Out feeling out a shorter Winter ride to Altrincham and back. Lovely lunch at the Red House Farm Cafe in Dunham Massey near Altrincham.

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I had a Sportive last Saturday (Wiggle Hawker Hurricane) and have one this Saturday (Wiggle Devils Punch) so opted for my main mid-week ride on Tuesday rather than the usual Wednesday. The only problem was I could not decide where to go!

I’d like to do the usual 100 miles but with the early evenings now the clocks have gone back, I know the last 20 miles or so might be in the dark. I thus opted to see what kind of distance might be possible without starting *too* early (I’m not a morning person!) and also getting back before it goes dark.

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I had an idea that 80 miles or so would work and my usual ride of that distance is Jodrell Bank and back from home, but I did that last week so wanted to do something different this week.

The Cat n Fiddle ride starting in Wybunbury that I did a few weeks ago with Tim appealed and the weather looked good. As I was leaving home I wondered if I might get slightly more miles in by going to Altrincham and back from Wybunbury. Looking at possible routes, I realised I did not have to decide until I was riding through Sandbach, a good few miles into the ride.

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I parked up at Wybunbury and set off, using the route up Slaughter Hill (see last Wednesday’s blog entry for the reason it’s called this) and onwards to Sandbach. In Sandbach I decided to do the route to Altrincham, so off I went on a new road to me, from Sandbach to Middlewich.

This turned out to be a good fast road for cycling and I was averaging 18mph by the time I arrived in Middlewich. Better try and calm the speed down a bit though as it’s not conducive to endurance cycling! It was great fun though :).

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After Knutsford, I was riding through the beautiful Tatton Park when I thought I might venture out into Dunham Massey and try the Red House Farm cafe for lunch, as I’ve heard great things about it on the Cheshire cyclist sites.

The Red House was really nice and I had a lovely poached egg, sauteed mushrooms and blue cheese on rye bread. Then it was a short ride into Altrincham and a quick pint in my old local The Old Roebuck.

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The ride back to Wybunbury was pretty uneventful. I headed down to Ashley, then through Mobberley, Jodrell Bank, Congleton, Alsager and then cut through to the side of Crewe and my car.

A fun ride out in the lovely Autumn weather and I got back with 72 miles on the clock and before it went dark.

Route: click here

Wiggle Hawker Hurricane Sportive, Epic Course. Sublimely organised, beautiful constantly undulating route and lots of strong winds to deal with. Loved it! Tonight I’m off to see Metallica in Manchester.

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Today was the Wiggle Hawker Hurricane Sportive, starting at Turweston Airfield in Northants and heading out for an 80 mile loop around the rolling Northants countryside. There last time I had been here was a good while ago when I flew myself in for a quick cup of coffee on the way back from somewhere near London.

As usual, I’d travelled down the day before and so on the morning of the even I was up nice and early for the 23 minute drive to the event HQ. Today I planned to be finished by 2pm as I needed to drive up to a friends house in Manchester to get a quick shower before us all going out to see Metallica at the MEN Arena this evening.

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I thus skipped my usual pre-ride coffee and went over to register and set off asap. Registration was the usual no fuss routine. There was a longish queue out of the registration tent and I feared a delay but it moved REALLY quickly and I was soon sorted.

As I approached the start line a friendly member of the UK Cycling Events staff called out “Hello John!” as she’d recognised me from the many of their sportives I have done this year. We ended up having a lovely chat before I went to the start line and was off on the ride.

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I’m not familiar with this part of the country at all so it was all new to me. Nice undulating countryside with plenty of climbing but nothing too testing. A little chilly to start off with, but the sun was soon coming up for what promised to be a lovely day.

The first part of the route headed down towards Buckingham before going northwards towards Towcester and onwards to the first feed stop at Litchborough. Here I stopped to fill up with water, have my usual 2 home made cheese and marmite pastries and a gel, plus a good natter with fellow riders!

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We now headed southwards following the Standard and Epic routes until the split at Canons Ashby where I took the Epic route as normal. This was a more testing part of the ride as there were serious winds from the west and this part of the ride was almost all straight into the wind. With some of the roads being on high ground with no hedges, it was seriously testing all of us Epic riders!

