Arriving back at HQ after 6hrs 37mins in the saddle, it felt like a tough day. Weather conditions were nice with blue skies, there was the odd misty/murky moment, but that's to be expected. The key element was the wind, there was a headwind for - what felt like - most of the route which always makes life tougher, particularly when you're riding solo.
The 100 mile route, set out from Hope in North Wales and was a ride of two halves. The first half had the climbs and was mostly in Wales, the second half flattened out as it headed over to Cheshire via Beeston. As I approached Hope in the car, I could see some of the mountains and the views promised to deliver an excellent day.
|Circle of Hope - 100M Route via North Wales & Cheshire|
|Avg. MPH vs. Ascent Over the Route|
After quick pit stop, it's off to Worlds End, a steep climb over about eight miles which was tough but doable. I came up alongside a couple on a tandem as we crested the top, wish I'd had an extra pair of legs! The descent off of Worlds End was what I was looking forward to. I love going fast downhill and it didn't disappoint.
|Climbing Up Worlds End - Photo CSPhotos.com|
Then it all went a bit wrong. Having just finished a bottle of fluids I reached down for my second bottle and it had gone, probably bounced out on the descent - damn it. Hydration is so key to keep your energy levels up, indications are at least two bottles per hour for optimum performance.Next pit stop was about an hour away, so head down. At this point, there was a full on headwind and some of the roads were very long, straight and exposed, it was a long drag uphill for about 15 miles.
My average speed dropped through the floor to under 14mph and I was suffering. As I pulled into Malpas - and the next pit stop - I'd really felt it, more than any other part of the route. Sitting down on the stone cross, getting some fluids and food in, things started to feel better. At least the back third of the route was flat.
Heading out, I was able to pick it up again for the next ten miles, as I got to the 80 mile point I got the tired feeling again, although the route was pan flat, the constant headwind had really sapped me and I knew the back twenty was going to feel hard. There were hardly any riders, so no groups to pace yourself with, until about 10m miles from the finish I caught a group of three and just sat about 10metres back, riding at their pace. That was a big lift and gave me the motivation to get home.
Overall, it took me about six and a half hours to complete, which is to expectation. According to my Garmin it was 5.2K of ascent, bike route toaster indicated 3.6K.
I've got to sort my core. At my recent fitness and conditioning assessment from Body Bullet Dynamics, it was evident that my core strength is "poor" and in dire need of strengthening, long rides expose that. I've got a blog coming on the full details of the assessment, watch this space.
My climbing is better than it was. I went up everything on a 34/27 gear ratio and got up Worlds End without any problems. When I get some weight shifted and strength improved, I'll be happier.
I'd got my kit right. I wore a base layer, short sleeved top, merino arm warmers, gillet, three quarter bibs, long gloves and oversocks. Particularly when you are in the hills, you need to be able to let the heat out quickly (which I did by pulling down the armwarmers) when going up, and keep warm when going down. I only took the gillet off at Malpas with thirty miles to go. I had a pair of short fingered gloves in my back pocket which I put on then too, but pulled over only about half a mile later to put the long fingered ones back on.
Route: The route was very nice, particuarly the views from Worlds End. At points the route veers on to quite busy roads, which perhaps could have been avoided. I liked the idea of a hard first half and an easier second half as you know most of the painful stuff is out of the way. Very scenic in places, I think the first thirty and the back thirty were best.
Organisation: The Circle of Hope bike ride isn't a Sportive, its a charity ride, so some of the usual refinements like timing chips aren't supplied. The event HQ was well manned with plenty of people. Unfortunately my rider numbers and stuff didn't come via the post as expected but I was definitely the exception as everyone else was numbered up. Everyone involved was friendly and helpful, as it's organised by a bunch of willing volunteers. Some of the route arrows had gone AWOL, particularly around Johnstown, so some people missed turns (including me), always difficult and I've seen this happen before at Sportives. The Garmin course didn't have turns in it, so clear signing is essential.
Pit Stops: Stops were just before Worlds End (around 30M) and at Malpas (around 70M). Plenty of bottled water and energy based cycling products available. No toilets at the stops, this was advised in advance, and there were places to stop en route if you needed to. People were friendly, even the RAF cadets were on hand at the first stop, which was lovely to see and indicative of the charity nature of the ride.
Would I ride it again: Definitely. Despite some very minor things, it's a really nice 100 miler with some stunning views, a couple of decent climbs and all for a worthwhile cause.