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JUNE 2ND 2017
When I arrived at Silverstone, the temperature was 26 degrees and I had a nervous excitement in my belly for the travail ahead. I was about to complete as many full laps as possible around the famous F1 circuit in a 3-hour period to raise money for the charity "Meeting Needs".
My training had been far from spectacular. I had undertaken two training rides, the longest being 30km, following 20 years of non-biking - apart from the odd ten-minute hop on a Boris bike. I had been advised by Richard Waddington, my team captain, that if I could do 25 kmph I should be fine and although my training rides weren’t a doddle, they suggested I would be capable. A speedy bike was borrowed from a good friend and I purchased new lycra to ensure I looked a proper “Mamil” for the event.
The Silverstone team warmly greeted me and showed me around the exceptional track racing facilities. A pit garage door was open, revealing the pristine white space where the F1 teams set-up. The room was largely bare, bar two glistening Silverstone-liveried Ferraris and some serious road bikes. It was becoming increasingly obvious that I was in the company of many dedicated, and some mildly obsessed, cyclists.
Silverstone’s hospitality continued upstairs where we were provided with a great selection of hot and cold snacks. It was a pleasure to meet up with my team and competitors here.
Following a trip to the lecture theatre for safety instructions, it was time to prepare for the race. Lycra-clad with creams applied, water bottles charged and back pockets stocked with jelly babies, it was time to mount our trusted steeds and make our way to the track. Chris, Chris, Paul and Richard and I were ready as a team of five to go out and perform.
With the obligatory team photo opportunities taken, we all cruised out of the pit land to the official F1 start line. We lined up in our teams the countdown to start was done and off as a group we shot.
I say as a group, however, within the first ten turns of the wheels, it became obvious that the rest of my team’s fitness and biking ability was far beyond mine. I tried to stay with them for the first mile or so but the pace was beyond me. They were great team players and helped me, but I knew I had to let them go.
With my mini-peloton gone, I was now going it alone for the remaining 2 hours 55 minutes. I would love to say that the time flew by and the challenge was nothing but fun, but realistically, going 7 times around a 6.6. mile circuit was as much a hard mental challenge as a physical one.
Jelly baby intake was spaced out to provide carrots to finishing a lap, or section of track, and though it was punishing to see other teams’ pelotons flying round the track in the opposite direction to me, the few seconds of human interaction relieved the monotony.
Just as I reached my lowest ebb, I passed through the pit lane for the 6th time to be told the 7th lap would be my last. I felt elated as I realised that the end was near and I was going to actually complete the challenge of riding three hours straight at a reasonable speed.
I started the lap with a smile on my face and as another team, snazzily all dressed in different hues of red lycra, came past me. I found enough juice in my legs to join the end of their peloton and stay with them for most of the final lap. With the finish line and chequered flag ahead I did the obligatory Tour De France stage winner emulation of sitting up with arms in the air as I crossed the line a relieved man.
I finished to a friendly camaraderie applause and I waited for my team, who already had lapped me to finish their final lap. I would like to say the ending was a gracious and uplifting experience, however, a fist-bump from Nick Grecian as he finished the race and me not having my left foot of its calipers meant I completely lost balance and found myself flat on the track.
With only a slight knock to my pride, rather than my body it was time still to enjoy the much needed, excellent hospitality provided by Silverstone and overall friendly banter between the teams.
Overall I covered over 74kms in just under 3 hours at my expected 25kmph. Many of the cyclists managed over 94kms and I can't stress how impressed I was by the fitness levels and professionalism of all the teams who took part.
It was a truly fantastic event seamlessly organised at a stunning location and I am sure it will be an even bigger and more competitive event next year.
I'd like to offer a huge thank you to Richard Waddington for inviting me to take part and to Chris Foy, Chris McQue and Paul Southern for being encouraging teammates. Simon Burton at Exposure deserves a special thank you for putting the event together with Chris and all his team at Silverstone for hosting, Splento for all the great photos and lastly, thank you to Jenny Jenkins and all the team at Meeting Needs. I was delighted to represent and raise funds for their important work.
And to finish a few of my take-aways:
• Don’t underestimate the fitness of a 55 year old mamil or mafil!
• Silverstone is an amazing venue with a wonderfully friendly and passionate team
• Meeting Needs is a fantastic charity with some exceptional ambassadors
• You only ever get out what you put in: the training and dedication of others to cycling showed what can be done
• It’s good to take yourself out of your comfort zone as often as you can
• The end result is definitely worth the pain before
• We work in a really friendly and caring industry
• It doesn’t hurt afterwards - until you try going upstairs
Photos from the day: