Bowland Badass

Ade's Road Cycling Blog
Ade's Road Cycling BlogI’m led to understand that a sportive that is over 150 miles in length, and with at least 15,000ft of climbing, is called an ultra-sportive.  Well the Bowland Badass was my first ultra-sportive, and what an introduction it turned out to be.

The initial entry was almost like a job interview – I had to provide details of the types of ride I had completed, and the type of training I intended to do, before my entry was confirmed!  It had communications leading up to the event that were both informative and funny.  The event had very sophisticated timing – the organiser wrote down the time you started and the time you finished, and then worked it out (really, think about it, what more do you need?).  It had three feed stops with lovely food and lovely people manning (and womanning) them.  It had a routesheet, gpx files and excellent signs across the whole route.  And what a route!  You might think all this would be expensive, given that sportives appear to be the current rip-off cash cow for the cycling industry.  Well it was £10.  Yes, £10!  I think I ate that much in sweets at one of the feed stops alone.  Without a doubt, the best value sportive I’ve ever ridden.

According to an article in Spin Cycle Magazine, the 168 miles of the ride has 70 miles going up, 70 miles going down and only 20-odd miles on the flat.  Those of you who don’t like hills – this is not for you!  The 30 catagorised climbs we tackled were Catshaw Fell, Blea Tarn Hill, Littledale 1, Littledale 2, Jubilee Hill, Trough of Bowland, Long Knots, Hall Hill, Marl Hill, Beacon Hill, Knotts Hill, Bowland Knotts, Cross of Greet, Merrybent Hill, Waddington Fell, Pendle Hill, Barley Hill, Sabden Fold Hill, Nick of Pendle, Whalley Nab, Little Town Hill, Birdy Brow, Longridge Fell, Chipping 1, Chipping 2, Beacon Fell, Brock Bottom, Delph Lane, Harrisend Fell and, finally, Long Lane.  The scenery was absolutely stunning. I’ve ridden hundreds of miles in the area, on both my own rides and audaxes, and I was staggered how many roads we were on that I’d never ridden before.  And considering we did 168 miles, the day was mostly car-free.  It was staggering really – until the last section when we returned to Garstang, I can’t recall seeing more than about 20 cars all day.

After a spring and early summer of atrocious weather I was enjoying the sunshine – it was simply scorchio!  However, with the amount of climbing, the heat was a serious problem.  I found myself climbing with my jersey fully unzipped and it still took it out of you – Chris was especially suffering.  At the end, we’d taken on massive amounts of fluid and our kit was encrusted with the salt we’d sweated out.  The descents were pretty good too – apart from the condition of the roads.  There appears to be a new, cheap, way of resurfacing roads now.  Basically the council chucks a load of gravel on it and lets the traffic flatten it.  It’s not good for cyclists and makes for a twitchy descent.  Still, although I didn’t quite crack my best ever speed of 51mph, 47.9mph was pretty good.

Overall, a fantastic day.  Very tough and very difficult, but what a challenge!  Our total time was around 12 hours and 40 minutes.

Ride stats : 168 miles in 11hrs 42mins at 14.4mph average.  16,601ft of ascent.  8,788kcals of energy used.  Average HR of 132bpm

Strava ride here 

Spud Riley Polkadot Challenge

Ade's Road Cycling Blog
Ade's Road Cycling Blog
On Sunday I rode the Polkadot Challenge.  I’d decided to ride to the start rather than drive, so although the weather forecast was for sun, it was quite cold as I set off at 6-30am wearing arm warmers and full-finger gloves.  As I passed through Manchester they were setting up for the Great Manchester run, which I’d not realised, and meant there’d be more traffic on my ride home.

I got the HQ and sign-on was quick and easy – within minutes we’d had the briefing and were out on the road riding south from Woodford.  The route was fantastic.  It was well signed which was just as well, because the gpx was awful – something we were warned about at the briefing.  A great touch was that major climbs were signed at the start, with the length of the climbs too.  And there were some cracking climbs.

