I spoke with someone last week who is also planning a long ride this summer, from London to Paris. He mentioned to me about a ride on the weekend from Stevenage, the middle distance being 120km/72 miles.
I had a look on Google and checked the route, and found that the ride in question was the Stevenage Start of Summer Specials - the 120km being called the 'Ugley Nasty' as it goes through the villages of Ugley and Nasty.
Now whilst the thought of doing my first properly organised 'touring' event really appealed to me I was very aware that due to yet another cold I hadn't been on a bike for nearly three weeks and 72 miles was nearly 20 miles further than my current longest distance.
By now it was Thursday but I decided I'd go for it, the weather promised to be sunny and 15 degrees so a great day for a ride. I wanted to spin my legs over on the bike before attempting it, and so managed a 20 mile ride on Thursday and then a 25 mile ride on Saturday. I spent a good deal of time trying to work out how long the ride would take me, and I decided to aim for 5 hours which should represent a steady ride for me.
Come Sunday (25/03) I was at Fairlands Valley Park for about 9:30am, and managed to get myself through the various queues to get registered and acquire the necessary paperwork - including directions of the route! I managed to get away with the 10:40am group and planned to try and tag along with a group of riders who I thought a) were about my pace and b) knew the way!
I managed to find a group of four who seemed to be at a similar pace to me and hung onto their coat tails till the first check point. I got my card stamped and had a quick chat with the group of four and we set off once more. As we closed in on the second check point I had dropped just a few seconds behind the group but still felt really good. The third leg really hurt me, a few steady but long inclines had me off the back of the pack and my legs really started aching. I decided to click down a chainring and just enjoy being out in the sunshine. I needed a few stops to check the route and stay on track but I made it into the third check point just about 5 minutes behind the group I had been with.
We all left for the finish together and my legs felt great again. I was with them the whole way home and we were cruising most of it at over 18 mph. Once back in Fairlands Park I checked my time. The clock on my computer said it had taken me 4 hours 52 minutes, and when my card received its final stamp I was told I had completed the ride in 4 hours 45 minutes! Either way I was dead pleased and couldn't resist getting myself a certificate and a badge!
Once home I was greeted by something even better though!
The event was listed on the Audax website, something I wasn't familiar with before the weekend. They have loads of long distance rides listed on their website and I'll definitely be doing more in the future, it really was a perfect way to spend a Sunday.
For anyone interested, heres the map of the route.