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!
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…
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!).
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.
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.
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???
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.
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.
A great day out on the bike, perfect weather, lovely route, gorgeous scenery and some fun climbs. Loved it!
Route: click here