A Very Windy Wheel Heroes 100 Charity Sportive

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Bloody hell!  Can anyone tell me why I get up at 4-30am on a Sunday morning, load my bike into the car, pick up my buddy Anthony, load his bike into the car, and drive 130 miles to Stratford-upon-Avon?

Well in this case it was to ride the Wheel Heroes 100 mile sportive.  I’ve been pretty picky about sportives this year.  I’ve started to actually dislike them.  Many are expensive and full of idiots with all-the-gear-but-no-idea and generally they are not a patch on audaxes.  Of course this is not always the case.  I’ve heard good reports about Policini sportives, which seem to be good value and imaginative, and I continue to support and ride the Kidscan charity rides (which I’ve blogged about here and here).  The reason for riding the Wheel Heroes 100 was that it was a charity ride for a great cause – Cyclists Fighting Cancer, which provides cycling equipment to young people who have been affected by cancer.

There was plenty of parking at Stratford racecourse and the registration was quick and well organised.  But it didn’t half feel windy!  Refreshments were available, at a price, which is fine by me on a charity sportive.  Timing chips were attached to ankles and we set off over the mat and off.

Anthony summed up the ride as follows – 25 miles into a headwind, 25 miles up hills, 25 miles with a tailwind and 25 miles back into the headwind.  That’s a pretty good summary.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

3545ft of climbing

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

The route itself was relatively flat (in sportive/audax terms) but the wind put a very different complexion on things.  The first 25 miles or so were directly into it and in the exposed Cotswolds it was quite tough.  The scenery was beautiful – lovely rolling countryside, quaint little villages and chocolate-box cottages.  Which we rode through with gritted teeth!

Around the halfway point were some spiky hills with a bit of a kick to them, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Feedstations were at each 25 miles, providing drinks and simple, but welcome food.  After the halfway stop we enjoyed a bit of a tailwind until the final feedstation when we turned back into the wind for the final stretch.  Which was quite hard.  Is it me or has May seemed to be a very, very windy month?

Apart from nearly being taken out by an idiot in a white Audi near the end, the finish was a bit of an anti-climax – a finishers medal and a “goodie” bag but no hot food.

A note on sportive riders.  There are some very awful riders out there.  Borderline dangerous.  Can’t hold a line, can’t keep a constant speed and can’t ride close form.

Overall, a decent event.  Good route, good organisation and good feedstops.

Ride stats : 100.74 miles in 6hrs 13m @ 16.2mph average.  3545ft climbing, average HR 134bpm and 4520kcals energy used

KidsCan Peak 100

This year I’ve been looking at riding audaxes more than sportives because, frankly, you get just as good an experience for a fraction of the price.  For example whilst many of my clubmates had spent a small fortune to ride the Cheshire Cat, I’d spent a fiver to ride a 200k audax on many of the same roads.  I do, however, make exceptions.  Last year I rode the Macc Monster sportive which was brilliant.  The Peak 100 is by the same guys so I was looking forward to this one.  And what’s better is the money goes to charity – specifically KidsCan, a charity for children with cancer.  So I’m happy to part with £25 on that basis alone.  However, when I signed in I received a High 5 bottle will a couple of gels and a couple of powders in it.  The main feed station had malt loaf, bananas, cereal bars, chocolate biscuits, powerade and water.  About 15 miles from the end two nice ladies in KidsCan t-shirts were flagging down cyclists with more gels, powders, choccy biscuits and water.  To cap it all, at the end there was a voucher for a steak sandwich/bacon butty/chips and a drink.  Absolutely brilliant value I think you’ll agree.

