Entering a virtual race.

Many cyclists use exercise bikes for virtual racing but I spied an opportunity for a race using the app. Strava. A local cyclist has set up a Strava segment called “Birkacre race route?”. It starts and finishes at the high point of a circuit of 2.47miles, drops gently on a rough rocky track before it cuts across open grass land on single track. It then uses a loop around a country park, climbing, dropping and climbing again to another high point. It descends again to the lowest point again, by a small lake and climbs relentlessly on a varying gradient to the start/finish. A second rider has been trying repeatedly to break the fastest time of 17 minutes 50 seconds. He’s been making an error in the route, missing out a loop, though Strava has still given him at least one time for the circuit which is a very competitive 17 minutes 52 seconds. I can understand his motivation to become Strava King of the Mountains for a best ever time. I don’t believe I’ve ever met him but we do follow each other on Strava and so see the record of each others rides.

I thought today I’d ride 3 laps of the circuit to get the feel for it. It’s mainly familiar stuff since it’s only between 1 and 2 miles from home. I’ll confess, after walking my dog, Freddie, I was rather excited about a virtual race, no matter how unofficial. I had no idea how long the laps would take and I didn’t intend to to try a flat out lap. All I did know was that, as the oldest rider of the 3, I’d be fastest in the 55-64 year age category! I set off to the area and took an early off road climb up a steep and muddy slope. I was soon at the start point so clicked my stopwatch.

Is it rather small minded to see a totally unofficial race, which only I knew was to take place, as something of reasonable importance to perform well in? All I can say is that once the metaphorical chequered flag dropped I was like a dog after a rabbit. The first downhill was slippery and after the first corner I had to hop the bike over a fallen tree trunk. The route diverts from my usual choice on it’s way to Birkacre, the former site of a mill. It uses a grassy and currently muddy descent and at speed was exciting and unpredictable. Back on more familiar terrain I was slowed by several walkers enjoying the sunshine then started a tough climb. I knew that my competitor had failed to make a left turn and subsequent clockwise loop and I wasn’t sure if I was taking a short cut part way round.

The first rocky drop, about to enter a corner.
A later, desperately muddy single track.

The route would be very much cross country riding if it wasn’t for the next man made section of jumps and berms. With the slippery mud I was cautious and found a second fallen tree blocking the trail. I carried on down past a children’s playground then began the final, long climb. I realised that I’d been putting the work in so chose to push myself on the ascent. My stopwatch was showing 11 minutes 50 seconds and I figured that I’d certainly finish in under 20 minutes. I was massively thrilled with a time of 17 minutes 25 as I started my second lap.

I felt as if I was faster on my second lap and didn’t have to slow for walkers and dogs as many times. I took a longer loop where I’d worried that I might have been cutting a corner on lap one. This extra time turned out to be the difference between my laps and I finished in 18 minutes 10 seconds so was pleased with my consistency. I rode a slower third lap and used it to take the photographs. When I got back home I downloaded the Strava information to have my status as King of the Mountains confirmed at17 minutes 33 seconds. Colour me happy.

How I won the virtual race!

4 thoughts on “Entering a virtual race.

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