Our weekend Woking RideIt! had a few special guests, as Elite time trial rider and reigning National 100 mile champion Rebecca Slack came along with her family to test the ride. Here’s her review…
I entered the Woking RideIt! MTB event as a virgin of organised rides. The idea of paying £15 to ride my bike over public roads and paths wasn’t just alien to me, it felt rather like daylight robbery. While I’m happy to cough up an entry fee for a road race or time trial, I do so with an expectation that I might magically morph into Marianne Vos half way round and return home with a multiple of that entry fee in prize money and possibly some silverware too. The kids though were more open-minded about the event and seemed delighted at the prospect of spending time riding with Mummy and Daddy – in part because they’ve had a bit of a misspent youth watching us racing our bikes most weekends.
So there were some mixed and heightened emotions as we rocked up at the event HQ in Cobham on Saturday morning. Parking was plentiful, marshalls abundant and most importantly there were refreshments on offer too. There was also a big yellow thing shining in the sky although it was proving ineffective at raising the air temperature.
We’d pre-entered on-line which was easy so it was just a case of signing on, collecting a chip to stick on our helmets and getting the route map.
Given that kids ride free in these events and the short course ride was a manageable (or not…) 16 miles, I was surprised that the HQ wasn’t alive with happy families. But for a couple of keen young lads and their dads though, there was a sad shortfall of youthfulness. I was pleasantly surprised to be handed 5 boxes of High-5 nutrition products at sign on – one for all of us, kids included. The accountant in me couldn’t help totting up the value of the freebies and realising that it equated to roughly the same as our entry fee. I celebrated our good fortune with a much needed cup of coffee as we helmeted up and listened to a quick briefing while queuing at the start.
The first couple of miles of the ride were nervy as we were directed down the A3056, a busy and narrow A road. The kids were scared by the fast moving traffic and hopped on to the pavement where they could. Once off road, my heart rate and stress levels halved but with the traffic noise disappearing, I heard the first of many vocal appeals for food from the kids. It was clear that in the cold wind, they weren’t going to do many miles to the gallon and we were forced to have the first of many impromptu picnics by the side of the track. It was lucky that I’d packed enough food to feed a small army with an array of sandwiches, crisps, chocolates and drinks in my backpack and we were carrying some High 5 goodies too. I’d also packed my piece de resistance which became an invaluable carrot to the kids later in the ride – a quarter pound of Gummy Bears.
It was at the first of these many picnic stops that I noticed what a friendly bunch of fellow riders there were in the event. Everyone who passed us exchanged a jovial “hello” and smile although a couple raised eyebrows that my son and I were attempting the ride on cyclo-cross bikes.
With sugar levels replenished, we set off again past Fairoaks Airport to Stonehill and Longcross, stopping every mile or two to replenish the kids’ sugar levels. Around 6 miles in, it became apparent that my daughter (aged 9) was not in the same enthusiastic frame of mind as her brothers – she had mentally hit the wall. A quick perusal of the map showed there was an opportunity to “cut the corner” with her and reduce the route by a few miles, so we decided the boys would carry on and ride the full 16 mile route with daddy while Lucinda and I would stay south of the M3 and rejoin the planned route at Clearmount.
The plan seemed perfect on paper. What could go wrong when a mother and daughter set off with a map and a plan to travel cross country to meet up with the original route? Quite a lot it turns out. For whatever reason, I was convinced in my mind that when we hit the road we had to turn left and then would pedal easily back into Cobham. I think the presence of some other cyclists on the lane in question lulled me into a false sense of security so we dutifully followed the riders ahead without seeing the big yellow arrow signs pointing in the opposite direction. Being a sensible mother, I’d carefully planned the contents of my rucksack before the ride and was carrying a first aid kit, plenty of puncture patches and a couple of spare tubes. But being an absent minded mother too, I’d overlooked the need to pack a pump. But I wouldn’t need it would I? So Lucinda start to bumble along at a record 10mph up a lane in the wrong direction when I notice my wheel isn’t spinning truly. A quick inspection revealed the tyre was coming off the rim – the tube needed to be deflated and the tyre put back on. Easy to do if you have a pump but we were in the depths of the Surrey countryside without one. Thankfully it wasn’t long before a couple of roadies came to our rescue and they were delighted to be rewarded for their good Samaritan work with some of my freebie High 5 nutrition gels. We rode up to the next junction with renewed vigour, but were alarmed to discover that there were no direction signs for us to follow. We were lost. Our good Samaritans came to the rescue again and agreed to escort us back along quiet lanes via Stanners Hill and Emmetts Mill back to HQ.
As we crossed the line a lady with apparent psychic powers said “well done Lucinda and Rebecca – that took you 3 hours and 40 minutes”. I admitted sheepishly that we hadn’t actually stuck to the planned route and learnt we’d have to go down as DNFs. We were crestfallen.
Meanwhile the boys were fast becoming men out on the course with daddy. Ed, aged 6, was doing the ride of his short life (helped by the odd push…), and but for an unplanned lie down in a prickly gorse bush at the side of a gravel track, had no problems coping with some of the more technical parts of the course. They all loved the variety of terrain on offer, with a bit of single track, some boggy areas, the odd gradient, interspersed with some easier flat, twisty gravel tracks. They arrived at the finish looking deservedly triumphant but there was no time for celebration. They’d spotted the zip wire in the car park so dashed off to do what young boys do best….
Overall we were really impressed by the event, and our enthusiasm was shared by the fellow competitors we chatted to in the car park. The fact that we got lost was due to our incompetence rather than a lack of signage. And the speed with which some other riders passed us proved that this is an event that caters for riders of all calibres – and of all shapes, sizes and ages too. The only disappointment of the day from my perspective was the lack of families. We had a great day out for the princely sum of £30. With hindsight that was excellent value.
Elite time trial rider and reigning National 100 mile time trial champion
If you’ve been inspired to have a go, check out our upcoming events here. Everyone at Evans wishes Rebecca all the very best for the 2013 National 100 championships in July…