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!
Today it’s the Wiggle Ups and Downs Sportive, starting from Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, where they film Top Gear.
The route takes us into the Surrey Hills around Godalming, before heading to flatter areas in West Sussex and then returning to the Surrey Hills for more climbing. It’s not called Ups and Downs for nothing!
I arrived a bit later than planned and went to register. I’m riding solo today as my usual southern sportive riding pal, Andy, was working so could not make it.
By the time I had registered, the queue to start was pretty lengthy, but thankfully it soon moved and I was lining up to start. Nice to get another shout out during the safety briefing. Won’t ever tire of that ;).
It’s a bit of a varied day with the weather and I could not decide whether to bring summer or winter kit. In the end, I brought both and ended up pretty much in winter kit. This proved to be a good call as I was not cold at all during the ride, but anything less than my winter jacket and I would have been.
The route headed out of the south entrance of the airfield and to the west towards the hills around Godalming. Quite a few of the roads looked familiar, especially from the Box Hill Original sportive last year, but I’ve not checked yet to make absolutely sure.
After Godalming, the elevation settled down nicely as we headed south towards West Sussex. I soon reached the first feed stop at Plaistow and got talking to a cyclist from Muxton, near home, who was in the area visiting his son and getting a sneaky sportive in at the same time. Small world!
The route then meandered it’s way back northwards towards the Surrey Hills before stopping for the second feed stop at Walliswood, just before the hills started again.
In Ewhurst, the Epic route loop started right by the cricket club, which is a feed stop on the London Revolution and is somewhere I’ll be stopping at in 2 weeks time when on the London Revolution Ultra one-day event.
The hills then kicked up almost immediately. My legs were a bit fatigued by now, especially after my 110 mile midweek ride so I took the climbs very steadily, which worked a treat.
In Farley Heath, towards the top of the Epic loop, I stopped at the third and final feed stop which was in a car park in some woods. It was a cut down feed stop with just water and gels, so I topped up with water for the last 20 miles and headed off.
The big climb of the day came at 65 miles into the ride and what a climb it was! Surrey Hills at their best (worst?) as it was steep and went on for ages. Just when you thought you were at the top, you went round a corner to see more tarmac to climb.
I eventually topped it off and enjoyed a ride through the wooded area on the top of the hill before descending into Ewhurst down Pitch Hill (this was on the London Revolution the reverse way round last year and everyone was calling it Bitch Hill as it’s very steep in places!).
After that, it was an easy ride on flattish roads back to the event HQ at Dunsfold.
Post ride, I had a lovely flat white from my friends at BoMo Expresso Bar and a halloumi and roasted pepper burger (I’m a veggie) from the New Forest Steak and Burger people. Yum!
A fab sportive with perfect organisation and a great route. Good to get some decent climbing into my legs too.
I’ve got the London Revolution Ultra coming up on 12th May. This is a 187 mile, 10000ft of climbing ride right around the capital, in the counties that surround it. It’s one of my big target rides of the year and quite an ask, so I have to consciously up my training as the bad weather in the last few months has not really helped!
I decided a ride out to my hometown of Altrincham fitted the bill perfectly. It’s a nice route that I have ridden several times before and it clocks in about 108 miles, so perfect endurance training.
I set off on the quick back road route from home to Market Drayton and then up the main road to Audlem as it’s the most direct route and on a long ride like this, I don’t need to get sidetracked with too many diversions.
As I was entering Coole Lane, which leads from Audlem to Nantwich, there was a road closed sign right on my route. Drat! Thankfully a policeman was just coming down the road so I asked if it was ok to proceed at my own risk. There had been an accident but it was almost cleared up, so he was happy for me to proceed.
Rain also started at this point and by the time I arrived in Nantwich and had cleared the rain, I was soaking. Luckily the rain was replaced by sun and I started to dry out nicely. Phew!
The rest of the ride to Altrincham was much less eventful. I stopped at the Hopley House farm cafe just before Middlewich for a quick coffee for elevenses.