The second feed stop came at Wormleighton and I filled up with water again as I was running short – I’m on my usual winter 1 bottle strategy to save weight! Yes, I know I should really start to think about losing weight myself but I like my food and I’ve never felt so healthy as I do now. That’s a thing to think about ‘next’ week :).

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After this, thankfully the route turned predominantly south-eastwardly and thus we had the benefit of the wind behind us. Bonus!

I missed the final feed stop at Wappenham out as there was only 7 miles to the finishing line and I’d made sure I did not need to stop for more water. I always carry enough food and gels for the whole ride, so it’s only really water top-ups I need to stop for.

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The final section back to event HQ was made up of Epic, Standard and Short route riders and it was really lovely to see such a vast mix of riders of different abilities all riding together.

I knew there were no major tests in this final section and had plenty of gas left in the tanks so opened up the taps and was zooming past most riders, totally enjoying myself.

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Back at the event HQ I crossed the line, collected my medal and some nice bonus goodies. I’d normally have relaxed and had a coffee and chat with fellow riders, but with tonight’s Metallica gig in Manchester to get to, I needed to get on the road and get up the motorways asap.

Needless to say I got to my friends in loads of time and was soon out in the Northern Quarter in Manchester enjoying a pre-gig curry and few pints.

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Then it was off to the MEN Arena for the show, which was totally amazing. It did feel a bit weird knowing the terror attack that happened here a few months ago and walking through the exact area where the misguided guy set the bomb off. My thoughts were with all those who lost their life or were injured in it.

An amazing day doing things I totally enjoy. A perfectly organised sportive which was great fun and a great evening out to end the day. Fabulous!

Route: click here

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Jodrell Bank from Hinstock on a beautiful Autumn day

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I’d arranged to ride out to Jodrell Bank with Mark Sheridan today. I amended my usual route to start and end in Hinstock (where I was meeting Mark) and it was saying about 82 miles. Perfect! Just what I need before the Wiggle Hawker Hurricane Sportive in Northants on Saturday.

We met up opposite The Falcon in Hinstock and set off. The first part of the ride was punctuated with a couple of stops as Steel Panther (my favourite band) tickets for the January UK shows are out at 10am this morning on fan club pre-sale and my lovely wife had offered to try and bag tickets as I was out on a ride!

In the end, the UK tickets links would not work but she kindly bagged me tickets for Dublin and Belfast as she loves Ireland and it was a good excuse for a mini road-tip together. A bonus I was not expecting but that was very welcome!

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After Wybunbury, I tried a slightly different route to normal, missing out the Crewe ring road cycle path and opting to go up Slaughter Hill instead. I’ve always wondered why it’s called this so have just looked it up and it’s to do with the Civil War in 1644 – see http://www.haslington.org/civil-war for the full story if you are interested.

We then re-joined the Crewe to Sandbach road and took the usual route to Jodrell Bank after that, via Holmes Chapel.

As we arrived, there was literally a queue of cars out of the car park and we feared a long wait for the cafe. I’d forgotten it was school holidays! Apparently, there was a children’s show on and it was just about to finish. Quick, we need to get to the cafe before it does and there is a HUGE queue!

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We made it in time and enjoyed a nice lunch before setting off for the return journey.

On the way back we stopped after the majority of the hills at the Swan With Two Necks on the A53 as we both needed to fill up with water. May as well have a sneaky pint while we are at it as it would be rude not to!

Back in Hinstock, we retired to the Falcon for some post-ride refreshment. We ended up with 79.6 miles on the clock, so I have no idea where the extra 2 miles or so Strava was saying the route would be went.

A fab ride out with great company and perfect Autumn weather.

Route: click here

Wiggle South Downs 100 Sportive, Epic Course. Bit of a naughty boy as I rode the Epic Course even though it was closed at the last minute. Great route and scenery but most of the way it was hills into wind – ouch! Last 100 mile Sportive of the season complete.

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Today was the Wiggle South Downs 100 Sportive and I was, as usual, booked on the Epic Course. See the panel below for further details on this and my decision:

Epic route was closed!

The day before the event, UK Cycling Events emailed to say they had been unable to set the course markers for the Epic 100 mile route due to the high winds of Storm Brian. They thus moved all riders who had entered the Epic route onto the 70 mile Standard route.

