Date: Saturday September 15
Distances: 25 miles
The Festival of Sport had something for everyone, whatever their age. The brainchild of Nick Rusling, the director of Human Race, this is a weekend of sport, camping, good food and music that has since been dubbed the ‘Glastonbury of sport’.
Athletes were encouraged to camp in the adjoining fields to the athletes’ village. Piling in on Friday afternoon, the spirit of the campsite was already vibrant with gallant tales of what events everyone was doing over the weekend.
The cider was flowing and the music pumping from the stage arena as over 400 campers settled in for the weekend.A festival virgin, I found it only too easy to follow the crowd and get into the swing of things. Registration was easy for the four core sports of sportive cycling, open-water swimming, beach runs and triathlon.
I then headed to the Jamie Oliver food hall and started to work my way through the menu of delicious Cornish dishes. An early night was not in the festival guidebook as a line-up of five bands – Kezia, Moonlet and the Love Monks, Patrick James Pearson Band, Brother and Bones and Dry the River – rocked into the night.
Luckily the sun woke me as my phone died the night before – another festival virgin mistake. I was ready to head out on the bike for my first of four events for the weekend. I had entered the 40-kilometre Cycletta event so I could be back in time for the beach run at noon. Starting off first meant that the ladies-only ride had free roads to explore on before the 100 and 150 kilometre riders followed.
Our route was one of the hardest on the Cycletta circuit of six events nationwide that attracted 2,724 ladies in 2012. Only for women, 178 riders all left with big smiles and more chatter than I had heard at any mixed sex sportive. This chatter soon stopped as the hills started and they were true to Cornish style – steep and sharp.
The descents were hairy with narrow country lanes: the worst were marshalled as we came screaming down a hill to a T-junction and an opposite brick wall. The ride was technical in both ascending and descending; many ladies having the full challenge and coming back overwhelmed yet wanting more. The longer-distance sportives headed out from Portreath to Porthtowan and then on up to St Agnes Head.
There aren’t any standout climbs but the north Cornish coastline is full of climbs and descents meaning there is in excess of 1,450m of climbing on the route with Raginnis Hill and Chapel Hill firmly imprinted in the minds of each and every one of the 313 riders. Luckily the rides finished back at the village where medals, Vita Coconut and showers were ready. Some headed straight for the sea to chill their legs before hitting the cider and food tents.
I was back, refuelled and hitting the beach run. As the tide was out we started at the base of St Michael’s Mount and ran along the beach towards Penzance. The sea swims were kicking off as the tide came in, the signature swim being three kilometres around the Mount itself. The 10-kilometre swim was well under way and times ranged from lightning fast to over four hours, many without wetsuits, in 13°C water.
Beach sports dominated the sandy bay with touch rugby, beach volleyball, gig rowing, paddle boarding and kite karts. All were free for festival-goers. The village was alive with exhibitors, Jamie’s coffees and cakes, Zumba and even a children’s dance class was held.
The headline acts for the evening were the Struts, Steve Smyth, Ruarri Joseph and the popular. Reef all after a very informative and inspiring seminar from James Goulding on his journey from cancer to cycling around the world. Sunday saw the tri-bars go on, sleeveless jerseys and triathletes out in full force.
Sprint, Olympic and Half Ironman distances were on offer. Coming from a triathlon club we were all entered in these events. The bike section included much of the 100km sportive, making for tired legs for a very hilly run.
Hisayo Kaneko (32) From London
The sportive was a great ride for me – a very scenic and challenging route. The only point to mention is the locations of the feed stations for the long route. I would have liked if the feed stations had been more equally spread out. The first one was halfway through and the last two were pretty close to each other. The last one especially was just before the finish (about 10K to the finish), which I and many others decided to give a miss as we were desperate to finish the tough ride!
Euan Lees (38) From West London
I did the 100km ride so that I could be back in time for the 3km swim race in the afternoon! This was a moderately undulating ride with spectacular scenery in places, although we didn’t see much of Land’s End – just popped in and out of the car park. Like the rest of the festival, the organisation was low key but perfectly good; signs and feed stations were all there when needed. I’d recommend doing this sportive as part of a fuller festival experience.