The route left the HQ in Macclesfield and was essentially two big loops – going through Langley, the Macclesfield Forest, Cleulow Cross, Bosley, Key Green, Timbersbrook, Gillow Heath, Mow Cop, Knypersley, Lask Edge, Rudyard, Rushton Spencer, Bosley Minn, Allgreave, Flash, Longnor, Crowdecote, Glutton Bridge, Axe Edge, Cat n’ Fiddle and back.  The scenery was absolutely fantastic – great climbs rewarded by fast and exhilarating descents – maximum speed today just under 41mph.  Yet another great route and superbly signed throughout – although the provided GPX was turn-perfect too.  The only (masochistic) disappointment about the day was the advertised climb of Mow Cop.  Well, it went near Mow Cop but it wasn’t the Mow Cop that everyone knows.

The weather was absolutely beautiful.  Shorts and shirt-sleeves for the first time this year and I was still overheating on the bigger hills!

5978ft of climbing

The ride is advertised at 7000ft of climbing although the Garmin suggested it was only (!) 5978ft.  The Garmin also developed a new trick today – at 30mph it suddenly decided I was doing 0mph and auto-paused.  Only a reboot brought it back to life!

Lots of spiky hills!

There was some serious climbing on this ride.  As we left HQ in a big group I knew that the hills would start to thin it out fairly quickly and so they did with 6 miles of climbing from the off.  I managed to keep in touch with the leading riders, generally finding that they pulled away from me on the flat but I got back on up the hills.  I felt pretty strong most of the way round.  On one particularly long climb I got into a fantastic rhythm which saw me just spinning along at 80rpm and reeling in rider after rider as they all started flagging.  Feeling pretty good about myself one of the guys in a Peak Cycles jersey went past me like a train, followed closely by his mate; a timely reminder there are always bigger fish in the sea!

The finish joined the Cat n’ Fiddle just before the pub and then followed the road down into Macclesfield.  That was a great blast and I managed to ride a couple off my wheel into a headwind so a great end to a great ride.

Organisation again was great – parking no problem, no queues for toilets or sign-on, no queues for any food, quality signage and a great route.  I’ll be back for the Macc Monster and I recommend  it to everyone.

Ride Stats : 64 miles in 4 hrs 24m @ 14.5mph.  5978ft climbing, 3840kcals energy used at average HR of 150bpm


Manchester 100

The Manchester 100 is a relatively flat ride that loops from Wythenshawe park through Cheshire.  Last year I did it on a mountain bike and managed a time of 6hrs and 26m, averaging 15.7mph.  This year I’d targeted a sub-6hr time which meant averaging at least 16.67mph.

There were a fair few from North Cheshire Clarion riding and we met at the start line at 7am.  We’d already agreed we were going to go for it.  We set off at a fair pace and pretty soon Anthony, Martin and I had dropped the other clarionista’s.  Indeed we found ourselves somewhere near the very front of the ride (some 2000+ riders!).  For a good 20 miles or so the three of us took turns on the front driving a strong pace in somewhat blustery conditions.  It was somewhat surprising to find that there were a good 10 to 15 riders sitting on our back wheels – none of whom took a turn at the front.  Charming.

Anthony and Martin were suffering a bit around 45 miles and I left them inadvertently once (slowing to wait for them) and we’d fallen back again and were struggling in the wind so I made a big effort to get on the back of a group a half mile or so ahead.  Unfortunately I realised that I’d dropped them again but we weren’t far from the midway stop so I stuck behind a guy from Wigan Wheelers.  It was at this point that one of the guys in the group decided to steer a perfect line through all the wet cow-muck outside a farm!  We were moving quite quickly at this point.  After a couple of miles I heard this shout go up and a massive Seamons train rolled by!  As it went past I heard a familiar voice.  “Come on Ade, keep up!”  Anthony and Martin were stuck on the end.  We stayed with Seamons until the “midway” stop at 55 miles – being one of the first groups to arrive there.  Phil and Sarah arrived next, then Phil Rose, then Graeme, then Dawn.

After a bit of sustenance we set off again.  Anthony, Martin and I piled it on again and continued like that until about 70 miles when Martin fell out the back.  Sportingly he told us to push on and we met up again at the third stop at 80 miles, having passed Gareth on the way.  Phil and Sarah joined us and we rolled out of the stop as a group.