  • Pott Shrigley – 1.4 miles
  • Blaze Hill – 2 miles
  • Jenkins Chapel – 1 mile (a brute!)
  • Goyt Valley and Axe Edge – 3.8 miles
  • Butterton Moor – 3.6 miles
  • Wetton Low – 1 mile
  • Stanshope – 1.3 mile
  • Throwley Hall and Mere Hill – 2 miles
  • Ipstones Edge – 0.6 miles
  • Roach End – 1.2 miles
  • Gun Hill – 1.4 miles
  • Barlow Hill – 1.2 miles
  • Wilboarclough – 4.5 miles
  • Dead Mans Hill – 0.8 miles
  • Charles Head by Harrop – 1.1 miles

And of course, some cracking descents too.  The sun came out and it was a warm day.  It made quite a change – I’ve got out of the habit of riding in the warmth, and having to apply sun lotion!  The road surfaces on many descents were very poor, especially when shaded, with the shadows disguising potholes.  Yet again, the state of the roads broke one of my bottle-cages.  The feed stations were well-placed with simple and ample food and drink.  My legs were feeling the climbs after the TT on Saturday, but I got round relatively quickly.  At the end I regretted having another 17 miles to ride home but it was a nice day, and Sunday driving loons aside, it topped off a really nice day.

Ride stats : 98 miles in 06:37:35 at 14.8mph average (official time including stops 07:03:56).  10,119ft of climbing.  4,877kcals used, average HR 130bpm

Strava ride here 

What a B’Stard – @Polocini Sportive 5th May

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

7266ft of ascent

Another Polocini sportive I can wholeheartedly recommend.  Starting in Oldham, once it was clear of bandit country, it offered a pretty and challenging route taking in some great climbs.  As per usual there was the incredible Polocini value on display – porridge, coffee, energy bars/gels, energy drink and bottle (both at the start and the feed station), recovery shake and hot meal – all included in the entry price.

And it didn’t rain (but it was BITTERLY cold).

I made somewhat of a mistake at the start, hanging onto (and leading at one point) the fast boys uphill and into the wind, until they finally dropped me after an hour up a long climb.

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Luminous helmet and yellow wind jacket near the back!

Steve Robinson from the club hung on for a bit longer until dropping his chain and having a bit of a mechanical.  I caught him up and he limped into the feed station.  Whilst I filled my face with millionaires shortbread and flapjack one of the support guys tried to fix his mech, which wasn’t taking up the chain slack when dropping to the small ring at the front.  Unfortunately he couldn’t fix it and recommended Steve did the short route, so we parted company.

My legs were pretty knackered from the earlier efforts but I made decent time picking off riders until I hit the bottom of Holme Moss and spotted Anthony using the “facilities”  A quick chat and we set off up the big climb.  I didn’t see him again until the finish.

Speaking of which, just 7 miles from the end, a right turn took us onto Gorsey Brow.  The B’Stard.  This is a beast of a climb, especially after a hard ride to that point, and I struggled up past a rider who had decided walking was the easier option.  At that point it was touch and go who would reach the top first!

Hot food and recovery drink at the end was very welcome – and my legs were starting to seize up when I realised I still had to ride home.

Rick Robson took some great (considering what he had to work with) photos and these were excellent value – see below.  Check his work.

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Ride Stats : 68.6 miles in 4hrs 44mins @ 14.5mph average. 7266ft climb, average HR 154bpm, 4210kcals used

Strava ride here

Polocini Winter Sprinter Sportive

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Regular readers of this blog (both of you) will know that I’m quite critical of sportives, generally preferring audaxes because of the value for money you simply do not get from sportives.

Well today I rode the Polocini Winter Sprinter.  Let me first discuss value for money.  The ride cost £20 to enter.  When I arrived at the HQ I was given a cup of quality (not instant) coffee and a very large portion of porridge.  With my registration I also received a bag containing 2 CNP high protein oat bars, a CNP cereal bar, 2 CNP normal gels and a CNP caffeine gel.  Then I was handed a water bottle (I refuse to call them bidons – I’m not French!) containing CNP energy drink.  At the feed station I had a coffee and a yoghurt coated flapjack.  I could have had more.  After the ride I was handed a CNP recovery shake and I had very nice black pudding sausage and mash.  There was also a sports therapist on hand for those that wanted a free massage.  The added bonus was that the porridge and the sausage and mash were very, very tasty.  So all in all I think you’d be tight as a gnats chuff if you thought that lot wasn’t excellent value for money, so a big tick for that.

Onto organisation.  North Cheshire Clarion (and a few other clubs) had a lot of riders present.  A really simple but clever idea was that all the NCC registrations had been put into one box.  I simply took the box and dished all the goodies out to our riders.  Not only did that mean we didn’t have to queue – it meant that we weren’t in the queue holding everyone else up.