I’d been looking forward to riding the Epic route today as it would be my last 100 mile sportive of the 2017 season. I thus asked them on Facebook if it was ok for me to ride it anyway. I knew the feed station on the Epic route would be closed and was happy to self-support myself and I always carry enough food and gels for the whole ride anyway.

They replied saying I would be taking myself out of the event if I did so. Not a great problem to me as I REALLY wanted to ride the 100 miles (it’s called the South Downs 100 for a reason after all!). I did want a medal at the end. What I did not want, though, is to cause extra hassle for the already very busy event staff. Hopefully I did not.

As it ended up, a few things resulted from my descision:

  1. I missed out on the two remaining feed stations as they were packing up as I arrived at both. Not a problem as I managed to get a water refill from both, saving me time having to find a pub / cafe to fill up at. I had enough food and gels for the whole ride on me anyway.
  2. I missed out on official photos from SportivePhoto.com (apart from one photographer in the first 13 miles of the offical route) as by the time I’d done the Epic loop, they had packed up and gone home.
  3. I missed out on the timed hill climb at Butser Hill as they were packing up when I arrived. Not really bothered with this as I would never have made KOM but I did miss a bit of fun with it.
  4. The finish line was packing up when I arrived back (just before the event HQ closing time of 5pm) but I asked nicely for a medal and they got one for me out of the van. Phew!
  5. I did not get an official time or certificate for the ride as the finish timing was closed by the time I got back. Not a great issue for me.
  6. When I had finished the Epic loop and was back on the Standard route, they had already started to clear the route markers and I only caught up with them at the second feed stop at 60 miles into the ride. They then overtook me and I did not see any more route markers for the remainder of the ride. Had my own navigation with me, so not an issue.
  7. I rode on my own for the 87 miles from the point I headed off onto the Epic loop and using my own navigation. Again, not a great problem as I love my own company, but I did miss out on the social side of the sportive which is a shame.

Would I do it again?

Probably not, as I missed out on most of the things normally associated with sportives (see above).

I did get the last 100 mile sportive of the season done though and had a very challenging (wind in the face up most of the hills solo, so nowhere to hide and rest) but ultimately very rewarding ride.

I travelled down to the area on Saturday and went for a lovely Indian at this “fine dining” Indian restaurant in Bognor Regis that I’d been to before when I was last here to see my beloved Altrincham FC play Bogor Regis on a Tuesday night. Who the hell travels that far to see a footie match on a mid-week night? Me!

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In the morning I was at the venue early(ish) and bumped into my Southern Sportive riding mate Andy in the car park. After a quick catch up, we went over to register, or rather I registered as Andy had already done so and so waited with the bikes outside.

We then set off asap as I was still in two minds whether to ride the Epic route and wanted to see how the wind felt on the ride before making a decision.

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The route initially took us up out of Chichester into the South Downs and past the Goodwood racecourse. This brought back memories of Epsom Downs racecourse as I used to pass it every day on the way from home in Banstead to work in Epsom just after university.

The course split soon arrived and I had already decided to go for it. Andy was thinking of doing so too but decided to stick with the Standard route in the end.

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The Epic loop was over towards Billingshurst and fairly flat, but still pretty undulating. The main thing of note on it was a road closure about half way round but thankfully there was a way route for pedestrians (and thus cyclists – phew!).

I stopped for my own feed stop by the side of the road just before Plaistow at about 30 miles into the ride. Some lovely cheese and marmite pastries my lovely wife had made me and a Rhubarb and Custard gel. Perfect fuel!

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I rejoined the Standard route a while later and was soon at the 60 mile feed stop at Redford. They were just packing up so I refilled with water and had the same food as at my earlier self-imposed feed stop. Had a nice chat with some of the event staff while I was here.

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After this, I was overtaken by the UK Cycling Events vans that were taking course signage down. Not a problem for me as I have it all on my GPS anyway.

The hardest climb of the course came a short while later at South Harding where the slope was just enough to make you put in some serious effort and unrelenting in its gradient for quite some time. I was glad to see the top, where we immediately went back down the same side of the hill! Doh!

