The clue for the Manchester loop route is in the name. Basically, starting from Denshaw to the east of Manchester, it followed an anti-clockwise loop around Manchester. Peter Bond was at the start talking about his new one-size-fits-none 3/4 length shorts – for some reason images of Stanley Matthews sprang to mind!
The route skirted Rochdale, up through Bacup to the first control at Clitheroe. At this point I was riding with a guy on a fixed gear bike and a young lady from Rochdale Tri club – already a veteran of 400k and 600k audaxes and an Ironman triathlon! These were powerful and fast riders, keeping me at a fast pace, and watching the guy use sheer strength to climb the Nick o’ Pendle on his fixie was a sight to behold.
After Clitheroe we headed to Whalley, past Blackburn and Darwen and then Belmont and Rivington, dropping down through bandit country between Wigan and Bolton, before skirting Warrington, Warbie Bridge and stopping at the Lymm services.
It had been pretty flat since Rivington, and that continued through Wilmslow until we turned north through New Mills and Saddleworth. Aiming to take the crown of most masochistic audax route planner from Andy Corless, Don Black had a final surprise in store near the end. The Polocini B*Stard sportive is so-called because at 67 miles it takes you up Gorsey Bank. I don’t know what you’d call this audax then, because at 120 miles we turned right into Gorsey Bank and the mile of pain. Not what tired legs need with 9000ft of climbing already in them! Anyway, we were first finishers at 6pm and were met with the usual high standard of audax catering – which was very well-received.
Apart from a small shower near the end we managed to avoid the rain all day, and even managed some sunshine. It’s impossible to avoid some urban bits in a loop around Manchester, but this is a great route, with some smashing climbs in it and plenty of varied scenery.
Ride stats : 134 miles in 8hrs 15mins @ 16.3mph average. 9347ft climbing, average HR 143bpm, 6434kcals used