Mike Kirby rides the Rapha Strava Festive 500

Member Mike Kirby starts the year off with a detailed and amusing account of his goal to complete the annual Festive 500.

Did any other Stars do the Rapha Strava Festive 500? Starting Christmas Eve, through to New Year’s Eve, 8 days, 500 km’s. That’s 62.5kms per day, nearly 40 miles, every day. Strava run a ‘league’. Over 83,000 people signed up to do the challenge this year.

I needed to get some miles in my legs having had most of November off the bike with a trapped nerve. With an important Duathlon in the diary for March, I needed the Christmas ‘break’ for some serious catch up. Only 40 miles a day. Easy? Here is how I got on.

Christmas Eve:

A grey day, cold and overcast. Headed out towards Tysoe, appropriately via Christmas Corner, with Helen, Harry and Jessie. Bowling along very nicely, until rudely interrupted by a puncture. Harry and I added on a rapid 30k on to get ahead of schedule from day one. Chilly but pleased by the end.

Kms: 81. Punctures 1. Jelly Babies 10.

Christmas Day:

Up early to ride whilst the kids slept in. Trying to be quiet, I stubbed my toe on the end of the bed in the dark. One or two none-Christmassy words uttered. But the early start was more than rewarded with an amazing sunrise, full of orange, purples and reds. The sun finally puts in an appearance around 8-15 casting long shadows but no warmth. So quiet, the only sounds are the wind, my breathing and my tyres on the empty roads.

Kms:  46. Turkey Dinners 1. Quality Street: Many. New Jumpers 2!

Boxing Day:

Freezing cold and pouring with rain. Out again at 7-30, riding hard to stay warm and keen to get a few kilometres in before the legs set solid in the big freeze. Home and thawed out, I discover the Strava ranking table. Overjoyed to find I was in the top 10,000 of all the registered riders. Amazed to see the top 10 guys were already over 500 miles after 3 days. Riders from every corner of the globe.

Kms: 52. Hot Chocolates 1. Family Parties 1.

December 27th:

Not so delighted to find I had plummeted to 24,300th overnight as riders from different time zones logged miles. Also, now down on schedule. Remedial action needed. Out at 7-30 again, and over towards Tysoe, Shipston, Hook Norton, Bloxham, The Barfords, Deddington and home.

Kms: 82. Afternoon Sleeps 1

December 28th:

Got as far as Farthinghoe before the second puncture of the week. Helen discovered a sharp piece of alloy on her rim and we returned to base to regroup. Helen decided to get her wheel fixed so Harry and I pressed on. The only time I can stay on his wheel now is when he is slightly ill. Thankfully he has been coughing all week. Still very tired from chasing on though. League position holding steady around 14,500. Hmmm.

Kms 77. Punctures 1. Bubble and Squeak 1 (and second helpings)


December 29th:

Reminded myself I am doing a Duathlon soon and thought a run following the ride was in order. My toes just about thawed out after 5km on the treadmill. Unfortunately, this does not count toward the total. The ‘league’ leaders are now well over 1100 miles for the 6 days. Some of the riders names are written in Chinese or perhaps Japanese letters. Do these guys do Christmas, or do they just ride their bikes all day, every day?

Kms 53 (plus 5 running). Tired Legs 2

December 30th:

OK, ENOUGH. Lets just get this done, shall we? Two days to go. Just less than 110 kms to ride. A cunning plan develops. I decided to do the Autumn reliability ride route, plus the ride from home to Wood Green and back. There was a steady headwind most of the way to Burford.  Then a follower all the way back. Clocked up 500 km’s coming back towards Bloxham. Surprisingly satisfying.

A really excellent ride, I loved every minute. Sadly, no prized Certificate from El Presidente this time.

Kms: 117. Cumulative Km’s 508. Days to spare 1. Fleeting glimpses of contentment 1!

New Year’s Eve:

Not happy. Languishing at 14,000 and something. Only one solution. A cheeky 51k puts me up to 8540th place! Top 10 (thousand – Yay!). The ‘winner’ rode just over 2100 kms in the 8 days. Remarkable. His Strava profile says he is English. So, maybe he put in all those miles in the cold and the wet. Respect! And Chapeau to all 83244 riders who signed up and had a go. Great fun and a valuable block of training.

Would I recommend this? Yes, absolutely, IF you have an understanding family, like early mornings, don’t mind being out in the raw winter weather and of course, don’t have to work over the Christmas holiday.

Happy New Year to everyone. Let’s hope that in 2020, the road will rise up to meet us, the wind will always be at our backs, the sun will shine warmly on our faces and the rain will fall anywhere but on our rides! (With apologies to the Old Irish Blessing)