We had our photo taken by Rick Robson – another freebie as biggest club present – and then we were off.  The weather was stinking, with heavy and icy cold rain.  No mudguards on my bike meant my back was soon very wet.  No mudguards on most riders bikes meant my front was soon very wet.  The route was a nice roll through the Cheshire lanes, many of which are familiar from our club runs.  In the sunshine it would have been superb.  In the wet it was a bit less so!  Covered in mud and with waterproof gear failing at various points, by 40 miles I was completely soaked and the temperature was in the low single figures so I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes.  We’d set off at a fair tilt and I was only kept company by Ste from the club.  Our average speed gradually got slower and slower – perhaps dragged down by the increasingly heavy and damp clothing, as well as heavy legs. We avoided Swiss Hill as trying to ascend that in the wet would have been very difficult.  My one gripe about the day was the “sportive riders” issue which, to be fair, you get everywhere.  Too many unable to hold a line, or keep a steady pace up, and doing daft things like riding no-handed in a 20mph bunch whilst trying to open a gel.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

1,957ft ascent

The route also threw most of the climbing in at the end, which made cold and damp legs suffer with cramp.  Arriving back at the HQ we were greeted with recovery shakes and hot bangers and mash, and a warm village hall.

So in summary, a really well organised day offering great value for money.  Highly recommended and I look forward to the next event.

Ride stats : 61.8 miles in 3hrs 32m @ 17.4mph.  1,957ft ascent, average HR 161bpm, 3,444kcals used

Strava ride here


Macc Monster 2011

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Remember - the camera adds 10lbs...

On Saturday I was having a bouncing competition with my youngest daughter (don’t ask – she’s a bit childish like that) when I had to stop because of a pain in my lower back.  I thought nothing more of it and it went away.  Until the first real climb of the Macc Monster when it started aching quite badly, and didn’t really stop for the rest of the ride.  Last year I rode the Macc Monster in bright October sunlight, riding in shorts and short sleeves and enjoying a really nice day round the hills of the Macclesfield Forest and edge of the Peaks.  This year it was windy and wet, but still as enjoyable, with the Kidscan charity organising another super event.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

7,087ft climbing

I mistakenly got up an hour earlier than I needed to having misread the registration time so I was there nice and early, with the weather damp but not too bad.  This is a well-organised sportive so we were off pretty much bang on time in a 200 strong peloton heading out from the HQ.  The field rapidly thinned out as we immediately started hitting the hills and I made my way through the field settling (and staying) in the first 30 or so riders.  We seemed to battle a headwind for most of the ride which somehow seems unfair considering it’s two loops but certainly as we hit the peaks the wind was blowing hard.

Not far from, and at the halfway feed station, I started chatting to a chap who introduced himself as Adam who had just joined North Cheshire Clarion.  He looks like the racing snake variety of cyclist and is apparently into time-trials so watch out Giles next year!  Adam, if you are reading this, welcome to the club.

The feed station had the usual basic, but very welcome, food such as banana, flapjack, malt loaf and water/energy drinks and I was soon on my way again.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Photo does not convey how wet and windy it was

The last 2 climbs were pretty tough.  The headwind was now brutal and the rain was being driven into our faces and was actually painful, especially up to the Cat and Fiddle.  But this is a great route and soon we were sweeping down descents towards the finish, and a complimentary steak sandwich and cup of coffee.

I keep recommending these rides – this one and the Peak 100.  They are great value, with well signed and interesting routes, good organisation and value for money.  And any proceeds go to the charity.  Give them a go next year – I will see you there.

By the way, if you like the photos they were taken by Rick Robson at CycleSportPhotos – I think they’re good despite the subject model – especially given the weather conditions.

Ride stats : 64 miles in 4hrs 40m @ 13.7mph average.  7087ft climbing, average HR 150bpm and 4099kcals used.


Ryedale Rumble

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Not an old lady's leg

On Monday night playing football, my brain wrote a cheque that my body couldn’t cash, and I ended up going over on my ankle.  Several hours later it had swelled up to the size you can see in the photo to the left.  All week I’ve been wearing a brace, resting it and hoping the swelling would go down before today.  And so it did.  Sort of.  So at 5-30am this morning my alarm went off so that I could get over to Ampleforth to ride the Ryedale Rumble.  As Liz got up with me she gave me a supportive “I hate your bike rides” and sent me on my way.

