Manchester Airport Viewing Park from home​ cut short on the way home by pothole and tyre off the ​rim. Hot, hot, hot 🌞🌞🌞

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With one thing and another, I’d not had a chance to cycle at all last week. I was thus dying to get out on my bike and get some miles in. I decided a ride out the cafe at the Manchester Airport Viewing Park would fit the bill perfectly. It should be about 110 miles round trip and the weather looked perfect.

I set off following my normal route to Altrincham, up through Childs Ercall to Market Drayton, then the fast road to Audlem and Coole Lane to Nantwich. The sun was beating down and not a cloud in the sky so I knew it was going to be a hot one.

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After Nantwich, I settled down on the Middlewich road and was soon stopping off at the Hopley House farm cafe for a quick coffee and to re-fill my water bottles.

From there it was a nice easy ride through Knutsford and Tatton Park to the viewing park. The heat was getting to me a bit by this stage as it was making the tarmac on the roads start to melt a bit, which was making the going tougher than it needed to be.

It was very busy at the Viewing Park with everyone out enjoying the glorious weather.

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I retired to the cafe for a quick pint of something cold and some lunch. I was foiled on both accounts as they no longer serve draught beer, only had bottles and also the menu had changed and with being a veggie my options were very limited. Mental note, not to come here for lunch again!

I soon settled in for the return ride and headed off under the two airport runway tunnels to Wilmslow, before turning right to Alderley Edge. I contemplated a go at the top 100 climbs cobbled Swiss Hill in the village before good sense got the better of me and I realised it was way too hot for that kind of malarkey!

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It was then off the busier roads and on to nice quiet lanes towards Jodrell Bank. After this, I took up my normal Jodrell Bank ride return route via Sandbach, Crewe, Wybunbury and Woore.

I had to stop to re-fill with water again at a farm cafe just south of Sandbach, so felt obliged to have a quick flat white as it felt cheeky just asking for water.

Just before Market Drayton I hit a pothole at the wrong angle and unseated a tyre from the rim. I run tubeless tyres and they are a nightmare to re-seat, so I opted for a lift home from there as it was only about 10 miles to go anyway.

A fab ride out but way harder work than normal due to the heat. Great fun though and that’s my cycling itch well and truly scratched for now.

Route: click here

Wiggle Magnificat, Black Route. Fabulous ride in gorgeous countryside, but oh, THAT wind from the south was hard work!

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Today was the Wiggle Magnificat Sportive, starting from the Newbury Showground in West Berkshire. I’d booked on the longest route as normal, this time it was the Black Route at about 127 miles and over 8000ft of climbing. It’s down as a 10/10 for difficulty but I’m totally up for the challenge!

I’d arrived in the area the day before, so drove over to event HQ early this morning. Parking was easy and I rode the short distance over the grass to Registration.

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Once registered, I fancied a quick coffee before I started my ride so stopped by my friends at the BoMo Expresso Bar for a flat white. Suitably fortified with caffeine, I headed over to the start line.

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The first part of the route took us to the east, in the direction of Reading, before looping round to the north and over the A34 at East Ilsley. I’d done the reverse of this road on the Brewin Dolphin Ridgeway Rouleur a month or two ago, so it was familiar.

The first feed stop 17 miles into the ride at West Ilsley soon followed and I stopped to top up with water as it was a warm day and some 35 or so miles to the next feed stop.

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After Farnborough, there was a lovely long sweeping descent off the Ridgeway and into Wantage and I spotted 3 different SportivePhoto.com photographers along this beautiful section of road.

The route then headed south and the Epic and Black routes soon split off. The next feed stop at Great Bedwyn soon followed and was a short diversion off the route.

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Not long afterwards I got to the part where the Black route split off on it’s own but there were no signs saying so. I must have just missed the cut-off time as there is a nasty wind from the south which has really been slowing me down for a while now!

What the heck, I have the route on my GPS so rode the Black Route anyway and made a mental note to pick the pace up a bit, especially when the wind finally got behind me.

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When I got to the village of Appleshaw I was expecting to see the third feed stop at the Village Hall, but it was nowhere to be seen (they had taken down all the route signs from the last course split as I was riding unsupported on this section of the route). I asked a passing pedestrian and he told me, “top of the hill, on the right, you can’t miss it”. Well, I followed the instructions and totally missed it. I’ve no idea where it was!

About half a mile later on I did find a village hall and asked a lady outside it if this was it. It was not, it was the next village’s village hall. Doh! She kindly offered to fill my water bottles up for me at her house over the road and I had enough food for the rest of the ride anyway, so was sorted. Phew!

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The wind was behind me by now and my pace picked up quite a bit. I was soon re-joining the Epic route and coasting into the final 4th feed stop at Kintbury. I didn’t stop long here as I was conscious I needed to make up time to get back to event HQ.

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It was then a pretty easy ride back to the finish line, with only a couple of nasty climbs to test my tiring legs. I arrived back just before 6pm and collected my medal and goodies and got a lovely brie and chutney baguette off the New Forest Steak Co people, who were just packing up their van at the end of the day.

A fabulous route in a gorgeous area that was all new to me, apart from the familiar bit around the first feed stop.

Route: click here

Bike Chester Sportive, Long Route. 2 top 100 UK climbs: Horseshoe Pass and The Shelf. Beautiful route and perfect weather.

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I was not going to do a sportive this weekend as I already had the Nova Raiders Cycling Weekly ride on Saturday, but it got to Friday afternoon and I was going “cold turkey” at the thought of no sportive.

The weather forecast looked perfect all weekend and I remembered Bike Chester was on Sunday and it’s not too far from home. I rode it last year, hoping it would go up the Horseshoe Pass but it went on a flat route over Cheshire to Tatton Park and back. Nice enough, but not very challenging. This year it returned to the Horseshoe Pass and also included The Shelf, which is another top 100 UK climb. Perfect!

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I booked on and drove the 50 minutes to the start at the Kings School in Chester early on Sunday morning. There is no parking at the school but they have arranged to use the M&S Bank car park in the nearby business park. From there it’s a couple of minutes ride down the road to the school.

Registration was quick and easy and I had a quick coffee to wake me up before the ride. The sun was already out and it looked like an absolutely perfect day to be out on your bike. Really looking forward to this…

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I made my way to the start line, which was a bit weird as they are normally marked with a large blow-up start arch or at the very least some big flags to denote it. The only thing they had here was the two guys doing safety briefings and a strip over the road to pick up your timing transponders to record your start time. Oh well, onwards and upwards (literally!).

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The first part of the ride out was very flat (it is Cheshire after all!) but we were soon in Wales and would stay there for most of the day. The first feed stop at Plassey was about 22 miles into the ride. This is a cafe I have been meaning to check out on a ride from home and it looks great. Must do that ride sometime as it’s a nice route out to here.

After the feed stop, the terrain started to get more undulating as we headed down the valley into Llangollen, followed by the start of the Horseshoe Pass climb shortly afterwards.

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It’s not too hard of a climb but does go on for quite a while. Today the climb was frequently punctuated by loud motorbikes zooming past, all going to the Ponderosa Cafe at the summit. A bit of a nuisance as it would have been lovely in the peace and quiet but it is a sunny Sunday so it’s totally understandable.

Once at the top, it was downhill for a while and then pretty undulating, before I headed off on the Long 80 mile route and a lovely long and flowing descent towards Ruthin in the Vale of Clywd. Loved it and a great chance to cool down with the wind from the speedy descent in your face.

At the bottom, it was a right turn to start The Shelf. This is another top 100 UK climbs and is on a pretty rough road, with lots of gravel, grass growing in the middle and more than a few potholes to avoid. It’s not too steep for the most part but does go on for what seems like ages, with fabulous views over the Vale of Clywd gradually opening behind you.

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At the top, I bumped into a guy called Steve from Broughton near Chester and who I was riding into Llangollen with earlier. We rode together for the remainder of the ride.

The ride was now very undulating over the top of the mountains to the second and final feed stop at a place called Bwlchgwyn. No-one seemed to know how to pronounce this and I’m still none the wiser. Anyone???

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After this, there was a lovely long and flowing descent back down to the Cheshire plain and we went back into England just after Pulford. Then it was an easy ride back to event HQ.

At the event HQ, I was dismayed to see the two guys giving out medals insisted on taking everyone’s rider number tags off them. No amount of protesting off me as I collect them and have the one from last year’s Bike Chester, would make any difference. A bit of an annoying and totally un-necessary end to a fab ride.

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I sat in the sun having a lovely pint of Cheshire Cat with Steve and another guy for quite a while before we all made our way home.

I diverted on the way home as my son was at a course at a nearby hotel, so I drove over there to meet him coming out of his course and got chatting with people at the pub over a pint of cold lemonade while I was waiting.

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A great day out on the bike, perfect weather, lovely route, gorgeous scenery and some fun climbs. Loved it!

Route: click here

Nova Raiders Cycling Weekly Ride

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My cycling club, the Nova Raiders have been asked to feature in the “Ride With” section of Cycling Weekly magazine, where they feature a different cycling club every week and today was the day for a ride with their journalist, Sean and their cameraman, Andy.

We’d scoped out a route to our Sponsor Joule’s brewery in Market Drayton on Wednesday so arranged to meet all the other riders in the B&M car park in Newport at 9:30 this morning. We’d normally have met in The Square, but with the Newport Carnival on today, we opted to keep well out of the way of people setting up for the Carnival.

About 50-60 Raiders turned out, most of them in Raiders kit! This should make for some perfect photos! We all re-located to The Square for a big group photo for the magazine before starting the ride.

The Steady group then split off and that left more Intermediates than we could take on one ride. We this split into two groups, with the group I was in riding with Sean and Andy was leapfrogging the group in his car, stopping to get in-ride shots at various vantage points.

We had a quick briefing from Sean on what to expect on the ride with regard to the photos and off we set. We avoided the High Street and opted for Water Lane to keep out of the way of the carnival.

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It was a lovely ride out to the brewery, stopping to let Andy in his car past every so often and then composing ourselves for the resulting photo. He must have got quite a few excellent shots as he picked some great points to capture us from!

At. the brewery, the other two groups had already arrived and clapped us all in as we arrived. Loved it!

We had the Mouse Room booked for us with coffee/tea and then delicious homemade cakes from various kind members of the club. Lovely. The other groups had made good work of the cakes already so we all got stuck in before they all went.

Then it was time for the group photo outside, with numbers to show how much we raised for charity on our recent Route 66 sportive – £4505!!! See the photo at the top of this.

We then all set off back to the club HQ – the New Inn in Newport. With no photographer for this section of the ride, we all upped the pace a lot and were soon back in Newport enjoying a cold beer in the lovely sunshine and doing one of the things Raiders do best – socialising.

The article is slated for publication on 27th July this year and I can’t wait to see how it comes out. I think we presented the absolute best of our club today and am a very proud member of the club.

Route: click here

Raiders ride out to Market Drayton checking out proposed Cycling Weekly ride route.

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My cycling club, the Nova Raiders are riding with Cycling Weekly magazine this Saturday for a feature on the club in a future magazine. We had a route in mind, taking in lots of normal club roads, but slightly different than a normal ride as we want a cafe stop at our sponsor’s, Joules Brewery in Market Drayton.

Today I met up with Dave Wright, Si Broad and Steve Urbicki to ride the proposed route and check all roads are open and as pothole and gravel free as possible.

We started out at Nova Cycles in Newport and headed out down Longford Lane, past Adeney and through Tibberton. We then meandered along quiet lanes towards Market Drayton, where we stopped at The Buttercross Tearoom for some coffee and food. A lovely spot which was totally sheltered from the wind, but caught the sun nicely.  I could have happily sat people watching all afternoon!

Eventually, we thought we better head off back to Newport as I had work to do back in the office. We headed off up the back way towards Cheswardine, then to the top of Shay Lane and back to Newport.

A glorious day for a ride in the lovely sun and the route checked out perfectly.

Route: click here

Wiggle South Downs Epic MTB Sportive, Epic Course. My first MTB sportive.

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After the Wiggle Sussex Gran Fondo Black Route yesterday, my legs felt surprisingly good this morning and ready to ride the Epic route on the Wiggle South Downs Epic MTB Sportive.

I had some quick porridge at the hotel and myself and Andy drove over to the event HQ at Fontwell Racecourse for the second sportive in as many days. As we’d been here yesterday, it was dead easy to find our way round and we were soon registered and ready to ride.

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I’ve not done a whole lot of MTB riding so I’m totally dropping myself in the deep end by riding the longest route on a MTB sportive today. In for a penny, in for a pound though and I’m always up for a challenge!

The first part of the route was the same as yesterday’s road sportive, but not long afterwards we took a right turn up a track and up a hill into some woods.

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This was pretty much the first time I’ve tackled uphill riding with tree roots everywhere and I was finding it quite challenging and not a little bit un-nerving with my wheels jumping around all over the place. Not something you are used to from road riding!

My nerves got the better of me on a rooty downhill section and I tried to stop but ended off coming off my bike at the side of the track into some small bushes. Just a scratch to my leg and my pride dented a bit, but my nerves did subside after this and I started to settle into the ride and what was required.

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Soon afterwards we were out of the woods and on open heathland, which was much easier to cycle along. The course split with the Short route heading back to the finishing line soon followed.

The next section of the ride was lovely. Along the South Downs Way on the top of a hill with fab views all around. Loved it and in no time the Epic route split off too and we were zooming down the hill to the first feed stop of the ride near Cocking.

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We spent way too long nattering at the feed stop but eventually set off for the slog up the next hill, which turned out to be not quite as bad as it looked from a distance. At the top it was into a wooded section again, but my confidence levels were much better now and I was totally enjoying it.

Not long afterwards we climbed up to a nature reserve called Kingley Vale, which is home to the UK’s oldest trees according to the information sign. It also had the most amazing views over the coast and beyond. Loved it!

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A fast and flowy descent followed and we then bumped into a fellow cyclist who had had 7 punctures and was totally dis-spirited (needless to say he’d run out of gas canisters and spare tubes a long time ago). Andy ended up re-fixing a puncture patch which had failed, but this only lasted a few hundred yards and then went again!

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Thankfully we bumped into a course marshall soon afterwards who had spare tubes so he put one on and was back in business. Phew!

We’d spent quite a long time with the punctures and time was getting on, so we made an executive decision to cut the next few miles of off-road out and head by road direct to the next feed station. Needless to say, when we got there, they were starting to pack up!

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Water replenished, we headed off for the final section of the route back to event HQ. This was back into the woods we’d started out, but initially via a different route before joining up with the initial route for the descent back down to the event HQ.

This time the tree roots caused me much less of a problem and I was thoroughly enjoying the challenge.

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Back at event HQ, we got a coffee from my friends at BoMo Expresso Bar and I had a leg massage from Six Physio as it’s a 4-hour drive back home and I did not want my legs aching and me keep having to stop the car to stretch them.

What an absolutely fabulous weekend of cycling. Great weather, lovely routes, good comapny. Loved it!

Route: click here

Wiggle Sussex Gran Fondo, Black Route. Gorgeous weather, sublime route, just perfect!

