I have to admit I am sentimental about the Circle of Hope ride, since it was the first sportive I did when I started cycling 2 years ago. At that time, the idea of cycling 50 miles with over 4000ft of climbing seemed a real challenge. The friendly nature of the ride, coupled with the chance to raise some money for a good cause (North West Cancer Research) has brought me back again and again.
Offering 2 distances (50 and 100 mile) it starts in Hope and wends its way over the tops past Llandegla: sweeping descents to Corwen, before turning up towards Minera and the ford at Worlds End. Descend the other side and you have a choice: back to Hope for the shorter 50 miles; or onward over the flat Cheshire plain for the (allegedly) 100 mile route. This year approx 250 riders, with a fair smattering of Melyd and other local clubs were ready at the start. The motorcycle outriders and police escort mean it’s a fast start as people surge to the front (which is the last I see of Alan and Darren before the finish).
As the ascents start, it’s a question of keeping in the bunch and saving your energy. That and avoiding the wheel of the idiot in front who clearly cannot hold a line or keep a steady pace. I consider sharing my opinion with him, but he is quite large and might come in useful for drafting later on, so I stay silent and drop back an inch or two.
The miles pass quickly in a group, and soon we are making our way up to World’s End. I have done it several times but it’s always longer than you remember. Just as I’ve had enough, an ambulance hovers into view. Ah yes, the ford is upon us. To cycle or not to cycle that is the question, whether it is nobler to glide through and risk an unceremonious dunking, or just get off and walk. I decide on the latter, just as a guy walking across in cleats shows that even this is not without peril and nearly comes a cropper.
Then its back on the bike for the short and steep ascent over the cattle grid. Relief that you’ve now done all the climbing gives way to terror/ exhilaration of the fast descent back down .
Then its right onto the Cheshire plain. Sally Donna and Gary are waiting at the bottom (yes I am a cautious descender) and off we go for a flattish 50 miles. A group from Fibrax Wrexham are in front and we latch onto their chain. In their slipstream we average over 20mph, and we’re loving it. A few miles further on however , and the legs are starting to complain. Luckily Malpas and the second feed station are in sight – the guy manning it looks surprised when a hoard of locusts eats everything in the back of his car, tyre jacks not withstanding
No time to delay, Donna wants to get back to take Boris for a walk, so we are all flat out trying to chase her down. No time for a stop at the ice cream farm this year. But the result is we are back at the finish in just over 6 hours (15.5 mph average – best ever).
But, But, my garmin says only 96.4 miles done – clearly the course setter is a man and prone to exaggeration. There’s nothing for it, I’m going to have to keep going, which is why had you visited Mold on Sunday you would have seen me riding in circuits round Tesco’s car park, before shouting “Yes , 100!”
If you’re thinking of doing a sportive or charity ride, Circle of Hope is a great one to start, small friendly and with a course that allows you to decide on the day between the 50 or 100 miles. See you next year!
— Written by Sarah Overson