At about 85 miles I was struggling and hanging on a bit.  I think the pace we’d been setting meant I’d cocked up my nutrition as I hadn’t eaten much.  I struggled to get an energy bar down and after a few miles started feeling better, but it had been a struggle to stay with Anthony – who had gotten over his earlier blip and was hammering out a strong pace.

The 100km ride had joined the route at this point, and traffic was getting busier so it was hard to keep a strong pace  weaving in and out of the much slower riders and cars.  Once out of Wilmslow it was the home stretch so we continued the pace flying past lots of riders.  Turning into Wilmslow Park Anthony and I had our own Cav sprint finish and were neck and neck until we had to stop as an MTB-er weaved in front of us.  We even got a North Cheshire announcement as we crossed the line from the Phoenix Nights-style compere!

Well earned rest

Phil rests in style

The following shows my heart rate zones during the ride – it shows how hard I was working – most of the ride in zone 4 or 5 and an average of 149bpm.

No coasting here!

Ride stats : 5hrs 25m, 100.91 miles, 18.6mph average, 1895ft ascent, 4782kcals used

Cheshire Cat – We’re All Mad Here…

So today I did the Kilo-to-Go Cheshire Cat sportive.  What with the clocks going forward, and it being in Crewe, it meant a very early start.  I arrived in Crewe at about 7-30am (6-30am in reality!) and surprisingly got a space in the car park adjacent to the Alexandra stadium on Gresty Road.  A quick cup of coffee and then a very, very long queue saw us start at 8-30am.  Well actually the start was 9-10am because of the length of the queue.  I’d met up with the rest of the North Cheshire Clarion and we set off as a group.  After about 5 miles David Mitchell decided it was a bit slow and broke away, so I went with him..  The weather had changed from spots of rain early on to pretty nice sunshine so after about another 10 miles we stopped to shed some layers, at which point the Clarion went past, with some choice remarks I might add.  Still, at the bottom of Mow Cop we caught them up and overtook.  Last time I attempted Mow Cop I had to stop.  I was determined to do better this time but wondered if I could as I reached the point I stopped last time with my heart beating out of my chest and my legs screaming in agony.  I decided to zigzag a while to try to lower my heart rate – it was in the 180’s against a theoretical max of 181.  That helped and when I got to the foot of the really steep bit by the pub the road was lined with people cheering and encouraging so I really went for it.  My heart rate peaked at 193, my legs were in agony but I made it up (and got a medal to boot -see below, modelled by my daughter Emma)

At that point I thought the worst was over.  Oh dear.  It was followed by three further hills which whilst not as bad were pretty difficult.  The small ring on my front cog has never seen so much use!  All in all there was over 4000ft of climbing, the majority of which was in those 4 hills.  The final hill was a real struggle, and the only one I had to stop on.  At which point somebody went past me one-handed conducting a conversation on his mobile phone, and didn’t even sound out of breath!  There’s a name for people like that.

To make matters worse there was a very strong westerly wind blowing and as we turned west near Macclesfield I realised the flat bits weren’t exactly going to be a picnic either.  Over 40 miles into a brutal headwind was incredibly difficult.  To give some comparative information, into the wind I was working really hard at 160bpm to maintain a speed of between 13 and 14 mph.  Coming back the same tailwind meant I could do 18-20mph with a heart rate of only 145bpm.

Just a note on some of the fantastic bikes out there.  I saw a couple (as they went past me!) that cost at least £5,000, and many more in the £1,000-£2,000 range.  Envy is a terrible thing!

At Malpas we turned back towards Crewe and it felt a whole lot easier.  I’d gone ahead of the Clarion early on with Dave Mitchell but got left behind by him at Mow Cop.  I caught up with him at the 75 mile feed station and so we set off together back towards the finish.

The last 10 miles I struggled to stay with him but we finally crossed the line at the same time.  According to the Garmin our total time was 7 hrs 37 mins, with a moving time of 6 hrs 44 mins.  Average speed was bang on 15mph – not bad given the course and the conditions.

