Saturday had been hectic. The morning was busy, spent checking over paper work, collecting things together, responding to emails, and a few other little, but necessary, chores. At midday I was on the road first to drop off some food with Andy and Mandy, the feed station coordinators. Mandy was in the kitchen, hard at work baking for feed station, and I’m sure Andy was busy with something too. Then it was off to fetch Gary to help sign the middle section of the route.
Staś and Olly, in the north, and David and Andrew, in the south, had signed their respective sectors in the morning. We cracked on and made a good start, chivvied along by the pouring rain, but after a while we slowed a little – with his window wound down, I think Gary was still feeling Friday nights club visit to Auntie Thai’s. But, Grazing on the blackberries growing around the signposts he kept his strength up and the job was done.
When I got home Staś had left a message regards a route alteration. One of the roads on the northern sector, which the 100milers would ride, was closed. Fortunately the detour was relatively trivial, taking you along the other two sides of a small diamond. It still meant the risk assessments needed updating and a new route rushing out. The turd of a website that is Garmin.connect was as uncooperative as ever (pale grey back drop with slightly paler roads, not the best UX), but on Sunday morning most of the pre-entered riders had either got the new route or at least knew of the change.
Sunday was little more than a red line on the east horizon when I arrived at the HQ, once again based at St Neots One Leisure centre. At 6.45 the first rider arrived, and by 7am the car park was steadily filling, even though sign-on didn’t officially open for another half hour. Ian B and Leah arrived to man the sign on, the marshals and club riders were briefed and then we were ready, or at least as much as we thought we would ever need to be.
A steady trickle very quickly turned into a rush. We had 149 pre-entered riders, what we weren’t quite prepared for were the other 50 who turned up on the day! The forecast was good and clearly a lot of folk had been weather watching. For a while, with dozens of riders cramming into the sign on area, we were a little overwhelmed. We ran out of cable ties for the numbers – I thought 600 would be enough – and then we ran out of numbers! We were full.
Shortly before 8am we started to get the first riders on the road. Ian L went on ahead to marshal where the route crossed at Wilden. The riders had a briefing and then they were off in small groups, a few minutes apart. Quickly a thick column of them were lining up along the cycle way to the start, shivering in the early morning coolness and eager to be off.
Soon enough all the riders were off and for a while calm returned to HQ. A couple of people returned early, suffering with aching limbs, and there was a slight panic when Ian L phoned in to report he’d taken a wrong turning to the course crossing. A few of the first riders made the same mistake, but they were all brought back on track with just a few extra miles added on.
Ian B and Leah tidied up the start list while I rode out to transfer signs from the start of the route to the very end. It turned out on Saturday that our 300 signs hadn’t been quite enough. When I got back Ian drove off to perform broom wagon duties, following the course for any stragglers and collecting up signs. It wasn’t long before he was called into action by the first call on the emergency phone – a broken rear mech climbing the short and sharp Belton’s Hill. This was followed by a broken spoke and Staś unfortunately suffered a snapped drop out and some nasty mech meets spokes mangling. Hopefully they will all get their bikes road worthy again with little fuss.
Andy and Mandy reported a very busy 45 minutes as the 200 passed through the feed station, then things settled down and we waited for the first 100km riders to return.
The first arrived shortly before midday. I went outside to grab riders as they arrived and to make sure they signed in with Leah before getting their voucher for beans or eggs on toast at the centre’s cafe.
By and large the feed back was good, everyone had enjoyed the ride with special praise going to the feed station and signage. People had enjoyed the route too, although a few had been taken by surprise by Everton Hill and it’s 15% gradients. I heard a few reports of people walking but only one admitted to it, still if you’re going to organise a sportive you can’t not include your areas nearest, biggest and steepest hill, can you?
The hundred milers started to arrive in the early afternoon, just as the 100km were winding down. Again, they had enjoyed the route, and I was pleased to hear people say they had found the course harder than they were expecting. Judging from some of the glazed stares over untouched plates of beans that I saw some riders had, by that criteria, it was a successful route!
Late afternoon and the emergency phone rang for another mechanical, this time at Wilden. I drove out to collect the rider, joining the route at Tempsford and following it backwards. I saw no other riders on the road and when I arrived back all but the last few had returned and were accounted for. I and several others checked the course while taking the signage down, but no one was seen, so the last few outstanding numbers were called to establish their whereabouts. That done, we packed up and headed home.
There are a couple of things about this years sportive that I am pleased about. This year we had minimal advertising and entries opened later. In the end that didn’t dent the numbers. Talking to people as they arrived back, a lot had either ridden the event before or been recommended to ride it by others. I don’t think you can beat that sort of loyalty and word of mouth attraction.
Secondly, a number of riders commented how good it was to see the event being so well supported by the club members and they were right, it was. No one is paid to run the event, everyone who gives up their time does so freely and many have. For some it was baking a cake, others gave up the better part of the weekend to put up and take down the 300 signs, man the feed station and HQ and marshal where it was needed. And it does make me proud to belong a club that can do that. We have also raised a good bit of money too. In previous years this has gone to develop the club, especially coaching, this year though, we’re making a donation to Magpas instead.