Words by Liz Morrell
Liz Morrell, a road cycling newbie and mum of two, reveals her journey to Velothon Wales – and how real life getting in the way has meant nerves have kicked in with just a few weeks to go.
In April 2016 after dusting off a second-hand road bike that I had bought the year before and then hidden away in my shed, I decided I’d set myself a challenge and enter my first ever Velothon - Velothon Wales on Sunday, July 9th.
Velothon Wales is 140 km in length (yes, guys and girls I opted for the longer distance of the two options available because I thought I’d set myself yet another challenge) and with both The Tumble and Caerphilly Mountain (yes, mountain) to conquer includes a leg crunching 5,990 ft of climbing.
This will be my most challenging ride to date, my first ever closed road event and with the prospect of 15,000 riders speeding past me and a broom wagon which will sweep up competitors after seven and a half hours, it’s fair to say I’m quite frankly terrified.
Theory versus reality
In theory, my training should and could have been highly structured and I’d be in peak fitness with a total confidence that I will conquer the course with no problems.
I certainly asked for advice, downloaded all the training plans and had all the best of intentions. Only life as a single mum of two young children and a self-employed journalist who can’t turn work down even when she’s completely overloaded got in the way.
Suddenly there are three weeks to go and whilst I am the fittest I’ve ever been, have lost two stone simply through cycling alone in the past year and ride regularly, I still had to canvas my new found cycling friends this week to ask whether I should simply switch to the shorter 110km route to ensure I do actually stand a chance of finishing rather than being swept up in the broom wagon.
The (insert appropriate expletive here) said I should stick with the full Velothon Wales route. All 140km of it. “You’ll regret it if you don’t try," they said.
And so once again my newly found competitive streak (thank you, Strava!) means that subject to another last-minute crisis of confidence (of which I’m positive there will be many more in the next couple of weeks) I will be riding the 57-mile Great Weston Ride this year, a week after Velothon Wales as more of a 'recovery ride'.
How did I get here?
Be warned, all you newbie riders out there. It’s a slippery slope.
In July 2016, just a few months after getting back on the bike, I took part in the 57-mile Great Weston Ride. I remember that when it came to the morning of the Great Weston Ride, I didn’t sleep the night before; was almost sick trying to down porridge and bananas for breakfast; cried on the way to the start and wondered what on earth I’d signed up for.
Whilst I had joined a fantastic new local club, Thornbury Cycling Club, I hadn’t ridden more than 28 miles in a single training ride and had only ever tackled a handful of hills. Now you can understand the pre-event morning tears.
And yet, I did it! I’d like to say smashed it and though my time wasn’t the best I still think that I did smash it. I managed a ride almost twice as far as my longest ever ride and I did it alone.
I was on an absolute high when I finished.
Will Velothon Wales be the same?
So how will I be on July 9? This time I am definitely better prepared physically. I’ve ridden a number of sportives since last July, building up confidence, stamina, climbing and miles with the help of my cycling club. My most recent ride, The Black Rat sportive, included a similar amount of climbing and distance to that which I will tackle at Velothon Wales and was the toughest ride I have done to date.
Yet I did it – mostly by myself – achieving my best time and average speed to date for a sportive and because of that everyone is saying I will manage Velothon Wales too.
I have a flash new bike – one that will take me another 18 months to pay for, and my second since I finally heeded the warnings three weeks before the Great Weston Ride that the second-hand bike I had was too big for me.
But even that hasn’t been easy with my aforementioned flash bike returning four times to the shop with various problems. Today it’s being replaced – which means that once again, with three weeks before a big event I will be riding a new bike.
The new bike - coupled with sheer determination - worked last time and I’d like to think that my cycling club friends would have been honest if they really didn’t think I could manage Velothon Wales when I had my panic earlier this week. This weekend I will also ride my first 100 miles in a further attempt to prepare for Velothon Wales.
We’ll know for sure how I manage on Velothon Wales in just a few weeks. I’m more than likely to be in tears on the way to the start of the event once again but hopefully, if there are tears at the end they will be tears of achievement. We’ll have to wait and see what the outcome is. At least there’s one consolation – if I do make it, the Great Weston Ride will be easy in comparison. And who’d have thought I would be saying that this time last year!
Feeling inspired by Liz's journey to Velothon Wales? Registration is still open where you can sign up to ride either the 110km or the 140km route, both of which offer undulating and challenging closed-road courses with mechanical support and well-stocked feed stations throughout. For more information and to sign up, head over to the Velothon Wales website here.