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Today was the Wiggle Sussex Gran Fondo Sportive, starting at Fontwell Racecourse, near Chichester in West Sussex. I’ve had this one booked along with the MTB sportive from the same venue the day after for a while now.

This is one of the few UK Cycling Events Sportives with a Black Route, which is longer and hillier than their normal ‘ top of the range’ Epic route. As my goal is to do the longest route on every sportive I enter, naturally, I was booked on the Black route!

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I arrived in the area the day before and was up bright and early for the 10-minute drive to the venue as with the extra mileage today, I was anxious to get started as soon as I could. On arrival, I met up with my southern sportive riding mate Andy and we had a quick coffee from my friends at the BoMo Expresso Bar before setting off on the ride.

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The route initially took us up past Goodwood Racecourse, which I recognised from last year’s South Downs 100 sportive, where we’d come the other way down the road past the racecourse.

The route then meandered northwards before our first feed stop at Rogate. Here I filled up with water as it was going down fast today with beautiful blue skies and the sun.

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At Buriton, the Epic and Black routes split off from the Standard and we entered the lovely Meon Valley, which I have fond memories of from the Mega Meon sportive last year. Absolutely loved that ride, in fact, it’s one of my stand-out rides from last year’s sportives!

The second feed stop was at Alresford and a slight diversion off the route to get to. Only just up the road though and not a problem. Suitably refreshed, we set off for the next section, where, a few miles later, the Black route split off from the Epic.

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The Black section was deceptive as it’s an additional 20 miles or so, but meandered all over the place and was all ups and downs so added quite a bit to the elevation total. A beautiful section of countryside and an absolute pleasure to cycle through. The third feed stop was along this section at Meonstoke.

Eventually, we re-joined the Epic route and started heading back int he direction of the event HQ. Not long afterwards we popped into the fourth and final feed stop at Forestside for a top up with water as by this time it was the hottest point of the afternoon.

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From here it was a flattish 20 miles or so to the finishing line, with just the one main climb back up to Goodwood Racecourse to contend with. Andy was in unchartered territory now as we were past his longest ride distance, but he kept up a very respectable pace and was obviously enjoying the ride every bit as much as I was!

Back at event HQ, we were met at the finishing line by Donna, Andy’s wife. We received our medals and goodies and all headed off back to the hotel in Chichester for a soak of legs in a hot bath, followed by some pizza and beers, before an early night in readiness for tomorrow’s MTB sportive.

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A fabulous day out on the bike again and as perfect a sportive as I’ve ever done. Absolutely loved it!

Route: click here

Lockgate Coffee Shop in Beeston with Mark Sheridan. Fab ride despite the rain.

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I’d planned a ride out to the fabulous Lockgate Coffee House in Beeston with a friend today. The weather was not looking the best, with rain forecast later but I’ve got my new rain jacket and wanted to try it out (plus I wanted to get out on a longer ride anyway).

I rode down to Childs Ercall from home and met Mark there. We then set off through Ollerton, Stoke on Tern and Tilstock before getting stuck at the canal bridge on the border with Wales as the bridge was up to let a canal boat through. Then another one came through, then another, then another…

We were getting a bit impatient now as we were cooling down after all the exercise and then standing still for ages. Luckily the guy with the big spanner to operate the bridge took pity on us and put the bridge down to let us cross. Phew!

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It was then an easy ride up inside the Welsh border before crossing into Cheshire. Mark fancied a coffee and a snack so we stopped at the Fire Station in Malpas for a quick break.

As we came out of the cafe the rain had already started and pretty much did not let up for the rest of the ride, and hence the lack of photos on here as all the views were obscured with the weather.

We took the west side of the Peckforton Hills as there is more climbing there and the views are normally great (not today though!). Soon afterwards we arrived at the Lockgate Coffee Shop for lunch.

A nice Cortado, avocado and poached egg on toast and a small tiffin later and we were on our way back.

The first part of the journey back is pretty flat and we got up a decent head of steam, gradually pushing our average speed for the ride up and up.

