A cold, foggy start as I cycled through town, up through Stranmillis and the Malone road to Lisburn to sign on for this Mornings Phoenix CC Sportive. With three route lengths on offer I opted for the middle distance 80KM route with the ride over and home adding on extra to give me just shy of 84 miles for the day.
Everyone signed on and it was time to get going. Two Police Motorcyclists assisted our journey through Lisburn stopping traffic and allowing us to ride straight through Red traffic lights all in one large group. Too large a group in all honesty given the mixed abilities, some lesser experienced/able cyclists causing a little chaos at times throughout the day, though no crashes were reported. I constantly kept myself up at the front of the group to stay out of trouble, even if it meant having to work harder as we were all travelling against the wind.
Our route took us up through Legacurry to Annahilt and Ballykeel where we had to come to a stop to make way for the Tour of Ulster Cycle race coming through, at least it was warm and sunny at this point and gave us all a chance to rest, eat and rehydrate.
As soon as the Cycle race traffic had passed we got rolling again up the short, but steep climb in to Kinallen then across the Gall Bog road around Ballella and on to Katesbridge.
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From Katesbridge it was the main road all the way through Moneyslane, Ballward up round the Horsehoe bend towards Castlewellan.
At the top of the Horeshoe we were back in to the chilling, fog for the nice fast descent down to Castlewellan and the pre-organised water and food stop.
A few minutes later and its back on the Saddle for the fast but chilly descent down to Annsborough and then in to the Ballylough road winding our way around to Spa and onwards to Ballynahinch where we finally left the fog behind and were blessed with beautiful warm sunshine for the final spin back to Lisburn.
Ballynahinch town traffic safely navigated and along the Lisburn road with its rolling hills to Annahilt for a nice pacey spin over to Legacurry and then one last long uphill drag. I could feel my left leg was threatening to cramp up 🙁 so I controlled my efforts sitting on the wheel in front knowing that after the uphill drag it was all downhill to Lisburn and would likely not only be very fast, but would also likely kick off in to a flat out sprint for the 30mph town limit sign.
I managed to get up the drag without the leg cramping, took in a few mouthfuls of drink and recovered ready for the sprint to kick off. Sure enough the pace lifted and from my position 8 to 10 bikes back from the front I could see the usual suspects positioning themselves so that they would not be blocked in for the sprint. Although further back than I wanted to be I was at least on the outside line so I knew I would not be boxed in, and also had the advantage of seeing what all was going on in front of me.
As the distance to the 30 limits reduced the pace stayed high and two riders in front of me were struggling to hold it allowing a gap to open, perfect! That gap allowed me to come around them and fill the gap leaving me perfectly placed for the finally sprint and when the usual suspects went for it I kicked hard on the pedals and came around the remaining bikes in front. Karen had gapped everyone but I had more momentum and was closing fast, she raised her hand in celebration but she was a bit premature and I took the win 🙂
That last mile I covered at an average speed of 30.1 mph, a new personal best time for me on that segment and putting out my max power of the whole day in that final sprint with 60 odd miles already in the legs at that point.
We all slowed the pace right down for the final Cycle over to Lisburn Leisureplex and the awaiting BBQ prepared for us to enjoy in the warm sunshine. Another good day out on the Bicycle with friends and good to see continued performance improvements in my cycling.