A quick blast through Tatton Park and I was zooming through Ashley and into Hale, then Altrincham.
You’re spoilt for choice for excellent cafe’s in Altrincham but I opted for a firm favourite – the excellent market. A nice smashed avocado and poached egg on toast with chilli oil. Not cheap, but absolutely delicious!
As I was leaving Altrincham I got another soaking, but as soon as I reached the countryside, the rain stopped and the sun came out again. April showers at their best!
An uneventful ride down the lanes to Jodrell Bank followed, with me thoroughly enjoying the peace and quiet and time to put the world to rights in my mind. Exactly what I go out cycling for!
That reminds me, I’ve not ridden out to the lovely cafe at Jodrell Bank for ages – must do that again soon.
From there it was an easy ride past Holmes Chapel, Sandbach and past Crewe.
I was going to stop for a water top up and a quick pint in Woore, but I was motoring along, enjoying the ride so delayed the stop until I got to the Joule’s brewery tap in Market Drayton.
After my pint it was an easy ride home, with me extending things a bit via Stoke On Tern, to try and use some different roads than I’d rode out on earlier.
I arrived home with just over 110 miles on the clock and having thoroughly enjoyed my ride. That’s my second century ride of 2018 in the bag, and my first solo one.
Today was the Brewin Dolphin Ridgeway Rouleur Sportive which starts in a lovely rural country estate near Stokenchurch in Buckinghamshire and heads out to the south of Oxford, towards Swindon and back.
I had complimentary Velo Club entry to the cancelled Brewin Dolphin Wye Tour a few weeks ago and UK Cycling Events kindly offered to move this over to today’s sportive. This means I get entry to the Velo Club marquee, free breakfast, food after the ride and a whole host of other goodies. Fab!
As I arrived there was a queue of cars out of the estate onto the road, as the event has had to be moved at the last minute within the estate due to waterlogged ground! Not a problem though and I was soon parking up in the designated Velo Club parking area.
I went to register and had a nice surprise as I bumped into a friend from near home, Paul Evans, who was volunteering to help out at the event for the day. We had a quick catch up before I met up with my southern sportive riding pal Andy. We went over to the Velo Club for some very welcome breakfast before the ride.
The pro-lead Velo Club riders headed out at 8:15 but we were still finishing our breakfast and wanted to make our own way around the route, so just joined the normal starting line when we were ready. The pro-lead ride just means you ride to a Gold time, but means less time for socialising at feed stops etc etc.
The first few miles of the ride were through the private estate, on estate roads, before joining normal roads in the Chilterns. A pretty tough early climb soon followed, which was harder than it needed to be as my legs had not yet warmed up!
We then dropped down onto the Oxfordshire plain and onwards to the first feed station, after just 15 miles. We did not really need to stop here, but sportives are a social thing so stop we did and I ended up having a good natter with a few other cyclists.
The route then meandered past Didcot and towards the very far end of the Epic Course near the White Horse at Uffington. I was convinced these white horses carved into the side of hills are all in Wiltshire, but the sign nearby told me we were still in Oxfordshire. You learn something new every day!
The route then started to get much more undulating and there was a bit of a nasty southerly wind, so we were really glad when the route started heading back northwards again! Beautiful countryside though and with BIG views all around.
About 4 miles from the finish, we had to climb back up into the Chilterns from the Oxfordshire plain, which was not too steep but went on for ages and was not that welcome with about 90 miles already in the legs. I’d already had my friend, Tracy, who had ridden the Standard route and had already finished, text me to say how un-welcome the final hill was!
It was then a nice cruise along the top of the ride and back into the estate to the finishing line.
We met up with my friend Paul again at the finishing line to pose for pictures. Then we retired to the Velo Club for some very welcome mushroom pasta and a bottle of beer.
A really good day out on the bike and my first sportive of the year in summer kit and glorious sunshine. I even managed a bit of a tan!
