Driving to the start in Congleton in the dark, the car temperature gauge was reading a very chilly 0°C. The Clarion was well represented, with riders from North Cheshire, Calder, Stockport and Saddleworth, and the sun was starting to come up as organiser Denise, from Congleton CC, waved us off. It was still freezing and after only a few minutes I’d lost the feeling in my fingers and toes. Somebody asked me who I was but I was that cold that after a brief exchange I zoomed off to try and get my HR up and get a little warmer (I do apologise!)
The frost was very visible in the fields, and the roads were glistening, which made the group nervous. On top of that there was a strong smell of diesel and it seemed inevitable when there was a crash behind us as somebody came off. I believe the chap was okay but he turned back at that point.
First stop was Malpas, but then quickly on to the Coffee Shop in Chirk – where I had a massive breakfast bap! At the stop Mike Wigley told me about a different road up the Horseshoe – the “Old” road. Apparently shorter, but significantly steeper, his mapping device suggested it was 20% gradient, but he believed it to be steeper.
Of course, that was that. It was nagging at me now and therefore on the run to the pass I’d already decided to have a go at the Old Road. It was pretty steep – and a little longer than Mike had suggested. According to the Garmin it peaked at around 29% but on the whole averaged between 18-20%.
At the top of the climb was the Ponderosa café. A large scone and a discussion with a motorcyclist who was after getting into cycling later, and I was launching down the other side. The descent was fast and freezing, with imposing clouds now closing in. Luckily though, the rain held off as I headed north-east through Cheshire, briefly stopping at the Ice Cream Farm on the way.
The rest of the ride was uneventful – I was on my own for most of it but I made it back to HQ before the light faded.
Ride stats : 133 miles in 7hrs 35m at 17.5mph average. 5187ft climbing, average HR 135bpm, energy used 5237kcals