Cycling is the main part of the triathlon, it’s the middle section and the longest – distance and time wise. It’s also my least favourite discipline of the sport. The triathlon club does long rides each Sunday, with three or four different routes, based on ability and during my first semester I did everything I could to get out of them. First, I didn’t have a bike, which was my best excuse because nobody at uni has a tandem. Then when I did get a bike, it was a bit on the large size for me, I couldn’t figure out the gears very well and was totally overwhelmed by the idea of going on a long (over 30km) ride on it. I’d never been on a bike for longer than an hour, never really ridden on roads, couldn’t signal, didn’t have cycling shorts, was mentally unprepared… I had all the excuses and didn’t get out for a club bike ride until February.
I’d just swapped bikes with another girl in the club and felt the size of the new bike (I call him Eddy) was better for me. Riding Eddy to meet the team at the Tennis Centre, he felt hard to ride, but just assumed since I had like 20 gears now, I was in the wrong one. So fiddled a bit and didn’t manage to work it out. I set off with the steady group and was immediately behind them, no matter which way I flicked the switches, I just couldn’t get Eddy in gear and felt so useless. Luckily, the group noticed I’d fallen behind and stopped to wait for me. Emma took one look and told me my chain wasn’t on properly so wouldn’t have got much further. She put it back on and we cycled for another 5 minutes when it became clear that I wouldn’t keep up as I didn’t know my way around the bike and wasn’t confident riding him either.
The ride that week was probably going to be over four hours long as the groups were stepping up training ahead of the Easter Mallorca training camp and poor Emma had the joy of telling me to ‘get on my bike’ as it were and go home. I was pretty devastated, so decided to stick to the static Watt bike training sessions until I improved.
Three months later and I’m glad to say today I did my second consecutive Sunday bike ride in the steady group. Last week, we did about 50km on country roads (and a little stretch on the A52) around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, this week we did 60km in about 2.5hrs, the route we did is below (in miles).
They’ve been tough, scary in places and physically challenging, but getting home, looking at the map and seeing how far I actually went is so rewarding. As always, with the UoN triathlon club, despite it being an individual sport, there is such a great team spirit. When cycling, we often pair up and cycle together, as girls do, we chat about uni, sport, summer, guys, chafing issues, the weather etc. As there are probably 100 more hazards on the road for a cyclist than a motorist, we work together to make sure things run smoothly – we shout out to each other directions, point out potholes, warn each other when there are cars or horses and if someone drops behind.
Now I’m regretting not going out on the rides before as it’s a much better way to improve my strength, stamina and bike confidence than watt bike sessions. Hopefully the miles I’ve racked up in the last couple of weeks will help me in my next two triathlons over the next two weekends. Watch this space to find out!