At the finish we met up with Andy who had beaten us by about half an hour and waited for the rest of the Clarion.

Absolutely knackered.  The Manchester 100 expended 5900kcals.  This one expended nearly 6400kcals.  I’ve got the medal for Mow Cop now – I don’t intend to ever ride up it again!

If anything this brought home to me the enormity of the task to get from Land’s End to John o’Groats.  There are some serious climbs in Cornwall, the Lake District and Scotland.  I know I can do it, but I also know how hard it will be.  Wish me luck…

Jodrell Bank Cyclosportive 80 miles

As part of my training for the end-to-end I’ve entered a couple of cyclosportives as they offer an opportunity to ride some well-thought out routes with organised stops and a bit of challenge.  So today was my first attempt at a sportive.  Apparently it’s a good one to start with as it’s relatively flat (I’ll come onto that shortly) and only (!) 80 miles.  There’s the option to do shorter routes but frankly, I need as much distance as I can get in at the moment.

I’d managed to convince a friend from work, Nigel, to join me on this.  We’d ridden the Manchester 100 together last year and he generally rides faster than me so I have to work hard to stay with him.  This is great for training because when I’m on my own I find it too easy to drop the speed to take a breather so having someone else there means that rarely happens.  So it was with some trepidation that i arrived at Nigel’s house early this morning and we rode the 3.5 miles to the sportive HQ at Woodford community centre.  The place was full of cyclists as you can imagine – thankfully all shapes and sizes so I didn’t feel too intimidated.  There must easily have been a quarter of a million pounds worth of bikes on display!  A short queue saw me registered (rider number 271) and the electronic timing tag fastened to my wrist.  We also got a printed map and a goodie bag containing a water bottle and various energy bars/gels and powders.

Anyway, we got the electronic tags blipped at the start and set off.  I’d already downloaded the route to the Garmin but it was well marked with arrows at all the major junctions.  The route took us out of Woodford and heading initially west in a loop through Mobberley, Ashley, Bucklow Hill, High Legh before turning east at Antrobus.  A note here about the wind.  The wind was blowing from the west to the east (is that a westerly?) and therefore heading west was a struggle even on the flat.  It was hard work to keep 14mph up.  Coming back east was the complete opposite – between 20 and 24mph with relative ease.  The first timing checkpoint then saw us head southwest through Ollerton and Lower Peover to the next timing point at Goostrey,  The course then diverted into a mini-loop around Jodrell Bank.  The views of the satellite station were spectacular from all angles as we drew a big arc around it, and the weather was almost spring-like to the point that I put my sunglasses on!  We continued on through Siddington and Broken Cross and the few cheeky hills on this course appeared as we rose through Prestbury, Bollington and Pott Shrigley.  Once the hills were out of the way the rest was really a cruise back down to Woodford through Poynton and Hazel Grove.  All in all a very nice course – apart from the state of the roads.  The winter has not been kind to the tarmac – it has been absolutely destroyed in places and it’s pretty depressing when you hack up a hill and then can’t enjoy the descent you’ve earned because the roads make it too dangerous.  On that note there was a professional photographer perched on the side of a steep hill so I expect a photo soon of me with an agonised look on my face!

So the 80 miles took 4hrs and 50mins in the saddle (5hrs 20mins including stops) and we recorded an average speed of 16.3mph which I’m pretty pleased with over that distance.  Total climbing was only 1973ft and I used 4644kcalories.  It seemed that we overtook far more people than overtook us but at the end we were in 153rd place out of 273 entries.  I wasn’t last and that was all I was bothered about!

Next one is the Cheshire Cat in 2 weeks time.  I’m not looking forward to that because a) it’s 100 miles b) it’s got Mow Cop on it and that climb nearly did for me a few weeks back and c) I’m doing it on my own.  Apparently there are 2500 riders entered and frankly if I come in the first 2000 I’ll be happy.  Now for a few glasses of wine and a nice meal!