It’s not just about the bike – planes, trains and automobiles too !

Happy Wednesday everyone ! A twisted ankle during last night’s tempo run is keeping me a little restricted today 😦 but a swim later will clear the head I think !

A couple of weeks ago I received an email that said ‘Ride like a pro with Team Sky’ !! Well I opened that one pretty quickly, as clearly my prowess on the bike has filtered through to Dave Brailsford and I was being courted :). Reading on I found that there was going to be a ride in my area with the Team Sky Jaguar cars and a chance of winning a ride in Majorca with Team Sky themselves thrown into the bargain. I immediately signed up and put the date firmly in my diary and training schedule for October 12th.

In the lead up week there were a couple of things that started to impact my confidence about ‘riding like a pro’ : 1. the promise of a typical Autumn English day of rain, rain and more rain with an added bonus of high winds and 2. a challenging course of 50 miles heading South into the outskirts of London with some wickedly steep but short hills. I’m not a wimp by any stretch of the imagination but am a fairly new cyclist and thought of the planned route and the foreboding conditions did give me a little nagging doubt about the ‘fun’ element of the day.

New Flash 2 days before……….. the course was changed !! There had been a risk assessment and the original route was too challenging for the event and instead we were covering some familiar ground in my home county of Hertfordshire (or so it seemed !).

The day broke and I was relieved to find that there was no rain, the sky was somewhat blue and there was only a few grey clouds so I set off happily to the start point, looking forward to riding out with a large group and meeting some new people.

Ready to ride, October 2013
Ready to ride, October 2013

After the ride briefing and safety discussion, off we went……….. the wrong way ! Ok, a bit of a over-simplification of what happened but in reality the very quick group went off first, I landed in a smaller group and followed 2 cyclists who looked like they knew exactly where they were going, but they didn’t ! Yep rookie mistake on my part !! With all the GPS technology in the world, when you get lost in the lanes of Hertfordshire the only thing to do is to pull out the cue-sheet, retrace your pedal strokes and picked up where you lost your way.

So take 2, off we went……. the right way, kind of !!

The target for the 3 of us at this point was to catch up with the support car and crew that was following the last riders and after about 45 mins of riding we found it – boot (or trunk !) open, with one of the crew changing an inner tube while another rider waited to see if the gash in his tire could be mended. It looked like at least one of my decisions that morning had paid off in choosing to take the ‘winter bike’ out, and leave the racing bike at home – others hadn’t been so fortunate.

GPS checked, cue-sheet checked, support crew checked and off we went again…………. definitely the right way this time !! For a while, at least !!

Now as I said earlier, I am still a fairly cautious rider and finding ourselves on the main road into Luton wasn’t in the plan ! And finding ourselves riding in front of a cement lorry (truck !) definitely wasn’t in the plan either !! I have to say he was the most patient lorry driver I have ever come across and there was a big wave thank you as he passed us when we arrive at a safe spot to pull over and gather ourselves.

Guess what, we found we had arrived at Luton Airport !! And I don’t mean the lovely rolling hills that skirt the outside of the runway that I have ridden a few times on my way to Emily’s teashop, no the actual terminal building and airport hotels…….. a rest stop was now a decision of the majority as we needed refreshments !

At this point I have to say the 3 of us were a little over it all – we had covered a good set of miles in a good pace, the weather was starting to change and after assessing the route back to the start, I have to say we decided to jump on the train to St Albans and ride back to the start point from there. Ok, so now I think you can call me a wimp !

There were no more detours or adventures on the journey back to the Jaguar dealership in Welwyn Garden City and we arrived safely back, just in time for tea 🙂

On reflection this is a story of personal responsibility, last-minute changes and how to improve things for the future. This is the first year these rides have happened and they are a great way to encourage cycling in the UK and long may they continue. I totally own my lack of personal preparation around the route but my hope would be that next time there would be more support cars and even some designated support riders on the route to ‘count us in and count us out’. The 3 Amigos weren’t the only ones who took the wrong turn or two during the ride and perhaps the late change to the route caused some of the directions on the cue-sheet to be inaccurate.

Would I do a Team Sky / Jaguar, ‘ride like a pro’ event again ? Definitely !! There is always laughter when a group of like-minded people get together whatever the conditions and challenges that are faced. It was fun, it was a pleasure to meet and ride with new people and honestly, I was really pleased with my own riding – win, win, win I think !

Time for the pool now, with a lot of drills in my near future (thanks coach !). Next time, tune in to Age Group girl and join the debate on ‘Just how many shoes does it take for an Age Group girl to be a triathlete’

Bye for now

Catherine, Age Group girl

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