I’ve got the London Revolution Ultra (https://www.london-revolution.com/routeultra/) on 12th May. 187 miles and 10000 ft on a complete circuit of London. I thus need to start ramping up my miles and cycling those miles more often.
I’ve not had a chance for a proper midweek ride for weeks now as work has been too manic, but today, with great weather forecast I made sure I got out on my bike.
I was debating whether to do my 108 mile route to Altrincham and back, do my Jodrell Bank route or the route to the lovely Lockgate Coffee Shop in Beeston. In the end, the latter won out as I’ve been meaning to re-visit this fabulous cafe ever since I was last there a month or two ago.
I took the usual route out towards Dearnford Lake, before turning left into Wales at Tilstock. I skirted just inside the Welsh border for a while and then through Malpas and round the more hilly and scenic west side of the Peckforton Hills. Loving the ride today!
All too soon I was at the cafe, helped by a nice tailwind all the way, although it’s going to make the ride back home hard going later on!
I was treated like a returning friend at the cafe. It’s easily my favourite cafe in Cheshire now as the food is great, coffee perfect and it’s just a nice place to be. I opted for a Cortado, followed by a flat white and avocado and feta on brioche. Gorgeous food and loved the different coffees.
All too soon I had to head off, so opted for the usual route via Eaton, Wettenhall, Nantwich and Market Drayton. The wind was hard going in places but not too bad and it’s not like I’m not used to it from the many sportives I ride.
In Market Drayton I stopped at the Joules brewery tap to fill up with iced water and have a refreshing pint to cool me down. I didn’t think we’d manage 22 degrees today but here we are and it’s glorious.
I then took a longer route home via Cheswardine and Sambrook to get the mileage up to over 80 miles.
Really enjoyed the ride out, pottering along at my own endurance pace most of the way and enjoying the lovely weather.
Today was the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive, starting at the lovely Somerly House Estate, near Ringwood in Hampshire.
This was the first sportive I ever took park in so far away from home this time last year and it’s a lovely route, so I was totally looking forward to my day.
I arrived in plenty of time and with a weather forecast that suggested I might finally be able to dig my summer kit out. I opted for arm and leg warmers too as it was not that warm to start off. It was also forecast rain later so my Raiders gilet was essential.
I parked up and walked up the hill to the event village and registration. As it’s the New Forest, we also have to wear big rider numbers on our backs and were treated to an extended safety briefing, including all about the wild animals we might encounter on the route and giving them priority. Not a problem.
There was quite a queue to start when I was ready but the Epic riders were being ushered to the front as they had to get off before 9:30am. That’s me, so all too soon I was on my way and getting into the ride.
The route was the same as last year, with one small diversion for a closed road just before the first feed stop at Boldre. I enjoyed the ride southwards from the start, past Bournemouth Airport before turning eastwards to enter the New Forest itself.
At the feed stop, I stocked up with water and had some welcome food as I was getting a little hungry by now. Then it was back on the road and I was soon at Beaulieu and the bit where the Epic Course heads for the coast overlooking the Isle Of Wight (one of my highlights of this lovely route).
After re-joining the Standard route it was up into Lyndhurst. and then onwards to the second and final feed stop at Copythorne. I did not hang around too much here as it had started to rain lightly and I was getting cold not riding my bike.
The final section of the ride contained the most elevation and we were soon heading up onto higher ground, including the main climb of the ride. I remember this being tough last year but did not think it was too bad today, indicating my fitness has improved a lot over the last year.
It was then an easy ride over the top of the Downs, through Fordingbridge and back to the event HQ. Where I collected my medals and goodies. I laughed as these contained a Wilkinson Sword razor – what would a ‘bearded bloke’ want with one of those ;).
I was delighted later on to see I’d earnt a Silver certificate as I normally spend way too long socialising at the feed stops (isn’t this what sportives are about after all?) and get a Bronze.
An amazing day out on my bike in one of my favourite areas to cycle. Loved it!