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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m the Chairman of the Nova Raiders Cycling Club, but with my busy sportive calendar, I never seem to get chance to ride with them, or even just have a pint with them.
Today was a rest day but the sun was out and I wondered about meeting the Raiders at the New Inn after their ride for a beer. It’s 7 miles each way from home and I could turn it into the perfect recovery ride after yesterday’s exertions in the Peak District.
I texted Jon Steer, who was leading the steady ride this morning and arranged to meet at the New Inn at 3pm.
I had a lovely ride down and was at the pub just before the riders returned. Great to catch up with everyone and especially those I’ve not seen for what seems like ages.
I did the usual on the way home and tried not to use the same roads as I rode down to Newport on. The sun was out and I was thoroughly enjoying my leg spin, so I ended up extending the ride towards Crudgington and then back home via Great Bolas.
Really enjoyed that and my legs feel much better for it.
Today I was supposed to be riding the Wiggle Jurassic Beast in Dorset, but mid-week I’d swapped to a Velo Club entry on the Brewin Dolphin Peaks Tour, starting in Bakewell and heading out on a very tough and hilly route around the Peak District.
I stopped overnight in nearby Buxton and headed off early doors to the event HQ at the showground in Bakewell. Upon arrival, I was directed to the Velo Club parking and walked down to the Velo Club itself. A familiar face was at the gate and we had a quick chat before I went in to register and get some breakfast.
Registration was quick and easy and the lovely ladies who were doing the catering recognised me from the Brewin Dolphin Ridgeway Rouleur a few weeks ago and we had a quick chat whilst they got me some delicious scrambled egg and porridge with blueberries. Yum!
Suitably fortified for the ride, I headed off to join the group going out with a ride leader on the Epic Course. I fully intended to drop myself and do my own thing for the main ride as I wanted to settle in and enjoy the ride and scenery, but it would be nice to start with the ride leader.
We were soon heading off and out of Buxton to the north. The first few miles were nice and flat and it warmed my legs up nicely for what was to come.
In the village of Grindleford, we turned left off the main road and saw our first wall of tarmac of the day, 7 miles into the ride. I wasn’t expecting any different, so settled into bottom gear for the grind up the steep initial part of the climb. It eased off a bit later on but was still pretty steep. Great views all around when we got to the top though, so it was totally worthwhile.
The route meandered around the top of the peaks for a good few miles now before we passed through Castleton and I knew the killer Winnats Pass was coming. This is in the top 100 hardest climbs in the UK and for good reason, with longish sections of 20% gradient and not really much let up in steepness.
As I was grinding my way up the pass I spotted Phil from SportivePhoto.com and said hello as I passed. Always nice to see a familiar face from my southern sportives.
Once at the top things settled out and not long afterwards I was at the first feed stop in a place called Peak Forest. It was very busy with cyclists but had some very welcome tea and coffee facilities. I had a good chat with lots of other riders before getting back on with the ride.
The next section of the route took us into the suburbs of Chapel-en-le-Frith and then into Whaley Bridge, before the gradual, but totally gorgeous ascent of the Goyt Valley. I got chatting to one of the ride leaders on this section and we both span our way to the top talking all manner of cycling. Love the social aspects of sportives!
After the beautiful Goyt Valley (remember being brought out here as a child with my parents for picnics!), we skirted the outskirts of Buxton before the Epic Course left the main route and headed up the Cat n Fiddle climb. I’ve ridden the Cat n Fiddle a few times before but never from this direction, so was great to see the other side of it.
After the obligatory selfie at the Cat n Fiddle, it was down a lovely flowing descent into the Wildboarclough valley to the east of Macclesfield, another totally gorgeous area with lots of roadside streams and shade from the many trees.
Dropping past the Wincle Brewery (who were doing a tour at 2pm this afternoon and I was tempted to stop and go on it for a split second ;-)), we started the Gun Hill climb just to the NW of Leek.