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The third feed stop at 77 miles was a familiar spot as the same village hall was used on the Wiggle Mega Meon sportive a few months ago. They were almost packed up here so I quickly topped up with water and was on my way.

Next up was the timed hill climb at Butser Hill. They were just packing up when I arrived so I would not get to be timed. Loved the fancy dress the two event staff had on though – would have been funny to see them at the side of the road with their cowbells encouraging riders up the hill! Shame I missed it.

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From there it was pretty much downhill all the way to the finishing line back at Chichester College.

At the finish line they were packing up and I had to ask for a medal as I think they were assuming I had opted out of the event by riding the Epic course and would not be wanting a medal. Of course, I would! I love collecting my medals and having something tangible to remember each event by.

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A great day out on the bike and a tough ride with lots of hills and LOTS of wind.

Route: click here

Bike ailments – will they ever end?

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Ever get the feeling your bike is falling apart and fixing one issue leads to another issue to fix, which leads to another issue to fix etc etc? That pretty much sums up the last week and my Roubaix! I’ve ridden it exclusively since I got it and it’s been ridden a LOT!

It started with me thinking it was time to check my chain. I have a chain gauge but when I tried to use it, I could not figure it out. Nothing made any sense! I decided to pop the bike down to my local bike shop (the excellent Nova Cycles in nearby Newport).

They checked the chain and said it was off the scale and it’s no wonder I could not figure out how to check it (I now know!). That’s new chain AND cassette territory, so I opted for a SRAM chain and cassette as I’ve been wanting to swap to them from the Ultegra I had on the bike since I bought it. At least they now match my gearset (SRAM Red Etap HRD).

While I was there I asked them to replace the bar tape (it had the original one on and I’ve done several thousand miles on the bike, so I suspect it’s not exactly hygienic anymore). Yuk!

Also, I suggested they refill the sealant in the back tyre (I run tubeless types) as I know I’ve had several punctures thankfully plugged on the go by the sealant. Love my tubeless tyres!

I also asked them to check my disk brake pads as braking is gradually deteriorating over time. Don’t want to be riding without something so important being in tip-top shape! It turned out they were very worn and need replacing. Well, the back one did but the front one has some wear left in it.

The list was mounting as things went on…

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Anyway, I picked the bike up and went for my 113 mile ride yesterday. My front disk was rubbing pretty much the whole day and then about a third of the way around, the left-hand side of the bottom bracket started to creak on every pedal stroke. Hmmm, it never rains but it pours. When will the list of bike issue end and I get my silent bike back again?

Back to my LBS this morning who replaced the front brake pads and stopped the rubbing. They also fixed the creaky bottom bracket, replacing some of the bearings and that is now silent.

I was hoping that was it now, but they also spotted the headset had too much play in it and so they managed to sort that out for me.

The end result is I get my bike back working as it should be for the South Downs 100 Sportive on Sunday. Will be great to get back on a silent bike again!

The other thing I know is that I need to get more confident in my own bike maintenance. I used to do it all when I was in my early 20’s so there is absolutely no reason I can’t do it now!

Surely there can’t be anything else wrong with it, or am I tempting fate by even saying that? Only time will tell…

Solo 113 mile ride out to the fabulous Altrincham Market for a late lunch then a quick visit to Manchester Airport Viewing Park. Back home via Jodrell Bank and hill country.

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I’d had a long weekend in Wales with friends and so had not cycled since last Wednesday and was getting serious withdrawal symptoms. Time to rectify that with a nice long ride with a few hills thrown in for good measure!

I’d planned a 100 miler with about 6000ft of climbing to Ashbourne in Derbyshire from home but on the day the winds were from the West and pretty strong and I realised my planned ride would be a nightmare all the way home as the route is basically East / West and riding up hills against a strong wind is not too much fun!

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So, in came Plan B: a ride to my hometown of Altrincham in Cheshire, which is a nice North / South route and should make the strong wind easier to deal with. If I have time I could also call in at the Manchester Airport Viewing Park and come back via the hills at the side of Stoke, to get the necessary elevation in (the parts of Cheshire I am passing through are pretty flat).

