Saturday the 28th of October, 6am alarm set for an optimistic eight o'clock start. After necking the strongest cafetiere coffee known to man we set out from Aylesbury to the Turweston Aerodrome for the Wiggle Hawker Hurricane.
Thanks to modern proprietary sat-navs we made the supposed 30-minute drive in just under an hour. The rolling landscape provided a picturesque, misty atmosphere, making us realise that maybe an extra layer two would be needed for the start of this ride.
Our friend who lives closer to the event was pleased to see us, having waited an hour in the registration tent and losing all sensation in his toes and fingers in the process. By the time we had warmed up (heated seats are amazing) and registered, the time was closer to nine.
We had planned to do the 80 mile route, and so had until 12:30 to get to the where the standard course and EPIC (obligatory caps) course split, which was perfectly doable; however, it would mean a much later finish time than we'd originally planned for.
Determined to just wing it, we set off after a brief safety talk and circled the perimeter of the aerodrome. The aerodrome offered us possibly the worst road surface in all of England for the first mile or so, after which the real ride began.
The morning was cold; not particularly windy, just cold. Riding in a group of mixed ability, a leisurely pace meant that our hands quickly felt the chill. However, a few out-of-the-saddle efforts up the first inclines soon sorted that out. Having started quite late we were filtering through a lot of road traffic, but luckily the roads were mostly straight and wide, so overtaking was easy and safe.
A wide range of cyclists were in attendance. I was impressed by the number of younger riders, on bikes with wheels as small as 16''. The sportive is a great way of getting people who typically don't feel safe or motivated to ride on the road, out on the road!
Throughout the day I was also struck by the wide-ranging demographic of riders. I'm used to seeing mostly middle-aged men riding back home in the Surrey Hills. Another key difference was the overall attitude of the other road users, who almost entirely kept a safe distance when overtaking, and did so in appropriate places. Unfortunately, still a novelty when you live in the South East.
The first section of the ride was given an acoustic backdrop of high-octane RPM, all courtesy of nearby Silverstone race circuit. Obviously, it was only so long before we were making gear changes in sync with what we heard, and for a about five miles we were absolutely steaming along, powered by racer-boy fantasies.
The first feed station provided hot drinks, water and a power bar marquee which offered cycling specific food, as well as sweets, flapjack and other calorific foods. Without really concentrating I picked up a power bar which I THOUGHT was berry flavoured. It was unfortunately a tomato flavoured bar. Not only was this spat out within five seconds, it left me without an appetite. I'm grateful for the service provided on the ride, however this duff flavour was obviously being conveniently ''disposed'' of here at the sportive. Having tasted it, I can't imagine tomato flavour bars taking off any time soon.
After the second coffee of the day and some not-disgusting food we set out from the feed station at 25 miles, with a proposed 55 miles to go. We had got into the rhythm of the ride and were starting to get some photography done at this point. The temperature had increased and the numbness in the toes, which had returned over the slightly too leisurely feed stop, had again been quelled.
The rolling landscape had been rid of the mist and the views from the peaks gave quite a far horizon, showing where the next trough would lead. This allowed for great pacing on the climbs, since you could see the top of the next hill before it even began.
By about midday we had reached the fork in the road for the EPIC route, which was to have its signage removed at 12:30. At the start we weren't even sure we would get there in time. Even though some of us were still feeling fresh, the seeds of doubt were already planted... In the interest of riding the standard route together, opposed to splitting up, we decided that it would be far more fun to do the 55-mile standard route.
The last 20 miles or so was mostly flat, with some headwind thrown in for good measure. This felt like karma for skipping out on the longer ride, since the last section certainly felt like it was a lot harder than the elevation profile was letting on.
The final feed station was within 10 miles of the finish, so after another timely coffee break (and NOT another tomato power bar) we set off for the final stint. The last section of tarmac was the road to the aerodrome, which was accompanied by the strongest headwind I have ever faced.
Even my time riding the coasts of Kent didn't fully prepare me for the full-frontal onslaught of the headwind, further evidenced by the small planes overhead that were landing on the airfield at about 5 mph in the teeth of the gale.
Post-ride recovery consisted of burgers from a great little stall next to the finish line, although I am not sure how long it stayed there in the wind.
The Hawker Hurricane was the first proper sportive I have done, certainly the first I've travelled for. The event catered to all riders, from young to old and casual to serious. The routes offered some challenges for all riders with some scenic sights along the way.
I look forward to my next sportive as it was certainly a fun adventure, however next time I would want to go the full distance!
The Wiggle Hawker Hurricane returns on 27 October 2018. For details and to take part visit www.ukcyclingevents.co.uk.