Hopey New Year

An early season audax to blow away the cobwebs!  Well it certainly did that!

Riding with Anthony and Martin from North Cheshire Clarion we set off from Bradwell to follow a circular loop taking in such places as Hathersage, Bakewell, Ashbourne and the Peak District National Park.

The weather was pretty cold, made colder by the wind-chill – a not-very-nice 12mph bugger that made life much harder than it needed to be.  It was hard work riding into it, but also hard work when it was blowing across us.  And a lot of the route was pretty exposed so there was little respite.

The route was also considerably more hilly than any of us were expecting.  Part of the route was the same as the Tour of Britain route from last year and there were quite a few sharpish lumps on it.

5,037ft of ascent

The thing about audax is that they are very sociable.  We had great chats at various stages along the route with people riding along, and we met a couple of guys from Saddleworth Clarion – boots!  On top of that it was really enjoyable riding with Martin and Anthony – great guys and we all share a similar sense of humour.

I had a stupid clipless moment whilst stopped in a layby.  Unclipped on my left side I lost my balance on the right.  Luckily the ground broke my fall.

Cafe stop was at a place called Windy Ridge.  We ordered our food and sat down.  I had order 39 and when the waitress shouted out 27 we knew we were in for a long wait.  And so it was – an hour later we were off again but at that point I was cold and my legs had stiffened.  So it ended up being a long day, and we finally landed back at the HQ as it was getting dark, for a nice soup and piece of cake.

As a training ride it was great – lots of hills, lots of effort into the wind even on the flat.

Average heartrate - 146 bpm

Ride stats : 67 miles in 5hrs 10m @ 13mph average.  5,037ft of ascent, average HR 146bpm and 4,464kcals of energy used

Macc Monster

Around 140 riders gathered in Macclesfield for the Macc Monster; a ride organised to support KidsCan, a very worthy  cancer charity.  The entry fee was a quite high £25 but it very quickly became apparent that this was very good value  indeed. Prior to the day, the  organisers had sent out an excellent set of information including route guide, profile and  description of the hills (more later) and  instructions about the day.  A GPX file was also made available for those of us  who are Garmin-enabled.

Plenty of parking at the HQ, ample facilities and sign-on was very smooth indeed, with each rider being given an Alpen  bar and a  choice of SiS powder or Energy Gel.  In addition, we were given a voucher for food and drink at the end.

The mass start at a fraction after 9am saw us turn immediately into the first hill of the day out of Macclesfield.  I have to say that the  route was absolutely beautiful. Although it was a windy day, it was bright and sunny and the route took in some amazing countryside and breathtaking views – some of the best that Cheshire and the Peak District have to offer.  And, added bonus, considering it was a really nice day the roads selected had little traffic on them.

The first feed stop was equally well organised.  More gels and powders, loads of water, tea/coffee, bananas, malt loaf and cake – a really good selection. As I mentioned the hills had been set out in a  document that was emailed before the event – I’ve included the relevant details here.

1. KERRIDGE

Start @ mile 0.1 Finish @ mile 2.0 Distance 1.9 Elevation at start 450ft Elevation at finish 8000ft Vertical ascent 350ft An easy start to the day.

2. BRICKWORKS

Start @ mile 4.7 Finish @ mile 6.7 Distance 2.0 Elevation at start 660ft Elevation at finish 1200ft Vertical ascent 580ft First proper climb, selections forming.

3. WINDGATHER

Start @ mile 8.2 Finish @ mile 10.2 Distance 2.0 Elevation at start 870ft Elevation at finish 1544ft Vertical ascent 675ft Stunning, unbroken views to the right, famous Windgather Rocks to the left.

4. GOYT VALLEY

Start @ mile 12.4 Finish @ mile 15.1 Distance 2.7 Elevation at start 960ft Elevation at finish 1550ft Vertical ascent 590ft Our favourite, this climb has everything.

5. WILD BOAR

Start @ mile 19.6 Finish @ mile 20.8 Distance 1.2 Elevation at start 780ft Elevation at finish 1150ft Vertical ascent 370ft Surprisingly difficult for such a short climb.

6. BOSLEY CLOUD

Start @ mile 25.1 Finish @ mile 26.7 Distance 1.6 Elevation at start 390ft Elevation at finish 945ft Vertical ascent 555ft Through the trees, then hugging the escarpment to the summit.

