Saturday, 21 May 2011

Pink is Tough!

There is a growing interest in women's cycling these days. I guess with the success of the likes of Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley and Victoria Pendleton the general public has gotten quite excited at the prospects of these ladies striking gold at London 2012.
For the cycling fraternity the interest comes from more money being granted by different authorities to encourage more women into cycling.

Lo and behold, this year a few all-women cycling events have been scheduled. Davina McCall's ride took place a couple of weeks ago, and over the coming months there'll be the Victoria Pendleton Cycletta rides and CTC all-women rides.

A few weeks ago I went down to Bewl Water to take part in the one organised by the all-women cycling club, Kent Velo Girls.

I sometimes see the Kent Velo Girls in the lanes when out on my bike and they seem a friendly bunch. The perception I had had of them was of being a leisure cycling club, with the girls all decked out in stylish pink jerseys with flowers on.

The women are of all ages and their rides appeared to be done at a gentle pace. I had never seen anyone from that club at competitive cycling event.

So I went along to the cyclosportive expecting the ride to be a gentle jaunt through Kent and East Sussex where there was a choice of a 20mile, a 40-mile or a 60-mile ride. Wanting to get in a few miles, I did the 60-miler.

Well, how wrong I was about the "gentle jaunt"! Within the first few hundred metres of crossing the start line we were climbing. That had not been a surprise to me as it was on the profile. Profiles can be deceptive though, and the little lumps that came in the middle section of the ride were steeper than I'd imagined. There were rather more 7-8% ramps than my legs had budgeted for!

Kent, East Sussex, the High Weald - why on earth did I think this terrain would be gentle?? It has been hilly since prehistoric times so why did I think the terrain would be any different on this day?!

So on I plodded - through Wadhurst, Mayfield, Dallington, Robertsbridge and a challenging loop around Bodiam Castle, before returning via the long climb through Robertsbridge.

Descending homewards after Robertsbridge I heaved a sigh of relief as my legs got some respite, but then uttered a yelp as I suddenly had to dodge a snake in the middle of the road! Hmm, not your typical Kentish creature!

I managed the ride in a reasonable time, but by the time I was back at Bewl Water I was crawling. I'd spent the first half of the ride hanging onto the coat-tails of a triathlete from Sevenoaks Tri Club. It was great training for me, but once the elastic snapped that was it. The lack of fitness took its toll on me and I steadily drifted backwards. Still, it was a good day out and I really appreciated the beautiful scenery as we snaked through quiet country lanes, passing woodland, fields and different monuments.

Don't get me wrong. This cyclosportive had something for everyone, and it was great to be in a testosterone free environment. The 20 and 40-mile rides were routed in a way to make them do-able for new riders, and there was even a Go Ride for youngsters.
The event was very well organised and carefully planned. The goodie bag reminded me of a "Generation Game" conveyor belt, but without the fondue set and the cuddly toy!

The ride may have been testosterone free but it was still every bit as testing.

In fact, Kent Velo Girls have women who take part in time trials, and they plan to get some girls into racing, and even hill climbs. Pink may be all pleasant and fluffy, but it is also tough!


Thanks to Bee Gregorie and the Kent Velo Girls for putting on a lovely event.
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