On September 1st 2017, amateur cyclist and all round
horrible great boss, Gavin took part in the Garmin Ride Out cycle event, this year aiming to raise more money for Action Medical Research. The annual event brings together cycling enthusiasts, both amateur and professional, for a friendly spot of riding around 50 miles of picturesque New Forest track. Join Gav as he drops the hammer, attacks hills and aggressively over-takes ponies all in the aid of good will.
"Simplify then add lightness"
- Colin Chapman's philosophy on how to win races with his Lotus F1 team
I recently had the relatively simple task of completing the Garmin Ride Out, a 50-mile cycle event around the stunning New Forest in Hampshire and a great opportunity to practice Chapman's mantra.
For one, the event, an amateur cycle sportive includes a little added spice in the form of pro riders from the Garmin supported teams: Cannondale, Drapac and Madison Genesis, as well as various other pro riders who were using the event as a training ride, so the pace was likely to be above average. That took care of my bike choice, the lightest/fastest one I have. Moreover, I was using the train to reach the event supplemented by a 10-mile connecting ride at either end, so all my kit had to be carried. Being honest, it suited me, traveling light and independent is always preferable; all too often I have attended these events in my car packed with every possible variant of gear, which only adds confusion and inevitably remains unused.
The journey down didn’t get off to the best start. My ride from our office in Bury to Manchester resulted in a front wheel puncture, mercifully it was within walking distance of Piccadilly station and I was carrying a spare, so I replaced the tube onboard as we headed south towards the destination, Brockenhurst, which remarkedly required no changes. The ride down to the hotel reminded me that the New Forest is rolling rather than flat and also alerted me to the danger of the wild ponies that live in the forest but seem to prefer standing in the road.
At the hotel I met up with my ride partner, Dylan who determined that a couple of local ales were necessary to relax us ahead of the following day’s exercise. In the morning, fuelled by a full English it was time to head to the event. I punched the destination into my Garmin 800 and headed over. The sun had burnt off the early morning mist by the time I arrived at 9am, so it looked like I was going to get away with my minimal selection of kit.
"The hardware on display made my prized Specialized Tarmac Expert look ordinary"
The start time of 10.30 gave us time enjoy the atmosphere at this professionally run event. It was clearly a sportive for the more committed riders both physically as well as financially. The hardware on display made my prized Specialized Tarmac Expert look ordinary. In the main tent Dermot Murnaghan did an entertaining job of interviewing the pros who were going to be sharing the roads with us.
Cannondale’s Taylor Phinney, fresh from his Tour de France debut was on great form, although his request to support the crowdfunding page to keep the team solvent in 2018 underlined the precarious nature of running a pro team even at the World Tour level. At the time of writing they’d raised $564,000 from a target of $2m with only 14 hours left. Last onto the stage was Alex Dowsett who along with assuring us he was confident of winning the hour record again ‘when all the elements were ready’, did a fantastic job of promoting the main beneficiary of the event, Action Medical Research, a charity which supports research into diseases that affect children.
Following the raffle it was time to line up at the start. We were released onto the road in groups of 50, with the pro riders mixed amongst us. Alex Dowsett included himself in our group and I assured Dylan I was going to take it easy and enjoy the social aspect of the ride. After a steady start, Dowsett’s pace and the rolling terrain quickly split the group and we were caught on the wrong side of the break, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself for not paying more attention to the pace when another group of pro riders from Madison Genesis hurtled past. This time I wasn’t going to let them get away and despite my earlier commitment to taking it easy I put the hammer down and Dylan was unhitched.
It turned out the lead Madison rider was a fellow Lancastrian called Jonny McElvoy from St Helens who was both effortlessly able on his bike as well as gracious and enthusiastic with his support. I took my time on the front with a now a sizeable group huddled in behind avoiding the testing headwind. I eventually had to drop back to the middle of the group, which to my great satisfaction McElvoy admitted to at the same time.
I then had to hang in until the food stop at 25 miles, the breakfast was starting to wear off and I had only fitted a single bottle which I was emptying fast as the heat and wind took its effect. We finally reached Hale Community Hall where we were treated to tea, cakes and bananas but not before we’d removed our cycling shoes, which felt a bit like entering a sacred temple and seemed to have the effect of lowering the volume and keeping the mood friendly. Certainly the pros mingled with a refreshing lack of ego.
Dylan pitched up, cursing the comfort levels of his new aero (read stiff!) bike and after a drink and cake infusion we were off again, slightly ahead of the group I’d arrived with. Within a mile we were met by what appeared to be a wall of tarmac, this short but formidable climb caught out a few riders who were forced to complete it on foot. Thankfully we weren’t amongst them but my bike had developed a noisy chain rattle which I dismissed as a slight drivetrain misalignment and the raw mechanical nature of Sram Red.
Spotting some horses to photograph I pulled over and took some snaps. When we were ready to set off again I turned my bike round only for the rear wheel to fall from its dropouts, a quick tighten and the rattle was gone, I counted myself very lucky that the wheel hadn’t unhooked whilst I’d been riding it.
Having once again committed to a more leisurely pace, I unintentionally pulled out a lead on Dylan during another climb, then unable to locate him amongst the train of identical Garmin jerseys, I took the decision to complete the final 10 miles at my own speed. When another fast group of pros and wide eyed amateurs caught me I tucked in and completed the rest of the course at my limit. Never mind the advanced features of the Garmin cycle computers, I was using mine to count down the tenths of miles to go until we completed the distance. Even then the group added a sprint finish back up the driveway to the finish line, I of course obliged.
I collected my finishers medal from one of the fantastic Garmin stewards, grabbed some pasta and slumped under a tree from where I cheered Dylan over the line. However, my day’s cycling wasn’t over. I fitted my backpack and headed off in the direction of the Brockenhurst station whilst riders continued to stream in from the ride. Five hours later I was back in Stockport and the final leg home saw me total just over 70 miles, over the two locations.
It was a great day, incredible weather, inspiring company and amazing roads. I have returned a genuine advocate of the Chapman mantra, I could not have completed the distance at that speed without keeping it simple and adding my lightest bike.
My special thanks to Dylan from Dalesman for sacrificing pole position to ride with me and to all the Garmin team for organising such a fantastic event.