The 2011 Marie Curie Craigavon Cycle Trail, an organised organised 50Km or 80Km cycle around the Craigavon area in aid of the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity, took place on 21st May. Team Lard was represented once again.
Taking part this year were new guy Brian, and the old faithfuls Norwin and me. Nige and Phil had planned to be there but were called away on short notice. Graham didn’t fancy the weather and stayed in bed. Shame on him.
Ah yes, the weather. Let’s deal with that first. After last year’s scorcher, the Northern Ireland weather returned to form and presented us with a cold, wet and very windy day in May to cycle in. It wasn’t as wet as 2009, but there was definitely a dampness. A dampness that was being whipped into your face by the wind. Nice.
So it was in these conditions that the somewhat depleted Team Lard peleton set out from Oxford Island at around 9:30am and followed the now familiar course around the Craigavon area. I hadn’t prepared too well for this ride – my longest of the year so far – apart from the resting and eating parts, which I’d done a lot of, but after a few miles I’d warmed up nicely and ridden the stiffness out of my legs. We were in good spirits and making good progress up to the rest stop at Bleary Hall.
For the first time in this event an 80Km route was on offer as an alternative to the usual 50Km. We were were on the 80Km course, but the two were identical until almost the end of the 50Km so the one and only rest stop was geared for the 50Km folk and came about 25Km into the ride. This was a little early for us longer-distancers, but I guess tea and biscuits are always welcome no matter when they show up.
Not wishing to cool down too much we were soon on our way again. The miles passed quickly and uneventfully, though the weather did close in a little and that dampness became actual rain for a while.
We were soon at the split point of the two courses where signs and marshals separated the men from the boys. Grown up, sensible men went for the shorter course to get out of the rain, while the foolish boys headed off down an additional loop by the shores of Lough Neagh.
You know which group I was in, don’t you?
We missed a turn shortly after the split and stopped to consult the course map, before heading back the way we’d come and picking up the trail again. This was the only time we had any difficulty following the otherwise well-signposted course.
Roughly 35 miles in, with another 15 to go, and I was starting to feel it a little, and starting to watch the odometer on the Garmin. The cold was starting to penetrate and my legs were starting to feel stiff and sore. Serves me right for going out in shorts, I guess. And going for an on-the-drops 20mph+ hammer a few miles before. Foolish boy.
The roads down by the lough shore were quite rough, and the wind also stepped up its game, so I found this section a bit of a head-down, grit-your-teeth slog. I was still maintaining a decent pace I thought, trying to stay in touch with a faster cyclist who’d passed us shortly before.
With about 10 miles to go I went for an out of the seat effort to get up a short incline, but my cold old legs had had enough and refused. That hurt, and for the remainder of the course I was teetering on the edge of full cramps but managed to keep it going. The pace slowed. A small group came up behind us and generously allowed us to shelter them from the (now ferocious) headwind for a while, before making their break a few miles out from the finish. I think Brian might have had the legs for them, but not me, I was just trying to get on home at this point.
The finish line was a welcome sight, even if we’d missed the tea. No tea? How uncivilised. We did managed to nab a few sandwiches though.
80Km done at an average 14.2mph. I’m pretty happy with that given the conditions and how I’ve been feeling generally this year. I’ve missed a lot of training and this was actually the longest ride I’ve done so far in 2011, so all in all not bad I think.
On the Norwin Cycle Event Standard Scoring System, we passed 106 riders and were passed by 12. A lot of that 12 were the same guy who kept passing and dropping back though, so I’m not sure how much that counts. I also think passes on 50Km entrants should count for 1.4 points each, but that’s an argument for another day.
Once again, I have to praise Marie Curie for putting on a very well organised ride. The longer route was a welcome extra challenge and I hope they keep it on for next year. Big thanks also go to everyone who sponsored me for the ride.
Did you take part in the 2011 Marie Curie Craigavon Cycle Trail? Leave a comment and let me know how you got on!
Next up, the Bangor Coastal Challenge!