My first brevet

Sunday, February 19, 2006

(The 200kilometres !!)

I am so happy that I cannot describe it. The brevet is over and I am alive and kicking! Something that was fixed in my mind from the day I got the road bike is finished and I achieved my aims.

Saturday morning then and I got to the start line nice and early. I made sure about 100 times that I had with me what I needed - in fact I carried in my car a lot more so that I can cover all eventualities (this is called inexperience). All kinds of jerseys, gloves, head warmers, shoe covers etc, food to last me 1000 kilometres.... you get the point.

As I got ready more and more people arrived creating a wonderful atmosphere. To be honest, and I was overwhelmed by the feeling of participating in a large cycling event. There were about 130 cyclists, which is a lot by Greek standards, of all ages, shapes and sizes. I got ready and soon the start was given. Off we went, a mass of colourful cyclists progressing slowly along the main town road. To my inexperienced mind it felt like a Tour De France start!!!

(The Start)

On those the first kilometres the different groups started to form. A very fast group comprising of athletes and hammerheads formed quickly and disappeared. Behind them smaller groups and somewhere in the back me and three of my friends that had agreed to stay together. I was anxious in the start as I never cycled with so many people around me but I soon settled into a rhythm and started the first conversations. Talking I thought would be a very good ‘rev limiter’ – as long as I can talk easily on the bike it means that I am in the aerobic zone!!!

The first ascends came soon. To be honest they were a lot easier than I initially thought but I played safe and put the granny gear in good use. I did not want to 'burn my legs' at all and spun my way to the top. In one of those ascend we met with a group of older riders. They were a group of older riders (mid 50s to mid 60s) but as I soon discovered they were the founding members of PEPA – a club comprising of retired athletes and bike enthusiasts and the organisers of the event. Most of the people in that group had countless brevets under their belt so I could not have wished for a better group to join.

So we got together and formed a bigger group and kept going towards Xylokastro. For me they were the perfect group for the occasion. Experienced - not too fast but not too slow. I was watching them and tried to do the same things - when to drink, when to eat, when to stand up from the saddle. Looking at them was a constant reminder to me of what to do.

We finished the first 55kilometres, crossed the Canal and after a short break to stretch properly and eat some food we headed toward the sea.

(Me at the first stop - am I smiling again ?)

Now the route was flat and we picked up speed but we were still going slower than I would like. I was tempted many times to increase the tempo but I had in my mind the advice "Go slower than you would like". As we approached the half way point we saw the faster groups that were on their way back. It was one of the happiest moments of this ride as I saw many familiar faces and greeted each other. Yes I was part of this brevet and this time I was not going to hear or read of other people’s experiences but I would be part of this ride myself.

We passed through the villages and we steadily reached the first control point. We were one of the last groups but nobody cared. So we sat down stretched some more and filled our water bottles and started to make our way back.

I felt great - 100 kilometres had passed and I was not tired at all, no pain anywhere, just my feet and toes were starting to tickle me but nothing major. I took off my shoes and massaged my toes a bit, in order to get blood flowing into them properly. I stretched a bit, ate and drank, filled my bottles and all the group started its journey back. Half of the PEPA group stayed behind as they had completed their objective of doing just the 100kilometres.

We set off and now the pace got faster. We were averaging 28 to 30kph and made very good progress. I really enjoyed it as we rotated in the mini peloton and took turns to pull. I felt good – I do not want to exaggerate but the first 100 kilometres looked like a very good warming up and now I felt as strong as ever. The moderately fast pace did not bother me at all and I was smiling like the village idiot!!!

We reached the Canal again in good time. The Canal, being such a scenic spot has become a mandatory stop for all buses passing through on their way to or from the Peloponnese. Therefore, many coffee shops have opened around the canal which sell food and refreshments to the tired traveller. We sat in one of those shops and ordered ……. kebabs and beer. Oh my …oh my… after 150 kilometres of riding these were very tasty kebabs!! We ate, drank and joked … we listed to the bike stories of the older gentlemen who really inspired me. They rode very strong despite their age and showed me that I can ride

We decided to start again and we obviously were a bit stiff after such a long break. Thank God, the first kilometres after the Canal were downhill so we warmed up by the time we reached the dreaded ascends. I asked everybody to go in their own pace as I hit the ascends. A bit tired by now but I knew the trick – granny gear and spin like crazy. So I did and although I was dead last on the ascend I felt ok – on the descend and the flat I would catch up and on the ascend I would fall behind. The first group of ascends were over now and I decided to become a bit more adventurous. I increased the pace and made a couple of short ‘time-trial’ runs. I felt very good and joked with keoman and ttoppouzokypraios. I reached the second and last set of ascends and this time I decided to ‘attack’ them. I now felt some pain in my legs and it felt so good. I pedalled harder and and harder and

The ascends were over, the descends were over and we were approaching the city of Elefsina. The odometer showed about 197 kilometres as we entered the city and made our way toward the finish line. I called my wife to tell her I was OK and enjoyed the last few kilometres of the experience. The finish was near and

We crossed the finish line were we were greeted by some other friend- CKessinis was there to take pictures of these moments. Thank you very much Costa for the excellent photos.

(Me finishing - yes I am smiling !!)

I dismounted and made my way to Mr Plegas the organiser who stamped my card. He offered all of us a piece of cake and again it tasted like heaven. I could not believe that the 200 kilometres were over. What a fantastic experience I just went through. I was so happy to have completed it - a dream goal come true !! Now I started to feel the pain – my back was hurting and my legs that were ok to cycle could not really walk very good. But who cares ? I made it to the finish with a lot of strength to spare and that is what mattered to me.

(The Team - ttoppouzokypraios, me, boardman, Mr. Spiros, keoman, inferno, Aria, Mr. Costas)

(Cyprus Armada - ttoppouzokypraios, me , keoman, enjoying our cake after the finsih. Thank you guys, I would not attempt it without you)

Its over then…until the next one I guess !!

Here are some vital stats

Distance : 201.2km
Total Ascend : 895metres
Average HR : 147bpm
Average speed : 24kph
Average Cadence : 78rpm
Total Ride Time : 8hrs 24min

(Polar data)


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