Ben Hardisty writes…
Another attempt at the Castle Ride was well timed as it coincided with me desperately needing some miles in the legs. On Thursday/Friday the weather forecast had looked awful, heavy rain followed by just rain. But on the day it was dry throughout and sunny for the last half of the ride. A miracle. And during the ride my milkbottle arms and legs changed colour from white/translucent to pink. Much joy.
I started slightly later than last year joining the Old Portlians train from the start line hoping to stay with them for a bit longer this year. I put in a few long stints on the front of the peleton on the gradual ascent towards the climb at Exedown, then suddenly an attack from a lone rider and the group couldn’t contain themselves surging past me, cutting me adrift (yes I know this is a sportive).
But further up the road I caught up with Old Ports’ Austen Reid who, still suffering from a cold, had waited for me at Ivy Hatch and we then cycled together until about mile 30 where Austen suffered from a tyre blow out. The tyre had come away from the beading, so he had to wait for a motor cycle mechanic to bring a spare. After a long chat, I continued back on my own, conscious of not letting my sponsors down.
Lunch at Headcorn (55 miles) was fab – lovely salads and cuts of meat, followed by cakes was much enjoyed by all. By now the sun was fully out and there was a mass picnic in full swing. Refreshed I headed on South for the bottom part of the route. I knew from experience that the last 25 miles had plenty of climbing so I rode to a nice rhythm while holding myself in check.
The previous year I had rode the third quarter of this ride (miles 55 to 75) way too hard and really paid for it in the last quarter where I rode myself to a standstill just to finish. This year I felt much better and was now surprisingly (to me) passing more riders than were passing me, which made me feel very positive. This kept me going nicely to the finish, although for the last 5 miles or so I was running on reserve.
To anyone thinking about riding this event, it is a good quiet interesting route, very well organised, good signage and feed stations. Well done the organisers.