Wiggle Newmarket Spring Saddle Sportive

I decided to ride on my Cervelo P3 TT bike as I needed to see whether I could manage the TT position for 6/7 hours, and with no wind forecast, I put my Planet-X 101 and 82 mm wheels on, both with tubular tyres. The bike is very fast on the straight with these wheels and hums nicely.

Despite the fact that it was still -1C when I left home and approx 2C when the ride started it did warm up nicely as the day developed and was a beautiful day for cycling, with hardly any wind to worry about as well. I set off in the first group at 8am sharp and stayed with the leading riders for the first 20 miles or so.

As a lone TT rider the peloton-size groups that swallow you up from time to time are your worst nightmare on a sportive. Several other early starting groups seem to think that once they’ve overtaken you (normally on the hills) then it’s ok to sit up and wait for the back markers; you then get stuck in the middle of a pack that slows down so you battle your way out and accelerate away for a couple of miles only for the same group to do the same thing again.

Notwithstanding that, I was loving the course and the weather and was making good time. Disaster struck at 30 miles - puncture! The tub was badly holed so a new one was required. This was a challenge as I had never changed one before but there are some good videos on Youtube so I knew roughly what to do. 20 mins later sporting one new tub I was back on the move, a bit cross that my 6hr target was now out of reach but keen to get riding again. 41 miles - puncture number 2. This time the hole was quite small so I tried the expanding foam in the can trick - again for the first time after watching it on Youtube. I followed the instructions to the letter and it seemed to work with plenty of pressure - for a few miles - but probably due to my incompetence it went flat again and I could not get any more pressure into the tyre. So tubular number 2, my last spare was used to replace the wheel; after 44 miles with 56 to go I had used up all my spares and spent 45 mins at the side of the road.

At this stage it was getting very warm and the later starters has dispensed with overshoes so I peeled off a few layers and got back into the zone. I had a great 40 miles reeling in a few people that had overtaken me and averaging 21 mph. I was feeling pretty good and was trying to get as close to 6 hrs as I could. With 11 miles to go disaster struck again and this was the final straw - another puncture - another ‘bloody’ puncture (excessive use of the p****** word can cause them - Ed :-) ) No spares, no hope of getting ANY air in the tyre so not too many options. I remember reading an article on-line that you can ride a bike on a flat tub - if you need to. The reality is that I did need to as there was no chance of a lift back to the car for at least 3 hours

So I did; I limped home keeping to the smooth bits of road and listening for any adverse carbon noises that suggested that I was damaging the wheel. Fortunately the road surface for the last 11 miles was remarkably good and when it wasn’t I walked on the grass verge. The last 11 miles took me 1hr 25 mins - but I finished. 7 hours and 56 mins; not quite my 6 hrs target time but all things considered I was just glad to get to the finish. The great thing about sportives is the general attitude of other cyclists towards people in trouble; every time I was battling with my tyres I was always shouted at by fellow competitors enquiring if I was ok; cyclists are a good bunch.

Driving home, being a glass half full type of guy, I looked at what I had learned from the experience:

•    Psychologically 100 miles is not an issue which in terms of my Ironman in July is a tick in the box
•    When I was riding with bike intact I averaged approx 18 mph
•    I was comfortable on aero bars for 100 miles
•    I can now change tubs
•    That foam stuff does not work unless the puncture hole is very small
•    I am going to change to clinchers for important races and buy some bullet proof inner tubes
•    The law of averages suggests that I have had my season's bad luck in one ride - I hope! (There you go again - Ed)

The Cambridge 100 is in 2 weeks time and I will be doing that ride on clinchers.

Wiggle organise a really great sportive and the signposting is excellent and other than a few dodgy roads that were more like farm tracks (I blame them for my punctures) the route was excellent with very little traffic.