At Market Drayton, we had time for a quick pint so retired to the brewery tap for a short break. The rain was still going when we got back on the bikes but thankfully my new rain jacket was working wonders and keeping me nice and dry.

I said goodbye to Mark at where the Four Crosses pub used to be on the A41 and headed off home for a shower.

A great ride out with good company and a fab cafe stop.

Route: click here

Raiders Bank Holiday ride to Dearnford Lake for coffee and cake, then back to the New Inn for a beer in the sun

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I’d missed my sportive on Saturday. I was down to do the Sigma Sports Surrey Hills Cyclone but with one thing and another on Friday, I never got chance to drive down and so decided to give it a miss.

By Bank Holiday Monday I was dying to get out on my bike and a Nova Raiders ride to Dearnford Lake at 10am in the morning looked perfect. It’s a steady club ride, so a nice gentle pace which won’t affect my legs for the coming weekend’s doubleheader sportives (Sussex Gran Fondo on Saturday and then South Downs Epic MTB on Sunday).

I rode down to Newport from home in plenty of time to see only one rider in The Square waiting. Hmmm, was hoping for a better turnout than that. A minute or two later a big group appeared around the corner from the B&M car park. We ended up with 15 in total, which is perfect as that’s the maximum allowed on any one ride by our club Cycling UK insurance.

We set off up out via Adeney, Tibberton and Great Bolas, connecting then with my normal route to Dearnford from home. The clouds started to clear on the way and the sun made a very welcome appearance. I was totally enjoying catching up with friends as we rode along and the sun just topped things off.

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At Dearnford, our big group descended on the cafe to put our orders in and retired to two tables outside by the lake in the sun. Did I mention the sun was out today ;-).

After some coffee and food, we headed off back the flattest route we could find back to Newport. Another very enjoyable ride and we were soon saying our goodbye’s to some riders, while the rest of us retired to the New Inn for some beers in the sun.

I ended up staying a little longer than I was planning at the pub (oops!) and managed to get a lift home. Phew!

A great ride out today and it totally summed up all I love about going out with my cycling club.

Route: click here

Finally,​ I got to do a Nova Raiders club ride – I’m only the Chairman after all!

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I’ve been the Chairman of the Nova Raiders Cycling Club for a good few months now but with all my busy sportive commitments and then training midweek, along with a very busy day job, I never seem to get chance to go out cycling with them.

This week I knew I needed a mid-week ride of about 50 miles so was thinking of a cafe ride to Dearnford Lakes on Wednesday but wondered about riding with the Raiders Tuesday evening instead. They normally do 30-35 miles and with the extra mileage of from and to home, that would top off around 50 miles. Perfect!

I rode down to Newport from home and arrived in plenty of time for the ride. In fact, there was only one other person before me! In no time at all about 60 or so Raiders arrived ready for the ride. Great to see so many friends and to briefly catch up before the ride.

There were so many Raiders that we ended up with a steady, steady+, 2 intermediate and a fast group. How many clubs can boast 5 different rides to choose from and on a Tuesday night too? Not many, I’d guess.

I went with one of the Intermediate groups lead by Dave Wright and we headed down towards Lilleshall and up Lilleshall Drive out of Newport. I have an issue with mind games and this gradual but longish climb and today was no different. You’d have thought it would be dead easy after all the way more brutal climbing I’ve done on sportives, but no.

The route then took us down through Shifnal, to Ryton, then over to Albrighton, Cosford and up the gradual climb to Boscobel House. Then a nice easy ride back to Newport through Blymhill.

Back in Newport, we all said our goodbye’s and I headed off home.

A really good fun few hours cycling. I’m still totally in endurance cycling mode and not used to faster and shorter rides though.

I’m absolutely fine on the flats and descents but a little too slow for club riding on any climbing. Not to worry though, as mixing it up with training is never a bad thing.

Route: click here