After the climb was another flowing descent into the second feed stop at Meerbrook. Here I bumped into the familiar face of the feed stop helpers I normally see on southern sportives and always have some fun banter with. We had a good old chat before I had to get back on my way.
The other side of the A53 just north of Leek was a bit of an unexpected and nasty climb up out of Thorncliffe. Ouch! Then it was a nice flowy road along the ride of the hills into a village called Warslow.
Here I was already running short on water and stopped at a village hall where they were doing wash a car for charity to ask if there was a village shop I could get some water and perhaps a fizzy drink at. There wasn’t but the lovely ladies said they would get me some ice cold water and even produced an ice cold can of Sprite. Simply wonderful! The only payment they wanted was for me to explain why all these cyclists kept coming past as they were wondering if there was a race on or something. I explained the concept of a sportive to them.
From here it was an easyish ride with a few lumps and bumps to the third feed stop at Sheen. Here, my friend from the previous feed stop was already there so we had another quick chat before I headed off to complete the final 19 miles or so of the route.
Not much to report from the last section of the ride apart from a lovely road through the bottom of a valley with limestone cliffs either side, just north of a village called Heathcote. Loved it!
As we were coming back into Bakewell there was a fabulously fast and flowing descent back into the town and I was soon at the finish line collecting my lovely medal and goodies. The only problem was I had 98.7 miles on the clock and you can’t get this close to a 100 mile ride and not do it. A couple of laps of the flat car park soon sorted that out.
I retired to the Velo Club where they had some delicious mushroom pasta, brownie and a beer ready and waiting for me, along with a great welcome back. Perfect!
A very tough day on the bike and my first 10/10 UK Cycling Events ride, but perfect weather, sublime organisation, great scenery and route made it a day to remember.
I’ve been booked on the Wiggle Jurassic Beast in Dorset for a long time now, after riding it last year with Jacko from the Nova Raiders and really liking the route and area.
Yesterday I received a complimentary Velo Club entry to the Brewin Dolphin Peaks Tour starting in Bakewell in Derbyshire on the same day and was in a conundrum which ride to do. I’ve always wanted to ride in the Peak District and apart from touching the edges of it on several other rides, never have.
That’s decided then. The Brewin Dolphin Peaks Tour here I come!
It’s a tough one with nearly 10000ft of climbing and is rated 10/10 by the organisers, UK Cycling Events, but I’m always up for a challenge.
Today was the London Revolution Ultra, a 189 mile ride around London, starting and finishing at Windsor Racecourse. It’s one of my main target rides for 2018 and by far the longest ride I’ve ever done (longest to date was 131 miles).
I’d arrived in the area the day before and stayed over nearby before arriving at the venue about 5:15am for a planned start of 6am. I met up with a friend, Paul Evans who was also doing the ride.
As soon as I tried to ride my bike down to the start line I knew something was wrong. It’s the cleats again! I’d swapped the pedals on the Roubaix back to my normal Garmin Vector 2 pedals during the week and put brand new Look cleats on my shoes. Should have worked perfectly.
Look cleats have always been absolutely fine as that’s what the Garmin pedals are meant to take, but they would not clip in at all today. I found a mechanic and he put some version of Shimano cleats on my shoes and these seemed to clip in well enough to ride. Phew! Still no idea why the Look cleats would not work as they always have in the past!
This delayed our start by about 40 minutes and we soon ended up at the back of the Ultra riders and with a Threshold (the organisers of the event) Chaperone rides drafting behind us. I’m an experienced distance cyclist and while he was a lovely guy and everything, his presence soon became a bit irritating, especially as we constantly kept getting reminders of feed stop cut off times.
I prefer to enjoy the ride and not stress about times like that! We managed to give him the slip later on as we overtook some other riders and he had to back-mark them.
Anyway, we soon arrived at the first feed stop in Princes Risborough and were literally ushered through it in no time at all. One of the things I enjoy about sportives is chatting to other cyclists, especially at feed stops, and not only were there very few other cyclists around (only about 240 people did the Ultra) but we had no time to chat anyway!