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I rode out on my usual route to Altrincham via Market Drayton, Audlem, Nantwich, Middlewich, Knutsford and Tatton Park. On the way, I stopped for a coffee after about 32 miles at the excellent Hopley House farm shop cafe. I resisted a piece of their excellent cake as I did not want to spoil my lunch at the foodie heaven that is Altrincham Market.

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I was soon cycling through the lovely Tatton Park, down the Tatton Mile (fond memories of this from when I was younger and lived in the area – aged 17 and just passed my driving test: how fast can you go down the straight mile – you get the idea!), through Ashley and into Hale and Altrincham.

I headed straight for the market and chained my bike up to the railings outside so I could go in for lunch. As I was doing so I got chatting to this guy who asked me if I was having a nice ride and where had I set out for. He was amazed when I said “North Shropshire, 10 miles south of Market Drayton”. I got chatting about coming from Alty but moving out to the countryside in 2005 and that it was *only* a 54 mile ride from home to Alty.

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Lunch was excellent as usual with smashed avocado and poached egg on rye toast and lots of chilli oil mixed in. I opted for a pint from one of the other stalls to wash it all down with. Lovely!

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After I had finished I did not hang around as I’d set off late as it was and wanted to try and get home before it got dark. I did have time to quickly pop into the Manchester Airport Viewing Area though, so cycled down past my beloved Altrincham FC on Moss Lane, past our old house in Hale and onwards to the airport, where I took a quick selfie and headed off on my way.

The route home took me down to Jodrell Bank, where I normally pick up the reverse of my Jodrell Bank route from home (an 82 mile ride in itself!). This time though, I opted for the normal second half of my Jodrell Bank route as it takes you down the hills at the west side of Stoke on Trent and will give my legs a workout.

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The hills were as much fun as usual but by the time I had nearly done them it was starting to go dark and I realised I did not have time to pop in for a quick pint at the Swan With Two Necks on the A53 like I usually do on this route.

Instead, I pressed on and was soon whizzing down Shay Lane, all the climbing behind me and a rapidly darkening road in front. Luckily my lights are on my bike all the time this time of year and fully charged so it was not a problem.

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I arrived home with 113 miles on the clock (5 miles longer than I was expecting as the hilly route back from Jodrell Bank is a bit longer than the normal route I take to there). 4323ft of elevation too, mainly in the last 30 miles, which is not too shabby. All good sportive training.

A great day out on the bike and the cycling itch that I had after a weekend of no cycling had been well and truly scratched!

I’ll probably go for a leisurely 42 mile cafe ride to Dearnford Lake on Friday before the South Downs 100 Sportive on Sunday. Perfect!

Route: click here

Solo century ride out to do Horseshoe Pass just north of Llangollen as I’ve been wanting to ride it for ages. Windy, wet and hilly but fabulous fun!

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I’m away for a long weekend with friends in South Wales this weekend with no cycling, so had to get a long ride in today to meet my 100 miles a week cycling target. I’ve also been wanting to ride to Llangollen and then up the Horseshoe Pass for ages now, so decided to make this the ride for today.

The weather was not forecast to be the best today but it was the only day I could realistically do the ride so needs must. I set off on the reverse of my usual route back from Wem i.e. Great Bolas, Little Bolas, Ellerdine Heath and 100 Steps. After Wem I took a nice quiet lane up to Ellesmere, trying to keep off the main road as much as I could.

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In Ellesmere, I stopped at the Boat House for a coffee and piece of cake as we’d had a power cut this morning at home so I was not able to have a coffee before I left.

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It was then along the A road to Overton (it’s a right pain with roads in this direction as you have to cross the River Dee and there are only 2 crossings – one near Overton and one in Bangor On Dee). Not too busy today thankfully.

After Overton, it was into new cycling territory for me as I headed to Ruabon and then down the valley to Llangollen. I rode straight through Llangollen and was soon on starting the Horseshoe Pass, unbeknown to me at the time!

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It was only the road starting to kick up a bit that had me checking the maps on my phone and realising I was already 1/3 of the way up the Horseshoe Pass – doh!

As I rounded the corner into the horseshoe itself, the gradient picked up even more and I had the full force of today’s strong winds right in the face. Just what I needed – not! Anyway, I persevered and was soon rounding the corner at the bottom of the horseshoe and on the final leg of the climb. This was MUCH easier as the gradient settled out a bit and the wind was behind me.

