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.
Route: click here