David Ryan, was a talented cyclist, rower and physicist.  He was tragically killed in 2004 by a speeding motorist whilst out training near his home in upstate New York.  The Circuit of the Cotswolds Sportive commemorates his life.  This would be my first 100 mile ride and there were 2,500 meters of climbing.  Riders are encouraged to raise money for the Helen and Douglas House, which provides hospice care for children and young adults with very serious illnesses, and thanks to the generosity of my friends and family I had raised over £800.


On the day of the Sportive my alarm went off at 4am.  Although I had gone to bed at 8pm, I felt as if I had slept for less than an hour.  After changing into my cycling kit, and eating breakfast, I ran through the checklist I had prepared the night before.  There would be no support cars following to give us new wheels or even bicycles in seconds.  I had packed tyre levers, a puncture repair kit, a multi tool, rubber gloves, coins and two spare inner tubes, one of which was taped to the frame.  I wasn’t leaving anything to chance.


I carefully wrapped a few snacks in tin foil.  The human body did not have enough glycogen stores to last for a 100 mile cycle ride.  If I didn’t eat on the ride I probably wouldn’t make it.  Once, as a 14 year old, I had arrived home after a long cycle ride weak, hungry and irritable.   My father, a pharmacist, had diagnosed low blood sugar and my mother had given me a meal which I had eaten in seconds.  Today I packed two bananas, three flapjacks, two almond slices, two caramel slices, and enough supplies to make three bottles of energy drink.  That should be enough.


In the briefing we learnt that there would only be one traffic light on the route.  With a volley of clicks we cleated in ready for the ride, and then, at last, we were off through the Oxfordshire countryside.  The air smelt of damp earth.  We rode silently through quiet country roads, bordered by hedgerows and occasionally passed through deserted villages of honey coloured stone.


I soon found myself in a large group of riders, making good speed. Suddenly I heard a crunch, and a scream.  I glanced behind and saw there had been a crash.  If I stopped I would not be able catch this group again, but this was not a race, and I was less concerned about my time than finishing.  I headed back to see if I could help.


A lady was lying on the ground unable to move.  Worried that she had broken her neck I gently held her head, whilst another rider stretched her cramping leg, careful not to move her.  After a while we learnt that she had landed on her shoulder, not her head, as she went over the top of another rider who had fallen in front of her.  Her neck was not broken and we were able to move her to the side of the road.  When her husband, who was riding with her, did not return I left her with her friend and went on to the feed station to summon help.


As we rode on the hills become steeper and higher.  After 60 miles we arrived at Cleeve Hill which has a gradient of 25%, far steeper than any hill I had ever trained on.  I slowed to walking pace.  I was worried that I might come to a complete stop, and topple over, unable to un-cleat myself in time.  About a third of the way up I admitted defeat and dismounted to push.  I was surprised to find that I was going quicker walking than two riders who were still cycling!


After 75 miles I found unexpected reserves of energy, and I joined a group of three other riders and we rode together to the finish.  We gave each other high fives after we crossed the finishing line, and I felt relieved and absolutely delighted to have finished.


  1. Rode this event a few years ago. A beautiful circuit. Well done!

  2. Thanks, I really enjoyed it too, especially the last mile to the finish!

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