The really bad climb of the whole ride immediately followed and I made my way up it very slowly but got there in the end. Then it was an undulating, but really nice ride through the Chiltern Hills before crossing the M1 and arriving at the next feed stop near St Albans.
Again, we were rushed through in double quick time and there was not a great choice of food. I played the rebel a bit here though and loitered around for a while longer than I needed to ;).
The next section of the ride takes you eastwards towards Essex before dropping down into Enfield and London itself. We soon arrived at the third feed stop at Lee Valley (where the 2 day event starts from). This was better as there was tea, coffee and hot food in the form of pizzas and soup. Yum! Much appreciated!
Suitably refreshed, we headed off to tackle the London traffic and the journey down through Tottenham, Shoreditch and over Tower Bridge. This was slow going as everywhere was busy with traffic. It is 1pm on a bust Saturday afternoon I guess.
Once over Tower Bridge the traffic thinned out a little and we could speed up a bit, but not a lot. Eventually, we left Croydon and into the lovely countryside to the south of London. That’s MUCH better!
Crossing the M25, we arrived at the fourth feed stop at Limpsfield. Here we were all told we’d missed the cut off time and would have to return to Windsor in the Broom Wagon! Needless to say, lots of riders had been caught out by lost time in the horrible London traffic and were not too happy!
Myself and Paul immediately said we’d be carrying on un-supported and were joined by another cyclist called Stacey (a boy). The rain had been coming down since the Lee Valley stop and the temperature was dropping rapidly, so we knew we needed to crack on at a decent pace to keep warm.
The next section of ride was fairly flat and we could get up a decent speed to try and make some time back from the lost time in London with traffic. Threshold had promised the signing would still be up but by the time we reached Reigate, all signs had totally disappeared. Lucky I had the route on my Wahoo and a backup USB battery to keep powering it.
By the time we reached the village of Capel, in the Surrey Hills, we were all absolutely soaked through, very, very cold and in need of a coffee. Stacey spotted a village shop so we went in to warm up. We stood there in-voluntary shivering and ridiculously cold. Even the coffee and riding hard would not warm us up and with 40 miles to go and the rain not stopping, we all made the executive decision to end the ride.
Luckily Stacey’s mate has a big pickup truck so he was summoned to pick us up, while we gatecrashed a 50th birthday party at the village pub to try and warm up some more.
Our lift arrived after about an hour and we were soon on our way back to Windsor Racecourse.
Back at event HQ, we said our goodbye’s and I went off in search of the glamping option I’d booked. I was going to have a shower, get some food and a pint or two, but ended up straight in bed and catching up with work emails before having a very sound sleep.
The next morning I was up early but the queue for breakfast (included in the event) was massive so I opted to get on the road home and stop at Oxford services for breakfast.
In summary then, a really nice ride, but totally ruined by a bad choice of clothing (should have gone for winter kit but the weather in the morning was beautiful and it was only forecast to rain for an hour or so). Also, many things to do with how the event was run spoiled what should have been a great day out.
I’d put this down as one of the worst sportives I’ve done to date and seriously don’t think I’ll be back next year and if I am, I’ll just set off very early, unsupported and do my own thing and enjoy the ride without any of the stress Threshold kept introducing to it with constant time nagging.
How could the Ultra be improved?
Start the ride MUCH earlier e.g. 4am or 5am to allow riders time to enjoy it without being rushed and stressed all day.
Better feed stops as the ones we had were a little sparse with things to eat. This is in massive contrast to last year’s 2 day event when I thought the feed stops were right up there as the best I’ve seen.
Find a way not to have to traverse London at 1pm on a busy Saturday afternoon. We lost 1 – 1.5 hours of time sat around in traffic.
More flexible cut off times for the feed stops. The event is here for the paying public (it’s not cheap either) and not for the convienience of Threshold Ltd staff members.
