On Friday 7th September, and in the heart of the New Forest, approximately 500 invited cyclists from Garmin arrived at the Avon Tyrell Activities centre to take part in the annual Team Garmin Ride Out. The event was supported by UK Cycling Events (signage, registration and feed zones), Muc-Off, High 5 and Wiggle and possibly a few more organisations which I can’t remember.
On the day all the riders, mechanics, UK Cycling Events and Garmin staff were blessed with glorious sunshine and high temperatures and you couldn’t ask for a more perfect day to enjoy this event. All the Wiggle staff that came along to ride the event were extremely lucky to get a ‘pass-out’ from the Wiggle office to come along and enjoy the atmosphere and ride this event. Nikki, sponsored rider, also took time out in her working schedule to take part also.
Once at the venue we, Nikki Wheeler, Jon Cannings and myself, as we car shared, met up with the others from work that had already arrived and had situated themselves next to the Wiggle tent. Just across from the Wiggle tent was the registration area, so after we collected our number, cable ties, goodie bag and the High 5 nutrition pack and water bottle, we then strolled back to the car to sort out the bikes. Then back up to the Wiggle tent it was to starting chatting as we waited until the time was right to depart.
The time was now around 10:15 in the morning and the temperature was rising quickly. People were getting ready, applying sun cream to themselves, filing bottles with drink, and also walking up the small village which contained three bike mechanic areas (Mavic, Wiggle, and Muc-Off). Many people took the time to get their bike checked over before the start time, which was delayed because the Garmin team bus went to the wrong venue would you believe it, took in the refreshments made available to us all and to listen to the workshops and talks being presented in the marque tent by various groups, including Garmin.
As we waited for the Team Garmin Sharp riders to arrive the majority of people started to gather at the top of the steps infront of the large house. When the Garmin riders did arrive they then went to the marque to be introduced to the waiting fans and gave a brief talk about the Tour of Britain stage race and what they had planned.
The ride was meant to commence at 11am, but due to the navigation error, the ride eventually got underway about 12:30pm. To be honest nobody really cared as the weather was fantastic and everybody was just enjoying the atmosphere.
As mentioned above, 12:30pm was roughly the time the first group left the centre and headed out onto the course. The majority of the Wiggle riders decided to leave all together and for the first 45 minutes many us were cycling together. The first 4 or 5 groups had a Garmin pro rider leading that group, which was nice as cyclists could then cycle alongside them whilst chatting. One funny thing happened to our group though soon after the start – we went off course after leaving Burley. Not sure who noticed as I was just following, but our group of around 50 riders all then turned around and cycled back into Burley where we rejoined the correct route. As we rejoined the course we also merged with the group that started behind us thus swelling our group into a large mass of cyclists.
At this point I think the Garmin riders decided to quicken the pace as this was a large group of cyclists for the roads we were now cycling on. It was then a case, and if you wanted to, to ride at their speed to keep with them. Riders were soon popping out the back and regrouping into their own groups at their desired speed. The large group of Wiggle riders were also now splitting up due to the increase of pace set by the Garmin boys and it was soon a case of trying to keep up or you faced being dropped by them.
As we came into the open parts of the forest, the wind was picking up. I was in a large group and doing some heavy turns on the front trying to catch up with the large group that was in front of us. Our group was also picking up riders as we continued on, picking up Emma and Daniel, both from Wiggle along the way. We also passed, and then shortly after were overtaken by the Wiggle support crew in the Wiggle Landrover. Pulling up alongside the car I spoke to Ben and asked if he and Pete, who was driving, were being kept busy. Ben replied saying “yes” and that they had quite a few mechanicals to sort out so far. Shortly after this brief chat, they sped off leaving me back on the front pulling along the group who were sitting nicely behind me.
Soon we came into a village then took in a narrow descent and which I then realised we were coming up to the sharp 25% climb of Blissford hill up to the feed zone. This 1:4 climb soon put the brakes on the speed we were travelling at with everybody almost coming to a grinding halt. As we crested the climb, we all then pulled into the only feed zone on the route. This was extremely busy as many riders were refilling their bottles and tucking into the large selection of food that was available. We also meet up with others from Wiggle that where in the group we were chasing.
A large group left the feed zone with many of the Wiggle riders within it also. Two of the riders were also in the group and taking the time out to chat to others also. A couple of times the group did split, but this was due to horses in the road. Funny, they just didn’t care and were totally oblivious to the fact that lots of cyclists were trying to get around them – a sense of we’re not moving, you move kinda thing.
The rest of the ride was just the case of cycling together around the New Forest and retracing the route back to the start/finish line. With about 10 miles to go the group had now slimmed down quite a bit and the three Garmin riders, one rider caught us up later on, were mixing it with the others and really taking the time and effort to chat to everybody who came up besides them. Nikki was now talking to the Australian Garmin rider – Nathan Haas. He was very polite chap and at one point placed his hand on Nikki’s back and pushed her up a short climb which she was struggling with (sadly he was one of the Garmin riders who crashed with Cav on stage 1 of the Tour of Britain ). I also took the time to speak with him and chatted about his past career, his role within the team for the ToB, and also the Worlds road race coming up after.
Soon we arrived back at the entrance to the activities centre. The road into the centre was bumpy and was littered with pot holes. One rider from our group punctured, but at least he was 200 metres from the finish line. After the finish it was a case of grabbing some food and drink then finding a spot on the grass to eat and unwind.
The ride today was great. The weather made it even more enjoyable, but just getting out on the bike, for me, is what matters. From the looks on people’s faces and what I heard throughout the ride, everybody enjoyed themselves immensely.
Cheers to Garmin for the event and the hospitality and cheers Wiggle for the time out to ride my bike.