. You get home made delicious baked goods, a support car, a towel, bottles of water, delicious organic sandwiches, hot coffee and tea – and all this on the road! Amazing! We stopped at the most delightful bike cafe in Tetbury. It’s like a the bike shop version of a sweetshop. Full of cycle delights to make your mouth water, and serves a damn good coffee to boot. Orders were sent in advance, so coffees were on the table the moment we arrived.
Us lot, getting warm

An extra treat, whilst standing outside said cafe (in the rain bien sur!) the Cotswold 226 (Iron distance triathlon race) bike leg were whizzing past. And we all gave them a good cheer.
On our way out of Tetbury we were caught behind some sort of Cotswold village sumer fete type procession which included a fire engine and a full team of bagpipers in kilts. A hearty racket indeed. This would ordinarily have been fun and maybe a little cute, but today, it was just cold. Getting out of the town, our teeth chattered, averaging ooh – maybe 3mph, itching to get past to get our pulses back up and our body heat rising again. Once again Le Sportif were attentive, asking if we needed extra layers. But to be honest it was hilarious. My arms were shaking so much with the cold I could barely grip the handle bars. I had to smile. I can’t explain why this was funny. It doesn’t sound funny. But it was. Moments after the procession headed right, we were ascending again (and some) hearts pumping, and warming up ready for another 30 miles to the finish line.
Speaking of carrying on, there were somewhat irrational moments today that I was worried about being able to complete the cycle, but they were fleeting and I was determined to overcome any negative thoughts. At one point I wondered just what I could achieve if I put all the energy I put into worrying about how I’m cycling into just enjoying it and doing it! It was challenging at times, keeping up. On the uphills I was able to keep a good pace but the overall group were faster. On the downhills I was consistently slower, clinging onto the brakes. On the flats though, I was very happy at any speed.I love going up (down?) through the gears on the flat. Overall I felt I held my own, but I could do with speeding up a bit. I guess positively getting on with these sorts of rides is the way that’s going to happen.
Overall, it was heaps of fun, and if they’ll have me back – I’ll be back like a (cliff) shot. Dear oh dear. It can’t be good when you start making energy gel jokes…

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