petemain.co.uk The meanderings of an outdoorsy sort of person
2008 - A SPORTIVE YEAR
I live in the Highlands of Scotland where, in winter, It's very difficult to train properly for road cycling. The weather from November to February are is either wet & windy or cold & snowy. So how was I going to get in enough training for season of Sportive events in 2008? The same formula as most years I suppose, just more of it. A trip to Spain in December allowed some long bike rides and this was followed by a lot of cross-training for the rest of the winter; jogging, hillwalking, swimming, gym, turbo trainer, even some skiing and the occasional snatched ride on a nice day. Plans for longer rides in March were blown away or rained on and it wasn't until April, when the weather improved, then I was able to ramp up the distances and complete some longer rides of over 60 miles. At that point in the year I was quite concerned that I would struggle in the first events.
April – Forfar Audax
I decided to start with something low key. Thirty four riders assembled at Forfar Leisure Centre on a pleasant spring morning, we collected our route cards from the organiser, who was also riding and that was it, no-one even said go, we drifted off at our own pace soon after the 8am start. The day was fine, the route scenic, not too complicated and the controls were in handy shops or cafes. Despite my lack of long rides I completed the 80+ miles at 15mph average and thoroughly enjoyed the day. Now I was ready for something a bit more 'meaty'. Who was fastest? No-one knows or cares, that's Audax for you.
May - Bealach Beag
What a way to start. I took my best bike out for short spin the day before the event, got distracted by something outside my house and fell off my bike, landing heavily on my elbow. I thought my arm was broken, bending it or pulling hard hurt like hell and the bruising was spectacular. However I decided would have a go anyway as my legs were undamaged. The Bealach Beag is a cracking wee event taking in the best parts of the longer Bealach Mhor. I got stuck in over the first few miles mixing it with some of the faster riders and reaching the bottom of the Bealach na Ba just as the road opened to riders (and was closed to cars). Although hampered by my sore arm I climbed steadily in a windless and cool day. Nearer the top we were enveloped on a wet, very thick mist which made the descent slow and slippery and it wasn't until well down towards Applecross that I was able to let rip and get full benefit of the 2000’ drop to sea level. I found pulling on the bikes levers was both tricky and painful. The Applecross peninsular came next, one short very steep hill after another for miles but all attacked with reasonable energy as the event is only 46 miles. By the time the last hills were reached my arm was very sore but I survived finishing in 3.13.58, and improvement of 20 minutes on the previous year and I even knocked a minute off my best time on the big climb reducing it to 49 mins exactly. I also finished well up in my age group, the 60+ category. The organisation was excellent so it was a good start to the Sportive Year.
May – Etape Caledonia
This is an interesting and different event with nearly 2000 riders on closed roads. This was the second running of the event and my second time riding. My arm was still sore but I was fit to ride and glad to see the organisers had dropped the completely unnecessary Saturday 'bike inspection'. Unfortunately 'locals' such as ourselves still have to register the preceding day so for my friend Sam & I this involved a round trip of nearly 100 miles for a transaction that took less than 5 minutes to complete. What a waste of time and money so much the event's green credentials. There has to be a better way. The 7am start was also a bit of a tough call as well and as we were determined to stay in our own beds Sam picked me up outside my house at 5am. It was a peach of a day with an early season high pressure sitting over Scotland. High pressure in May means warm days and cold nights and this was no exception, the start was FREEZING, literally and with quite a high start number I was very very cold by the time I got across the start line at 7.20am. Still, I was impressed by the organiser's ability to start so many riders in such a short space of time. Feeling so cold there was only one thing to do, ride as fast as possible, it still took me nearly 20 miles to get warmed up. After and hour or so the temperature rose and it turned into a lovely day with the Scottish Mountains reflected in the lochs to a backdrop of azure skies. Normally, on a good day I can ride alone at about 16mph so my tactic in most events is to get on the