Big Italian Bike Ride 2015
The second incarnation of the BIBR, a personal distance challenge event was held almost a year from the Giro D’Italia big start in Belfast. Our man Andy planned to top 150 miles in a day by cycling to and from the Start/Finish in Belfast, and here’s how it unfolded for him:
Its 6am, I’m standing looking out over the back garden as the wind and rain is battering the back of the house with one thought on my mind – “150 miles… in that… what am I doing?!”
There was no escaping that this was going to be one wet day in the saddle, but it was also a perfect opportunity to smash my longest distance ride to date – 120 miles. Having done a fair amount of century rides in the early Spring, surely this would be easy, right?
We set off after 6:30am and headed straight for the starting point at the Odyssey at a nice gentle pace, still, surprisingly pleasant given the conditions. We arrived a bit early, so there was time for a quick coffee while the buzz started to kick in as more and more riders appeared. That buzz was soon dampened by the word on the street that the event was at risk of being cancelled due to the weather conditions, though soon ruled out and riders were ordered to the starting line.
We rolled out as one big group which naturally broke into smaller groups, allowing everyone to settle into a group that was comfortable for their ability. We were soon heading out of Belfast and greeted with our first ‘uppy bit’ as we climbed up the Ballygowan Road towards Roselawn Cemetery – no issues there. I caught up with one of the leading groups that were rolling along nicely, and in no time it was the first feed station not far from the foot of the climb of the day – Dree Hill. With 40 miles done so far, it was time for a quick energy bar and head off for a trip over Slieve Croob. The mist that came down over the mountain was incredible, visibility down to a handful of feet, which im sure some Dree Hill ‘virgins’ didn’t appreciate as the ‘hill’ started to kick to above 15% – “When is this going to end?” It was soon over and time to get a well earned breather at the top.
Back on the saddle and off to complete the majority of the remaining climbing through Castlewellan, Rathfriland and Hill Town in a two man group consisting of Drew and myself. It was not going to be easy to finish strong with just the two of us, so it wasn’t long before we caught some other pair and solo riders and formed a respectable group of about 8. The miles kept coming – 80 miles clocked up by around 11am and everyone still going strong. Having missed out a feed station, I was soon looking forward to the next one – Clough…well… so Mr Murray thought… With the tank running low we entered Clough hoping to be greeted by more Jaffa Cakes, bananas and energy drinks, but due to Drew’s misled hearing of the word ‘Killough’ we were still some 12-15 miles from the next feed station – thankfully a kind marshall offered some Jelly Babies and water to keep us going.
The Ardglass – Strangford coast road was next – possibly the worst road in the County but at least now we had some decent, warm weather on our side to help keep up the moral. The group kept trucking along and soon we were Belfast bound as the pace picked up, even after over 100 miles, the average speed on the Garmin just kept climbing and finally leveled out just over 18.5mph – a respectable average for that sort of distance. As we closed in on the outer city my current distance record of 120 miles was cracked and I was feeling good, I felt like I could keep going for another 50 miles at least.
We finally hit the last straight home along Sydenham Road and veered off into the finishing area to be greeted at with some delicious, hot, Minestrone soup, bread roll and some refreshing alkoholfrei Erdinger beer. It was nice to regroup with other Killinchy riders at the end, to all share their experiences, everyone showing great sense of pride and achievement – all looking forward to the next big event.
It was the next 15 miles home that was going to be the toughest, with legs stiffening up, an increasingly strong headwind and 135 miles already clocked up, this wasn’t going to be pleasant. We kept at a nice steady pace though as I neared home, my company quickly reminded that a detour was in order if I was to hit the 150 mile target. With a slight detour around the outskirts of the village, the Garmin was reading 149 miles as I neared my street – “Surely I won’t have to do laps of my cul-de-sac?”, then there it turned… 150… what a sense of achievement, it was a tough day in the saddle, no doubt about it, but the hardest part was stepping over the door in the morning, and I’m only glad I did! Well done to everyone who took part, on a tough day in the saddle for all.