Yesterday was the 3rd edition of this ride, I had rode last year and enjoyed the event, I decided to ride 2011 but due to the previous two not selling out I was complacent and when I went to enter, I discovered it was full This mean’t a very early start to get a ‘golden ticket’, the organisers were allowing 50 entries on the day. I got there in plenty of time and signed in, a total of 619 started the event :)
The event HQ is the Cirencester College, which proves an ideal venue, plenty of parking, changing rooms and showers, room for signing on and pre event cuppa. The organisers had listened to criticism from 2010, of not enough toilets by providing additional porta loos – good effort With the continued good weather, there was a good pre ride atmosphere as numerous riders chatted happily near to the start arch !
Queuing to start about 0830hrs I wasn’t to get across the start timing mat til approx 0840hrs. Whilst waiting I spoke with a couple on my right (possibly boyfriend / girlfriend) who were using the event as training for the Etape Act 1, you could feel their excitement and boy how I wish I was going to join them on that start line On my left was a triathlete with a heavily bandaged right calf, (he’d badly burn’t his leg) he was training for a triple triathlon, yes you read it correctly, in July he expects to start on a Friday and finish late Sunday – respect and good luck !
We’re off and due to having a hard ride the previous Sunday (WHC) and the tough Forest of Dean Sportive next week I promised myself an easy ride – yeah fat chance !!! We were set off in groups of 30 or 40, before long we are a group of 4 and everyone is sharing the work, in a well organised line-out Turning off the A429 at Kemble airfield which is a bizzarely located graveyard for large aircraft, a little further along on and a sad local individual has taken the time to cut down a double arrow left turn and resurrect as a right turn. This is spotted by the motorcyclists, corrected but within 20min the very sad individual had returned to repeat the misdemeanour. Surely there are more important items on life’s agenda
The event has a fairly flat first third that encourages a brisk pace. We get held at the traffic lights as we cross the busy A417, average thus far 21mph, as we re-start my fellow co-workers, a Chippenham Wheelers rider, a guy in a VO2 shirt and a guy in a black Garmin top are joined by two Mountain bikers.
When I say we are joined, they both get on the front and are driving it along. I watch intently waiting for them to ‘blow’ but they continue, they have semi-slicks on their 29ers and they have 4 roadies sitting in their slipstream, flapping behind them like washing on the line on a windy day !! Within 5 miles the two MTBers had shelled us off their wheels, this disrupts our group and with the MTBers about 150 metres in front, visible on a few of the long dips in the road, when I find myself on the front I start to gain on them, I make it to them and I help with some work !
These guys are good and very strong, we pass the first feed and to a group that shouted at the two MTBers, in their defence, they did shout ”on the right” but obviously weren’t heard, they no way wanted to shock riders emerging from the feedstop. I learn that I’m riding with Mike Powell and Dave Hayward (National Enduro Champ 2009), the pace is relentless and I’m relieved to learn they are doing the shorter route – phew From just before the 1st feed stop and basically to the finish we pass some stunning cotswold stone built villages and individual properties.
The climbs are starting with a few short sharp warm ups then the several mile drag along the A435, 2 / 3 % gradient but its ridden at 20mph+ At the top we dive down to a river to start some steep prolonged climbs, then along a a ridge road to the route split at Sapperton, I say my farewell’s to the super strong mountain bikers. I’m now in a larger group containing some Chippenham Wheelers and 3 guys from ‘Cadence’, we negotiate a narrow, hedge lined technical descent at Frampton Mansell, under a viaduct to start a series of steep climbs that lead us to the 2nd feed at Edgeworth
The quaint Cotswold stone Edgeworth village hall, proves a challenge for most queuing on such a steep gradient in cleats. Stripped of my gilet and arm warmers I set off knowing that the hardest climbs are still to be tackled.
The climb out of Painswick to the Slad road is long and tough but nothing compared to the climb from the Slad road up the other side of the valley. It sets off at approx 17% , George Burgess (photographer) is positioned on the next steep section, we share a joke that I want to be photographed on the flat The big bonus to knowing and riding with the event photographer, is the quick but very effective shove he gave me as I wrestled with my bike, see photo below
The second half of this climb just gets worse. The road rises up into the trees, steepening as it goes, then you get to the right turn, left turn immediately followed by another right turn. It wasn’t just the 20%+ gradient hindering riders, it was the loose road surface, keeping weight back over the rear wheel but not too much or the front wheel would lift off the road. A skill, a test of concentration but over the top and the successful can proudly wear a smile of satisfaction
A large group form, lined out along the A419 towards Stroud, we turn left at Thrupp, the road starts rising at 11% but goes around a hairpin to climb for several kilometres at approx 7%, the sun is beating down, jersey zips are down as far as they’ll go and beads of sweat form a constant flow onto riders top tube, for those few minutes, we are on an Apline climb. Climbing through Rodborough Common until we pop out at the top at Mitchinhampton. A re-group of a few and the work continues, as I get to the front there’s a flat section leading into a descent. The first few hairpins have me grabbing handful of brake levers, we appear to have returned to the Alps for the descent too
Following the descent we have a long, less taxing gradient for a few miles, it was to prove to be the final classified climb of the day. Now we are on rolling lanes the pace increases, a badly pot-holed section negotiated, (organisers had a ‘danger’ sign to warn riders of the pot-holes) the now large group pushes for home encourages by the ”10km to go”, ”5km to go” and ”1km to go” signs
Riding under the finish inflated banner, riders are handed their goodie bag with promotion leaflets, Hi5 bidon containing energy products, a voucher for free food and drink and even an Easter egg
I had thoroughly enjoyed this event, signage was excellent, NEG outriders brilliant, I preferred this years tweeked route, from last year, organisers and team seemed so helpful and you felt they really wanted all riders to have a great day In my humble opinion this year the Cotswold Spring Classic had really earned its ‘Classic’ status
To Andy Kirk, Andy Cook and all the organisation team and helpers, Thank You for a fantastic day
I was pleased with my first 100mile+ ride of the year, timing 5hr 52min although I lost 8 min from my ride time, a combination of queuing to fill bottles (2nd feed), one set of traffic lights and a few photos along the way Great day though !!!!!!!!!!!