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When I entered this ride a few weeks ago it was described as “intermediate”. It turned out anything but. Perhaps the description was for elite riders. I thought it would be a good ride as a curtain raiser for the long difficult training session over the coming spring and summer months.

It turned out to be one of the hardest rides I have ever done! Still, as my friend said it’s done and has put miles into my legs that no one can take away.

The day started early. We had to be at Esher Racecourse by 8am for registration and 8.30 start. Most of the riders were in awe inspiring gear and had jaw dropping bikes. I managed to tag along with my trusted old steed Trekkie, carrying with me my now much smaller paunch and moobs! It was a beautiful and bright, but cold start, with the promise of blustery winds later on and possibly rain.

The start was in batches and I soon got comfortable within my group. It was a long climb out of Esher. The pace was good and I managed to keep up with a few riders. “Thunderthighs” sped on but seemed to struggle on a particular steep bit and it felt pleasurable to get past him with my 66 year old legs! Next target was a young “Victoria Pendlelite” who I am sure muttered something under her breath as Siggins whizzed past.

With sunny blue skies, exquisite scenery and a good measured pace I was beginning to enjoy my ride. At about 15 miles disaster struck in the form of my first puncture. Now, I am not the world’s fastest tyre changer. In fact I wouldn’t get a look-in in a Formula 1 pit. Even that didn’t bother me as I thought I would eventually be on my way even as I saw Thunderthighs and Victoria Pendlelite go past.

My problem got worse when my bicycle pump failed and as I was on the phone to fetch help from the emergency mechanic a cyclist stopped to help. Unfortunately his pump failed as well but we were in luck as another cyclist stopped. With mounting embarrassment I had visions of the whole peloton stopping to help Siggins! Between us we eventually fixed the tyre and were glad to wave the emergency mechanic away who had also arrived.

Unfortunately, just a few hundred yards further on I had another puncture and hastily had to phone for the mechanic again who, luckily, was only a minute away and watched in amazement to see how professionals do it! The second puncture was caused by the same bit of flint embedded in the tyre that caused the first one, that three of us failed to spot during the first tyre change. Dean the very nice mechanic from Evans Cycles declared that my tyres were too old and beginning to crack. I am glad he was very polite as poor old Trekkie and me go back a long way and I know he can get hurt quite easily. He said that if I pump my tyres up to full pressure I would be very likely to get another puncture, so he recommended 80 instead of the normal 120.

For normal town commuting one can get away with lower tyre pressures but in sportives it can slow you down as much as 10 percent.

By the time I got to the half way stage I appeared to be the only cyclist on the road as most of the riders had sped past me. I was beginning to get a bit tired, the low tyre pressures were beginning to tell and the wind had picked up. Soon it was blowing a gale and at times it felt like cycling through treacle.

After a short break at a feed station, it was time to start counting down the miles. Then out of nowhere the road turned left and hit a wall of sheer climb. My heart sank as a sign warned an incline of 21% ahead. I have never encountered such steep climbing ever before. I manged to keep the cadence going, pedalling on and on propelled on by the thoughts of my Alpine challenge in September. I kept going by focusing on the people, friends and family who are supporting me and the cause of not just raising money for cancer research but my own fitness and weight loss.

The incline soon eased off and the final few miles were a tiring, back breaking, undulating ride back into Esher. The rain held off.

This week is going to be a normal training week with a lot more stretching and core strength exercises thrown in. On Sunday we have our first group ride with all the riders and support riders in Hope’s Italian Challenge taking part over a 45 mile route in the south part of Leicestershire, stating and finishing in Kibworth. Apart from an opportunity to meet everyone else it will be another good ride that will help to divide riders up in groups of 10 according to ability.  I will be happy to be in the slowest group!

At the start of the 70 mile sportive starting from Sandown Park, Esher heading off into the Surrey Hills and North Downs.

Thanks once again for reading thus far and for supporting me and sponsoring me. Sponsorship forms are available in Charnwood Pharmacy, Ryatt’s Optometrist and in the Black Swan. If you wish to make an online donation please click on: www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/Hopesitalianjob