An insight into Velo Club Bristol

Surviving the Club Run!

When I completed the registration form to join the Velo Club Bristol back in 2011, I did so with a shaky hand. Not due to excessive drinking the night before, but what on earth was I thinking! I wanted to improve my cycling skills but imagined you had to be an elite cyclist to join. I spoke with Si, at Webbs of Warmley, who was so enthusiastic about the club, how they had a few female members but were looking for more to join, so I thought why not. When I left the shop, I started panicking…. what have I done!!

I remember turning up on a chilly Sunday morning at 8.30 am, stomach churning, and introduced myself to the boys. Oh great, the only girl here and these guys have defined quads that looked like they’d gone to Chris Hoy’s gym. I really wanted to go home. They chose the route and off we set. There were only 6 of us out that day, but I was assured that many more usually turn up, weather dependent.

Our route took in the sights of Castle Coombe, none of which I really saw due to continually being spat out of the back and having asthma episodes due to the effort of keeping up…. Or not, in this case.  I have to commend the boys, they were very patient with me and waited at EVERY junction. I did keep apologising for not keeping up, however, they were very gracious.

When we finally got back to the shop, I really did think that would be the last time I went out with them because I just wasn’t good enough. I hurt from head to toe and I just about made it through my front door before collapsing on the floor of my hallway and just lay there for about half an hour because I couldn’t move. It was pure agony!

Lying there in a state of shock and pain had me thinking, if it hurts this much, why do they go back time and time again and punish themselves? Surely there must be some enjoyment? So, not being the sort of person to quit I went back the following week.

Guess what, I got spat out time and time again and hurt from head to toe every week. I was the only girl for a long time and thought I’d continually have to prove myself. But the strange thing is, the more you go, the stronger you get and the more you learn. Doesn’t hurt any less but the training you put in during the week helps with surviving the endurance ride at the weekend. The speed is dependent upon whom is out riding. Sometimes it’s steady and you’re able to keep up, but it has its moments of mad mini sprints. You choose to go with them or catch them up at the next junction.  I make no bones about it, I hate hills, always have, always will. I get spat out royally but have learned to appreciate that they do indeed make you a stronger rider and I now have the ability to hang on with the group on the flats.

Some of the greatest things you’ll learn by going out on a club ride is knowing who’s wheel to sit on to get the most shelter from the wind, or where to sit in the peloton to recover. You’ll get advice from your team on what gear is best to use for certain roads/hills etc. and best of all you get to socialise with everyone on the ride as you yo-yo back and forth from front to back. There is always someone to offer advice and most importantly you’ll enjoy the experience.
We have some fantastic girls in our club who are exceptional riders. Everyone has to start somewhere and with the right mind set there’s no reason why any newcomer should feel intimidated on our club ride.

Having found my forte to be at the track (no hills!), the club run is essential to my training. Some weeks are better than others but rest assured the group do slow down to allow you to catch up should you start lagging behind and if you’re lucky, a helping hand on your back to push you up the hills! After 450 miles of riding in 8 days in Mallorca recently, along with 13 asthma episodes, you’re probably wondering why I still go back after being spat out and chewed up…..It’s because a wise person once said just get on your bike and enjoy riding it. Don’t think about it, just do it – I now fully appreciate what they meant!

Emma Sainsbury-Munn

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