Puzzle 5's first sportive and it looked like it was going to be wet and windy. There was an air of nervousness as I joined the others, matching my own feelings. We focused ourselves on what to wear! Our amazing sponsor, Rapha, had sent our summer kit and we were all keen to have a try on, but with the rain pouring down outside and 12 c, what to wear? One item was for certain, a waterproof coat!
Saddle bags laden with homemade flapjack, OTE gels and OTE bars, we headed to the start. The rain was still present as we collected our numbers and tied them on our TREK bikes, a bit fiddly for nervous fingers. As we stood around not quite sure what to do, it suddenly dawned on me that we were surrounded by men. Being a team of 5 women you forget that women are a minority in this sport. It felt very strange.
Finally time go and after a safety talk about wet roads and diversions we were off, Puzzle 5 + 5 husbands/friends. Only a couple of minutes into our ride Malcolm realized he hadn't charged the battery for his electric gearing, causing hilarity amongst us, so he had to bail out. Minutes later, Natalie's wheels skidded beneath her and she fell heavily to the ground in the middle of the road, banging her head. She limped to the side of the road in a lot of pain, with a few choice words. Sadly, we had to leave Natalie and her husband Alex. We were all a little shocked by what had just happened and there was silence as we focused on the ride ahead.
Slowly we got into rhythm and carried on. On familiar territory we climbed to Brill. Malcolm re-joined us but had a brief interruption to mend a puncture! This ride was turning out to be challenging in more ways than one. However bad luck comes in threes, so we hoped that was it.
The miles began to disappear down country lanes and gentle hills, without any further incident. The rain continued to join us, but Andy our weatherman assured us by 10.30 it would stop. Sure enough as we neared the half way point the rain lessened. Thoughts turned to the feeding station and toilets. Finally the red and white roof of a gazebo caught our eye and a cheer went up. Now where were the toilets?
Fueled up and with news that the Natalie was at home bruised but ok, the sun began to shine and we headed on homeward bound. With a relaxed atmosphere we turned a corner to be met by a hill that made us all stop in our tracks. Gels were consumed and slowly and surely we all conquered Britwell Hill, which a few months ago would have been unimaginable. Buoyed by our success the miles passed quickly and we enjoyed riding through picturesque villages. Any earlier worries about getting lost were never going to be realised, as the way ward markers were frequent and clear.
Finally after 5 hours we returned and were greeted by friendly smiles from the superb organisers. An eventful ride, but we had completed our first sportive and looking at the smiles on our faces, l think we were all pretty pleased. It was a great course with a good mix of straight road and challenging hills. A big thank you to the organisers, allezsportive for the support and for helping Natalie. Looking forward to 2016 already, just a small matter of L'Etape du Tour first.