Distance: 160km, 100km and 50km
Major climbs: Five, three and one
Terrain: Rolling hills
Number of finishers: Just under 1,000
Best: Being in the company of Bradley Wiggins
Worst: Heavy rain showers
It’s not every Sunday you get to stand within a bike’s length of Sir Bradley Wiggins. But this cycling hero, Tour de France winner and Olympic gold medallist, is still happy to ride out with Joe Public into the Lancashire countryside which shapes his home training ground.
The Ride with Brad sportive was a chance for novices like me to share the roads with a man who has proved an inspiration to cyclists of all abilities. And while I didn’t actually ride with him, it was enough to know he was spending his Sunday morning doing what I was doing.
The 50km route I rode was added this year for the first time, alongside the 100km, which Brad rode, and the 160km.
Brad said he believes in making cycling accessible, and the 50km route did just that. There were plenty of club riders but also plenty of novices like me, of all ages, male and female, most on road bikes but some using mountain bikes.
The sky was looking threatening when we arrived and it soon started to spit. As we headed out into the Ribble Valley, that quickly turned into rain showers, some quite heavy. At one point I was finding it difficult to see the road properly because of the rain driving into my face.
Luckily we had been sensible and taken wet weather gear. Anyone who hadn’t must have been uncomfortable, because the temperature wasn’t anything like you might hope for in mid-August.
One for the album: Dani, Sir Brad and Laura
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The tractor factor
Despite the weather, it was possible to appreciate some gorgeous countryside -the distant, foreboding hills made all the more dramatic with black clouds rolling across.
The ride took us through the picturesque villages of Gisburn, Bolton by Bowland, West Bradford, Whalley and Barrow, past rolling hills and green fields full of sheep. We passed many farms and the pungent smell of the countryside on narrow, rural lanes, ensured we felt close to nature. No bad thing on a bike ride.
There was one short stretch along an A road, but then the rest were back roads, with a couple of off-road paths thrown in. On our way up one narrow, winding road, we had to dismount to let a colourful convoy of tractors of all shapes and sizes pass us, presumably on their way to some kind of convention.
Also on the ride were members of the Wiggle Honda team, including Olympic medallists Laura Trott and Dani King.
Perhaps it was their influence, but there seemed to be a significant number of women entrants, more than I have seen on previous sportives.
Along with a series of short, sharp climbs, there were the inevitable steep descents, some made very slippery by the rain.
The most challenging part for me was the final long climb towards the end. For new riders of my ability, this was a challenging hilly route, but not so gruelling that it would put anyone off having another go.
This was an amazing opportunity to take part in a sport with someone at the top of his game. As Brad said himself: “You can’t go and kick a football about with Steven Gerrard on a Sunday morning in the park.”
Missed it? Try this…
Selby Three Swans Sportive, Selby, North Yorkshire selbythreeswansportive.org A three-route, family-friendly day out in North Yorkshire
This article was first published in the August 29 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!