The Couch-to-UCI-Sportive Extravaganza

I have sportived:

I’ve also written a book, so: tl;dr I survived, it was cool, I wanna go again

I started training on TR in February with SSB LV I, and followed the plans through to Century MV. The route included the World Championship circuit in Harrogate, as well as this climb that had me pretty well scared:

(So what you need to understand about me is that I’m American, but I have anglophile parents and I was raised on a 1980s British TV show called All Creatures Great and Small, which is set in the Yorkshire Dales. Yorkshire, in particular the Dales, is basically Shangri-La in my head. This trip was a huge deal.)


I flew into Leeds with my natural-athletes-don’t-need-to-train-for-such-paltry-distances husband and our skinny-tired gravel bikes in two rented bike travel cases (a BikeBoxAlan and an Evoc Bike Travel Bag Pro), and taxied up to Harrogate on Friday. We spent the day mostly unpacking the bikes (no damage!).


I wanted to do a chill spin up to Ripley Castle and Fountains Abbey, which was chill until we got closer to the Dales and they started dales-ing a bit. Incredible countryside, no regrets, definitely left us more fatigued than I’d planned.

Swordfish over rice with mashed potatoes for dinner. Instant oatmeal before bed. Slept well.

Sunday, race day


More oatmeal and a good Norwegian breakfast (eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, smoked salmon). Little sore from the bed-in-a-cupboard.


Our wave started at 08:11, so at about 07:30 we rode over to the holding area and gaped at the Team Ineos bus with everybody else. Organizers started moving us onto the circuit in small groups, so we actually started riding around 08:30. I don’t have really any experience in mass start events, so this was all super exciting.

The circuit seemed pretty fast and punchy and I didn’t realize we were out of Harrogate until we passed Ripley Castle (which was like 6km outside Harrogate? I was not paying attention). We arrived at the 30km feed station as the downpour started, but we were prepared with rain jackets. Filled up on cake, waited until the worst had passed, and headed back out. It rained for the rest of the ride, including some “proper Yorkshire rain” according to one local.


Cote de Lofthouse, Trapping Hill, hit us, and it was a nightmare. The whole climb is about 4.5km at 6%, and it includes 1.7km at 12%. I rode the whole thing, but I had to stop a lot, just couldn’t get the pedals to turn over. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone, so all of us unfit chuckleheads tried to keep each other laughing and sane and moving forward. (Except for one gentleman who was furious at himself for stopping and vocal about how he’d never had to stop before. He sounded mortified. I felt terrible for him and I hope it didn’t ruin his race.)

My husband-who-literally-never-trains-and-really-barely-rides-at-all sailed to the top without breaking a sweat because of course he did. He waited for me like a champ. We paused for a bit there to try to help a guy with an unfixable mechanical.

After Lofthouse I was thoroughly cooked and mostly just trying to hang on. I saw maybe a dozen other women over the course of the ride, so I distracted myself by trying (and failing) to hold their wheels. The 60km feed zone was well stocked with cake and pork pies, and I stuffed my face. Pretty sure that saved my day.


I took out my bottle for a drink and immediately almost hit a car that suddenly braked front of a bunch of us. Both wheels skidded on the wet tarmac, bottle went flying, but I somehow stayed upright and didn’t cause a crash.

At like 97km I had this heart-racing thing happen that used to happen all the time and hasn’t really happened since I started TR. My max observed heart rate on a bike is 196 (during a ramp test); I looked down at my Wahoo while we waited for a stoplight and saw 211. Pulled over, laid down for a while (which did nothing), then sat with my head between my knees for a bit (which did). (My pulse races until it feels like it skips a beat, and then it picks up a new rhythm and it’s fine. While it’s racing I can’t really move without feeling lightheaded. I went to a doctor about 15 years ago; they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. :woman_shrugging:) Super interesting to see it captured in the data:

Heart back on its best behavior, we rode the last 2km and got our finisher medals.

The good

  • It was excellent weather for hydraulic disc brakes and 32mm Conti 4-Season tires.
  • It was also excellent weather for the mountain bike fenders we’d packed and felt pretty silly about using (until we felt prescient).
  • I’d planned a day of nothing after we arrived, and that extra day let us stay pretty relaxed leading up to the race.
  • I’d packed kit for every contingency, and I needed all of it.
  • The countryside was breathtaking. It’s probably good that it rained the whole time or I’d have been trying to take pictures every ten minutes.
  • The bike bags worked! No damage, at all, and now I know the proper technique for re-tightening a headset (you don’t start with the stem :sweat_smile:). I don’t have the tools to remove and re-attach my disc brake rotors (cassette tool and a 40nm torque wrench, I guess?), so I was terrified they’d bend when the case jostled around. They did not!
  • The feed zones were full of real food. Well done, organizers.
  • I ate all the food I’d packed (peanut Nakd bars).
  • The road quality was fine? I’d heard that Yorkshire roads are a disaster, and maybe we were too far south to really get a taste of that (or maybe 32mm tires are too plush), but I will take those Yorkshire roads over the chipseal I used to ride in New Mexico any day of the week.
  • Wow were some of those descents a good time. I don’t think I’ve ever gone 60kph before.
  • I was trained. I knew I’d probably have to stop on the steep bits, but I was reasonably confident I could handle the rest. I did, and that feels pretty good.

