Reality bites after first ton is no Classic

The News deputy sports editor Rob Atkins is riding 205 miles in a single day for charity
The News deputy sports editor Rob Atkins is riding 205 miles in a single day for charity
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Okay, so it was hardly Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

There was nothing Classic about this spring ride, apart from the occasional shower and chilly wind.

However, my training session on Tuesday proved to be a major milestone in my bid to complete the Association for Glycogen Storage Disease (AGSD-UK) 205-mile challenge on Sunday, June 8.

A 100-mile stone. I am now a proud centurion after completing Portsmouth-Ludgershall-Portsmouth.

Granted, the name is not as catchy as that of the oldest Spring Classic on the World Tour – which will celebrate its own centenary tomorrow.

But the ride will nonetheless live long in my memory.

Not least because it was the day the size of the epic challenge confronting me later this summer was hammered home on the western fringe of the South Downs.

It is fair to say I finished the ride tired. Very tired.

The plan was to cycle up to my family home on the edge of Salisbury Plain, grab some lunch with my mum and then make my way back to Copnor.

And on the face of it I was successful. I rode 110.5 miles in a fraction over seven hours, with 5,893ft of climbing. My Garmin says so.

What it doesn’t say, however, is the final 20 miles were among the toughest I have experienced on two wheels.

And they have set alarm bells ringing as I look forward – if that is the right expression – to the full 205-mile challenge in little more than six weeks time.

The pain and suffering had looked a million miles away when I set off from Portsmouth shortly before 8am on Tuesday morning.

Determined to ride well within myself, using my new-found lactate threshold power of 249watts and corresponding heart rate of 169bpm as a guide, I made comfortable progress.

Spitting rain was the only frustration as I crossed Portsdown Hill from Bedhampton, relishing the descent into Southwick before heading for Denmead, Hambledon, Corhampton and Winchester.

The rolling hills on the Andover Road out of Winchester were of little concern, while I even enjoyed the steep hairpin turn on the climb out of Wherwell.

From there, the road through Andover to Ludgershall is pretty flat – even taking into consideration my detour to the nearby village of Appleshaw.

Ma Atkins had chicken sandwiches, grapes, blueberries, natural yoghurt and a caffeine boost in the form of a steaming hot cup of coffee waiting for me when I made my pit stop.

And as I gleefully refuelled, I had every confidence in making the return journey with the minimum of fuss.

That positivity continued until I hit the Morestead road out of Winchester.

For those who have never ridden it, this road is approximately 10 miles long with a dozen short, sharp climbs and not a yard of flat terrain.

Most of the ramps feature gradients in the region of 10 per cent – a test for any cyclist, let alone me.

And it was here the headwind, which would accompany me all the way back to Portsmouth, really began to bite.

I dragged myself over the first couple of climbs – admitting defeat in the bid to keep a lid on my threshold as the strength simply drained out of my screaming legs.

The drinks, flapjacks and energy bars I had consumed en route were having little impact and, from then on, each ascent felt like Alpe d’Huez.

It was all I could do to keep the wheels turning and, if I’d had the energy, I would have zipped up my jersey and punched the air in 
triumph as I dropped down into Corhampton.

A quick reminder of my pain came in the relatively gentle climb out of Brockbridge.

But, thankfully, I was then able to take advantage of some respite in Denmead and spin over Portsdown Hill and back down into Copnor with a certain degree of comfort.

I even added a loop around Eastney and a gulp or five of sea air to my trip before returning home.

But I was not in the mood to celebrate as I crashed out on my sofa.

With the mental scars from my Morestead hell still fresh, I slumped into something of a depression.

Suddenly the thought of 205 miles at a similar pace, circumnavigating the South Downs in June was a chilling prospect.

The route has yet to be finalised – I will hopefully unveil it on these pages next week – but by the very geography of our small section of the south coast, you can be certain it will be lumpy.

And so the doubts soon began to emerge. Will I have the stamina to survive such a test of endurance? Am I eating enough to sustain my effort?

Then, as if by magic, I got a text from a close friend.

His congratulations and words of encouragement – coupled with a gentle reminder about the charity at the centre of this ride – were enough to brighten the gloom and re-energise my fighting spirit.

This whole challenge wasn’t supposed to be easy, right?

Please, give myself and AGSD-UK a major boost in our quest by making a small donation.

Simply click here or visit and search Rob Atkins.