I have not been doing very well (at all) on a post per day for November – mainly because I spent most of last few weeks either in Korea (starting off - via Seoul - on Geoje Island (a very pretty little Island off the South coast of Korea where the blue skies perfectly complemented the autumnal golds and dark browns of the forests covering much of the upper part of the island) and then back to Seoul for a few days where we had a dust pollution warning and much rain, and then recovering from my trip. In the course of my travels I managed to pick up a cold/cough so have spent last week feeling a bit sorry for myself whilst wrangling the kids (E. has been visiting in the UK after her Brother’s recent visit and is due back on Saturday) and travelling down to AD. That is of course no excuse as I can still type so I thought that I would say a little more about a subject I touched on at this time last year – the Dubai 92km cycle challenge. This is timely as in advance of the 85km build up ride tomorrow I have been stepping up my training with a trip to the Cycle track at Meydan with some work colleagues and then yesterday down to the Autodrome for the Wednesday evening cycle session with V. and Granddad (who has been in town for the Golf and of course the Rugby 7s in a week or so).
This time last year I was still in the horns of a dilemma as to whether to try for the 92km ride or the shorter 53km ride. I had signed up for it at the end of the Summer and my training was going reasonably well insofar as I was able to get down most mornings to the new highway near our Villa which was still under construction and was therefore able to put in some time building up stamina while dodging the bulldozers etc.! Whilst I was absolutely sure that I could complete the course I was very concerned that I would not be able to do it in the allocated time – the ride encompasses highways around Motor City, the Greens and Dubai Marina all of which would be closed to regular traffic – but only for around 3 ½ - 4 hours so there was a requirement that participants must be able to complete the course at an average speed of 26kmph. On my training rides I was averaging at best around 21/22kmph so it was a real concern that the roads would be re-opened (and I would be forced into the pick-up truck rounding up stragglers) before I was finished. I eventually decided to address this in part by getting a road bike (I was practicing on my trusty Mountain bike which has many attributes but speed is not one of them) – in part this was a bit of a spur of the moment decision when I was in the local sports store during last year’s November sales when I realised that when it said there was 30% of everything they were not kidding and so was able to pick up a B’twin Triban 540 road bike with all the bells and whistles at a very reasonable price. So know I had (nearly )all the gear but still no idea!
The road bike has not let me down although given my complete lack of mechanical knowledge our early relationship had a shaky start when I could not work out how to blow up the tyres!! I had bought a fancy pump and had (as is my wont) watched a number of Youtube videos on how to use it. However, what the training video neglected to mention (presumably on the basis that it was obvious to anybody with a degree of commonsense…) was that the Presta valves (there are two types the other being Schrader which is the type you commonly see on cars and children’s bikes) on my bike had a little screw which needed to be adjusted to open and close the valve to allow air in. I had no idea that there was such a valve and so the first time I tried to pump up the tyre I managed to explode it! This of course meant reverting back to my Mountain bike for training and another trip to the shop (with my new bike) where the disbelieving salesmen sold me a new set of inner tyres and showed me how to pump them up properly. Even then, when I was driving back home (with my Father who had accompanied me and was enjoying a good laugh) the tyre burst as the bike was lying in the back of the car – still not sure why but at that stage I thought the Gods were against me as it required yet a further return to the shop (this time by the long-suffering E. ) to get the thing fixed.
Anyway, we eventually worked out how to put air into the tyres and my preparations continued now using the road bike although I was still struggling to get close to the 25kmph average required for the 92km ride. In the event, what I had not factored in was the effect of riding with other cyclists and in particular, the increase in speed if you are in the peloton and able to attach yourself to someone’s back wheel – “drafting” – this reduces the energy you need to expend (as you are shielded from wind resistance and turbulence by the cyclist in front of you) and increases your speed as you are drawn along by the group. So having decided – literally right at the start line when I still had the option to do the shorter ride - to go for the longer distance and see how I progressed - I was able to complete the 92km in a respectable 3 hours 10 minutes – far quicker than I could possibly have imagined and certainly one of the best sporting experiences I have encountered.
The ride itself was not straightforward – particularly the 6am start at the Autodrome at Motor City where much of the opening lap was in the near dark and all I could hear was the buzz and hiss of the more experienced riders rocketing past me. However, I eventually found a group whose pace I could keep up with and apart from the last 5 km where I had lost the group (and I was battling on my own into a headwind on the road up from the Marina) and a rather embarrassing mistake as to how far I had left to ride (I was convinced there was another 40km left when I asked someone where the finish was but it turned out we were almost back at the stadium for the final laps) it was a really terrific experience and encouraged me to continue to keep up the cycling. So this year I am doing it all again (hopefully with fewer school boy errors!).