back of a group riding about 4mph faster than usual and hang on as long as possible. This tactic works especially well in this event as there are so many riders, if I get dropped by the group I'm with, I'll ease back, take on some food and wait for the next group. Start sprinting as the first riders pass and be up to speed by the time the last rider arrives. Plead old age, incapacity and a white beard if asked to do go to the front or if feeling a bit guilty, go through, do a few hard pedal strokes and pull over ASAP. The closed roads make it an absolutely brilliant ride along lochs Tummel and Rannoch. A large group, moving fast, becomes like a living organism snaking it's way along the narrow winding roads and it's a great feeling being part of it, even if viewing from the rear. Etape Caledonia groups fall apart a bit on 'the hill' near Schellion after about 50 miles, it's not steep but it is long enough to feel you are climbing something significant. The descent that follows is a real treat and can only be fully appreciated on the closed road, very fast and curvaceously twisty. I ended up on my own after this descent and thought that was it and I would finish the event that way but no, with 20 miles to go I was caught by a large group. Some of the riders looked pretty cool and were riding some very expensive bikes, Bainchi's and Cervelo's were common. I doubted if I could hold them. Wait a minute, we hit a hill and everyone slows, instead of watching them ride into the distance I move forward in the group. Hallelujah, I'm tired, EVERONE IS TIRED, I'm going to stick with this one. It just goes to show you need a bit more than youth and a £2000 Bianchi to ride fast, you have to go out cycling as well! As we belt along the group expands to about 30 riders as we rush towards a fast finish. The last five miles are lumpy a bit of a grunt and I cross the line, as in the Bealach Beag, over 20mins faster the previous year in 4hr 18mins. Another superb event, closed roads and Mavic service makes all riders feel important. Protesting church goers and a welcoming jazz band add some colour. Some strange organisational decisions but well worth the huge entry fee, will go again in 2009 aiming for under four hours? All depends on getting the right group to hook into.
June - Cairngorm Classic
I just had to ride this one; it was on my local roads and with a sensible start time so I could get good nights sleep at home. My sore arm was better as well. No parking problems at Cairngorm Ski area and the Mountain Cafe was serving up hot coffee, a good start to the day. After that things went downhill in more ways than one. Cairngorm Ski area car park is 2200' above sea level, the temperature was only +5c and there was a strong breeze blowing. It was cold and everyone was desperate to get going, so what did the organisers do? They had decided to scan each number individually before we could start and they had only one computer and one scanner. Now let’s see, if each scan takes 15 secs and there are about 200 riders waiting that will take at least 30 mins. So there were some very cold people crossing the starting line. What immediately follows is 3 miles of steep descent and a drop of over 1200' and it was now raining hard as well. This is one of my local roads, I descend this hill about once a month and know it well, and I found it very difficult. I was so cold I could barely pull the levers. The descent ranks as the most unpleasant 3 miles I have done for years. This cock-eyed starting system also effected how things panned out with friends who had planned to ride together as they ended up waiting ages, losing time after being scanned and getting even colder. After some waiting at the bottom of the hill we assembled some of our group, the weather improved and I even started to enjoy the ride. The route is interesting and moderately easy and the food supplied was excellent, by the end of the day I had eaten more 'tray bakes' than I could ever want and I yearned for something like a cheese sandwich. The weather more or less held out for us although some of the earlier finishers had the re-climb the final hill in a hailstorm of epic proportions. Climbing back up to 2200' with nearly 100 miles in my legs was not easy and it was so cold I lost most feeling below the knees (that'll teach me to wear more clothing). My final position was well down the field as I rode with a local group and we stopped for at the food points for much longer than I normally do. In the end I had a good day apart from the start. The last three miles stood me in good stead for the next event. Will I riding next year? Almost certainly but I hope the organisers improve their starting procedure.
