Sandy Balls is perhaps not the first idea one associates with road cycling. It was, however, the agreeable venue chose for the 2011 Team Garmin ride-out, which involves a bunch of lucky cycling enthusiasts, mostly winners of a lottery to decide who takes part, getting to ride for an hour or so with several of the pro riders from the Garmin Cervelo team. This year’s event featured Roger Hammond, Dan Martin and Dan Lloyd and, unlike last year’s, was split into several groups to ensure everybody got to ride at a suitable pace.
Group 2 seemed to me like a good idea until about five minutes before the depart, when young DA demanded to know why I wasn’t going with him in Group 1. I haven’t yet handed over the baton so, having acquired a Group 1 sticker and informed the event staff of my swap, I duly lined up for 28.2 miles of fun and games in the tiny and stunningly picturesque lanes around the edge of the New Forest.
In summary, it was a hoot, spoilt only by, ironically, a slight deviation from the official route just as the pace was getting a bit tasty and I was well placed for the finale. Not that I’d have still been there when it arrived… In any case, the required volte-face left me at the back of the group with a lot to do and not much time to do it.
Amusingly, I found myself chatting early on with a well-turned out chap of similar vintage who said that, before the event, he had been worried about joining a group slated to average 20mph. So far, he pointed out, we had been going a mile or two per hour slower. He sounded like he was feeling comfortable, especially as we were on the flat.
Almost immediately, Dan Lloyd went hammering up the outside of the bunch, gapping it just as the road emerged from tree cover into a stiff cross-wind. A sharp left turn turned this into a tail-wind just as the bunch was fracturing, which is, as everybody knows, the perfect way to hurt some legs. The chase went up to some 34mph before Lloyd and a couple of others, who may have included Shiny Boy Arthur, saw sense and eased off. Just how hard we were going may be judged from the Garmin 800-derived stats recorded by one of the group, who saw his maximum HR of 202 bpm on this very section. Hills? Easy by comparison. And we eventually averaged 21.2mph…