Sunday 17 July 2016

The Suffolk Spinner (C#22)
Sunday 17 July, 101 Miles

Today was another of those Sportives I’ve written about before. This one, The Suffolk Spinner, was more local to me and covered many of the roads that I regularly ride on. But starting from a different place (Otley College east of Ipswich) meant that the character of the ride was rather different. The event is one of the Cycling Weekly Series – I rode the inaugural one last year and quite enjoyed it. I’m feeling a tad lazy at the moment (you can find out why below) so here’s what the organisers had to say about it in their marketing blurb.

“The Cycling Weekly Suffolk Spinner proved successful in its first outing last year, so it’s back by popular demand. Exploring historic Suffolk by bike will be a pull for repeat visitors, and for newcomers to the sportive who want to experience the county’s rolling rural roads and short and punchy climbs. The tour through the series of scenic villages and swooping, free-flowing roads starts in Otley, before you head out in the direction of the coastal heaths on a long anti-clockwise loop through the region, passing through Wickham Market and soon reaching the quaint village of Orford and banks of the River Ore.

From then on, you’ll head north towards Saxmundham, not before taking a minute to stock up on energy drinks and foods at the first feed stop around the small village of Snape. Continuing to dart around the unspoilt Suffolk country lanes, you’ll pass over the enchanting old bridge at Snape Maltings, towards Dunwich, and from here you’ll notice the course straighten up as it takes to a series of Roman roads. Watch out for roaming peacocks as you head towards the old market town of Framlingham and back out onto the straight roads, which make up most of the rest of the course. With no major climbs to slow you, these long straights make for easy miles to tick off as you can go hard on the way back to ride HQ, where there will be a finisher’s medal and cheer waiting for you.”

A fairly accurate description in my view but I didn’t spot any roaming peacocks. Plenty of other enjoyable eye candy though. I managed to get in a small group with about ten other riders and we shared the work pretty well which meant we were able to maintain a good speed – even when riding into the moderate headwind.

There's a real buzz about riding in a group which shares the work. What we do is called ‘through and off or chain ganging’. Basically we ride in a line and each rider takes it in turn to ride on the front. When you’ve done your turn you pull out to the side and ease down to the back of the group re-joining the line at the end. As the lead rider pulls off the second rider ups the pace ever so slightly. In this way the group as a whole maintains a higher average speed. But the trick is for the front rider to avoid any temptation to speed up too much and blow others off the back. The riders in the line benefit from shelter and slipstreaming which can reduce the effort they need to keep pace by up to 20%. Great concentration is needed as you ride a mere few inches from the wheel in front of you. Get it right and there’s a real sense of flow and smoothness. Get it wrong and you are likely to hit the rider in front of you causing an almighty pile up. IF anyone’s interested in seeing how it’s done there’s a good video on the Interweb here.

Well, what we did today must have worked because I posted my fastest century time of the year so far – 5:21 for the 101 miles at an average speed of 18.9mph. That’s actual riding time i.e. excluding a stop at the feed station. There were actually three feed stations on the rout but we were making such good progress that we didn’t bother stopping at the first or the last. The elapsed time, i.e. including stops, should appear shortly when the organisers have collated the timing data. So, that's why I'm feeling a tad lazy. Recover time!

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