Organisation was first class with plenty of parking and a dead quick and easy sign-on.  I set off at about 10 past 8 and pretty much straight away felt rubbish.  I put it down to me taking about 5 to 10 miles to warm up but frankly it didn’t get any better.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

9064ft of climbing

About 16 miles in we hit the first of 5 big climbs – Boltby Bank, which is in the 100 Climbs book scoring 7/10.  I stuggled up it thinking it was going to be a long and painful day.  As it was my ankle was okay but I think I was subconsciously compensating because I was starting to get pain in other places that I never normally do – the base of my foot, the muscle on the front of my shin and my hip.  The only time my ankle hurt was twisting to unclip my cleats, which had me worried about some of the steeper hills.

So I was already struggling and even the relatively flat bits of the course were full of short, sharp climbs.  The second big climb was, I believe, called Blakey Bank and it was the longest of the bunch but again, I struggled up to the top.  The descent took me across a moor with the most vicious cross-wind I’ve ever ridden in.  I was riding at about a 10˚ lean into it and still getting blown across the road.  It did cross my mind that I’d be riding into that at some point but only fleetingly as I was trying to avoid death.

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Some of the hills were frankly ridiculous – the maximum gradients above are 41%!  And that was too much for me.  At 60 miles I was absolutely shot and then what I thought was Rosedale Chimney loomed into view.  You could see this thing from about a mile away, simply going straight up .  I think the road-makers in Yorkshire basically look at a hill and decide none of this namby-pamby winding up a hill nonsense – I’ll just drive my tarmac machine straight up and straight down.  I walked up the steepest third in the middle after my legs started cramping.  After getting over the 4th big hill, which came in quick succession, I thought that was it for the day.  At 80 miles I flicked my Garmin to the gradient view and I thought it was misbehaving.  There was basically a wall approaching.  Turns out this was Rosedale Chimney, so christ knows what the other one was.  I struggled up the first third which is about 20% gradient, into a very strong headwind, and then it got really steep.  Again, I just wasn’t in the zone today and I had to get off and walk.  I was a bit disappointed but there was no way I was getting up.  When the gradient dropped to about 16% I got back on and completed the hill – but that’s one that I will have to go back to as it can’t be chalked off in the 100 climbs book.  Downhill was also into the headwind and required pedalling – it was just relentless.

The feedstop was a welcome break and with only 20-odd miles to go I was looking forward to the end.  However, the last section was completely exposed and into that headwind.  I was on my own and it was a real struggle – I was on the small ring on the flat at some points.  Mentally my head had gone at this point, I wasn’t enjoying and I just wanted it to end.  I’d been passed and dropped almost continually during the day and Easter, when I blasted round the Spring into the Highlands sportive, seemed a long, long time ago.

Anyway, I limped in and handed in my electronic timing dibber, and was rewarded with a piece of paper with my time and a certificate that said “Silver Award”.  My total time was 8hrs and 5 minutes for 111 miles which meant an average of 14mph.  It also said I was 54th out of 70 finishers*, and the current leader had done it nearly 2 hours quicker than me.  I also got a t-shirt for finishing and some hot food.  Overall I have to say that organisation was excellent but I didn’t enjoy the ride at all.  I’ve spent the summer riding long audaxes at a relatively easy pace with long stops, so trying to do a sportive at quick pace really exposed that.

Ride stats: 111 miles in 7hrs 32m at 14.7mph.  Total climb 9064ft.  Average HR 151bpm, energy used 6648kcals

*I subsequently found out that I finished 61st out of 105 riders

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

Wrynose or Bust

Ade's Road Cycling Blog - Wrynose or Bust route

With clear blue skies the Halton Army Training Camp at 7am this morning was 3°C.  It was absolutely freezing as I met up with ex-clarionista Andy and got registered ready for the ride.  The Rotary Club of Lancaster were organising this event and so far everything was smooth, with registration quick and easy, and a cup of coffee available to take the chill off.

The route started off running parallel to the coast up through the TT-ers favourite of Levens and then darting south-west to trace the edge of Morecambe Bay, before heading north into Cumbria.  It covered a lot of busy roads – a little too many for my liking.

