A tale of the unexpected

However hard you train for that event you've targeted, on the day there are so many variables that nothing can be certain. You can (and should) prepare as meticulously as possible but you should also prepare for the unexpected.

Having identified last weekend's Suffolk-based Crafted Classique 100-miler as 'something to aim for', we spent several months building training frequency and mileage until we finally felt reasonably confident of achieving a respectable time.

That's the thing with time chip technology - a sportive becomes, on one level, a mission to propel a digital chip across the line in the shortest possible time. With these chips now automatically associated with the rider numbers securely attached to your bike, there's no escaping that all-important finishing time.

Part of the fun of these events is in the planning and anticipation of the build-up. Piece by piece, you put in place all the essentials. How are you going to get to the start? Are you travelling there on your own or with a fellow rider? Have you got a kit checklist ready? On the day you must ensure that you get yourself to the sign on in good time and equip yourself with a route map. And then you must plan where to meet with friends after the ride and get yourselves home again.

During this obsessional planning period, you become an avid devotee of the long term weather forecast. There's nothing you can really do about it, of course, apart from taking along the appropriate kit. For some, these events present an opportunity (or excuse) to refresh their cycling wardrobe - 'go on...treat yourself!'

We rode last year's event as an informal team but this year saw us ride as Simpson CC. We actively encouraged our readers to join us for the ride and ended up with a good mix of natural rouleurs, confident clubmen and racing veterans, all eager to devour 100 miles of beautiful Suffolk countryside. These guys could set a good pace and maintain it for the duration.

In the end, we split into two groups from the very start, mainly due to varying arrival times. The faster guys were already on the start line as the others arrived to sign on. The weather was good - maybe too good, with baking heat becoming a hydration factor. With high average speeds being clocked up everything looked set for a quick finishing time until one of our riders was taken ill.

When this happens, you must prioritise. Targets and training clearly take second place to a fellow rider's wellbeing. The race against the clock ended there and the final 40 miles became more of a survival challenge. We eased back on the pedals and started to chat on subjects far removed from our present situation. Reaching the finish line now had a different meaning.

We're pleased to say that everyone did make it back in one piece and the ride was still an amazing experience. But it means that we now have a 2016 ride target already in place - not that any excuse was really necessary.