July - Southern Uplands Challenge
August - Lochness 360
I entered on a whim, attracted to a local(ish) ride as filler between longer events. The pre-race info was excellent but I’d have liked to have seen a start sheet on the website; it’s always good to know the size and nature of the opposition. The Rugby Club at Bught Park in Inverness proved to be a good event HQ with more than adequate facilities and, unusually, I found I had time on my hands waiting for the 8am start. We all lined up; about 100 roadies and another 100 ‘Lochness360 mountain bikers'. One of the organisers gave a lengthy speech which most people either couldn't hear or didn't listen to. A little later I wished I had paid more attention. The start wasn't until we reached the outskirts of Inverness, so we had a procession of 200 cyclists behind a lead car through the centre of town with marshals waving us through red traffic lights. We all felt very important, a la Tour de France, and drew some puzzled looks from onlookers. It almost felt like the event (oops, I nearly said race) had already started and I wondered why there was a certain amount of jockeying to get up behind the lead car. I soon found out as the car pulled over and all of a sudden we were off, with a group of 20 cyclists tearing up the road, away from the bulk of us in a flash. At that point the MTB riders we were still with us, but after a mile or so proceedings were enlivened when, with a great squealing of brakes (and not much warning) they made a sudden, dramatic right turn down a grotty track to leave us roadies on our own. By then the lead road group had long gone. There were excellent feeding points along the course which was scenic, well marshaled, well signed, and interesting. Large, but not very cohesive, groups formed on the first section to Dores, but the first big hill soon put paid to many of them and I ended up riding the next few miles on my own. If you’ve not yet been there, I can highly recommend the south side of Loch Ness; it is beautiful, scenic, and quiet cycling country. I was eventually picked up by a group of about six, working well together. I hooked onto them and for about 15 miles we worked really hard together doing through and off. I stopped at the first feed station (the rest carried on) and topped the hill before Fort Augustus in good style. Not far over the top we met the first road riders on the return journey. It didn’t seem like I was too far behind them, and I amused myself by counting just how many ahead of me (about 30). The 1500’ descent was fast and tricky; I wouldn’t like to do it in the wet. We were each presented with a charity wrist band at Fort Augustus; proof that we’d made it to the turning point and evidence of the £5 going to charity from each entry fee; what a superb idea. This is something other organisers could pick up on, especially those who charge grossly over inflated entry fees. (You know who you are!) Shortly after leaving Fort Augustus, I was very impressed to see the first MTBers (who’d ridden further and rougher than us) rejoin us, having covered much of that part of their route off-road. The huge drop down into Fort Augustus then had to be tackled, by us roadies, in reverse; my new, much lighter, bike went well, but the gearing of 34x28 was still a bit too high for such a steep hill. I muscled up it anyway, passing one or two even more overgeared riders and a couple on touring recumbents (not in the event) who were really struggling. The descent to Whitebridge was awesome; straight(ish) and very fast. Thank you General Wade (the man who had the road built, about 250 years ago). At that stage, I seemed to have lost all the groups and came upon only ones and twos for company, but this was no problem as the road took interesting turns through scenic, wild woodland to Loch Ness-side and along the shore to Dores again. To ensure that I would finish in less than four hours, I put in a big effort over the last few miles. Job done, we cruised back to the event HQ for tea, cakes, sandwiches and to collect our ‘goodie bags’ (nice beer, Cairngorm Brewery). This was a first-rate, well organised event. My only criticisms are that I would have liked to have seen an entry list before the day and it would also have been good to see, in the results, where I finished in my age group (60+) as I have no chance of being competitive against the young guns. The start was awesome and mixing up road and MTB was brilliant; after all we’re all simply cyclists. Having seen the muddy exhausted state some of the MTB folk were in as they finished, I’m filled with admiration for them and very glad that I stick to road events nowadays. Is a sportive a race? With the rolling massed start, it felt more like a race than a challenge. The shorter distance meant I was able to give it 100% all the way. Whatever you want to call it I had a great day out. You missed it? No matter, I’ll probably see you there next year.
August - Cumberland Challenge
What a route, what a day. In the first 30 miles we got rain, wet roads covered in mud and cowpoo, dark dank descents down sunken, tree lined roads requiring the maximum of concentration and usually followed by sharp bends into yet another short leg searing climb. It was very difficult to ride in groups and hard to find any rhythm at all. Relief came in the form of Hartside, more akin to the longer climbs I'm used to in Scotland, which seemed really easy after all those muddy hills. The cobbles at Alston gave the event an authentic ‘Paris-Roubaix’ feel then yet another lumpy road took us to back to Alston again via Garrigill. At last the sun came out and for a short while we had dry roads. The good fast road north from Alston allowed groups to form and speed to pick up. Back at Brampton the feed & checkpoint was held right in the town centre and this gave a real buzz to the event with all the Sunday drinkers and smokers outside the pubs no doubt wondering what on earth was going on. Then it was north again towards Scotland as we plunged into more miles of narrow muddy lanes. It didn’t go unnoticed by me that one of the hardest climbs of the afternoon (Kershope Bridge to Hillend) was on the 1.8 miles of the route that was actually in Scotland. Thanks for that, Scotland. Now it was raining with a vengeance and the hills seemed to go on forever. The last feed at 88 miles was a welcome relief even though the flapjack had gone a bit soggy. The climbing eased in the final miles, I got into a good, fast, very wet, and muddy group, and we all staggered into the event HQ, tired, and very pleased to finish with a job well done. The organisation and event HQ was spot on. I liked the sign warning of “photographer 100 yards” as it allowed me to pull my stomach in put on my ‘race-face’, look mean & tough, get my photo taken and then relax back to my more usual sloppy position on the bike!
