Team Cycling Plus - Malcolm Ratcliffe

Losing his virginity...sportive virginity that is!!

Team Cycling Plus will be updating you each week with the highs and lows of their training as part of the team. This week Malcolm is Flatout in the Fens...

Team member: Malcolm Ratcliffe

Malcolm from Erdington is determined to shed some of his 17stone before his 45th birthday this October. To do this he hopes to take his cycling to the next level with Team Cycling Plus, by extending his 10-20mile rides, and include a sportive or two in his season. As well as losing weight, his goals include regularly commuting the 10miles to work and doing a London to Paris charity ride.

This week was all about building up to the Kilo To Go ‘Flatout in the Fens’ and losing my sportif virginity.

As such I kept the rides during the week short.  I know, I can hear you all saying, ‘but you only do short rides anyway!’, so yes I kept my rides very short this week, nothing over an hour and all around 10 miles or so.  However I managed to slot in four sessions through the week covering 40miles in around 2.5 hours.  It was nice to see I maintained my improvement in average speed and now 16mph plus seems to be the norm, unless there are any major inclines involved!

The big day duly arrived and was set to be the hottest day of the year so far.  It was an early start as I’d decided to drive across to Bourne so all packed, fuelled up, undercarriage greased and on the road by five.  As I got nearer and nearer to the start in Bourne I was becoming a little concerned since the landscape was markedly undulating and the event had been billed as a ‘flat as a pancake’ route.  Driving down the last hill into the town only served to heighten my anxiety.

The organisation throughout was excellent and I have thank Geoff Saxon and his team from Kilo To Go for slotting me in at short notice.  Registration was quick and easy with only a number to cable tie onto the Millook and a timing ‘chip’ to stick onto your helmet.  I’m not sure what you’d do if you didn’t have a helmet but all the riders appeared to be suitably safety conscious and I didn’t see anyone out there not wearing a helmet.  Jason and his team from were there to provide assistance and any mechanical tweaking that may have been required.

We were set off in groups of about 20-30 in five minute intervals and the initial ride out of town was relaxed as riders found their rhythm and linked up into smaller groups.  Since this was my first mass ride and I still haven’t plucked up courage to join a local group, I was a little unsure of the etiquette.  However I hooked up with another solo rider, Richard from Essex, and we enjoyed the opening section to the first feed station at 20 miles.

The riding was flat and predominantly on small lanes which bounded the dykes and fields of the fens.  The early 7.30 start meant a pleasant first hour in the saddle with time to take in the wildlife, including ‘identify the road kill’, and the flat cultivated expanses all around.  Despite the Millook suffering a little tooth ache, which limited the gear selection, I managed to find a suitable cog and with a good cadence and was speeding along at a healthy 18mph.

Richard was going for the long ride, 156 miles, so after a quick banana and flapjack at the feeding station we parted our ways and I turned off onto the short route, a mere 73 miles in total so only another 53 miles to go!  At this point I was riding solo and as the heat of the day started to rise I found myself inexorably slowing down, from 20 to 19 to 18 to 17mph, over the next 25 miles.  Although pedalling on the flat is obviously easier there is a certain relentlessness of the continuous pedalling and no respite which wears you down over time.

Luckily for me a group of four local club riders passed me at this point and I managed to tag onto the back.  Now I know it is bad form to just draft along and not take ones turn upfront, but it was taking every effort to hang in on the back never mind move to the front of the peloton.  We continued in this fashion to the second and final feed station.  Situated in a pub car park but still too early for the bar to be open but probably a good thing for that.  I grabbed another banana, filled up my water bottle and introduced myself to the group whilst  apologising profusely for my bad manners.  They seemed more than happy to allow this C+ sportif virgin to accompany them, so hoping I could keep up we set off on the final push to the finish and with Garmins chirping away like early morning birdsong the peloton reformed and the pace was once more racked up to a more than reasonable 20mph.

The final twist in the tail was a short sharp climb just getting back into Bourne, before the last couple of miles back to the start/finish.  Back before midday and a ride time I’d clocked of just under 4 hours so an average speed of 18mph, another season’s best and a big tick in the box.  As the sun continued to beat down I was glad I wasn’t taking part in either of the two longer routes.  Respect to anyone who did. 

Although I have nothing to compare this event to, this being my first ever, it certainly gets 10 out of 10.  The organisation, at the start/finish, from the route marking, marshalling and feed stations was excellent and my thanks go again to Geoff and his team at Kilo To Go and to Jason and guys from Wiggle.  As a novice/first time event I think it would be hard to recommend better.  If you feel the urge there are still three events in the Verenti series to go, check them out at, you never know you might see me there?!  I should also thank my companions of the day, Richard and the group of four local riders, without whom I’d probably still be out there.  Good luck to the two of you nutters going out to ride part of Le Tour mountains section next week!!

And the Verenti Millook?  Along with me the bike survived the dusty, sometimes potted lanes without complaint.  The worst of the road ‘noise’ was soaked up by the carbon front forks and carbon rear stays so a comfortable sure footed ride and some admiring looks from other riders to boot.  I’m sure they thought I must be some sort of professional cyclist on such a bike.

So with a real cyclists tan, I must remember not go out in my Speedo’s anytime soon, I can bask in the glory that is the completion of my first sportif.

PS nobody ever mentions it, but a long time in the saddle can numb your undercarriage!  I’m sure there is a medical explanation, Andy?,  but you do get the feeling back, eventually!!

PPS I’m now off for a beer and a lie down, I might be gone some time!!!

Who are Team Cycling Plus?

Team Cycling Plus powered by Verenti are readers Andy Ward, Kay Bowen, Malcolm Ratcliffe and Sam Shaw. We’ll be following them in the magazine for the next few months as they train towards their personal cycling goals under the guidance of Team Wiggle’s Ben Simmons and we will be publishing their weekly trials and tribulations here too. For regular updates check our twitter page and the Team Cycling Plus facebook page.

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