Last Sunday saw Andy H and I travel down to Cheshire to take part in the Jodrell Bank 80 mile Sportive, a lumpy jaunt through the Cheshire countryside. We’d done the 50 mile version last year and decided to do the full one this year as we both have big races to prepare for: Andy H is once again battling the cobbles at the iconic Tour of Flanders in Belgium on the 31st March.
We set off at 6am and joined the long queue for the start, we were away just after 8.15am. I felt quite strong through the first 10 miles but poor Andy was suffering badly with a sick feeling, he couldn’t take any drink in without wanting to throw it back up. It looked like he might have to call it a day, but then a piece of malt loaf as a last resort seemed to settle his stomach and he battled on.
The two of us rode for a while with three other pirates: Muffin-Top, and Mr & Mrs Silent Assassin ( two wonderful people ). All three are training for Ironman events, the ladies will be at the Outlaw and Silent Assassin has picked the easy option and opted for Ironman Wales. They were all going really well, and it was great to catch up with SA and chew the fat, we’d not done that since the morning after the Outlaw in 2010 when we shared a fry up ( Happy days! ).
Unfortunately though the road surfaces were shocking, and this would be my downfall. Heading downhill into Northwich I hit a deep pothole at speed and was horrified to hear a loud snapping noise, I instantly knew what had happened. I’d blown a spoke out on my rear wheel. As I started up the hill a booming voice shouted “Come on Holgs, think of Lanza, put the effort in.” The not so Silent Assassin was approaching from behind, but Lanza couldn’t have been further from my mind. All I could think about was my wheel, as the metallic clang of the loose spoke resonated against it’s neighbour in a taunting manner. Bollocks.
I pulled along side Andy H, and although I knew the answer, asked anyway “What are the chances of me riding 60 hilly miles with a broken spoke?” The look on his face said it all. I decided to battle on though. A gap started to open up between Andy and myself, he was part of the pirate train with the other three and I was blown out the back. The clanging noise was driving me mad and although I felt physically strong, the bike wasn’t responding. As a last ditch attempt to save the day, Andy H taped the spoke to it’s neighbour. That offered my ears relief at least, and I guess in a way cleared my mind as I could keep up again.
Approaching 50 miles I started to feel the back of the bike moving all over the place, and the screech of the tire as it rubbed on the frame was awful. First one side and then the next. Andy dropped back and assessed the situation from behind as I climbed up a hill. His conclusion as we arrived in Macclesfield was that it was game over. I told him to keep riding and I’d find my own way back, but he stayed with me, worried that I might total the wheel and smash my face and body up.
Those last 10 miles were probably the scariest of my life, especially the last climb of the day where I had no choice but to get out of the saddle. I just hoped that the wheel wouldn’t jam in the frame, thankfully it didn’t.
We rolled back into HQ having done 60 miles, so all was not lost. It was decent training miles, but frustrating to have to cut it short when I physically felt so good. Still it’s best to live to fight another day rather than lose my front teeth ( again ) or break something.
People have commented this week that I don’t have much luck with the bikes, what after saddle-gate, but this was just one of those things. Pot holes are tougher than bike spokes, and the way I look at it, better to get my run of bad luck out the way now, rather than have it come to Lanzarote with me.
The wheel is now fixed, and the bike has been ridden since and I’m happy to report, I and the bike returned intact. Good job really as I have a big weekend of training planned.
Enjoy your weekend everyone.