As reported on the Facebook page, NBRC member Denise Fitzgerald completed the Tour of Cambridgeshire Gran Fondo last weekend, coming 9th in her category and qualifying for a place in the Worlds. Here's her report on the day out in the fens...

A year into my cycling and with 4 Sportives under my belt I had the bright idea of entering the Gran Fondo Race thinking it would be fairly similar; how wrong could I be! I guess you are all experts in racing but here are the 3 key lessons I took away:

 

Lesson 1: Be prepared:.Overlooking the fact that there were 150-200 people within each age category I calmly set off an hour before the main start to find the Ladies 50-54 Race Gate. I joined a massive snake of a queue working its way past all the gates in age order starting from the youngest up to the oldest men’s.  Mine being the penultimate gate it took me 40 minutes to get there ! Once settled in I trotted off for the portaloos.  With none to be found I was forced to join the line of “illegal squatters” risking disqualification if caught in action.  

Lesson 2Concentrate. Feeling pretty pleased that I had stayed attached to my bike during the exciteable start, I hung in the middle of my pack and within striking distance of the leaders.  Having the concentration span of a lettuce I was soon studying the expensive bikes around me, then wondering how some of the odd shapes had fitted into their lycra and whether they knew how much cellulite showed through… then, to my horror I was suddenly only a handful of riders from the back!  Pedalling like crazy to catch up 2 things happened all at once (i) some idiot swerved violently causing our whole peleton to yank on brakes, bash wheels, counter swerve, swear and generally end up all over the road.  At the same time a horde of madmen being the front of the Sport start came screaming alongside yelling “get left”, “on your right”,“move over” ,“keep your line” and other terms that were surely not related to cycling.  I was undertaken, overtaken,pushed from one side and, being about to fall off, timely shoved from the other side which luckily righted me.  Once my spell of Tourettes subsided I realised our peleton had broken and the front riders had disappeared.

Lesson 3: Learn racing techniques: Maintaining 20-21mph in the first 20 miles felt OK so as peletons went past I decided to join one … bad move.   I now found myself at 25mph and needing to eat and drink. Not having the best skills at these manoeuvres caused a few scary moments after which I was unceremoniously dumped out the back, all alone and doing battle with headwinds that felt galeforce.  I struggled for what seemed like hours and my pace went down to nearer 19mph. This set the scene for the rest of my ride.. hanging on to a group, getting dropped, working to another group, getting dropped again. I wasn’t sure that this was quite the right approach!  When we reached 5 miles to go, the real race started.  It was like a pack of hounds had smelt prey and the pace kept winding up.  Was I supposed to have trained for this scenario?  

Outcome: I finished my 79.6 miles in 3 hours 36, an average of 22.1mph (beating my Sportive ave of 18.7mph) , 9th in my Race category and I qualified for the Worlds in Albi, France. My husband will confirm that I am uber-competitive so, whilst recognising I have a lot to learn, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience.   I am not going to Albi but next year’s Worlds are in Milan …so maybe I will aim for those?