For once the weather wasn't forecast to be unhelpful, and the excitement on the Palefish CC Facebook group page was high!
We all met up at 5.30 just off junction 5 of the M53. There were 9 Fishes taking on the 52 mile challenge. Dave B, Dave F, Pauric, Paul, Steve, Derek, Alan and me. Andy met us there in the car park.
|Palefish CC lads getting ready for the ride|
|The first group photo of the day!|
|Stalking the Soreen Van|
We were ushered towards the start line, just outside the entrance to the stadium.
The day was split up into 3 rides, a 52 mile, a 26 mile and a 13 mile loop on closed roads from The Etihad Stadium to Old Trafford and back. We were doing the 52 mile route, 4 laps of the course. There was a time limit to each ride, and for ours we had to be on the last lap before 11.20, which seemed achievable at an average speed of 15mph.
We waited for the 8 o'clock start time, hoping that maybe the sun may put in an appearance, as it was very overcast and the clouds looked a bit threatening, not what we were expecting!
Our group only suffered one crash today, and that was before we started! As we were waiting, a cyclist rudely pushed through towards the front, knocking into Steve's front wheel! he was just about to say something, when he realised why we were all staring at the rider. It was Joanna Rowsell MBE, Olympic gold medallist and National Time Trial champion! As usual though for athletes in our sport, instead of huffing off, Joanna apologised, and later on she responded to Steve on twitter apologising again and offering an autograph!!
|Jones 'v' Rowsell!|
Luckily though, Joanna's skirmish with Steve didn't phase her and she carried out her duties as official starter well!
It was a bit bizarre riding on closed roads. Not having to stop for traffic lights, or junctions and also not having to worry about being shouted at by annoyed car drivers. There is a price to pay for this experience though.
If there was one negative to the day, it was the way some people rode the course. There were some very fast and experienced riders out there, who were intent on smashing times on strava, and wining the race! The problem was that there were also about 2000 other cyclists on the road. Some of the weekend racers didn't seem to care and took their line regardless of who was in the way, or how small the gap was! At one point, on a hairpin bend, as I turned in to it, there was suddenly a bike at my side and an elbow in my arm. When I politely questioned the idiot why he had tried to push me off my bike, he said I was on his racing line! I pointed out that it wasn't a race, but I don't think he heard me as I sped past him!!!
Our plan for the day was to ride together. But all good plans are often flawed! There was the issue of not starting together that split us from the beginning, and then the fact that the pace was manic! After a couple of laps though, everyone settled into a rhythm, and Me Steve and Derek rode together.
Dave was the only one to suffer a mechanical, with a puncture early on, but one of the good things about the organisation of the ride was that there were loads of roaming mechanics, with tubes, so Dave was soon on the road again, and finished only a few minutes after me.
As well as Joanna, there were also some celebrity riders joining in the fun. Emerdale has a team of actors who are great fundraisers for charity. They have undertaken some great cycling challenges and were there today to raise money for Leukaemia research. I am not a fan of the soaps, but I must say they were very approachable, and even wanted to start conversations with people!! I mentioned to one of the riders, Rick Makarem, that I liked their Jerseys, which are made by Bio Racer, like our club kit, and we then rode on for most of the last lap chatting about cycling. I think he liked the fact that I had no idea who he was!! Even at the finish when I said congratulations to him on completing the ride he was just like us, chuffed with his time and looking forward to the next challenge,which for him was getting to his sisters wedding in time!!!
There seemed like a lot of punctures today, every 100meters or so there was someone with their bike turned upside down and a wheel in their hand, but with so many bikes on the road, I suppose it wasn't that many really!
There were also a couple of bad crashes. Most seemed to be on corners, some were very tight, and if you have idiots on their racing line, it was inevitable that sometimes people would come off.
The Palefish CC riders all finished unscathed. Pauric showed his true colours today, and finished with a fantastic time of 2hrs 16 minutes with an average speed of 22.94mph!
I managed it in 2hrs 32 minutes with an average of 20.53mph. I am very pleased with that time. It was a flat 52 miles, only a couple of humps in it, but I managed to hold a consistent pace for all four laps.
Next weeks Tuesday training ride will be interesting after these times! we did 30 miles at 19mph average last week, expectations will be raised!!!!
At the finish we were welcomed by a wall of noise as friends and family of riders lined the barriers, that will be the closest I will ever be to a pro race finish I think! We all collected our finishers bags, which included a Medal and T shirt, and also some energy goodies!
|The Majority of the crew at the end.|