19 April 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Heather Fell tests Njinga cycle training weekend

May 20, 2013
Heather Fell tests Njinga cycle training weekend

I am just back from my fifth cycle ride in as many days, I think it must be the Njinga affect. When asked if I was interested in attending a luxury cycle weekend I was dubious as to how cycling and luxury could be combined, I can now confirm it is possible.

Njinga-1
Heather (Above left) with fellow cyclists

I have been cycling for just a couple of months and on a weak moment decided to take up the John O’Groates to Lands End charity ride. As a Modern Pentathlete my life has been full of five sports but none of which involve riding a bicycle, so now I am focusing on this new challenge. Winning a silver medal at Beijing means I know how to focus and train, but learning a new sport without the support of a world class coaching set up is proving to be a steep learning curve.

Arrival

After negotiating the Somerset country lanes I arrived at the converted farmhouse to a warm welcome from Leigh, Togo and I must mention Hershey the over-excitable brown Labrador. I was helped with my bags and shown to my en-suite twin room, handing over my bicycle on the way in.

Njinga-room

Turning up to a weekend away not knowing anyone can be a little daunting so the offer of a freshly made cocktail (with the choice of virgin or a dash of alcohol) helped to get me straight into the bank holiday spirit. Nibbles and wine were on offer whilst we waited for everyone to arrive and for the supper to cook. The open plan kitchen/dining room was perfect for mingling with the other guests and staff, and created a really nice relaxed atmosphere.

Njinga-Leigh

There will be a running theme throughout this post that I might as well admit to now: the delicious, healthy food that was in abundance, and all cooked from scratch for every course of every meal by the talented Leigh. The majority of Leigh’s creations were so well received that a request for the recipe or even a book of recipes was suggested on several occasions.

The riding

Saturday morning was an early start but made easier by a healthy smoothie and varied breakfast options available. After a safety briefing and thorough bike check we were off. Starting out on quiet country lanes was the perfect opportunity to get into our natural rhythm whilst Togo pointed out individual tips for all to work on. It was a steady start that encouraged natural groups to form, having warmed up as a whole we split in two with a qualified coach plus an assistant with each.

Njinga-Food

The adventures then began. After a few wrong turns we found the “delightful” 18% hill that apparently we were searching for. However as much as it hurt the sense of achievement amongst our group for climbing it was immense and the following climb up the locally notorious hill out of Cheddar Gorge felt quite pleasant as a result.

Due to a few navigational errors we only caught the other half of the Njinga gang briefly before stopping further on for a much needed pub lunch in the sunshine. It had been worth pushing on for lunch as the cycle back was pleasant and straightforward allowing us time to put our coaching tips into practice.

The evening before I had been asking what we were doing on Saturday afternoon – clearly I had completely underestimated the ride. I was not exactly sure what to expect, but being new to cycling and having never cycled more than 40 miles in one day the 60 mile undulating route (plus some big hills) was pleasantly challenging yet made manageable as the pace was fairly gentle with several breaks along the way.

The other group had arrived home ahead of us and were already sipping refreshing beverages and relaxing in the hot tub. After replenishing my energy stores with some homemade irresistible treats I was straight into the bubbles to relieve my tired legs and to compare stories with the other riders.

Njinga---hot-tub

The gym and spa facilities available on site were perfect for those in need of some further training, but I for one do not need any! Instead the final session turned out to be a wonderful recovery aid – a relaxing yoga session taken by one of the other riders, the perfect combination of stretching, core work and relaxation.

Party time

Njinga certainly want the weekend to be enjoyable and as such, Saturday night is fancy dress night…Who doesn’t love the chance for a bit of fancy dress fun? The theme being 70’s made it a relatively easy task to put something together and the added props provided helped give the finishing touches to get us all in the mood for a bit of Saturday night fever.

The combination of a few wigs and hilarious outfits, a day pedaling hard in the sunshine and a couple glasses of wine meant for an entertaining evening. Conversation flowed, sometimes in a slightly abstract direction thanks to Togo’s invented game of “Gotcha”, and the food was yet again five star. I went to bed exhausted but with a big smile on my face.

The format was fairly similar the next day, the only difference being the whole group rode and lunched together. The evening was more low key and some were a little quieter after a second consecutive day of cycling many miles.

Njinga-Party-night

Final day

The final morning there was an option of a short early ride before brunch. And as much as I was desperate for that lie in I am glad I made the effort for one final cycle, a few others felt the same. If anything it was worth it just to build up an appetite for the mouthwatering brunch that awaited us on our return.

Cheddar

Sitting in the sunshine, full from brunch I found myself feeling slightly sad that this long weekend had finished so soon. There were a few concluding words from the hosts along with the presentation of some informal awards. It was then time to pick up my gleaming bike and say goodbye to the great bunch of people I met.

Pros:

– Healthy and unlimited delicious food
– Friendly hosts
– Comfortable accommodation with great facilities
– Bike cleaned for you on departure
– Little touches such as a personal note on the pillow with a bar of chocolate at bedtime
– Safety taken seriously

Njinga-choc-treat

Cons:

– Route a little unorganised on the first day
– Group ability range proved a little difficult to cater perfectly for everyone’s ability

More info: www.njingacycling.com

Heather Fell, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Heather Fell is a Beijing Olympic Silver Medallist in Modern Pentathlon. To follow Heathers cycling progress and support her on her JOGLE challenge please click on the following links:
www.virginmoneygiving.com/heatherfell

www.facebook.com/officialheatherfell

Twitter: @heatherfellnews

Website: www.heatherfell.com 

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