The bad

  • I didn’t drink anywhere near enough. One bottle of water, half a bottle of Skratch. This is always my problem on rides, I always forget to drink, and then I start feeling dead on the back half and get annoyed at my lack of fitness when REALLY JUST DRINK THE WATER GEMMA
  • It was an open-road sportive, and some of the drivers were pretty terrifying.
  • I got no pictures of the countryside! I have bitterness about this!
  • I’m sick now, probably because I didn’t drink enough, didn’t eat well or sleep well after the race, took two full flights home, and then didn’t sleep well again.

The ugly

  • We all got covered, head to toe, in watery cow shit. Covered. It was on my lips, and I tried to wipe it off, and just smeared it all over my face.

Anyway, thanks TR, that was fun.


A sportive in Shangri-La? Congrats! Off to Strava for pics!

1 Like

Huge congratulations!! Really enjoyed your writeup!!
Sounds like quite the adventure. And, isn’t it great when you pack EVERYTHING for EVERY contingency (including fenders) and feel totally silly, only to find that you actually NEED everything and you were brilliant?
Sounds fabulous!! (loved the photos on Strava too!)


Yes but now I’ve had positive reinforcement so I’m going to do it every time and then I will be silly! WHAT HAVE I DONE

1 Like

Congratulations on an event well done, sounds like a great trip

Go see a doctor again


Loved your book :wink: I read James Herriot growing up so totally get it.

I’m on the side of PACK EVERYTHING, it’s totally worth doing it. You never know what the weather will be!
Also, DRINK MORE. I had this problem and it takes work but you will get there.

Feel better soon :slight_smile:


I mean yes but it’s like taking your car to the mechanic for a noise that only shows up when you’re not at the mechanic.

Maybe it was the :cow2::poop: I must have ingested :face_vomiting:

Well done! Glad you enjoyed it - I really enjoyed your write up. I live in the dales (v near Askrigg which is where much of the outside scenes of Darrowby were filmed). The men’s race is coming right past my farm at the weekend, we have the cow bells ready! Sadly the roads up here are pretty awful so I’m just TR and MTB til next year. I started my first TR plan last week and I’m training for my first race - the UCI gran Fondo Tour of Cambridge next June. Sorry about the cow muck - bit of a hazard in North Yorkshire! You also learn to keep your mouth shut whilst riding past a field of cows because of all the flies… extra protein I suppose but not very tasty!



LOL! Well, then it just takes years and years to figure out what you actually NEED. But if you just sit and think about realistic scenarios, you’re less likely to pack the entire kitchen sink and just maybe a faucet and sponge. :wink: You clearly had considered realistic scenarios here. So, think about it in that context instead, rather than just packing all the things.

On a different note, I’m also a James Herriot fan (although I’m like @Scheherazade and read the books rather than watched the show). Did you see that there’s going to be a new show? I’ll watch this one!

1 Like

Congratulations and thanks for the write-up. [By the way, [21st September 2019 on GCN was a brief introduction to Yorkshire, which forewarned me of the perils you recounted.]

Like trpnhntr recommended, go see a doctor. But this time, take screen shots of your HR on a ramp test [which I think you said was your max] and on this ride. That way, there’s evidence …

1 Like

NO, this is amazing! Maybe I’ll go re-read the books to prep :laughing:. (I can’t believe they basically cast young Robert Hardy’s doppelganger as Siegfried Farnon, that is on point.)

1 Like

Now that is a race report Ladies and Gentlemen!
Well done!

1 Like

Thanks for the write up was a great read and well done on accomplishing your goal. One thing…I would go see a specialist again…I am NOT a DR, do NOT heal to my advice, but it sounds like Tachycardia?


I started getting this too a couple of years ago… Its mostly harmless (so the doctor says) and one just has to stop and let it reset itself. Life continues as normal. Caffeine and hard exercise kicks it off for me. After you’ve had yourself rechecked I’d suggest avoiding coffee and caffeine gels when you ride and see if it stops occurring.
I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to the UK :blush:

1 Like

Wow I really hope he has no input. :sweat_smile:

Great trip report! Im trying to get back to the training thing and this has certainly helped inspire me again. I commented to a work buddy about the weather - and he said, pretty normal…he grew up in Yorkshire. Saw the pics your Strava - must have been really cool to be in the final stretch of the under the UCI Worlds Finish banner. Your husband is Norwegian at all? - saw the cap Sykkel Butikken (have to ask, i’m a Swede.)

1 Like

Hilariously we started under the Finish banner, and we ended off someplace else.

He’s not Norwegian, but we both live in Norway! That’s our LBS.

Sounds like an amazing day out!

I’ve always wanted to get over to the UK for some riding but my sheep and children here in the US make traveling tough :joy:

We love James Herriot and will have to find episodes of All Creatures for the kiddos.

1 Like

Would you like a playlist (of things I did not upload)? :grin:

1 Like