Chapeaux to all the marshals and organisers who stood for hours in the rain; they all deserve certificates and congratulations, just as much as the riders. I felt I did OK coming 309th out of 553 overall and 11th out of 30 in the 60+ age group. The only real disappointment was that my lovely new bike got very dirty; I suppose it had to happen sometime. If you're looking for a challenge next year 'The Cumberland Challenge' is the one for you, but don’t treat it lightly; the 56 DNFs show what a tough, demanding sportive it is.
September - Cycle Cairngorms
We were so lucky with the weather; it had rained solidly on three consecutive days in the week before the event, but the weekend itself dawned fine and was forecast to stay that way, so it was out with the shorts, the sun cream, and the shades. With only 50 riders on the Saturday the start felt very relaxed. I got a bit too relaxed and ended up starting in the last group! Not what I’d intended. After an easy, fast section from the start near Coylumbridge to Nethy Bridge, the hills began with the climb up past Corriehullie to the A939, followed by the Bridge of Brown climb, Tomintoul to the Lecht Ski Centre, and finally Cockbridge to Bridge of Gairn. A total of over 4146 feet of climbing. The last few miles were a fast run into Ballater. I really enjoyed the whole ride; it felt very warm for late September. The SW wind gave us a good tail wind on most parts of the route. Event HQ was right in the centre of town at Cycle Highlands and the organisers had laid on a BBQ so we all got a burger and a beer at the finish. Not sure that if it’s exactly what a highly tuned athlete like me needs after a hard ride, but it was very nice. My time for the day was 03.13.59 and I was 19th out of 50 finishers. Ballater is an attractive small town; we stayed at a very comfortable B&B, Tangley House run by Tom & Shirley Oliver, and can also recommend the Station Restaurant as a great place to eat. The trains are long gone, but a model of Queen Victoria is still there in her Royal Carriage. A good rest followed by a cheerfully provided breakfast at 6.30am on Sunday saw me, together with 24 other hardy souls, on the start line just before 8am. A little autumn mist simply enhanced the superb scenery and the day soon warmed up. Knowing that the first 20 or so miles were fairly flat I determinedly stuck with the lead group until Braemar and then deliberately let them go and settled down to ride at my own pace. My legs reminded me I had done a hard 50 miles the previous day. The climb from Braemar up to Glenshee Ski Station is long and a bit tedious, ending at the highest point of the event at 2195 feet. The descent was awesome; only a slight headwind prevented me from reaching 50mph. After some fun and fast undulations down Glenshee, a right turn took us to the first feed at Kirkmichael. I was surprised to find several of the lead group still there scoffing cakes. Another long climb took us over the hill to the tourist trap of Pitlochry and the long slog along the B8097 towards Drumochter with an annoying side wind. On this section I suffered a power failure and was glad to reach the second feed point at Calvine, where the organisers had thoughtfully provided tea and coffee, most welcome. Onwards and northwards through Drumochter the route runs parallel to the deadly and dangerous A9, on the old main road or a purpose built cycle track. The track was built in 2000 as a millennium project, but since then it now lies sadly neglected by the authorities. Typical of many a UK projects, we find the money to build and then there is no maintenance so everything falls into disrepair. My brand-new, expensive bike didn’t really like it as we cycled through sections of a roughly chipped, frost damaged surface, with rock fall, broken glass, general litter, and overgrowing vegetation. It shouldn’t happen to a bike! (At this point I was very glad that I have never aspired to ride the ‘Paris-Roubaix’ route). It took a lot of concentration to negotiate this part of the route and it was impossible to go fast with the sharp corners and tricky bridges. The bike and I survived and, as George Harrison once sang, “all things must pass” and so it did as I reached the last feed station just before Dalwhinnie; I didn’t stop as I had other plans! Dalwhinnie to Newtonmore is slightly downhill, was very fast with a good tailwind and I reacquainted myself with the remnants of the lead group; they had stopped for a picnic at Dalwhinnie and were really motoring by the time they caught me. I hooked on, did a turn at the front, and then dropped out at Newtonmore, musing on the fact that most of the time this group had ridden too fast for me; yet riding alone I didn’t seem to be that much slower. My mind filled with images of tortoises and hares. It’s not often that a sportive event goes right past my house, but this one did so I had ‘er indoors’ organised with a pint of tea and a chunk of apple cake for me. Thanks Kathryn, (and for the