Apart from the odd lump there wasn’t much in the way of hills for the first 40 miles, and we were averaging 17-18mph.  At Gawthwaite that changed as we got our first real hill, taking us up 500ft in a couple of miles with an average 9% gradient.  As we headed north again through the Duddon Valley it was easy to feel a sense of foreboding, as there were steep hills closing in on both sides making the ride feel somewhat claustrophobic.

At around about 48 miles we started the climb that culminated in the highest point of the ride at just over 60 miles.  Apart from one short descent that was pretty much 12 miles of constant climbing.  As we approached Wrynose we could see Hardknott on our left, and Andy helpfully told me that we were going up the “easy” side.  To be frank we could see the pass in the distance and it didn’t look much from a distance.  Then as we got closer I spotted a yellow dot on it.  The dot wasn’t moving much, if at all.  And at that point I realised it was a cyclist grinding up the hill.  Oh shit.  Andy had also remarked that there wasn’t much traffic and as if by magic a line of cars appeared behind us on the single track road.  I flicked the Garmin onto the screen that has the gradient on it, took a deep breath and tried to get into my “climbing rhythm”.  Andy was ahead, a line of cars behind.  Someone was cranking up the steepness now, 14%, 15%, 16%.  I couldn’t find my rhythm and was breathing hard.  Andy was worse though – with a cold and a bad back – and so I went past him.  Three cars went past me.  Then they stopped!  FFS, a car coming down and they couldn’t pass!  At this point I’m thinking that if I stop behind these cars I’ll never get going again.  17%, 18%, 19%.  There’s a massive scraping noise as the down car presumably hits a rock on the grass verge and the 3 up cars get going.  My heart rate has hit maximum and then some – 191bpm – and I was running out of power to turn the pedals.  18%, 17%, 16%, thank God for that, 15%, 14% and I’m hitting the peak.  A coupe of marshalls at the top clap me up and I stop on the peak to wait for Andy.  That was tough, and if it is the easy side then I don’t want to know the hard side.  But it didn’t end there.  I let Andy go first as he’s a much better descender than I am and off we went down the hill.  Oh.  My.  God!  I have never been so terrified on a descent.  My arms and shoulders were sore at the bottom from pulling the brakes.  At times the poor road surface had me oscillating to the point that I thought the bike would come apart, or even just throw me off.  I felt the rims of my wheel at the bottom and they were very warm!  It seems not everyone managed to keep control.  We chatted to one rider who’d hit a rock on the descent and ended up in a field, his bike a write-off.

6708ft ascent. Guess which one is Wrynose

19.4% - Wrynose

Mistakenly we thought that was the worst of it over.  At 80 miles there was a horrible climb at 15% and then, as legs were failing, at 105 miles one at 10% in a cruel sting-in-the-tail trick.

The countryside in the Lake District is absolutely stunning.  Some of the views we were treated to were fantastic.  Unfortunately it’s popular with motorists and walkers (who get there by car) and so there are far more cars than in other rural areas.  And to get to the good bits you have to use (relatively) busy roads.  But the weather was good, the clouds dissipating to leave us with a warming sun.

The organisation of the ride was excellent.  Signs were good and marshalls were posted at key points, such as dangerous descents like Tow Top, or key turns.  There were a number of feed stations but these, unfortunately, were not as good as they could be.  They offered bananas, gels and energy drinks and towards the end had run out of anything but gels and water.  I much prefer food to gels so this was a bit of a pain.  At the end there was a free goodie bag and a really nice pasta meal.  Overall a great ride with good organisation.  I think this ride must attract more “serious” riders as whilst I was 30th out of 131 in the Peak 100 last week, in this my time was only good enough for 74th out of 117, and my average speed was higher!

I’ve run a guess the time competition at work to aid my sponsorship.  Here’s the stats.

Ride Stats :  112miles in 7hrs 33m 16s @ 14.9mph average.  6708ft of climbing, average HR of 136bpm and 5602kcals of energy used.  Top speed 45.6mph

Peak 100 Update – Plus Photo’s from @CSPhotoscom

Really chuffed to find out that my “official” time in the Peak 100 sportive was the 30th best out of 131 riders.  That’s a marked improvement on what I was capable of last year already and given that I’m still about 7lbs heavier than I was I am really pleased with it.

Anyway, here’s a couple of photos from ace sportive photographer Rick Robson at – great value and great quality

Ade's Road Cycling Blog - Peak 100, Axe Edge

Climbing Axe Edge

Ade's Road Cycling Blog - Peak 100, Axe Edge