I completed my first ever charity bike ride this weekend. The “Ride on Nelly” Tour de Test Valley sportive has 25, 50 and 100 mile distances to choose from and is based in Grateley, near Andover, Hampshire which is just up the road from me. This is the second year and it was supported by over 800 riders – they raised in excess of £60K last year which all went to their charity CALM which is set up to prevent male suicide which is sadly the biggest single cause of death in men aged 20-49 in the UK. The ride is in the memory of Nelson Pratt, a pro-snowboarder and keen cyclist, who tragically died in June 2012 and is organised by his family and a gang of volunteers.
What a fantastic event it was. Known as the “friendly sportive” this was not a competitive race but a friendly cycle through the beautiful Hampshire countryside. So it was a perfect way to try out cycling with other people – having only ever been out with one other person on my bike before and more often than not cycling on my own early on a weekend morning. Although it was on “open roads” most were quiet country lanes and there was only the odd main road to cross which tested my ability to clip in and out of the pedals!
We’d had horrendous rain for two days prior to the ride which made the road conditions quite bad, particularly the first half with lots of mud and gravel patches that had been washed into the road. There were many punctures each one I met was greeted with a friendly “you alright mate” offer of help to which there was a thumbs up or a “I’m OK mate” as riders were getting on with fixing their bikes. Quite a few people were in pairs or groups so had help at hand should a puncture happen. I succumbed at the 30 mile point and pulled over to fix my bike. Fortunately it was only a 100 yards from the food station so I took advantage of the track pump to get my tyre back up to the maximum pressure. The weather on the day was murky although dry with no wind so conditions although a bit damp weren’t too bad.
I’d chosen the 50 mile route which is further than I’ve ever cycled in one go so I was a bit nervous at the start but soon got into it which was helped by the very friendly nature of the event and fellow cyclists. The food station was very welcome indeed with fantastic chocolate brownies and a cup of tea. And it was great to turn into the last 100 metres with a few spectators clapping and cheering me home!
There was a hot meal for every rider at the end – I choose a lovely veggie curry – together with a goodie bag. A chap I’d been cycling with during the first part of the ride bought me a pint of cider from the beer tent so all was good. As we left the band was playing and it looked like quite a few people were settled in for a well earned party. We were off to friends for a much needed roast dinner and I will definitely be back next year!!