CW5000: Michelle Arthurs-Brennan first staffer to reach the milestone

Staff progress update on the CW5000

The CW5000 is an annual challenge we’ve set for our readers: the goal is to ride 5000 miles in a year. For some, that will be easy, whilst for others it will be a massive undertaking. To keep it accessible for all, and ensure motivation continues year-round, we also add additional challenges each month – with a dedicated Facebook group where those taking part can share their stories.

As predicted, CW’s tech editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan was the first in the office to reach the milestone, on August 6. We asked her to document her thoughts on the challenge here…

In February, I was on a training camp in Spain preparing for what I intended to be my most competitive race season yet. I’d PB’d on basically every climb Denia had to offer and I felt like I was ready to reap the rewards of a winter of hard graft.

I’d spent 2019 racing every circuit in the South in order to gain my Cat 1 license, and the plan for 2020 was to make use of it: enter only the target races, then use the time relinquished to tune up on local chaingangs with friends. I was eager to enjoy those midweek rides that leave balmy summer evenings imprinted in your memory forever.

The reality of the 2020 season for me so far has been one crit race in March. The race was eventually called to a halt after multiple pile-ups on a greasy surface and all I brought home was an elbow full of stitches. That experience pretty much epitomises racing in 2020 for me.

No doubt about it: 2020 racing has been a non-event. Yet, in many ways, I’ve still had one of the best years yet on the bike.

I’ve always believed there were two key types of cyclists: those who ride to train, and those who ride for the love of it; I’ve always thought I was the former.

However, with a calendar devoid of races and a work schedule packed full of global launches exchanged for a scattering of Zoom presentations, it was riding my bike which remained the constant. If lockdown has taught me anything, it’s that I really, really love riding my bike.

None of my rides this year have been particularly heroic – the longest was 107 miles long, it was a bit of a spur of the moment ride from Surrey to Eastbourne, and I called it “just nipping out for gym DOMS recovery” – such was the unplanned nature. This hasn’t been a year for smashing records, targeting mountain tops or pushing the boundaries for me – but one for consistency and maintaining sanity.

  • Longest ride of 2020
  • “Just nipping out for gym DOMS recovery” (Surrey > Eastbourne)
  • Distance: 106.7 miles
  • Elevation: 6,336ft
  • Av speed: 18.9mph

Like many people, I swapped at least a few road rides a week for gravel bike meanders – and not solely because I had to test these squishy tyred machines for work – but because there was solice in the interlaced squares of grass and tapestry of trails that make up the countryside around home. And it turns out, during a global pandemic, most of us are seeking some form of calm.

  • Best ride of 2020
  • “Socially distant with K-bomb” (South Downs gravel)
  • Distance: 29.27mi
  • Elevation: 3,425ft
  • Average speed: 9.6mph

Racing has, in part, returned. Despite setting five and 10-minute PBs in training, the first two attempts at time trials this year were hideously bad. I’d found myself five minutes into a time trial effort and asking: “what’s the point in all this ferocious pedalling?”

However, after a few (small group, guideline observing) club runs and chaingangs, a sporting course PB seemed to herald a small return to form.

  • Racing “achievement” of the year to date
  • ‘Paragon Bletchingly TT’ segment
  • Previous PB: 30.17 (TT bike)
  • New PB: 29.33 *QOM (Tarmac SL7 road bike)

I’m pleased to feel strength returning on the bike, and every new course or climb PB has me smiling. However, not nearly so much as the weekly club run.

Like many bike riders, my social life is tied up with my cycling life – the two are inseparable. During the height of lockdown, it wasn’t a pub garden I was aching for, but the happy melting pot of exhaustion with contentment that follows a good thrashing on the wheel of a club mate.

A large part of me does miss road racing: the evening-before anxiety, the soundtrack en route to the race, the deep heat enthused tension during the briefing, the inadvertant breakaway, the ache for the finish line that so quickly dissipates once crossed – not quite first – but close enough to want to do it all again the next weekend. The post-race analysis with team mates.

However, I don’t miss any of it nearly as much as I thought I would.

The last 5,000 miles has shown me that I like riding my bike just as much for myself as I do to train, and to race. Cycling has been my solitude, it’s been proven to be my social life and – frankly – without it I’d be absolutely lost. Whilst I’d rather it hadn’t taken a global pandemic to figure that out, it’s a learning I’ll keep with me into the next 5,000 miles – and the 5,000 miles after that.

  • 2020 to date (as of Aug 14)
  • Distance 5,174.9 mi
  • Time 332h 31m
  • Elev Gain 320,128 ft
  • Rides 221