It may surprise you to read that the Horseshoe Pass audax is a 200km audax that goes from Congleton out to Wales, up the Horseshoe Pass, and loops back to the start.
I bumped into fellow North Cheshire Clarion rider Gary at the start of the ride and we set off en-masse at 8am. There were a large number of Derby Mercury riders on the event and they quickly formed a fast-moving peloton which we were happy to tag along behind. The first 35 miles whizzed by until the first control in Malpas where 40-odd riders trooped into a small shop to get receipts. The first café stop was at the Chirk Milk Bar, which is fast becoming a “regular” haunt. However, whilst a nice place, it’s too small for 40+ cyclists so Gary and I set off at the front with the aim of making a Tour-de-France style breakaway from the main peloton to get to the café first. We had 16 miles to hang on, and although I made the final climb up the hill into Chirk ahead of the pack, Gary was overhauled by a couple of riders!
The ride so far had been relatively flat and suitably refreshed we set off again. The next 20 miles took us through some really nice scenery and by this time the early cloud and drizzle had given way to clear skies – albeit still fairly chilly! As we approached the Horseshoe Pass we started to climb a little bit, out of the valley that we had been riding along. As we hit the Horseshoe Pass road we started to climb – long but not particularly steep. Going past a pub at the bottom an old boy shouted there would be a free pint at the top! I got into a decent rhythm and soon started overhauling riders that had been in front of us.
As I reached the apex of the horseshoe itself there was a sign warning of 20% ahead. Carrying on the road steepened slightly but I think 20% was over-egging it a bit. The road levelled slightly and gave a great view to the right of the bit that we’d just climbed – much like an alpine pass. Overall it was about 3 miles of climbing but it felt great.
At the top was the second café stop – the “Famous” Ponderosa. Have to say I was disappointed as the staff were not dressed in cowboy gear (missed opportunity) and the place had no real character. Of course, after filling up, our climbing efforts were rewarded by a fantastic descent, and we were now heading back east towards the start.
Much of the route was familiar from other audaxes and even some club runs – but still really nice in the crisp, autumn air. We sailed along with the mornings slight headwind now a slight tailwind. We picked up a fellow addaxes who tagged along with us and it wasn’t long before we hit the final stop at the Ice Cream Farm.
At around 100 miles or so I’ve had enough so I tend to get in the zone, head down, and just try to blast out the final miles. When we left the control, a few routing issues aside, I pushed on hard, dragging my two companions along with me. Fair play to everyone we kept up a cracking pace for the last 32 miles or so and we arrived back at the finish at around 6pm, where some nice warm food was waiting for us. Another great and well organised audax done!
Ride stats : 133miles in 8hrs 6m @ 16.4mph. 5,351ft of ascent, average HR 132bpm, 5772kcals used