Cycling Section Season Update
Cheshire Cat 2018
My first sportive for the 2018 season was the Velo 29 Cheshire Cat, which I did last year in 6.47.09. The weather slowly improved early in the ride with the mist and fog burning away as the sun rose however, it was still a little chilly around the gills but I got the riding attire bang on, which meant I didn’t have to shed any layers. This beast of a route gives you plenty of opportunity to warm up those legs before hitting the climbs, the first of which was the infamous Mow Cop, a mile of climbing at an average gradient of 11.7% but the final stretch is where you enter hell, with the gradient increasing to 23% leaving you battling just to get your pedals to turn. One of the 100 toughest climbs in the UK, in the charts at #36! Once at the top the route continues to undulate through the hills for a further 25 miles, taking in classic local climbs out of Meerbrook and Barlow Hill in Winkle.
With 63 miles still to go and feeling very comfortable, I continued on through the Cheshire countryside and forested areas of Delamere Forest. On returning to the start at Queens Park, hot food and a beer awaited however, disappointingly, quite pricey so it was back to the van for a protein drink and a hasty retreat home.
I did this ride with two new club members, Paul James and Ade Cash and with their superb riding strength we worked together to finish in a respectable 6 hrs 30, smashing last years time, a trophy fest on Starva.
Snowdrop Audax 2018: 24/02/2018
Signed up for the The Snowdrop audax for my first of the year. Very popular with well over 275 riders making it a sell. The 75 mile route from Hartlebury heads out towards Upton, the Vale and Evesham and back and with only 5358 feet of elevation, it’s was kind on the legs. The weather was what you would have expected for the time of year (well in my day it was) with temperatures around 5-7 degrees. Doubling up on everything kept me nice and toasty. A devil of headwind though, made for quite a tough ride.
As with all adaxes you are required to check in with the café controls and if needed, purchase your food to keep those legs turning but at the end, there was a free meal waiting for you, which for me was a sausage sandwich. With no broom wagon, I was grateful not to have any mechanical breakdowns which would have meant putting emergency procedures into swing i.e. a call to the wife. Having rode to the start and home from the finish, I completed my first 100 + ride of 2018:-102 miles.
Wells, Mells & a little broader! :10/03/2018
My second Audax of the season, a 203km from Whitchuch, Bristol visiting Wells, Yeovil Railway Centre, Sturminster Newton and Kilmington. Watched the weather very keenly leading up to this one hoping for a break from what has become the norm for a very long period. Well if the journey into Bristol was anything to go by; I was set for another wet and windy ride. Fortunately, on arrival, the rain made a brief retreat while we all set ourselves for the off. The rain was soon back as we ploughed on into a tasty head wind that would stay until the ‘turn.’ The route headed out past Chew Valley Lake and over The Mendips to the cathedral city of Wells where I grabbed my first flapjack fix from the market. The first food stop proper, and the only one I actually stopped at, was at Yeovil Train Station, within the old transfer shed, where the soup was as warm as the room until the good folk kick started the industrial heater.
Having dried out, I headed out towards Batcombe Hill climb with nice views across Blackmoor Vale before descending back to the vale floor and some easy running before slowly climbing to Kilmington for the second food stop but I decided to push on. The final stretch took in the Colliers Way railway path into the old mining town of Radstock all with a few more hills before arriving back at Whitehall Garden Centre. 127 miles just edging over 9 hours and 8961 feet of climbing.
Cheltenham Flyer Audax: 17/03/2018
Now, you would have been forgiven for staying off the bike this weekend with the Beast from the East revisited. After weather watching for the second week, I decided to brave the biting wind and sub-zero temperatures in the hope that the forecast of snow wasn’t realised. Donned with seven layers (yes, seven layers), bubble wrap around my feet I was set for what would be a 125 mile ride.
After the free tea and biscuits at the start, I pulled out from the control at Andoversford for what would be a challenging ride. The food controls at Fernham, Burbage and Lacock provided much needed hot food and cake but I must say, the volunteers were brilliant and could do no more for you. Particular mention goes to those at Burbage. There, they provided hot soup and bread rolls and as soon as your bowl was empty, they were there ready to top it up again. I am somewhat of a food stop connoisseur and Burbage was up there as one of the best.
The ride took in the Coltswolds and N. Wilts with the highlights of R Coln valley, White Horses, Lambourn, Kennet & Avon Canal, V of Pewsey, Tetbury, Whiteway. Hooking up with some fellow riders made the journey into the arctic head wind bearable for what was a lumpy end to the ride. 125 miles and 6,395 feet of climbing—moving time 8:05 minutes.
Audax: Benjamin Allen's Spring Tonic: 14/04/2018
Completed Benjamin Allen's Spring Tonic on Saturday, a 200km event from Tewkesbury to Hay-on-Wye, The Forest of Dean and back.
First proper spring day with temperatures forecast to rise to a summer like 21 degrees so took the option to dress lightly and suffer the early chill. Predominantly a journey through one of the UK's most rural counties, along The Golden Valley and through The Forest of Dean. The ride left Tewkesbury and crossed the southern end of The Malvern Hills near Ledbury and gentle rolling roads to Leominster helped ease me in for breakfast. Thereafter, I passed through Herefordshire's pretty villages and hamlets crossing the River Wye at the ancient toll bridge at Whitney-on-Wye then gently rolled onwards for a re-fuel at Hay-on-Wye - bookshop capital of the UK.
The next stage passed through the aptly titled 'Golden Valley,' a picturesque area of gently rolling countryside in the lee of the Black Mountains, Wales. Onwards the route went across the River Wye again near Goodrich, entering the Forest of Dean at Kerne Bridge. The climb to Ruardean rewarded you with views of much of the route already enjoyed, before rolling through Cinderford and on to the afternoon control at The Dean Heritage Centre in Lower Soudley - a former site of iron smelting in Roman times. A pretty persistent headwind made the middle section between Hay and the Forest quite tough with roller-coaster hills adding to the difficulty level, not to mention the almost un-ridable lanes.
The final section was a quiet and gentle warm-down ride out of the forest, along the upper reaches of the Severn but with some of the route deep under water, a detour was needed to avoid damaged bearings. I arrived in Tewkesbury after 130 miles and 7648 ft of climbing. Moving time 7:57:04.
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