Club run rookie

Cycling Clubs aren’t the elitist and unwelcoming cliques they used to be as ‘mountain biker’ Luke Webber found out last weekened…

“Don’t go too fast, you never know what’s round the next corner” came the voice from beside me. I had a fairly good idea what was round that next corner. Another one of those hills. I was on the edge of blowing big time, but it was only another eight miles back to base and anyway, battling through the pain makes you a stronger rider, right?

It all started out as being a great idea. I was going to meet up early doors with either the MTB or road group of Southampton-based Sotonia CC. I couldn’t decide which ride to do, so sensibly I left it to the flip of a coin. A couple of flips later and I still didn’t have the result I wanted.

9:30 am at the crossroads, for a road ride (I trusted the coin in the end) on a chilly but clear morning. Apparently there was a fast and slow group, with an opportunity for a cake stop at halfway, but as I was cruising toward the meet point some riders (who I presumed to be the slow group) were headed in the opposite direction. Lets just hope I had enough Weetabix this morning.

As I turned up, I was sure to be embarrassed on a rigid mountian bike with slicks. One of the guys commented and chuckled: “What’s that on your back, a hot water bottle?” I was soon learning that riding mountain bike, adorned with seasonal Crud Catchers, in mountain biking attire and wearing summer shoes was maybe not such a good idea.

After a few minutes chat and general banter, the route was decided upon. A quick 50-mile blast around some leafy lanes. We set off at quite a nice pace, warming up as we headed out to Ampfield and then toward Farley Mount and the first real climb of the day.
I had never ridden in a group before and, compared to my usual solo rides I found the 20mph speed comfortable. Some of the guys commented that I was making it hard work for myself by using an MTB. I looked at the experience as being an opportunity to make big fitness gains through the winter.

After Farley Mount everyone was well warmed up and we could all begin to have a chat and enjoy the scenery a bit more. Eventually we arrived at the back end of Stockbridge and as I was sure a tea stop was coming up soon I decided to get in an interval up a nice climb, which began with a hairpin and several increments as it worked to the very top. I had already seen the frontman jump from the pack so I decided to give chase. It seemed a great idea at the time and I nearly kept with the leader who turned out to be some kind of semi-pro.

After another ten or so miles I started feeling like I needed something to eat, but the pace was so constantly high that there was no hope of dropping off the back and then working back onto the train. It looked like the fast group wouldn’t be stopping for cakes after all and I was in for the long haul. I took the decision that as long as I carried on near to the front, I’d be able to react quicker to pace changes and it would cause less pain in the long run.

However plans are a wonderful thing and as we dropped into Broughton I was flagging at the back of the group. Corner after corner came and went and I was living on the knowledge that every now and then I would recognise where we were and could count down the miles to home. Thankfully the leader decided he’d take the flat route home through Timsbury, rather than see me struggle through Kings Somborne’s legendary hills of fire. I’m sure he’d noted I was dropping back after those early challenges. As we drew into Romsey I knew we had just three miles until I could wave goodbye (or just give a few fingers off the bars, in classic roadie fashion).

Then, unexpectedly a couple of riders pulled off midway though, leaving me lots of work to do to catch the front two riders, now going back through North Baddesley. I managed to drag myself back onto their wheels, but by then I was spent and they roasted me up a short, sharp hill as my legs flew off all over the place, leaving me with that horrible wobbly feeling. By the time I got back home I was freezing and it was time to raid the cupboards for anything sweet and sugary that came to hand.

After warming back up, I looked back at the experience of my first ever club run and felt quite happy. I wasn’t made to feel like the black sheep of the group – neither had I held anyone up. I certainly didn’t receive any of that roadie attitude that is brilliantly banded around MTB circles. I felt that I had a great ride that had challenged me and opened my eyes to the wonderful world of road. Not as exhilarating as mountain biking, but nonetheless a great excuse for a good old Sunday ride.

…and maybe even another bike to add to the collection!

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