Thursday, 8 July 2010

Silverstone Specialista

Early mission up the M1 last Sunday, to take part in the inaugural Specialized Sportive. Ride HQ was the rather swanky (in a humourless, Germanic sort of way) Porsche Experience Centre, right next to the Hangar Straight where Lewis and Jenson will be desperately trying not to take each other out come Sunday's Grand Prix. Hope they sort the place out by then - still looked like a massive building site, but I suppose they've only had a YEAR to remodel the place, poor dears...

The sportive coincided with Specialized unveiling its 2011 range to selected dealers inside the Porsche compound - sadly, us hoi-polloi weren't allowed into the main event, but the the amount of co-marketing suggests a growing link between the two brands. If these rumours are true about Saxo Bank withdrawing its sponsorship of the eponymous Pro Tour team and it effectively becoming a Cervelo-esque 'Specialized Test Team' next season, don't be surprised to see them using hideously ugly Porsche Cayennes as team cars. Would certainly give Team Sky's Jags a run for their money in the posing stakes.

The ride itself was a bit different to normal, in so much as it began and ended with a lap of the Porsche handling track. Nice little circuit, perhaps they should consider a Specialized Criterium series next year, although given how quickly we lapped it on bikes, not sure how much fun it would be in a Cayman.

Randomly, I since learn that England rugby manager and all-round legend Martin 'Jonno' Johnson was also competing on the day. Keen cyclist, apparently - what with Dayglo's 6Nations charity ride and personal hero Richard ('HRHRH') Hill championing the Land's End-Twickers equivalent, my two favourite sports seem to be getting increasingly cosy. Good stuff.

The rest of the 50-mile route could politely be described as rolling rather than hilly. Lots of pretty Northamptonshire villages, ropey road surfaces aplenty, all combined with a really horrible headwind that ruined any chances of a PB. Not helped by my mate Ali insisting on competing aboard his (t)rusty Giant singlespeed, which he's only recently converted to full fixed mode. Good fun for the daily commute, doesn't strike me as much fun on a hilly 50 mile ride though, especially given the Mistral-esque conditions we had to contend with. I think he's finally learnt his lesson.

Finished in a credible but hardly scorching 3h39m31s, 169th out of 251 riders on the medium route. Nothing to write home about, but I'm not fit enough yet frankly and the wind really did make decent average speeds impossible. Shame about the that as conditions otherwise would have been perfect for a PB, I reckon. My main learning was the importance of riding sportives in a peloton and not trying to solo the whole thing, especially when it's that blowy out and your mate's on a fixed. Didn't really succeed in that aim on Sunday, but hoping my slowly-improving fitness and weekly rides with Dulwich Paragon will sort me out eventually.

Well-organised affair, thanks to event partners Votwo, and the benefits of Speccy's corporate dollars were evident in the start/finish village and post-ride goody bags that rivalled the Etape Caledonia versions. Hopefully this event will become a regular fixture in the UK sportive calendar, although next year I plan to be quicker and I really hope the wind behaves itself better.

In the meantime, there's a nice little video of the event here, again bearing witness to Specialized's deep marketing pockets. Listen out for the typhoon wind whistling down the mic and laugh at the Votwo event manager - a certain Andy Blow:

Oh, and the blog title?  Fanboys will know that the Specialized brand name was inspired by founder and CEO Mike Sinyard's early trips to Italy, where proper racing bikes are known as specialistas.  So know you know...

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