To some, 2013 was best described as the summer of cycling. As Yorkshire secured the 2014 Grand Depart, Froome took a consecutive British win at the Tour de France and let's face it, the weather wasn't actually that bad. But what about the winter of cycling? At Ellis Brigham, we have some pretty keen cyclists in our ranks, from mountain bikers, to tourers, to racers. Steve from our Kensington store and Nat from our Mountain Equipment store took up the Strava Festive 500 Challenge to push their winter training to the next level. Here's how they faired...
The Rapha Festive 500 - Cycle 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve
"Whilst most people tend to spend the Christmas period stuffing themselves with minced pies and leftover turkey, maybe receiving a bike or new jersey that they will have to try and squeeze into come spring, a select few were enduring a different festive period. A winter challenge was underway... The Rapha Festive 500. As a lover of cycling what better gift is there than forcing your legs through 500km of the finest wintery weather the UK can throw at you?
"Sure, it's not a shiny new bike or that set of gloves you were after, but it's that feeling of superiority when you cruise past that guy struggling up that hill, knowing you're faster and stronger, knowing that your winter training has paid off. Doesn't sound too bad does it? Starting the spring months with a step up on training, avoiding that bloated feeling on Christmas Day afternoon, the hangovers, the inevitable weight gain. Challenge accepted.
"This was a bold decision on our part - maybe naivety - but as with any challenge of this nature, sheer pig-headedness and the fear of being the first to admit 'this is a bad idea' conspire to multiply the suffering you are about to endure.
"The first ride began at 8am on Christmas Eve. We set off with excitement and anticipation for the day's ride, but all hopes of a nice calm cruise round the Pennines were shattered when the rain came. Ice-cold droplets soaking you through, the wind ripping through your soaked layers, freezing you to the bone; and that was before we'd reached the foot of the fearsome Snake's Pass in Glossop. Great. Temporary shelter was found in a bus stop, a hopped up pit-bull in the adjacent garden jumping at the fence desperate to take a bite out of two vulnerable cyclists.
"The rain turned to sleet, then light snow as we crested the hill, the wind fighting to knock you off your bicycle. This was the point where both of us were desperate to turn back, but out of fear of being the weaker rider, the silence of suffering was maintained; a quick, stoic nod was all it took to push on into Yorkshire. What ensued was a twenty mile detour up Derwent valley due to the male inability to ask for directions and a further 6 hour beating from the wind. Needless to say morale was pretty low after this 120km slog.
"The rest of the challenge followed suit. Horrible weather with recorded winds of 70mph in the North West and we still had a further 380km to ride. The end wasn't anywhere in sight and did nothing for our morale. Jealousy of our friends and family set in - the thought of just wallowing with various chocloate selection boxes and classic films on TV was very tempting. Kilometre after kilometre, pedal stroke after pedal stroke - it was just relentless, continuous, monotonous. Mother Nature did her best to ensure failure. We refusing to wilt and the kilometres passed, eventually only leaving only 150km with 3 days to complete it. Finally, we were on the home stretch. It was the boost we needed. The last two rides were a breeze, a cruise to glory.