Last week sitting in the Eurostar terminal on my way back from Maastricht my brother-in-law Antony asked me when my next event was. Er…. “on Sunday”! What was I thinking? Well, I guess I thought I could give it a miss if I was too tired. But when Antony found out it was bike ride, which he likes, and I was doing it on my own, he offered to come along for the ride 🙂
Yay!! Guess I’m doing it then 🙂
When we got back from Maastricht I decided I should check the course that I had booked. Turned out it was a 5/5 on the Evans difficulty scale – oh dear! Technical course with steep hills…hmmm. It was actually a totally different event from the one I thought I’d booked lol! Oh well, we could take it easy and enjoy the day.
August. British summer time. Fog and rain of course. We arrived at the top of Cheddar Gorge where the event started, parked in a wet muddy field and then stayed in the car not wanting to get out and get wet.
It was a very small event, just a couple of hundred people – possibly due to the steep hills description and therefore a very relaxed start time, from 8am – 10am. So we stayed in the car for a bit and tried to get into our cycle gear – car yoga at it’s best.
Eventually we ventured out of the car and with a small group of about ten people listened to the race briefing before setting off. We were also warned that at the 30 mile point, the signs may be missing – some locals not liking cyclists had already taken down two sets, and that indeed is what happened, more on that later.
First we had some hills to climb and descend. As we had started at the top of the Gorge the first scary bit was a steep descent down toward Bristol. It’s a descent I have done before and really dislike. Very steep with twists and turns and some bad road surface. Today, being wet didn’t help. Antony nearly lost his computer as it jumped off his bike – he somehow managed to catch it!
We cycled through some pretty country lanes, up and down, up and down and the odd nice view ….and then came a very big uphill. I’ve done many sportives in the area but had not climbed this hill before. It just went up and up and was very steep, over 14% in parts and an average gradient of 9%. It also involved a right turn which if a car had come would have meant stopping and possibly not starting again. Fortunately I had a clear road. I left Antony and just put my head down and climbed for over 3km passing quite a few people. My bike felt great and I was definitely helped by my good gear ratio, meaning I could spin my legs easily.
Antony has not been cycling much recently due to injury but he got up without stopping, I think it was the hardest climb he had ever done.
A lovely descent the other side took us back to the bottom of the Gorge and to the first feed station, where we stopped for a snack and a catch up with other riders. I don’t usually stop at feed stations to save time, but today was about having fun and I didn’t want to over do it.
We set off from the feed station and not for the first time that day I was on the wrong side of the road – too much cycling in Europe recently!
With the first big hill out of the way we headed for flatter ground and out towards the coast. We had a few stops for more food and to check where we were on the map. We were worried about the possible “missing” signs or even signs being turned to a different direction, which happens. But so far so good, until we got to a big roundabout in a built up area….no signs. Up until now the signs had been plentiful with every junction having one leading up to it, one indicating direction and another confirming the direction. Here..NOTHING.
We had been told to turn left if unsure and we did but still no signs and the area was busier than ever. Major roundabouts and busy roads. The wrong direction and we would be on the M5! We got off and checked the map and our phones ….ok I was actually looking for Pokémon lol!!!
We walked for a bit crossing roads when we could, when traffic let us, and eventually found the road heading to Weston-Super-Mare which is where we needed to end up. Although we took the wrong road to get there, there was a cycle lane and apart from the crazy strong head wind it was fairly straightforward.
When we got to the coast three miles later we finally saw the pink signs again, we were back on the route. Weston was crazy busy with people and cars. By now the weather was quite hot and it was British seaside at it’s best/worst. I was glad to get away from the sea front and back to the quieter hills.
Another big hill and then the second feed station. We stopped for another snack and chatted to other riders who had also gone wrong. Some had called the organisers and found the route again, others just mucked through and headed towards the coast like we did.
More lumps and bumps, tiny lanes and pretty villages and we got to the final climb of the day – Cheddar Gorge. A stunning climb and one of my favourites. It is pretty steep at the bottom with hair pin bends, some at 18% but it gets better as you go up. It was very busy with tourists and cars and big buses but I managed to keep moving and after the steep bit really enjoyed it. Lots to look at including little goats and mountain climbers on the rock face.
Antony loved the climb too and when I stopped at the top he was just behind me. We rode along the top in beautiful sunshine taking in the views before reaching the car park and the finish. Just over 100k. A tough ride but great fun.
Thanks for coming along for Event 36 Antony xx