At 6.30 am on a chilly September morning, 14 ladies from Penge Cycle Club set out to attempt the Cycletta sportive event. The majority of riders were riding 40 Kilometres but 2 brave souls (Katie and Beverley) had signed up for the 80K.
Our bikes were being transported en masse, by the ever helpful Jonathan Burns and we rode down in an assortment of cars, with or without family. Despite a bad hip, Katie had offered to drive and endured the company of six of us in various states of bleary eyed conversation for the journey down.
The weather was still decidedly chilly by the time we arrived and teeth were chattering as we pinned our numbers on jerseys and shared out the energy bars made by Yvonne. Being nervous about the ride ahead was replaced with the need to move to keep warm!
Before long the Penge ladies were taking our place in the queue for the starting line. Our colourful jerseys (with matching manicures for some!) became the talk of the queue with one other rider remarking that we “must be posh to have got those”. I don’t think they knew south London very well!
At our request, we started as one group. To encouraging shouts of “Go Penge!” from our small but vocal supporters! We were quickly out of the racecourse and onto the lanes and B roads of Sussex. The ride description of “gentle inclines” was somewhat rose tinted, as we soon came across the first of several hills, designed to test our knowledge of correct gear usage and whether we had mastered the art of pedalling out of the seat, as Helen had shown us on more than one Sunday ride! Fortunately the preparation paid off and although the course was not easy, it was a challenge well met by all the Penge ladies.
Two well stocked feed stations, met our love for cake, and came with the added bonus of bike mechanics to tweak any soft brakes or slipping gears. Every junction was clearly sign posted with Marshalls on major routes to ensure that nobody got lost. We were also kept safe with emergency assistance riders on motorbikes, who patrolled the routes to ensure any roadside emergencies, were quickly dealt with.
The ride route, took us through the beautiful Sussex countryside, passing through farmland, and villages such as Barcombe and Wivlesfield, looping Newick wood and on to South Street and along the lanes of Streat (past Blackberry Woods Campsite for those who know the area!) Whilst on road, it was very safe and quiet, meeting very few cars and several horses!
With one especially steep hill towards the end (including a “Queen of the Hill” sign to say you had reached the top!) of the ride, The encouragement and cheers of the support crew and junction marshals were especially welcome as limbs tired, and the first signs for plumpton race course were soon in sight. Spurred on by the Great support of Jonathan and the Haile’s family cheers the finish line was crossed and medal awarded – I made it!!!!
Cycletta are Ladies only events, designed for beginners. In addition to the ride itself, you have access to training programmes online before the event and afterwards are treated to the delightful “pamper Zone” with sports massage, make up, nail bar and “helmet hair rescue!” With all that on offer, how could we girls resist? Many of us took full advantage of the massage for those sore backs and tense shoulders, whilst others had hair and make up to ensure they looked their best for the photos we took afterwards. Special mention to Loli who had her first nail bar session ever!
Who says sporting events can’t be fun?! Despite being tired at the end of the event, we all enjoyed the ride and are happy to have taken part.
What is particularly special about this event was that the ladies group had only begun a mere 14 weeks ago. Helen Hughes, organised a “Breeze” back to cycling ladies ride on 24th June and we managed an enjoyable 8 mile ride to Ladywell and back. A chance mention of Cycletta in a magazine article, led to the formation of a plan to sign up for Cycletta Brighton as part of a training plan to get us all back into cycling for fitness and fun.
Many of us were unsure if we could ride 10 or 20K, let alone 40! Now we are looking to our 80K (or more!) next year.
We still continue our Sunday rides for leisure and welcome anyone looking for a friendly club that welcomes returning riders of any level.
Take a look at the photos in the flickr set