Cheshire Peak Grimpeur (and revisiting Mow Cop)

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

7692ft of climbing

It was a typically summers day when Anthony and I set out from Marple.  That is, wet and cold.  After an abortive start because I had to return to the car, adding 2 miles on, we were soon hitting the lumpy stuff as you can see from the profile.  We stopped at Astbury Garden Centre café after 30 miles for breakfast before quickly coming to the foot of Mow Cop.  I think it’s a measure of our fitness that both of us made it up with relative ease.  In fact it seemed a lot shorter than the last time I was here, although the ramp is still a beast of a climb.  There were a few other cheeky climbs on this ride including one little horror show near the end up a very steep concrete cobbled road.  In Anthony’s own words, it nearly killed him as his wheel slipped off a raised piece of concrete, he lost traction and barely unclipped in time.  As it was, he pulled through, albeit with cramp affecting him.  I have to say I couldn’t ride for laughing at the indignant way in which Anthony relayed this story to me.

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Prior to Anthony’s near-death experience

The only other real drama on the ride was getting horribly lost when the route went off-road.  I’m not a big fan of audaxes that go off-road as GPS struggles to follow it and following the instructions on the route sheet was seemingly leading us in the wrong direction.  We ended up carrying the bikes down some muddy track and across a stream, before we abandoned the idea and went back to the road.  If I wanted that I’d go MTB-ing.  It probably cost us an hour’s time.

Overall a decent ride – the weather improved in the afternoon, unlike Anthony’s mood – but I guess you can’t have everything 🙂

Ride stats : 79.43 miles in 6hrs 14m @ 12.7mph.  7,692ft of climb.  Average HR 127bpm, 3935kcals used

Strava ride here

Hello Mow Cop my Old Friend

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

I looked out of the window at 7-30am and was greeted with a traditional North Manchester torrential downpour.  And worse, the wind was howling through the trees.  Part of me thought, briefly, about going back to bed, but I knew that if I did I’d be annoyed with myself for the rest of the day.  And anyway, the ride was in Cheshire, and it tends to rain less there!

When I arrived at the lay-by where the club meets there was nobody there.  At least there was no rain but I thought I’d be off on my own.  As it was a few turned up but only one member, Lee, was up for the training ride.

The outbound leg was pretty uneventful.  The wind was behind us which meant coming back would be a bit of a struggle, but we made decent enough time until we reached the familiar level crossing at the bottom of Mow Cop.

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2,561ft of ascent

This was Lee’s first attempt at Mow Cop.  I’d warned him to save something for the ramp, especially as he was on a 34-25 ratio.  But off he went in front of me.  He’s probably 3 or more stone heavier than me so he must have some power as he made it to the foot of the ramp and then powered up that.  If you’ve never done Mow Cop before, it starts off with a steep section from the level crossing before getting marginally easier for a short while.  It then steepens again until you see the ramp and the 25% sign after about a mile of climbing.  The ramp is only about 100 yards or so before that flattens but it’s a real sting in the tail.  So big respect to Lee for getting up on his first try.

The descent was quick and exciting and we stopped at Congleton Garden Centre coffee shop.  They took a fair while to bring our order but I have to say the poached egg on toast was done to perfection.

One more decent hill out of the way and we turned towards home and into the very stiff headwind.  Lee was struggling a little now so tucked in behind me as we pushed into it.  About 10 miles out from the end the inevitable rain started, and my speed involuntarily slowed as the stinging rain drove into my face.

By the time we reached the end we were pretty soaked, and Lee had a fine splattering of mud that had made it past my speedracer mkII mud guards!  Unbelievably that was the first ride of this winter where I have felt cold.

Ride Stats : 61.78 miles in 3hrs 56mins @ 15.7mph average.  2,561ft of ascent, average HR 155bpm and 3,617kcals energy used

Saturday Club Run – 67 miles and an ice bath

I’ve been reading up on recovery techniques as I believe that the most difficult part of the LEJOG will be the cumulative effects of long distance every day.  There’s some good information at the BBC and various other websites, along with as many refuting the benefits.  So I thought, what the hell I’ll give it a go.  So after yesterday evenings ride I filled the bath with cold water and plunged in.  Within 30 seconds it was unbearable for my feet so I put a pair of socks on.  Yes, in the bath.  That made it bearable and I sat there for 5 minutes or so.  The reason I mention this is that on todays North Cheshire Clarion Saturday club run my legs felt really good.  Now that could have been down to the spectacularly good weather today – it really was ideal – or it could be down to my mind playing tricks on me.  But I may just give this ice bath lark a bit of a longer trial.

Back to the ride.  I rode the 20 miles or so to the Swan (meeting point) and was soon joined by Sarah, Giles and Gaz and a couple of guest riders.

