Timely boost comes in familiar surroundings

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Declan Brooks on the show    Picture: ITV/Thames/Fremantle

Portchester BMX star is taking a trip in the Take Me Out love lift

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Okay, so this may be a case of pride before a fall but I’m going to risk it.

Last Sunday I enjoyed the biggest boost to my confidence since agreeing to take on the Tommy Godwin 205-mile cycle challenge.

Maybe it is just a case of sunstroke-induced delirium, but suddenly I’m a believer.

I now genuinely reckon I can last the distance and complete a circumnavigation of the South Downs for the Droxford-based Association for Glycogen Storage Disease (AGSD-UK).

My moment of clarity came as I cycled through my old hometown of Bridport in Dorset.

I spent three years as sports editor of the town’s paper, making great friends and fond memories, before moving to Portsmouth in 2007.

While I still keep an eye on the fortunes of the area’s various teams, my latest visit was purely social.

Earlier this year, Lewis Stripp – a close friend and cycling inspiration – and I signed up to ride the annual Coast 2 Coast in aid of the Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance.

More recently it has become something of a focal point in my training – a chance to test my legs, my fuelling plans and my mental strength alongside other cyclists.

Not to mention a welcome diversion from the long, lonely training rides which have been commonplace over the past few months.

Okay, so the route from Watchet on the north coast of Somerset to the Dorset seaside resort of West Bay was only 54 miles long.

Little more than a quarter of the distance I will tackle on Sunday, June 8, with AGSD-UK development director Allan Muir & Co.

But it was the strength I still had in reserve as we pedalled into Bridport and on towards West Bay that was most pleasing.

After a huge crowd had generously cheered every rider in, one look at my Garmin only served to heighten my positivity.

We completed the course in 3hr 42min 15sec – clocking an average speed of 14.7mph, exactly the kind of considered pace I will be looking to deliver on the big day.

The icing on the cake was the 3,553ft of climbing we accrued – a far more concentrated amount than I expect to face in a fortnight’s time.

And with that in mind, the fact I spent only eight per cent (16min 55sec) of the entire ride on or above my lactate threshold was proof I am starting to better manage my efforts.

One of the major climbs was the 3.7-mile drag up towards the village of Elworthy just 10 minutes or so in.

Frequent stretches that ramped up to gradients of double figures were tempered by the fact we were merrily picking our way through the peloton.

Having started 20 minutes behind everyone else because of endless faffing by yours truly, we were playing catch-up at this point – fearing we would be left to navigate alone.

Fortunately, the route was superbly signposted and as we weaved our way up the climb it was a great chance to get a closer look at the social scene.

There were bikes of all shapes and sizes and cyclists of every standard – all with a kind word and plenty of encouragement for the new friends they were making along the way.

Soon after, I bumped into another pal, Taryn – one of my fiancee’s closest friends.

Having only signed up for the ride in a drunken haze on New Year’s Eve, she was stubbornly scrapping her way towards to the top of a hill just outside Bishop’s Lydeard.

I saw my opportunity to offer a few of my own words of encouragement in a bid to distract her from the pain.

Although, as Lewis later pointed out, the fact I was tucking into a homemade peanut butter and jam rice cake as she fought to turn the cranks may have come across as a little patronising. Sorry, Taryn!

The extra nutrition – made by my better half – was doing the trick, though, as I comfortably matched the energy I used with 2,596kcal of fuel.

And soon we were beginning our descent from Broadwindsor towards the coast, accepting the applause of a suprising number of people lining the route.

The sight of one chap, ringing a cow bell while running up a climb, bare-chested and waving his t-shirt around his head was pure gold.

He was clearly practicing for the Tour de France’s Grand Départ in Yorkshire but may need to shift a little timber if he is going to keep up with Chris Froome & Co in July.

Nonetheless, it all added up to a superbly-organised event enjoyed by all – not least myself, who was glad of the timely training boost!

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