There’s a cycling festival in Stafford every July, of which I’ve only been dimly aware in the past. The most noticeable event is a 1 hour race through the town centre, which requires the town centre to be fenced off with barriers. Up until now this has been my only cause to be aware that this is happening. Now that I can loosely be described as a ‘cyclist’ however, this has changed.
I looked up something or other to do with cycling in Stafford the other day and found the RideStaffs website. On it there’s a couple of sportives listed as part of the festival, one a fairly hefty (to my eyes) 68 miles, the other a much more manageable 22 miles. I can do 22 miles, I’m sure I can, but for some reason I’m hesitant. It’s a bit of a curious one.
It’s a lovely route, or at least I can say that half of it is. The middle half of it is on roads I’ve rarely if ever driven down, but the other bits that I do know are very familiar – I used to be taken to school along these roads every morning. It even goes straight past my old school, back in the days where life was simple and I wore short shorts with pockets stuffed with conkers. It also starts and finishes at Shugborough Hall, a very nice stately home in beautiful grounds owned by the Earl of Lichfield. All in all, what’s not to like?
I know literally zero about the culture of these events, so there’s a lot of unknowns. I’ve only ever riden on my own, discounting that one brief ride with my fiancé, so perhaps I just feel a bit weird about riding in a group of people I’ve never met before. It would also feel pretty strange driving to a place with my bicycle in order to ride it. I don’t think it’s feasible to ride to Shugborough and then cover 22 miles and then ride home, as the direct route involves a lane that I regard as practically suicidal, and the alternative route is pretty long.
Then there’s speed – 22 miles is a distance I’d currently have to strictly pace myself over, and I think it’d be a reasonable guess that I’d be averaging about 11-12mph. Would I be left for dust or is that normal on these events? Finally, hills. The course is fairly gentle overall but there are a couple of sections where the gradient touches 7%, and having checked, that hill that gives me such trouble every Friday is half that! Now I’m considering climbing hills twice as steep, as part of a ride ten times as long, on quite a heavy bicycle.
Maybe I just need to stop being such a wimp and take the plunge…