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At the top, I posed my bike for a photo with the top of the climb sign and then rode the few hundred yards further onto the Ponderosa Cafe for lunch.

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Suitably fortified, I headed back out on my bike for the mainly downhill section back around the north end of the mountains and towards Wrexham. The road hugged the base of the mountain for most of this and was quite undulating but peppered with lovely scenic little villages.

After skirting the south side of Wrexham I meandered down lanes following the A525 to Whitchurch. I’d deliberately opted to not go on the main road and was soon recognising some of the lanes from the reverse of my 68 mile Whitchurch and Ellesmere route.

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Approaching Tilstock, I decided to pop up the road a couple of miles to Dearnford Lake for a quick coffee and then ride home from here.

A great day out with a whole new area to cycle in for me. My legs were still not quite recovered from the Box Hill Sportive on Sunday, so I kept it pretty steady but had another great day out on the bike.

Route: click here

Cycling Weekly Box Hill Original Sportive, Epic Course with a diversion to do the Leith Hill top 100 UK climbs climb. Pretty much a solo 100 too! Epic riders were *very* spread out.

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Today was the Cycling Weekly Box Hill Original Sportive and I was booked on the Epic Route and totally looking forward to the hilly route and the challenge ahead. As usual, I planned to arrive the day before and stay overnight nearby.

I noticed that the old Weybridge Airfield (where they used to build the old but totally beautiful VC10 airliner, amongst other things), at the old Brooklands race track was close by and I’ve always wanted to visit the museum there as they have loads of old airliners my Dad used to work on, along with old cars, motorbikes etc etc.  I can totally geek out for an afternoon!

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I set off early on Saturday morning with the intention of getting to the museum as early as possible so I could maximise my time there. Suffice to say I had an amazing afternoon wandering around and inside all the old planes, chatting with the friendly volunteers as I went. I even got to go on their Concorde and the very nice lady guide took me into a nearby hangar for a personal tour of the only remaining Concorde simulator in the world. Fab! Loved it!

On the morning of the sportive, I was up at 5:45am and got ready before the 40 minute drive to the event HQ in Cranleigh, deep in the Surrey Hills. On arrival, I was going to have a latte from my friends at the lovely BOHO mobile coffee bar but the queue was long and I wanted to get started on my ride as I knew it was long and hilly so would take longer than normal.

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The first 10 miles of the ride skirted through the Surrey Hills and were VERY undulating with a few more challenging short climbs thrown in for good measure. After the first feed stop at 17 miles (I topped up with water and caught up with a Strava friend) the terrain settled out a lot as we headed into West Sussex and the gap between the North and South Downs.

A welcome respite for the legs in anticipation of the terrain kicking up substantially just after the second feed stop at 50 miles into the ride.

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I’d checked the route beforehand and noticed it took you along the side of the infamous Leith Hill climb and not up it. It’s in the top 100 UK climbs book and I’m slowly ticking them off so I could not get so close and not do it. I thus diverted off the sportive route and rode up Leith Hill to the top, before taking another road to join back up with the sportive route. What can I say, it was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting. Some steep sections but they all had flatter bits just after so you could rest a bit before tackling the next steep section. Really enjoyed the climb and the views from the top and satisfying to bag another top 100 climb (the second this week and not the last as I also did Box Hill later in the ride…).

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Next, it was down into Dorking before routing to the north of the town and famous Box Hill. Everyone I had spoken to had said it was not a hard climb and it turned out to be true. Not very steep (probably about the same as the Cat n Fiddle climb from Wednesday but that went on for 7 miles!) so I just stuck it in bottom gear and steadily made my way to the top with not much effort. Loads of people going up and down along with tons of people at the top enjoying the views. Would have loved to try the nice looking cafe but will have to save that for another time.

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After a circumnavigation of Box Hill summit, we descended and headed off to the west and up the Ranmore Common hill. Another long ascent but not too hard, although significantly harder than Box Hill.

Then it was northbound to the 3rd and final feed stop at Ockham, very close to the M25. I know Ockham as I’m a private pilot and it has a VOR navigation beacon there. In fact, we went right past it as I spotted it in the middle of a field just before we arrived in the village!

