Here we go – yr 2

Year Two has been an interesting challenge. As a team have been so much more relaxed, sometimes to the point of forgetfulness; something that didn’t happen at all last year. And we’ve also had to deal with poorly timed health events affecting some of the crew. Nevertheless, Cotswold Cogfest is in the last stages of preparation and we are pretty much raring to go. We have a new feed station location, thanks to South Cerney Parish Council. It feels great to try and give something back to the places we ride through, and they’ve been so supportive it’s been a delight.

This year is all about consolidation. Was last year a fluke, riding on people’s good will? Or do we have something that can get better over time, encourage more people to ride, more people to find themselves in our glorious countryside, more kids to take up cycling, more people to be outdoors, even – yikes – more people to don the lycra.

We really hope we’ve tapped a seam of bike riding that more and more people can get on board with. We’re not seeing it as a massive profit-making venture – we charge £15 – but we’re up against events charging as much as £70, so we’ll always have some limit. But we think we give great value, and as for the homemade cakes – well, already people are saying it wouldn’t be Cogfest with it!

See you there.

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The Final Sprint, so please bear with us

Here we are with only a few days to go. Panic is all around but tinged, I like to think, with some excitement. We’re looking forward to inviting cyclists of all kinds to the heart of the Cotswolds to come and experience beautiful landscape, brilliant cycling, and a friendly, supportive atmosphere. That we will also have some great food and drink on offer will only add to the day.

As first timers when it comes to organising sportives we are keen for rider feedback. There are all kinds of public forums for feedback, from TripAdvisor to Amazon reviews to Twitter. In some ways these have opened up customers/consumers/clients to be as blunt as they can regarding any kind of minor infraction, things that face-to-face would be so minor as to be ignored. This has given rise, as we are all aware, of the two concepts of ‘haters’ and of public shaming (for more on this see Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’).

This leads us to ask for two things, that might well contradict themselves. The first is feedback from riders about the event. What did you like? What would you like to see more of? Where did we make it stand out from the million other sportives round and about? However, the second is to give us feedback gently, and in a manner where we can take it onboard. It seems that it is not so much what is said, but how it is said that leads to the same issues being dealt with in entirely different ways.

Come and tell us if we got it wrong, although don’t fall foul of the insensitivities of faceless internet shaming, but also, tell us where we got it right, and how we can make it better.

Cycling’s Grand National?

The Grand National was not the only race on the sporting calendar last weekend that can bring surprise, excitement, devastation and exultation, and that tends to not show any favouritism. Second only to the Tour de France (well, arguably) in cycling’s annual roster of classic races, Paris-Roubaix is a one-day race, over the flat part of Belgium. What takes this away from a pan-flat day race aimed at sprinters are the famed 27 sections of ‘pave’ or cobblestones that account for 52.8km of the 257.5km course. Riders have to negotiate all these sections whilst racing against 200 other riders. It can safely be assumed that everyone that even finishes can be accounted as iron men, of any sport. And these aren’t even standard cobbles. They vary in size, in coverage of mud, in section length, in the chance to ride ‘in the gutter’, whether they are on straight sections, or have sharp turns in the route, and many other features. All taken at an average speed of over 40km/h.

2016 was no exception to proving the exceptional skills, tenacity, experience and strength needed. Won by Australian Matt Hayman, from the Orica Greenedge team. Ian Stannard was the highest placed British rider, a hugely creditable 3rd, equalling the best ever British-places from Roger Hammond (2004) and Barry Hoban (1972). Hayman doesn’t feature in any pre-race bookies favourites, or list of top 10 riders to watch, or most likely to win. Like the Grand National it’s an extremely difficult race to predict. Hayman’s a 37 year old rider, one the world’s best domestiques – a rider who rides for team leaders, not for himself –  who had broken his arm only 5 weeks ago, and is probably coming to the end of his career. Hayman was on at 800/1.

Cotswold Cogfest is not quite as demanding as Paris-Roubaix. However, cycling is still an endurance event, so if you’re riding one of our sportives, do make sure you are prepared physically, mentally and your kit is in good condition. We want everyone to have a great day on the bike – finishing is, to us, still the greatest achievement.

Back in Track

With snow still swirling overheard, the chance to ride without preparing for an Arctic adventure, nor wondering if it’s the last you will see of friends and loved ones, sometimes seems like a distant prospect. However, as well as road racing in distant climes to keep us all going until spring kicks in, we can tune in to the UCI Track Cycling World Championships. Running from Wednesday 2 March until Sunday 6 March, the London Lee Valley Velodrome is the venue for the final meeting of the international trackies before Rio. We expect to see Wiggo and Cav going all out to win a place at the Olympics; they’re riding the Madison together. With Wiggo also in the team pursuit and Cav in the 6-event omnium. Laura Trott will be back to try and take more rainbow bands (worn by a world champion in any of cycling’s disciplines), in preparation to add to the Gold in Rio. Watch out, too, for the addition of Ciara Horne and Emily Nelson to the Women’s team pursuit. Much is at stake, the last chance for some old campaigners, and the first chance for some new ones. Good Luck Team GB!

Read more about the team and the events here.

Springing into action

With early signs of Spring starting to be seen, the team are making plenty of progress on getting the word spread about Cogfest. We’ve been signing the sportive up for all the different listings and cycling magazines sites, and asking around to see if any local cycling groups would like to get involved.

More excitingly, the British Cycling link is now up and running, so we now have full online payment available for riders to sign up. Price-wise, we’ve really made the sportive as accessible as we can. Whilst we want to raise money for the school, our hope is that we can attract people to a new event, and to the wonderful world of cycling.

The routes are planned, and the Ride the Common event is sorted. Time to start thinking about some delicious food and drink we can offer to our weary riders – and to our not-so-weary visitors.