lift home afterwards). I reached the 100 mile mark near Kingussie and saw no other riders until the finish. Now on my local roads, I enjoyed the beautiful route via Insh and Feshie Bridge to Coylumbridge. The last few miles to Badaguish were all gradually uphill and felt really hard, but I buoyed myself up with the very positive thought that at least we didn’t have to cycle up the Cairngorm Ski Road to finish. (Please don’t get any ideas for next year, organisers!). My time for the day was 08.30.07 and I was 11th out of 24 finishers, very tired after 120 miles and 8478 feet of climbing. Tea, soup, and sympathy were on offer from the fantastic band of helpers. The whole event was extremely well organised by The Speyside Trust. Their objective is to make money for the Trust but as you are permitted to enter as a non-sponsored rider, you had none of the hassle of having to go round raising money from our ‘sponsored out’ friends. The route is delightfully scenic and the climbs long and steady (mostly). It would be a tough call in wet or very windy weather. A special mention should be made of the signage and marshalling which were awesome. The numbers turning out were low(ish) but this did give the event a relaxed feel and it is the first time the event has been held. Cycle Cairngorms deserves to become a much bigger event and I hope it does so next year. Overall I was 11th, covering 170 miles in 11.44.06; a satisfying result in an event that has been one of my targets all season. I am told I now hold the ‘vintage’ record for the route, but, with only two of us in that age group, there was always a 50/50 chance. The Speyside Trust is a recognised Scottish Charity, based at Badaguish Outdoor Centre near Aviemore. The Charity has 25 years experience of providing quality 24-hour respite care activity holidays for adults and children of all abilities. Cycle Cairngorms is part of their fundraising activities and the two day cycling challenge circumnavigates the Cairngorms National Park using some of the most attractive roads in the UK. It is an unusual, scenic, well organised, interesting two day event held on quiet roads. The extra challenge of the Drumochter cycle track allows riders to try their cyclo-cross skills. Why not go for it next year.
Worth a mention
Although not Sportives there are two other rides which left me with wonderful memories (and sore legs).
Overnight Solo Cairngorm Circular
I waited for a full moon and some good weather and in early August left home at 14.00 and cycled round the Cairngorms via Nethy Bridge, Tomintoul, Braemar, and Pitlochry, through Drumochter and back to Newtonmore on my heavy touring MTB. Descending off Glenshee after mid-night was surreal, riding up Strath Ardle in the dark, seeing no one for miles and miles, with nothing but hooting owls for company was sublime and although the dawn was a little disappointing I was home at 07.00 the next day having only slept for a few minutes in a bus shelter. Possibly this short sleep qualifies me for some sort of Audax award (The Honourable Society of Bus Shelter Sleepers?)! If you haven’t done an all-nighter then consider giving it a go but wait for some good weather in summer, it will leave you with some very special memories.
Cabriére Randonee VTT
On holiday in France in December I hired a mountain bike and entered not knowing exactly what a Randonee VTT was. Now I know! No times or numbers were given out but there were about 500 riders attempting a tricky, mountainous, 24 mile course, mostly through dense forest with about 15 miles of ‘gnarly single-track’. I held my own on the uphill and flat sections but was out my depth on the rocky downhills. I will have, “attencion a gauche” forever imprinted on my brain as yet another kamikaze mtb’ er screamed past me. I was well outside my comfort zone, but being a roadie, was well pleased to finish the event with only a few scratches to show. The bottle of wine that came with the entry fee was very enjoyable.
Writing this article has made me think about why so many of us ride and enjoy sportive events. We all know why we ride bikes (intrinsic motivation, health, fitness, fun etc!) so why sportives? Evidently, each persons motivation is slightly different but somewhere long the way there must be a common thread. All of us could go and ride the route on another day, stop for lunch and have a relaxed pleasant day, so why do we pay a lot of cash and travel half way across the country to take part in these events? So, here are some thoughts as to why I (we) enjoy riding sportive events:
In my first ever sportive event (Etape du Dales, 2004) the challenge was to finish and hopefully not be last (I hate being last). I now know I can finish these events in good style so now I aim to be as quick as possible and be competitive in my age group. There seems no point in paying all those entry fees to have a 'wee dander in the countryside'. I could do that any day
An interesting route (but does it always have to be tough?)
