Cyclosport.org REVIEW: Evans Ride It! Milton Keynes
by Adam Tranter
In January we teamed up withÂ Evans CyclesÂ to run a competition to find the Evans Super Sportiver to take part in a variety of Sportive events throughout the year and write blog reviews of the events.Â The prize was the loan of a Jamis Xenith Pro 2011 Road Bike worth £2,299, plus kit, petrol and event entry costs paid for the year.
The lucky winner was 32 year old South Londoner James Berresford, and here he brings us his first reportÂ as the 2011 Evans Super Sportiver.
The HQ featured toilets, food and drink for sale, Gore Bike Wear and bikes for loan during the ride, and an array of shiny cycling bits to purchase or peruse. There was no time for any of that for me though as one of the last groups to depart we took our place at the start. We each gave our timer number to Dean on the line and after a short ride briefing we were off.
Pulling away from the start my heart initially sank as, like turning on a tap, the heavens opened and we immediately pedalled on to the kind of fast, roundabout strewn roads that Milton Keynes is infamous for. My disappointment was very short lived however as the main roads fell away within minutes and, shortly afterwards, so did the rain.
I'd travelled up with my mate Henry who will be joining me for this year's Etape and hopefully quite a few sportives through the season. This being his first proper ride of the year he (sensibly) opted for the 60 mile route and taking it nice and easy. Thinking I should have the legs, given I'd already put in a couple of 100k runs, I began to pull away quite early. I felt pretty fresh and as it was my first real ride of the new Super Sportiver loan bike, I was enjoying putting it through its paces.
My previous Cannondale Caad9 was no slouch but it was soon clear the Jamis Xenith Pro was a few notches louder. The stiffness of the full carbon frame meant that even when pushing fully out of the saddle there was no twist and felt really responsive. The double tap system of the SRAM force took a little getting used to, I found myself jabbing at the brake a few times when reaching for a lower gear but I soon settled and found I could easily shift up with my little finger while covering the brakes from the hoods - a real boon when bombing down country lanes, of which there were many.
The route at first took me through some sparsely wood lined lanes then opened up into beautiful, open arable land where you could see the road snake off to the horizon.
Leaving the stop, the long route split off pushing down into Little Gaddesden, eventually entering some very narrow high hedged lanes, fortunately with not a car in sight as there was little room for manoeuvre.
I pedalled up over the Ivinghoe Hills where the road at first climbed towards the beacon before giving way to a beautiful vista of the Chilterns - a real ride highlight for me - especially as after crossing the main road it then broke into a long, fast downhill.
Beginning to tire I was fortunate to tag onto a group to share the load a little until we reached Woburn Abbey. At this point we were passed by a second group headed by a guy in Navy Cycling kit. I wondered how you got on with cycling in the Navy, but never got to ask as he was pushing a hell of a pace. My recently acquired peloton were obviously fresher than me and dug in to match him and I began to fall off the back. Crossing the cattle grid exiting the grounds was the final straw as I suddenly experienced that dreaded feeling of my back rim against the road.
This needn't have been a disaster but I managed to make a real hash of the repair wasting my two CO2 canisters on a badly adhered patch and a dodgy valve, snapping a tyre lever and, after many kind offers of help from the many passing riders and expletives from myself (unrelated I might add), I eventually pedalled away on a soft back tyre.
This is the point I really began to fatigue, a combination of the step-up in distance from any recent rides and the psychological drag of knowing I was sat right at the back took its toll and it was a struggle over the last section. A real shame as the scenery kept delivering and even the clouds began to clear. I dug deep and pushed on barely seeing anyone on the final section and began to worry that everyone would have gone home. The 10 and 5k markers seemed much farther apart and I eventually limped over the line in what must have been over six hours. Not the most super start to my super sportiving.
I was grateful to tuck into some warm pasta and a coffee with Henry who had been back at HQ with his feet up for a couple of hours by all accounts. After washing my bike with the hose provided - a really nice touch when you live in a first floor flat like myself - we turned our bikes homewards, me with my expensive carbon tail between my legs.
Start early. It's much easier to find others of a similar ability and people to share the ride with, after all that's a lot of what Sportiving is about for me. It also takes a fair bit of shine off knowing you're up against the clock to get finished all the time.
In my rush to set off I didn't reset my cycle computer, riding without knowing how far I'd come or had left made it very difficult to judge when I could and couldn't push.
I am so far off "Etape ready" it's frightening. I knew this but this ride was a big reminder. Although it didn't feel it, I'm hoping it's a move in the right direction. Stepping up in distance has got to be a good thing no matter how much it didn't feel like it at the time.
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