On Sunday I made the 50 minute journey west out of London to Leatherhead in Surrey for the Spring Onion Sportive organised by the friendly folk of the South Western Road Club. I made it there a little early, set up my bike and after a hearty cup of tea I was off. We started in groups of 10 - 15 at 2 minute intervals. As everyone was keen to stick together early on, the first 10k gave me a bit of experience of riding in a group. As a novice/aspiring amateur cyclist I found this really useful and although I don't quite have all the etiquette down, I felt safe and my speed was good.
The majority of the course was challenging but not soul-destroying. There were many of the typical English climbs of less than 1k in length but including pitches of 15%+ which made sure my heart was really working hard. After about 2 hours 20 minutes, the fine sunny weather we were enjoying became accompanied by some strong winds. I was riding on my own at this point and suddenly saw my average speed plummet. Dragging a friend out to complete these sportives with you really can help out when the gusts pick up - I felt like I was pedalling in marmite for some flat sections! Thankfully the wind died down towards the end and I was able to make better progress.
At the 80k point of the ride, I had a nagging feeling the organisers had thrown in one last hill. As I had come back from a holiday the night before the race, I hadn't had time to give the course profile another once over. However, I was soon to find out. The final ascent was so ultra steep I could almost hear the cackles of the organisers as every rider struggled to a near standstill (one unfortunate chap even gave up the ghost and walked to the top). If the 23% hairpin wasn't enough, SWRC had also arranged for a photographer to take snaps of the grimacing faces so all the competitors could immortalise the moment - I can't wait to have a laugh at what I looked like! Still, I made it to the crest and on the end.
All in all, it was very well run. There was a good feed station, excellent signage and it all made for a very enjoyable ride. Sportive one down, on to the next challenge!