The Great Manchester Cycle took place today and I lined up in Sport City at about 7.30am with 1500 others ready to tackle the 52 mile ride. A little early drizzle had cleared and occasionally the sun shone, but it was quite windy and still only 9C. My training over the recent weeks had consisted mainly of commuting, a 27 mile round trip 3 or 4 days a week on my Brompton. In a back to basics style that training was simple, riding more than normal and sometimes riding harder (especially on the way home).
After a long wait near the start line I took off my rain jacket with 30 seconds to go, stuffed it in my jersey pocket, and was ready to go. The start itself was fairly steady and it took a while, with so many riders of differing abilities and experience, for groups to form and settle into a pace.
I had planned a steady start and hopefully a nice steady group at 20mph or so. Turning towards the Mancunian Way with a fairly strong following wind the noise of tyres and the buzz of riding fairly quickly in a bunch were too tempting and I found myself clipping along between 25 and 28mph. Through Salford Keys the route got narrow and had 'interesting' features including bollards and posts in the middle of the narrowing paths. This first time through everyone slowed down and we came through unscathed with a group of about 10 as we headed past Manchester United's stadium and towards the city centre.
Heading back to Sport City the wind was in our faces and the group constantly changed as we caught up with riders who had started a bit more quickly and dropped others. Back in to Sport City and the course became a little more technical with a few nice tight turns. Riding my old road bike in such circumstances brought back memories and the bike itself handles such corners, and sprinting out of them, as well as it used to.
Perhaps I was a bit over-enthusiastic but I was having fun and kept moving up, group to group, and stayed with riders younger and fitter than I am.
There's usually a price to pay for such behaviour and for me it came in the shape of cramp sprinting out of the corners at Old Trafford on the fourth and last lap. First a twinge in my quads and soon afterwards in my hamstrings at which point with 5 miles to go it was time to back off a little and stretch the muscles. I watched the group disappear up the road all the time shedding riders in ones and twos as the headwind took its toll.
For me it was a good morning finishing 186th out of about 1500 riders and well ahead of my planned time.
For thousands of others it was a good day too, the keen sporting cyclists, the triathletes, the families and those riding for a cause. It was amazing to see thousands of cyclists enjoying the day and their own personal achievements. Around the finish are you'd have struggles to find anyone without a smile.
Here's hoping this will run again next year.