Stop nagging and stressing riders. They are here to get away from the stress of everyday life, not get more stressed.
Today was the Tour de Manc, a 105 mile very hilly ride around all 10 metropolitan areas in Greater Manchester, most of it in the hills and countryside surrounding the city. It’s my first early(ish) season major test of fitness.
I’d arrived in the area the day before the event and had time for a quick ride before my dinner. I’d changed the pedals on the Roubaix over from the winter MTB Shimano XTR ones to my summer Look pedals (or so I thought!).
I’m rubbish at clipping in at the best of times but try as I might, it just would not work today. I had a quick look and realised I’d fitted Shimano road pedals and not Look ones! Doh! No wonder I could not clip in.
I did a quick Google and there was a good bike shop about a mile away so I called to check they could sort me out with some Shimano cleats. They could, so I rode up very carefully and was soon fixed. Phew! That could have been a sportive stopper if I’d discovered that at 7am on the start line tomorrow morning!
Anyway, the morning of the event arrived and I parked up and cycled the short distance to the event HQ at the David Lloyd sports centre. Registration was easy and I was soon ready for my ride.
I knew the route from last year so headed off to the start line to get away as early as possible as I know the ride is seriously hilly for the last 80-85 miles and it would not be a quick ride.
The first part of the route takes you through Prestwich, Salford, Old Trafford, Didsbury and onwards to Stockport and is pretty flat. As soon as you see the “Welcome to Stockport” sign the terrain starts to kick up and you know that’s the flat roads done for the day. That’s the reason I’m here though, so bring it on!
After Marple, we come to the closed road section on the very steep hill up Werneth Low. A total lung buster but very satisfying to complete. I even managed a smile for the photographer halfway up (I think!).
A small feed stop was at the top and I stopped to top up with water (it’s very hot today!) and admire the fab views over the whole of the Manchester area from the nearby stone wall.
Next, it was past the end of the M57 and onwards into the hills to the east of Oldham. A beautiful area to cycle in, very reminiscent of the Peak District in Derbyshire.
I stopped at the second feed stop at Carr House just before Diggle and enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and homemade scones with jam and cream. Yum! Wish all feed stops on other sportives were as good as this one!
More hills followed before a lovely flowing descent into the Rochdale area and a diversion off last year’s route, right through the town centre and past the lovely Town Hall I’ve only ever seen on North West Tonight before.
As we came out of Rochdale it was the turn of the third feed stop at a primary school in Norden. A choice of hot pies and made to order sandwiches, with tea and coffee awaited us lucky riders. Got to love food stops like this!
It was the long climb up to Owd Betts, which overlooks the Manchester area from the north and provided stunning (if not a little hazy) views today. Followed by a quick diversion into Lancashire and up to near Rawtenstall, before heading back into Greater Manchester and Bury.
Th fourth and final feed stop at Belmont Sailing Club soon followed, with lots more delicious sandwiches and lots of tea and coffee, all done by some very friendly and encouraging event staff. Just what you need 75 miles and I don’t know how many 1000’s of feet of climbing into the ride.
Next, we traversed the back of Winter Hill with more climbing, before a fabulously long descent past Rivington and onwards to the final Metropolitan Area of the day – Wigan!
From there it was an easier ride back to event HQ, with another revision to last years route after Horwich (much better this year thanks).
The final sting in the tail was a long climb about 96 miles into the ride, just at the hottest point of the day. Not too bad after all and knowing it was pretty much all downhill after that helped a lot.
The final 10 miles or so saw a group of us egging each other on and having some banter along the way. Perfect ending to a perfect ride.
Back at the event HQ, I got a lovely medal and had a pint of the event beer, which is brewed locally and was VERY welcome after the hot, but very rewarding ride.
An absolutely flawless day out on a sportive. Great weather, lovely route, perfect organisation and the best food stops ever. Loved it!