An 8am start saw me Saddle up, clip in to the Pedals and set off for Newtownards to meet up with a good group of Phoenix CC members for the Tour of Strangford Sportive run by Ards CC.
All signed on and safety debriefing completed we rolled out of the Car Park and were on our way up the dual carriageway to Comber in a huge peloton of cyclists eager to get the miles in, in to a strengthening headwind on dry roads and nice sunshine. The forecast was good other than strong winds which would continue to strengthen all day to gale force.
At Comber it was left along the Ballydrain road passing Castle Espie and on past Sketrick island where I took on an energy gel in prep for the tight climb up towards Killinchy. A left turn took us down the Ballymoran road and along the Strangford Lough shoreline but there was no time to admire the scenery riding so close together in such a large bunch of cyclists. Just before emerging on to the Killyleagh road one of our club had a visit from the puncture fairies and with that we lost the main group as our club group stopped to assist. It was a blessing in disguise though as we had clear road ahead and worked together better in our own club group and soon we were catching and passing others.
In through Toye, Shrigley and Killyleagh we continued then through the lanes to Scaddy and on to the Quoyle Bridge before a couple more tight climbs through Saul and along the lanes to the Ballyhornan road and the Lismore road passing Bishopscourt Race Circuit then back on to the Ballyhornan road to the coast which on this Morning was more than a match for the scenery anywhere in the World. Finally we now had the benefit of a tailwind and the pace picked up again all the way through Kilclief and on to Strangford and the short wait in the warm sunshine for the Ferry crossing to Portaferry.
Disembarking from the Ferry at Portaferry we had a very short cycle until the official foodstop, a Sausage Bap followed by Tea and Buns revived us all and we were soon off again directly in to the very strong headwind but we knew the route and it would not be long until we had the wind on our backs so we kept the pace steady so as to not burn up to much energy battling the wind. Sure enough after a few miles the wind was firmly on our backs and our group was steaming along at pace catching and passing lots of cyclists some of whom took the opportunity to join our group and the benefit from the teamwork. Winding our way around the coast to Kearney and Cloughey then Portavogie where the route then turned in to the interior roads of the Peninsula which were mostly traffic free.
The route criss crossed the Peninsula and the strong sidewinds were noticeable for all, especially anyone riding with deep section carbon wheels, the gusts blowing the whole group off line multiple times but we all managed to keep control and kept the pace high until one of the ladies in our club started to feel the strain and needed us all to ease the pace otherwise she would have been dropped off the back. A couple of miles later we had another visit from the puncture fairies and as a group we stopped but sent the other girl on her way to get a head start on us knowing we would catch her up again as her energy levels dropped further.
Puncture repaired we were on our way again passing Greyabbey and behind Mount Stewart up to near Carrowdore then along Loughries and in to Newtownards for the end of the Sportive and some more Tea and Traybakes.
Sportive completed we still had to cycle home and we opted to climb up the dual carriageway then take the Greengraves road to the Comber Greenway and back for a brilliant 91 mile day on the back of yesterdays almost 70 miles and now for some rest and relaxation to recover for the next spin.