7. THORNCLIFFE

Start @ mile 38.8 Finish @ mile 39.9 Distance 1.1 Elevation at start 995ft Elevation at finish 1532ft Vertical ascent 540ft A brute. Featureless and open, broken many a poor soul.

8. AXE EDGE

Start @ mile 50.0 Finish @ mile 53.6 Distance 3.6 Elevation at start 930ft Elevation at finish 1680ft Vertical ascent 720ft Varied, limestone gorge to start, giving way to moorland and the (in)famous Cat and Fiddle PH.

6541ft of ascent

Max gradient 13.7%

The hills came thick and fast and were somewhat relentless.  They were advertised as 7,400ft of ascent but my GPS software made it 6,541ft.  Either way, it was a lot!  There were some tricky sections but the worst was No. 7 above, Thorncliffe.  You actually start going up at around 37 miles and don’t actually stop until 41!  As the guide says, it is very open and the wind was howling down it directly into our faces.  The worst part of the climb is nearly 14% and into a headwind it was perhaps the most unpleasant experience I’ve had on a bike this year.  Horrible, horrible, horrible.  Still, I made it up but at great cost to my legs, which felt like someone else’s for about 5 miles afterwards!

However, with uphill comes downhill.  Today’s ride had some of the best descents I’ve ridden.  Absolute screamers and I hit 45.8mph at peak, but the best one was between mile 17 and mile 19 where my average speed was 34mph!  Brilliant!

At the finish there was a burger van waiting for us – so I used my voucher for a steak sandwich and diet coke.  Like I said – great value.

Overall, an excellent ride.  Somebody at the end told me that the guy who organised it, from PEAK cyclesport, had only organised one before.  If that’s true then chapeau to you sir because it was really well done.

Ride stats : 63.63miles in 4hrs 43mins at 13.5mph average.  6541ft of climbing and 4,018 kcals used

Tour of Britain Stoke Stage

I recall watching the Tour of Britain pro riders on TV going round stage 2 in Stoke and thinking “that looks quite hilly” even though TV pictures naturally flatten out hills!  And, after completing the stage on Sunday, I can categorically say that I was right!

The Tour of Britain Prostate Cancer sportive took place around Stoke – not really known for its hills – except it did take us into the Peak District.

The ride itself seemed quite expensive at £40, but I have to say I haven’t seen a better organised, more well-prepared, better value event than this one.  Everything worked smoothly, from setting off under the cameras with a motorcycle escort, to the beautifully marked route, to the free food and gels at the numerous stops, to the finish with a high quality medal, goodie bag including t-shirt and recovery shake, and free pasta meal.  Just to illustrate the level of detail and thought – the gpx route download had Points of Interest (POI) programmed in which stated on the map where the drinks stops were.  If anyone could tell me how to get a Garmin to do that and I’d be grateful!  To the organisers – thank you and you have set a high bar for any other Sportive organisers out there as far as I’m concerned.

I rode with fellow North Cheshire Clarion clarionista’s Phil Jones, Sarah Smith, Martin Hickman and Matt Ellis.  The weather was extremely cold making choice of clothing quite difficult.  I chose a windtex jacket which meant I was cooking up hills but still cold when stopped.  The ride itself is now a bit of a blur.  It was a really hard slog all the way round, what with the hills, the cold and the breeze.  Here are my highlights in no particular order

  • Matt pushing through the pain and getting round – great effort and he should be proud of the achievement
  • Phil’s bike (The Unicorn) getting him recognised by a Twitter follower (you can find Phil’s blog in the links on this page).  The SRAM wheels he had on were simply amazing – Phil was climbing like I’d never seen him and going downhill he was simply uncatchable – until the crosswinds blew!
  • Feeding the ducks by hand at the lunch stop
  • The King of the Mountains signs at the bottom and top of Gun Hill (although not necessarily the hardest hill)
  • Hitting 51mph on a descent
  • Crossing the line as a team
  • The quality medal – sorry KilotoGo but much, much nicer than your Mow Cop medal

 

6440ft ascent - two Cat 1 climbs

 

 

Some very steep spikes!

 

Overall stats were 101.4 miles including the ride back to the car park, in 7hrs and 19mins at an average speed of 13.8mph.  Total energy used was 5631kcals, although I ate my own body weight in Mule bars, get shots and flapjacks!

This was my 11th century of the year and by far the hardest.  Very pleased to have done this and look forward to next year!