Giles, Gaz, Sarah at the top of Houghwood Hill

Gaz and Sarah at the top of Houghwood Hill

Giles set us off at a cracking pace taking us round Golborne, Billinge, Haydock and Burtonwood.  He even managed to slip in a cheeky hill.  Not quite in the same league as Mow Cop but not easy by any stretch of the imagination.  I believe it’s called Houghwood Hill and according to the Garmin was 15.5% at it’s steepest.  However, whether that can be trusted is another question – read on below.  A quick blast back home to the ice bath down the East Lancs saw me clock up 67 miles at an average of 16.1mph.  I’m not sure how much climbing I did but it was in the order of 2000ft.  Total calories used – 3242kcals.

I posted in yesterday’s training ride blog that my Garmin had gone a bit mad on elevation.  Well it did it again today.  I have no idea what or why it is doing it but it’s a pain that it has suddenly started doing it after months of working correctly.

Contrary to the Garmin, I did NOT fall off a cliff at 62.5 miles and plunge 400ft under the sea...

As you can see it believes I started at about 900-odd ft and then at 62.5miles decided it was completely wrong and dropped the altitude quite considerably.  Even now, stood in my garden my Forerunner 305 is reading 355ft elevation (correct) and my Edge 705 is reading -161ft.  A hard reset has not changed this so if it carries on I’ll be calling Garmin – although as with most “help” desks I don’t hold out much hope for a solution…

Cheshire Cat pictures

Some photos of me here.  The first is battling up the steep bit of Mow Cop – you can see the Cheshire View pub behind me.

The second picture almost makes me look sporty

I did some further analysis of my results.  I guess I was slightly disappointed having done the Manchester 100 in under 6 and a half hours.  Apparently, according to the results I came 897th out of around 1300 entrants in the 100 mile category.

At the start of the ride up to Mow Cop I was averaging 15.9mph at a relatively easy average heartrate of 128bpm.

The next section of the ride which included all the hills (and the downhills remember) my average speed dropped to 11.5mph and my average heartrate jumped to 159bpm.

Similarly, the 40 mile stretch into the headwind saw an average speed of 15.2mph but working hard to maintain that at 154bpm with an 82rpm cadence.  At this stage I struggled to get into any groups or pelotons and spent much of the time with people slipstreaming me.

Finally, the tailwind home dropped my heartrate to 150bpm and my average speed up to 17.2mph, but a relatively easy 67rpm cadence.  Just shows the difference the wind direction can make.

I’m definitely making small steps in fitness and capability but I really need to make more – just more riding I guess.

Mow Cop on Google Streetview

As you can see Google maps Streetview now covers Mow Cop.  A scary reminder of what I’ll face again in a week and a half during the Cheshire Cat sportive.  I hoping I’ll cope a little better this time as I have several more weeks fitness under my belt, about half a stone less weight and several hundred more miles of training.  However, I’m still under no illusions!  And to make matters worse, there will be around 2,700 riders out so there are bound to be bottlenecks.  Just hope they’re not caused by me!

#LEJOG Training Update – Mow Cop Mistake

I didn’t particularly sleep well last night.  The animals were having a “howl at the moon” night.  Still, I was up early and getting ready to go out on the bike.  I’d picked a route I use quite often, but with a twist in the middle.  Mow Cop.  Now I’ve read about it, and I’ve seen pictures of it and even a video.  And it’s part of the course for the Cheshire Cat at the end of March.  So I thought I’d see for myself.

The first 30 odd miles felt pretty good.  I had a cold last weekend which took it out of me but today I felt much better.  I wasn’t even annoyed when Rio Ferdinand in an Audi A8 pulled out in front of me in Alderley Edge.  I was comfortable and making good progress as I turned off the A34 towards the dreaded hill.  There’s a level crossing which had to wait at as two trains went past.  I got a theatrical start as the lights flashed and the gates lifted.

So enough and cut to the chase.  Mow Cop is the steepest hill I have ever seen.  Pictures do not do it justice.  Videos do not do it justice.  In fact, pictures make you think the steep bit is quite short.  It’s not.  I had to stop 3 times before I reached the top.  The climb started at the 33 mile point for me, at an elevation of 938ft.  1 mile later I was at 1500ft – which is an average over a mile of 11.2% or 1 in 9 in old money.  The section at the pub, which is by no means unique, was a staggering 40%

Mow Cop Elevation

Although I had a rest at the top and something to eat, and the downward ride was great fun, the big mistake was that attempting to climb that kind of hill after 30 miles simply sapped my legs of anything left, so that the remaining 40 miles were a real struggle when faced with even slight inclines.  However, I battled on and at about 50 miles got a second wind which helped carry me home.  I was quite lucky with the weather.  Few spots of rain and even my feet (in socks and freezer bags) were warmer.  I was also lucky with my bike.  About 300 yards from home I heard a loud PING!  Looking down I couldn’t see anything but when I got home I could see that a spoke on the rear wheel had snapped.  Local bike shop replaced all of them for me because they’d been damaged by the chain coming off at the top when the bike was new and the gears weren’t indexing correctly.  A lucky escape.

The total ride was 71.2 miles at an average of 14.8mph.  4 hours, 49 minutes and 4382 kCals.  Slightly disappointed – I need to be fitter and stronger going up hills.