Good route planning takes us on previously unused and unexplored roads. I have some doubts about the trend to more and more difficult routes, at times it almost seems like a competition by organisers to produce the mega, longest, highest or hilliest route. There is a case for easier and shorter sportives for the less experienced or older rider. The Etape Caledonia is a good example of an easier route. I also like the events that have an option, sometimes even on the day, of doing a shorter version. Then if feeling bad of if the weather is poor or it is too windy you can still have a good day without going ‘over the top’. After all on an easier route we can always just ride faster & harder.
Closed roads/access to closed routes
Bealach Beag and Etape Caledonia are partially/fully on closed roads and Southern Upland Challenge finishes up a normally closed route. Ride along the right hand side of an 'A' road, just because you can!
'Nae worries' riding without taking to much 'stuff'
No need to navigate (much), no need to carry a huge tool-kit or too much food. Just travel light, someone will point the way, feed you and probably sort the bike out if it breaks or even take you home if things go badly wrong (does not apply to Audax's).
Company of other riders
Where I live in the Highlands it is sometimes be a lonely business being a 'roadie', (all together. Aaaaaaah). Not many cyclists live in Badenoch & Strathspey so it great to be able to mix and meet with other cyclists from all over UK.
Yes, I know, sportives are not races but put two guys on bikes next to each other and you have a competition. Even if you are dropped by the 'peleton' then with a bit of luck there will be another one along soon. I am always interested to see who was fastest, where I finished, how I did in my age group and whether I showed a few younger riders a clean pair of wheels.
So was 2008 a good Sportive Year for me? Absolutely, I had a great time. I enjoyed every event and feel I got my training about right. Comparing this year with the year of my first Sportive in 2004 I weigh 14 lbs less and I also have a new bike that weighs about 6lbs less, so I carting 20lbs less up hills compared with four years ago. This probably explains why my climbing has improved a lot, however, there is still a long way to go on the weight loss front (another 14lbs?). What about 2009? My work currently prevents me from training full time but, but being self-employed, I do have a fair amount of freedom about when I train and ride. I don't want to get locked in to doing the same rides every year but don't want to travel too far either so I will probably do the local events (anything within 100 miles of home) and pick out one or two more interesting events further afield. Watch out you over 60’s if I ever get properly retired.
Highs and Lows of 2008
Blasting along in the Etape Caledonia in that huge group over the last 20 miles and realising I was over 20mins faster than the year before.
Waiting to start the Cairngorm Classic and the first three miles (Sorry, I don't come from Yorkshire, so I'm just not tough enough).
Most Enjoyable Event
Southern Upland Challenge (aka Radar105), just a lovely day, fantastic organisation and a great route.
Most dangerous people
Tri-bar users, they should be banned, a bloody menace to all other riders.
No helmet!! How did they get away with it? Also the guys who rode up the pavement at Alston in order to avoid the cobbles. After all, it wasn’t a race (was it?) and it didn’t do a lot for the image of cycling or make granny out shopping very happy.
Most impressive rider
The lady who passed me in the Cumberland Challenge after 75 miles. She didn't look much like a cyclist, but was going a lot faster than me riding what looked vaguely like a shopping bike. In the short time I matched her pace I was able to check; yes, her bike did have a number and she was in the event.
Cumberland Challenge – the rain, the mud, the hills and more rain and more mud and more hills!
Lochness180, but it was a huge amount of fun.
Finally Final Thoughts
The Sportive phenomenon has taken off big time in UK. I can see why for all sorts of reasons but particularly because it allows Mr Ordinary Cyclist (such as myself) to have a great day out in a semi-racing situation without the demoralisation of being dropped by a bunch and ending up DNF. I have been particularly impressed by the number of newcomers coming into the sport through this type of event and the performances by the top females have been phenomenal. I hope the British Cycling talent team have been watching for female talent to support Nicole Cook. I have been less impressed by inadequate reporting by the cycling press, nearly 2000 riders took part in the Etape Caledonia and it didn't even get a mention in Cycling Weekly. I hope all organisers will switch to transponder timing and on-line entries ASAP and the Cairngorm Classic will buy another scanner before the 2009 event.
Sportives fit beautifully into the "Sport for All" category, they are for young old, expert or novice and a superb lead into our fantastic sport of cycling. I hope they are never taken too seriously. After all we shouldn't lose track of the fact that it's all about fun, fitness and good health and the older you get the more true that becomes.
[Looking forward to another 'Sportive Year in 2009]