The day of Cycletta dawned bright and early – at 4.20am to be precise as my adrenalin fuelled body decided that was the time to wake up. Despite this, at a more sensible hour, we set off for Tatton Park and I did my usual helpful passenger thing of falling asleep the minute we set off.
When we arrived at Tatton Park, I went to get my hire bike, passing Olympic Gold Medal winner and Cycletta Ambassador Victoria Pendleton on the way. I’m such a name dropper…
As I was riding on my own, I was green with nerves at the start of the race, but was hugely encouraged by the positive and friendly atmosphere and managed to chat to a couple of other riders before we set off. Then, with a cheerful ‘good luck’ we were off, straight over a cattle grid, down the drive of Tatton Park and on through several local villages. Once we had set off, my nerves settled and I started to enjoy myself. The roads were relatively flat, with a nice long stretch to get us all into our stride before a series of junctions through the villages. My cycling ability, despite a worrying lack of training, was better than I’d anticipated, thanks to my gym trainer Lenka, which meant that I was easily keeping up with some of the people I’d set off with, despite riding a hired mountain bike (with, it has to be said, rather wonky gears) on the roads. Of course, some of the elite riders who had gone out early were starting their return journey by this point and due to the course doubling back on itself, we were rewarded with the sight of them on their way to the finish, which I found quite inspiring.
As the roads were not closed, I did have to keep an eye out for traffic, but the whole route was really thoroughly marshalled and signed, with someone to support us at every junction. This was of great help as I didn’t have to spend ages worrying about getting away from a junction, particularly on the right hand turns. What was more worrying was my inability to stop myself from being nosy and looking at the houses we were passing – in one case a stunning manor house, with land and an indoor swimming pool which was up for sale, so if I win the lottery I know where to look! In a particularly ironic moment, I did swerve a bit as I saluted a single magpie for good luck, which I do automatically. Quite how I would have explained away any resulting accident, I don’t know…
After what felt like a really short time, but actually about fourteen miles into the ride, was the first rest stop, where I had a litre of water and some fizzy cola bottles before setting off again. Chatting to a few more people along the route, it was lovely to hear the stories from people about why they were riding and in some cases, how they’d been inspired to ride so they could join Cycletta. I didn’t stop at the second feed station, but did hear from other people that Victoria Pendleton had been there and chatting to people – what a great Ambassador for the event she was, even coping with a giant snaking queue of people waiting for her autograph later on.
In what really seemed like no time at all, but actually 2 hours, 3 minutes and 17 seconds after I started, I crossed the finish line with a giant grin on my face and a feeling of huge accomplishment and joy. I’m really happy with the time I made, even though I know that I could probably have gone faster if I’d chosen not to chat to some people and to take over others, but in truth, part of what made the event feel so great was being part of this wonderful group of women, all so very different but all sharing the same experience. I even managed to say a real life hello to some wonderful people I’d met on Twitter through a shared Cycletta ambition, which was a perfect finish to the ride.
Then, after a re-fuel at the Cycletta village, and a lovely mini-manicure, it was time to have another sleep in the car on the journey home.
Huge, giant thanks to everyone involved in Cycletta, you were all amazing. I have been extolling your virtues ( and that of Skyride, British Cycling, Breeze network, the lot…) pretty much relentlessly since I got home and if I get my way, I will be bringing along a team of women to next year’s event, at which I will be riding my own bike and finishing in under two hours!