Evans’ Hatfield Sportive

I was joined on the Evans Hatfield Sportive by Steve and Martin (thanks, chaps, you made it a far more enjoyable experience – I’m very grateful to you). It was Steve who summed it up the best – 75 miles of enjoyable cycling followed up by 15 miles of brutality (the biggest hills were saved til last).

As usual, it seems that every bike there was either a lightweight alloy or some exotic composite. Well, all except for Steve’s bike and mine. My bike (see here – A Brief Update on Training) is a middling, but much loved, Dawes touring bike (with full mudguards, natch) – and it was kitted out with panniers, bags, and the paraphernalia that I thought I might need to cope with breakdowns (inner tubes, tyre levers, multi-tool, pump), wet weather (gloves, trousers, a couple of jackets), low fuel (flapjacks, bananas and water), navigation (phone, paper maps) and emergencies (cash). I was also lugging the usual rubbish from the bottom of my bag that I couldn’t be bothered to clear out. The bags were looking pretty full. Steve upped the ante by riding a cheap Land-Rover bike with very reliable gears (they could be relied on not to change when he really needed them to).

There’s a huge pleasure to be gained from riding a heavier bike – one that I think is all too often ignored. It isn’t even that I was able to carry a few creature comforts with me. It’s that there’s no shame in being overtaken. Of course I was overtaken – most of the other riders were on speedy lightweight bikes – that’s what they’re supposed to do. I don’t imagine that there’s much pleasure to be gained from overtaking a heavy steel, and laden, old touring bike either – my faithful old bike isn’t designed to be quick, Steve’s even less so.

On the other hand, there’s a huge amount of pleasure to be had from overtaking these lightweight thoroughbreds whilst riding the old donkeys. I’m sure I caught an evil gleam of delight in Steve’s eye as he reeled in a carbon fibre bike, and then overtook it going up a hill.

The route was very pretty, taking in little Hertfordshire roads – and the particularly pretty village of Nasty which was very nice indeed.

So, for stats fans, and according to Evans, I completed the 88.8 mile ride (nearer 90 for me – I turned back at one point) in 7:15.56 and the mean time for the ride was 6:17.33 (so I was well off the pace this time!) The fastest rider was claiming a time of 2:28.17 which would give him an average speed of 36MPH and make him, in my view, an epic bullshitter. The next three fastest claim a speed of over 27MPH (which I still don’t believe). Even an average of 22MPH is a stretch – but not impossible – so I’m giving my Speedy Gonzales award to a chap called Philip. Well Done – whoever you are. The last completers finished at 8:51.35, and there were 8 DNFs. I was 146 out of 170 starters.

According to my Garmin, I completed in 6:19:11, for an average speed of 14.2 mph (and a peak speed down a steep hill of 36 slightly scary MPH). I like the Garmin figures better than the Strava figures (13.9MPH on average) or the Evans figures – so you can guess which ones I’m choosing to go with.

The Evans times were impacted by several factors – firstly, we did spend quite a long time in the rest stops, we had one minor breakdown, and at least two of us forgot that we needed to go through the tent to log our time – so we fiddled around for a while, chatting, outside the tent. A ‘Durr’ moment, which I think can be forgiven on account of us being a bit knackered after a long squawk. Lucky it isn’t a race!

Thanks also to Nigel for donating beer which Steve, Helen, Sarah and I enjoyed after the ride. The next Sportive that I’ll be doing is the long Cotswold. Does anyone want to join me?

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