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It was then 20 or so miles back to the event HQ, heading back up into the Surrey Hills for 2 more climbs and lots of very undulating roads. Absolutely stunning area with lots of beautiful villages and great vistas.

Back at the HQ I stopped for a coffee and chat with the owners of the BOHO coffee bar before heading home after a fantastic weekend away.

Route: click here

A steady ride up to Dearnford Lake to meet my lovely wife for lunch prior to doing 100 miles in the Surrey Hills this weekend.

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I’ve got the hilly Cycling Weekly Box Hill Original Sportive (Epic Course – 102 miles) in the Surrey Hills on Sunday but could do with getting some extra miles in this week, so decided on an easy local ride to Dearnford Lake for lunch. The bonus was my lovely wife was around so I arranged to meet here there for a mini-date.

A nice easy ride up the usual route, except I went up Marchamley Hill to get some extra ascent in my legs. I beat her there as she had got stuck in traffic on the A41. So much better to do these things by bike as you don’t get the traffic issues! Not to mention it’s good for your health, you get to see so much more on the way … etc etc – you know all this by now if you cycle!

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At Dearnford we opted for the Afternoon Tea between us as I’ve always wanted to have one and for some reason never have. It was absolutely delicious too although perhaps a little more than I’d normally eat for a cafe stop. Never mind as a little bit of what you fancy never hurt anyone :).

After lunch, she headed home in her car and I set off on my normal route home via the gorgeous Brown Moss Nature Reserve.

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In Calverhall I turned left for a change and took the Market Drayton road via the back of the Shavington Estate. Always a pleasure riding this road with its lovely wooded sections.

In Drayton, I popped into the brewery tap for a quick Friday Pint before heading home via Childs Ercall.

A really enjoyable and easy steady ride which is just what my legs need before the much more testing ride on Sunday.

Route: click here

Cat n Fiddle via Macclesfield and back via Congleton

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I’d arranged to meet up with Tim for a longer ride today, I’ve been planning a ride up to the Cat n Fiddle in the Pennines between Macclesfield and Buxton for a while now so suggested we do this. The original plan was to ride from Market Drayton, making it a 90 mile ride but I could do with getting back earlier so suggested we start from Wybunbury, making it a 69 mile ride instead. Perfect!

We met up at the allotted time and off we set. The initial part of the route took us up through Sandbach and Holmes Chapel, like on my Jodrell Bank route, but I opted to vary the route a bit and use new lanes for a change, which worked out really well. Might use that route again soon!

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After Holmes Chapel, we settled on the Macclesfield road, which then starts to gradually climb all the way into town. The plan was to have a coffee and cake in Macclesfield before taking the iconic Cat n Fiddle climb so we wandered off route looking for a coffee shop.

I stpotted The Rustic Coffee Company, which looked really nice so we parked the bikes round the back and went in. What a fab find. A really nice place with a great selection of food and cakes and really friendly staff too. The coffee and cake were absolutely spot on.

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Suitably fortified we set off to tackle the main climb of the day. This turned out to be a really gentle 3-5% climb so not hard at all. It just went on like this for 7 miles but was easy enough. The higher we got the windier it got so when we finally arrived at the top it was literally blowing a gale! There are no trees or hedges to shelter from the wind when riding up here.

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We stopped by the Cat n Fiddle itself while Tim fixed a loose cleat on his shoes and then set off for the descent down into Congleton. This turned out to be a very hairy part of the ride as the gales combined with passing lorries was literally trying to whip your wheels out from under you! Was so glad when we reached lower ground and the winds subsided a little bit.

We missed a turning coming down the hill so ended up a little further north of Congleton than we were hoping for, so had to stop to consult maps to see how to get back on track. Easy enough to sort out though :).

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We arrived at Congleton Garden Centre for lunch at about 14:45 and 15 minutes late for the end of their hot food service. Drat! Luckily I had a backup plan in Astbury Garden Centre about a mile further on down the lane and this proved to be perfect as they had a nice selection of hot food and some very nice cheesecake!

After lunch, it was an easy ride past Rode Heath into Alsager and then onwards via Betley back to the cars.

A really nice ride with a wide variety of terrain. Loved it!

Route: click here